My name is Danette, I am a dog trainer and I have a confession to make – my dog jumps up on people. A lot. And he is not small. Or weak. He is a 50-pound Pit Bull/Border Collie mix named Rufus who is incredibly friendly. So friendly in fact, that he MUST greet you with a quick “kiss” on your face. It’s totally embarrassing – I mean, I am dog trainer for goodness sake!
Clients come to me all the time with this problem behavior. They are embarrassed so they say “off’” which is useless of course because the dog is already up; they will be getting down on their own anyway. Human not really helping. They pull the dog away. The dog has learned nothing. I feel their pain. I’m in there too. I understand. You know what they say about the cobbler’s children don’t you?
So, what do we do here? Can we fix this? My dog trainer side says “Of course!” and my dog’s mom side says “yeah, easier said than done, lady.” Both true. Let’s take a look…
For the vast majority of dogs jumping up, they are doing it to greet you (often with the goal of getting that tongue on your face) and for attention. It’s how they say “HI!” and “I like you, I really like you!” It is a normal, albeit undesirable (for most), canine behavior. It’s just not particularly cool for most humans. So… the fix is to give them an alternative way to greet and get your attention. As with any attention seeking behavior we want to ignore the unwanted behavior, but even more important, get ahead of the behavior and have the dog do a replacement behavior, preferably one that is physically incompatible with the behavior you are trying to get rid of. In this circumstance “sit” works great. Ask him to sit before he leaps up at you. You can not sit and jump simultaneously. You can also toss treats to the floor to slow him down and catch him before he jumps up.
There are two separate situations we need to work on with this: the first being the jumping up on family members. This one is usually the easiest to fix. Simply ignore your dog when jumping and when he has all 4 feet on the ground, talk to him, pet him etc. If he jumps up at this point stand up, turn away (no eye contact) and try again. If everyone in the household is on the same page with this (sometimes difficult), it is fairly easy to fix. If this techniques does not work quickly and easily you need to set the scene better so that the jumping doesn’t even start (tossing treats on the floor to slow him down initially is a good one). Other people are the problem, mostly, because you have no control of other people’s behavior. They may inadvertently reward your dog for jumping by giving him attention either positive “Oh, it’s OK, I don’t mind” pet, scratch, or negative, “off! no! agh!” kick, knee etc. Attention, positive or negative, will still reinforce an attention seeking behavior.
Our best approach with “other” people is to get our dog in a “sit” (or even just a standing “wait”) as quickly as possible. I know this works because when I am paying attention, not being lazy, I’ve had a full night’s sleep, I’m on my game etc., I can easily get my jumpy dog from not jumping on people. But I do need to be ON all the time and ahead of the action. It’s exhausting. When I am “on” I use my clicker to mark Rufus not jumping (you can actually see when he makes the decision NOT to jump if you are looking closely) and reward/treat. Works like a charm! I also really like to teach a dog who wants to greet everyone to Go Say Hi.
When people come into your home, another “fix” is to get your dog to grab a toy as they enter. I know that if Rufus has a toy shoved in his craw he is much less likely to jump. Maybe he’s just not coordinated enough to hold a toy and jump at the same time. Whatever, works for me. He will run around and parade his toy for the visitors but not jump. Whew. I’m really not sure why but this technique has worked for many of my clients as well. Unless they have a Golden Retriever – those guys will hold a toy and jump, no problem.
This stuff does work and it IS work. Do me a favor, next time you run into me and Rufus please ignore him and ask him to sit. He will sit, I promise (he’s got that down) and if you are one of those folks that doesn’t mind a little doggie slobber, get down to his level (so he doesn’t have to jump to get to your face) and by all means, do indulge. If not, please stay in an upright position!