For dogs, jumping up is a normal behavior. They often licks other’s faces in greeting. Since most dogs can’t easily reach us, they leap to offer their version of a polite canine “howdy” and solicit attention.
Many folks think jumping up is cute, at least when the pet is a pup. That attraction wanes when the St. Bernard grows, and the leaps upward begin to knock us down, tear clothing, or frighten strangers. It becomes a safety issue around children and elderly people who can be seriously injured by a jumping dog.
A dog who jumps up can aggravate and even terrorize people. Being tackled by a dog is an unpleasant, dangerous surprise. It’s also rude behavior that should not be allowed in polite human/canine society.
You can teach your dog a more people-friendly way to greet.
What Not To Do
There are some old-fashioned and downright mean methods that some people try in an attempt to stop jumping up. Don’t step on her toes, and don’t knee her in the chest. Those actions are painful and can cause your dog to fear you, leading to avoidance behavior or even aggression. You want your dog to welcome your homecomings and be happy to see you.
Avoid rewarding jumping up with petting or playing or any sort of reciprocal greeting. Instead, teach your dog she gets attention only when she doesn’t jump up. Here’s how to do that.
What To Do
- Dogs want to greet you or stop you from leaving. Any attention can make the behavior worse, so ignore the pop-up pooch. “Ignore” means make no eye contact, say nothing, and stand still like a boring zombie and offer no reaction for unwanted behavior.
- Have a family member help you with training. As Pete enters the front door, he should stand still and greet the dog with, “Cricket, COME!” followed by “Cricket, SIT!” or “GET YOUR BALL!” Use a cue the dog already knows, one that both distracts her from jumping up and prompts a contradictory behavior. For instance, Cricket can’t get her ball and jump up at the same time. With enough repetitions, your smart canine starts to associate your arrival with a “sit” or “go find” instead of jumping up.
- When Cricket sits as requested, Pete may verbally praise her by saying, “Goooood Cricket,” to reward the behavior.
- If the dog still insists on jumping up, Pete should step backward so the dog’s feet miss—and at the same time, turn away from her. That interrupts the canine “howdy” because a dog can’t properly greet a person’s back. Cricket learns that if she wants to receive a greeting, she must keep all four feet on the ground and plant her furry tail.
- Once the dog’s paws hit the floor, again give the “sit” cue and repeat the exercise. After this social greeting has been exchanged, Pete can then walk into the house and take a seat. The dog will likely follow—have other family members waiting in the room to reinforce her good behavior with “good dog!” or even better yet a small food treat.
- Drill with your dog, until a sit prompts more attention for her than jumping up ever did.
If a wet slurp across the mouth doesn’t offend you, then kneel down on your pup’s level to put yourself in range of her kiss so she doesn’t have to leap. And remember, there’s nothing to stop you from training your extremely well-behaved dog to jump up—but only at your request.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT