By Paula Sunday:
One concerned dog owner asks,
“How can we train our dog to greet everyone nicely and stop jumping up on them?”
“Zeke, our dog, jumps up on family and guests. He is friendly so wants to greet people. But this dog behavior is not always welcome. It can even be painful or dangerous.
“He is definitely worse when we first get home or someone enters the house. He calms down after a few minutes. But by then we are frustrated and sometimes annoyed, especially when we have good clothes on, are carrying things, or when he jumps on guests.”
Here’s why your dog started jumping up on people to begin with, and continues this behavior:
Jumping up can be a tough dog behavior to change, because many family members in everyday clothes playing with their dogs tend to let them jump up. It often starts when the dog is a puppy. Many think it’s cute when the puppy jumps up and is excited to see them. Zeke probably has gotten very positive responses in the past with attention such as petting, hugging or a playtime.
Now, what was cute in the past isn’t cute anymore. When you don’t want Zeke to jump up, you may now be scolding him with a stern voice or look, and pushing him away. This is confusing to a dog.
You need to go back to the beginning and train Zeke to sit and greet people nicely. (Later on, you may want to teach jumping as a trick where you “cue” your dog and give him permission when it’s OK to jump up.)
Zeke’s family told us he does sit on cue. This makes it easier to teach Zeke.
Here are steps to teach your dog what to do instead of jumping up on people as they enter the door:
- Practice “sit” with Zeke at the door the family normally enters.
- Reward him generously for sitting on cue, and practice many times while there are no distractions.
- Go to the door and rattle the doorknob. Ask Zeke to sit.
- Reward the sit behavior generously and repeat a few times.
As he improves:
Try opening the door (always being sure the dog is safely confined) and cue “sit” to Zeke. Give him big rewards if he will sit with this new development.
Add training steps with additional distractions, which can make it more difficult for Zeke to stay sitting. Practice a few minutes at a time with breaks. Practice with family members entering. As Zeke gets better at sitting when family members enter, ask a friend or neighbor to help with his training for a few sessions.
Have patience with your dog as you help him break bad habits:
When Zeke resorts to jumping up again (he will), don’t give up. He has been practicing his old jumping up behavior for a while, maybe for years, so changing that behavior will take time and patience.
If he does jump up, instead of scolding, ignore him. Turn away, fold your arms and wait until he sits. Do not scold or punish in any form except ignoring him until he sits.
Each time he makes a mistake, his recovery will be quicker because he is realizing that people pay attention to him when he sits, and ignore him when he jumps up. (Watch the video below to see how quickly a puppy that jumps up for attention learns “four on the floor” when kids ignore him. )
“What about changing jumping up behavior in a big dog?”
Tie or tether him to a doorknob for this training at first. Approach when he has four feet on the floor. Retreat if he jumps up or even looks like he might. Watch the muscles in his shoulders; you will see them tighten up when he is ready to jump. Don’t wait until he is actually on you to retreat. Try to prevent and predict jumps.
He will quickly learn the same lesson as Zeke is learning and realize: When I sit, people approach. When I jump up, people retreat.
Consistency is so important! Everyone in the family should use the same method. Children, especially visitors, should be coached not to approach your dog until he is sitting and they have permission to pet him.
My best advice? Begin training when you first get a puppy! (See: Puppy Training and Classes: when to get started.)