Liz London is a certified dog trainer through the Certifying Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) & the Karen Pryor Academy (Dog Trainer Foundations Certification) with regular continuing education courses from the top animal trainers from all over the world. She has trained zoo animals, search & rescue canines, gun dogs, and helped people raise happy, healthy, and well-behaved canine companions for over ten years.
Have you finally lost your patience with your dog jumping up on you? You’re not alone. This is one behavior that drives almost everyone crazy with their new dog. In fact, most of the pet parents who start formal dog training lessons with me do so in order to learn how to stop a dog jumping up.
- Why it’s hard to stop dogs jumping up
- Three steps to stop dogs from jumping up
- Real world examples
Why This Training Is Important
Maybe some of your family members don’t mind your puppy jumping up. It’s quite cute after all.
But, it’s important to learn how to stop a dog from jumping on you; not only for your comfort but for your safety and the safety of others.
Puppies grow up fast. If you have a large dog, consider the possibility of your dog jumping up on a child or elderly person, knocking them to the ground and potentially really hurting the person.
Even if you have a small dog, you should learn how to stop her from jumping because if she ever jumps on a child, her nails could scratch the child’s face, or worse.
Everyone should aim to have a polite, well-mannered dog in public, and you can do this!
The Downsides Of Using Force
Perhaps you have tried to get your dog to stop jumping by using conventional training methods. Some pet owners might think the best way to stop a dog from jumping up on you is to simply push your knee or foot into their belly while they’re jumping on you.
This would obviously cause pain or discomfort with the intent of scaring the dog from jumping again. But unfortunately it’s not very effective and won’t necessarily stop your dog jumping up on other people.
Actually, studies have shown that using force or aversive methods like painful stimuli to train a dog is much less effective than positive reinforcement techniques. Not only does it seem cruel to the dog – it can even cause worse behavioral problems. You can read more about that in Pippa’s article on the evidence for the benefits of positive reinforcement dog training.
Today, we’ll be discussing in-depth ways of how to stop a dog jumping on people using only positive, tried-and-true training techniques.
Why Do Dogs Jump on You? And Why It’s Hard To Stop Them!
It’s hard to stop dogs from jumping up because they find it so rewarding. It’s worth looking at this in more detail. As with most behavior modification (that is, ‘training’), it’s important to understand the reason or motive behind the behavior itself. That way we can effectively work out how to stop a dog jumping up.
Dogs are hardwired to jump on us for a couple of reasons. It starts when they’re puppies.
Dogs naturally want to lick and sniff their mama’s mouth and muzzle when she returns to the den (presumably from hunting or eating something herself).
It even triggers mama to relinquish some food from her own mouth for them to learn to eat.
But mama is so much taller than her puppies! So – you guessed it – they learn to jump up to greet mama.
As they grow, puppies learn to play together with natural bouts of jumping, romping, and wrestling.
The winner of each bout is declared as the one which pins the other to the ground.
Hence, more jumping out of excitement.
Finally, as adults, dogs continue to greet one another eye-to-eye or face-to-rump, depending on the balance in size or behavioral intimidation.
So, if your dog is trying to greet humans in the same way, he’s going to need to get a little height to reach your face!
Why Does My Dog Jump On Me?
The bottom line is your dog jumps when excited. So here you are with your excited pooch trying to jump and say hello “properly” according to his canine customs.
Maybe you try to push his front feet off you or wave your arms and yell. For a dog, that’s body language for play. Now he’s really having fun with you!
So, he jumps right back up to keep the game going.
Do you see the problem here?
You can understand now that jumping up on you is part of totally normal canine behavior for greetings.
Unfortunately, it’s not acceptable in our human social circles, so it’s important to teach your canine companion the right way to greet their humans.
How to Train a Dog Not to Jump – 3 Steps To Success
You need to break the cycle of reinforcement that your dog gets from the “game” he has created by jumping on you. There are three steps to get the jumping under control, then a couple more to help you in a wider range of situations. Here are those three key steps:
- 1 Stop & Ignore
- 2 Sit Means Hello
- 3 Avoiding Triggers
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Stop all interaction when your dog is jumping – ignore him!
- Do not yell, speak, or say hello to your dog.
- No eye contact – look up and away.
- Cross your arms over your chest. This way, you aren’t tempted to push him away and he isn’t able to sniff and lick your hands.
Turn your whole body away from your dog.
- Wait. If he chases your attention by moving around to your front, simply turn away again.
- When he gives up and stands still (staring at you like you’ve gone crazy), THAT’s when you greet your dog and give him some love and attention. This is the reward he was looking for. Following these rules will ensure he learns that he will only earn that reward by not jumping (don’t overdo the high-pitched voice saying, “GOOD BOYYYYY” or it will just rile your dog up even more to start jumping again).
Step 2: Teach your dog that “Sit” means “Hello.”
- Continue with Step 1, while adding your cue for “sit” (learn how to train your dog well on a “sit” cue here).
- When your dog sits down (even for a split second), praise and reinforce the sit with physical attention and even a treat. Drop down to his eye level and give him some good snuggles.
- Repeat 5-7 times to complete a full practice session.
Step 3: Anticipate Potential Jumping Situations (Triggers)
From here on out, the best way to put this training in to action is to be prepared in situations that you expect your dog to jump. Here are some opportunities you can expect this behavior to creep back into your dog’s life:
- When you come home from a long day at work
- When you let your dog out of his crate
- In the morning when you come out of your room (if your dog sleeps in a different area than you)
- When new people enter the house
- When you let your dog out of the car after a car ride
In each of these scenarios, anticipate your dog’s inclination to jump by keeping calm and quiet yourself, and asking your dog to sit right away.
Let him have a few moments sitting down to check out the situation, let his hormones regulate, and allow him to start thinking about his training.
How to Stop Dog From Jumping on People
Now, you’re probably wondering how to transfer this training technique to the real-world.
If you want to teach your dog to stop jumping on strangers or other people who greet you or your dog, read on through Step 4.
Step 4: How to Stop a Dog From Jumping Up on Strangers
- Start by having a family member or a friend help you with a few practice rounds at home. We’ll call that friend your assistant for now. Explain to your assistant the rules in Step 1 and ask her to start in another room out of sight.
- Ask your assistant to enter the room where you and your dog are waiting without saying anything. When your dog approaches her, she should follow the same strategy as Step 1.
- Anytime your dog stops jumping, even momentarily, your assistant should reward with petting and light praise.
- Repeat this exercise 5-7 times with your assistant at home.
- Then, attach your dog’s leash, and take the training outside to your driveway or sidewalk. Repeat the exercise, this time with your assistant walking up to you from around the corner or from across the street.
- Repeat this exercise 5-7 times with your assistant outside.
- NOW it’s a matter of trying as many different assistants in as many different locations as possible! Ask your neighbors to play along for a training session!
Step 5: Real World Scenarios
Now that your dog should understand how the Greeting Game works with other people, here’s how to stop a dog from jumping up on strangers who won’t be tuned in to your little game.
When you’re out and about, it should go without saying that your dog needs to be on a leash for his safety and for the safety of other people around you.
If you’re walking with your dog somewhere there are other people, you should keep the leash very short to keep your dog right by your side, not out in front of you.
This way he doesn’t have the opportunity to jump on any strangers passing by if they smell good.
If you’re approaching someone you know or vice versa, before they reach you, cue your dog to sit.
If your “sit” training is strong enough, he should remain sitting while you speak to other people.
If a stranger approaches to pet your dog, first cue your dog to sit.
If he stands up, cue him to sit back down before the person resumes petting him.
You can always tell people, “Yes you can say hi, but he’s in training, so I would like for him to sit first so he doesn’t jump on you.”
It’s my experience that people love to know you’re trying to raise a polite, public-friendly dog.
They often are happy to even play along with the Greeting Game!
How To Stop A Dog Jumping Up – Troubleshooting
If you find yourself having difficulty teaching your dog to stop jumping on people, here are some additional tips that might help correct your problems:
- For the first several sessions of training, practice in an area without distractions for the dog. If there is a lot of noise or busy visual areas with distractions like squirrels, smells, and kids playing nearby, your dog will have a very hard time paying attention to the cues you’re trying to show him.
- Practice the Greeting Game every time you come home and see your dog. It only takes an additional minute to wait for him to sit before you greet him.
- Adjust your behavior to help keep your dog calm when you come home. If your dog starts jumping the minute you call out “I’m HOME!” then you shouldn’t say anything when you get home. The sound of your voice is getting him too excited. The more excited he is, the harder it is for him to control his nature to jump.
- Don’t be afraid to go back to a previous step for a few more practice rounds.
- Make sure every family member in your household practices Steps 1-3 and really understands the training. If one person allows your dog to jump on her when she gets home from work, and she pets him anyway, then your family is sending mixed, confusing messages to your dog. “Sometimes I can jump, and sometimes I shouldn’t?” Poor dog.
So, all in all, it’s important that you have understood why it’s in a dog’s nature to jump on people.
How To Stop A Dog Jumping Up
It’s important that you know ways to ensure that you’re not making the problem worse by reinforcing his jumping with petting, pushing, or talking to him while he’s doing it.
And lastly, it’s important that you practice the step-by-step instructions on how to stop a dog jumping up in as many different scenarios as possible.
This is an ongoing lesson for you and your dog to grow stronger over all the years you’ll spend together.
Humans don’t learn to read overnight, just like dogs won’t learn to stop jumping in just a couple of training sessions.
So, keep up the good work, make it fun for both of you, and the first time you get a compliment on how well-behaved your dog is, let us know!!
References and Further Reading
- Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Meghan E. Herron, Frances S. Shofer, and Ilana R. Reisner. Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine. University of Pennsylvania. 2009.
- Cooperation and competition during dyadic play in domestic dogs, Canis familiaris. Erika B. Bauer and Barbara B. Smuts.Animal Behavior 2007.
- The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Classical and Operant Conditioning. Frances K. McSweeney, Eric S. Murphy. 2014.