Behavior - Jumping Up On People

How many dogs have been relegated to back-yard living because they jump all over family and guests whenever anyone walks through the door? Then when someone goes out to visit the lonesome dog, the jumping is worse because the dog is even more excited to see someone. Only now the dog is dirty, too. Not good! Let’s talk about how to solve this problem once and for all.

The Champion Jumper

If your situation is a big dog jumping up on people, you need first aid! Here are some ways to cope today until training can take full effect and your dog stops jumping. 

Please note that none of these techniques are enough to teach the dog not to jump on people in general, and none of them will apply to all dogs. Because dogs, people, and situations vary so much, these are options, but you'll have to decide which ones you can use in a particular situation: 

1. If you see the dog about to spring, but is still on the ground in front of you, one thing that often works is to take both hands, palms down, and cross the hands, using them to block the path of the dog's face from coming up. Many dogs will stop the jump if you do this. 

2. If someone else has the dog on leash, or for some other reason the dog can't come forward, step back out of jumping reach. Be careful about doing this if the dog is on a bed, sofa or table. It will keep the dog from jumping on you, but could put the dog at risk of injury from crashing to the floor. Timing is important in these situations, as is the ability to read and predict the dog's movements.

3. Swivel your hip into the dog as it leaps on you. This shouldn't harm the dog, but will deflect the force of the jump off the more vulnerable parts of your body.

4. Step forward and invade the dog's space. This move needs to be timed accurately, and used only with dogs who are not fragile or aggressive. 

5. If the dog has a collar on and you are side-to-side with the dog, hold the collar without letting your wrist bend. Your grip is stronger this way. Be careful, though, because some dogs become aggressive when you take them by the collar! This is for the friendly goober dog who just wants to lick your face.

6. Get closer to the dog initially, rather than moving away or even jumping away as many people instinctively do. Don’t lean your head away from the dog. Tilting the upper part of your body or your head backward actually induces some dogs to jump on you. You may be able to prevent the jump by simply starting your encounter with your hands at the dog’s level and petting.

7. Support the dog, once it has jumped up on you, by the part of the leg between the elbow and the "wrist" (do not hold by the paws, which have smaller bones and are more easily injured) and hold it up on hind legs for a bit longer than the dog enjoys. This won't work for all dogs, but works extremely well for some. Speak pleasantly to the dog while you do this, but keep your voice calm. 

8. Give the dog a ball or other toy to hold. Many dogs will even learn to go get the toy themselves as an aid to self control.

You're not doing anybody or their dog a favor by letting the dog jump on you. Don't ever ENCOURAGE someone else's dog to jump on you! 

It’s usually unwise, though, to attempt to train someone else's dog to stop jumping on people. Teaching this properly is a fairly long process that needs to be integrated into the dog's life as a whole. When you attempt quick-fix training with someone else's dog who is in the act of trying to be friendly to you (which is, after all, what jumping up on people means), you risk causing problems for that dog and owner in how the dog will relate to people in the future.

Training

The ideal training to give your dog about jumping on people is to make sure it never works for the dog to get petted, starting in puppyhood. Don’t let anyone pet your cute little tootsie of a puppy unless all four feet are on the ground. Jumping up on people is a behavior that humans TEACH dogs. 

If you teach your puppy that all petting happens when four feet are on the ground, your big dog will not be jumping on people. Instead, the dog will develop sweet ways of greeting people such as laying a head lovingly against your knee. 

But since most people don’t know this, chances are you have an adolescent or adult dog who is jumping on people. What do you do now? It’s the same principle as with the puppy, only it will take longer.

No petting when the dog is on hind legs, at least for a few months. After the dog has thoroughly learned not to greet people by jumping up, you can teach the dog to put front feet on your forearm only when you give the cue. Then you give a cuddle or a kiss (your option). But wait until the dog is first reliable about not jumping up.

Attack this problem on more than one front. Here are the ingredients for training your dog to greet with four on the floor:

1. Teach your dog to sit, even when excited. You’ll start this training in unexciting situations and gradually build to more and more exciting situations until the dog is totally steady. It takes time and practice. When the dog is IN the sit position, give petting, praise, and treats. Do not praise AFTER the dog has gotten up, because that is not the desired behavior. Praise and reward DURING the desired behavior, the sit.

2. When you come into the house, come in quietly. Excited greetings when you come in not only encourage a dog to jump on you, but also increase your dog’s risk of separation anxiety, so the calm entrance is a good idea all around.

3. When you have guests arrive, keep your dog under leash or other control for about 15 minutes until everyone is settled. This is the time of wildest excitement for the dog, and it will be much easier for the dog to muster self-control after this initial period. Eventually you will want to train this behavior without a leash, too.

4. Never let anyone pet your dog on hind legs. When the dog has been jumping and stops jumping, be sure the person DOES pet the dog as a reward for getting it right. This is the crucial training step that most people miss. Teaching the dog not to jump isn’t enough. We have to teach the dog that the petting will come when the dog is doing the right behavior. Put your focus on this moment. 

5. If you are going to do anything to interrupt your dog’s jumping, keep in mind that your goal is a dog who is safe with people. Punishing a dog who is in the act of trying to be friendly to a person could result in making the dog lose trust in people. A leaping dog is also susceptible to injury if kicked, stepped on, or otherwise handled forcefully. 

The best correction for jumping up is to withhold attention. Keep you hands to yourself and turn a hip toward the dog, turn your back on the dog, or leave the room, until your training has progressed to the point of being able to get the dog to “sit” on cue.

Come Cuddle

One good way to teach your dog to greet without jumping is a simple cue to go to the person’s knees. Start by putting your open hands, palms facing outward, on the fronts of your knees. You’ll be bent forward to get your hands here. Tell your dog “come cuddle,” and your dog will likely be drawn to your inviting hands. Pet your dog. 

Do the “come cuddle” practice over a few sessions until the dog responds quickly. Then find someone else to help you, have them take the position, point to them, and tell your dog to “go cuddle.” Have them encourage the dog verbally to come to them, and give petting when the dog arrives. Then you call the dog to “come cuddle” to your hands at your knees. 

Do a few repetitions back and forth, stopping before the dog gets bored. Repeat this once in awhile, and soon you’ll find when you say “go cuddle,” your dog will aim for a person’s knees even if their hands are not there. Prompt the person to lean down and pet the dog at knee level—be firm with people that they must not ruin your training by inviting your dog to jump up on them!

Little Dogs

You may not mind your small dog jumping up on you, but give this some thought. You’re not going to want the dog to spoil someone’s clothing by clawing at their legs. A little dog jumping and expecting to be caught can be injured if the person misses. It’s safest to teach your little dog to jump up only on cue, and put front feet on your hand.

One good use of having the dog put front feet on your hand is to more easily slip your other hand securely under the dog’s rear to pick up your little one. No matter how small the dog, a two-handed lift is an important safeguard against dropping the dog.

Safety

Many of us see no reason to teach our dogs not to jump up. We don’t mind, and if a friend or relative needs the dog not to jump, we simply put the dog on leash. 

We get older, though, and our dogs age even faster than we do. Besides age, many physical problems can arise that make jumping up downright dangerous. At some point in your dog’s life, the jumping will become a hazard to the dog. Your dog will live with less risk of pain.

The non-jumping dog’s life will include more petting and love, because it’s so much easier and more enjoyable to pet a dog with four feet on the ground. Or perhaps by invitation, your dog can put two feet on your lap. Okay, the whole dog can be on your lap, if you wish it and after you’ve done your homework of teaching your dog how to show love without jumping!

References:

  1. Morgan,Rhea V. (2010) Small Animal Practice Client Handouts, Saunders, 2010. Print

  2. http://www.vin.com/,  Client education resources.