Jumping Up

Does your dog embarass you by jumping up on people … on lead … at the front door … at the gate? Do friends dislike it when their good clothes end up with muddy footprints all over them?

Don’t despair; there is a cure.

Before I start on the way to fix this very common problem, I need to tell you a bit about the reasons why dogs jump up on people.

First, it is an inbuilt response. It is hardwired for dog to jump up in an effort to reach our faces. This comes from the fact that, in the litter, puppies jump up to lick their mothers’ muzzles. This licking action causes the mothers to regurgitate some food. This regurgitated food is the puppy’s first solid meal.

After they come to us puppies continue this jumping up because they are used to having good things happen when they jump up. So, if there are only adults in the house, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I think it’s cute when my puppy jumps up?
  • Do I bend down & pat him when he jumps up?
  • If he’s very small do I bend down and pick him up?
  • If my puppy is in a pen and he jumps up on it as I approach, do I /would I pat him or pick him up?
  • When I come home from work or shopping etc, do I pat or hug him or pick him up as he jumps on me?
  • Under any circumstances, do I push or knock my puppy away when he jumps up?

If your answer to any of these things was yes, then you are reinforcing his jumping up. And, because of the way animals learn, you are reinforcing it even more strongly if you pat or pick him up or knock him back down only occasionally. It’s part of the gambling effect. So his jumping behaviour will be very much harder to correct later.

What should you do then?

Hard as it is, you need to stop reinforcing the behaviour. That is, you must stop patting or picking him up when he jumps. Better still, if you haven’t started doing these things, don’t!

What to do instead is to ignore him. Ignore means don’t speak to him, don’t look at him, don’t touch him, don’t make any sort of noises at him at all. Preferably, turn your back on him. Wait until he has all four feet on the ground then quickly pat him. If he jumps up as soon as you pat him, stop immediately and ignore until those feet are again on the ground. Keep repeating this treatment until he has stopped jumping up.

Waiting is the hardest thin but it is the thing that works.

That’s all very well if there are only adults in the house, of course, but what if there are small children? Then as well as asking yourself the questions above you need to ask these.

Does the child do any of these things when the puppy jumps up:

  • Run?
  • Squeal?
  • Wave his arms?
  • Push the puppy away?
  • Hug the puppy?

Once again, all of these actions on the part of the child are teaching the puppy that jumping up is fun because he likes the things the child does. Also once again, the answer is for the child to stop doing these things and Be a Tree.

Be a Tree means to stand still, arms folded and eyes looking upwards.

As you will know if you are a parent, getting a small child to do this when a puppy is jumping on them is not an easy task. You can get your older children to do this but for littlies the best thing is to keep puppy and child separated whenever you can’t be directly supervising.

A puppy crate is the very best tool for this.

Your dog or puppy is fine with you but jumps up on visitors:

Then you must be as firm with your visitors as you are with yourself. They must always ignore the dog until he has all four feet on the floor.

You can, over time, train your dog to be calm and to go to his place (mat, bed, corner, etc) when visitors arrive but you will need the cooperation of your family and friends if you are to train this successfully. Once again, a crate is an excellent training tool at the beginning. Put the dog in his crate before your visitors arrive (if possible) and do not let him out until he is calm. When he comes out, he must be ignored again until he is sitting calmly on his bed or mat.

If you are having a problem with a dog who jumps on people you meet on your walks, then you need to get a trainer who will show you how to overcome this problem. A good source of positive reinforcement trainers can be found on the website of PPG Australia.

If you are starting off with a new puppy it will be quicker and easier if you don’t reinforce it right from the start.

Training a dog to stop jumping is definitely possible. It will take persistence and consistency from everyone who comes into contact with him but it will be well worth it in the end. Everyone appreciates a polite dog and a polite dog reflects well on his owner.



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