Solving the Jumping Up Problem

Dog Jumping Up

Does your dog jump up to greet people? We can help you with solving the jumping up problem.

Maybe he’s a little too friendly with visitors or maybe he’s just a little too happy to see you when you get home. Jumping up is a very common problem, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s start by seeing greetings from the dog’s perspective. I’ll cover some simple handling techniques to keep people safe and then a few of my best tips for training polite greetings.

You are so very tall. Your face is way up there…and all your dog wants to do is smootch lips to lips! It seems reasonable and polite to your dog to bounce up to say, “Hi!”       If you bend over to greet a bouncy dog, you are likely to get a fat lip as his head meets your face.

When I greet an exuberant dog, my defensive technique is to reach for the collar just under the chin. I tuck my thumb into the collar and then, if the dog jumps up, I simply keep my arm straight so he cannot make contact. I can scratch the dog’s neck, giving positive reinforcement, when the dog remains on the floor and keep myself safe at the same time.

I do the same thing when helping a young, untrained dog greet other people.  It’s important to stop the jumping up because for many dogs that simple act is reinforcing. They like jumping on people! By hooking a thumb in the collar, preventing the dog from coming up, I can then quickly move on to training the dog how to win at a different game: Sit to greet.

There are a couple ways to teach sit to greet. But before we go there, be sure that you have not already chained the jump-sit. Many dogs initially engage a person by jumping and then the person says, “sit” the dog sits and gets attention or a treat. But where did the behavior chain start? With the jumping up. So, the jumping becomes the way to get the person’s attention and start the game.

Instead of that, try this: take a tasty treat (cheese or lunchmeat is good) and put it down low, right at the dog’s nose-level when he is on all fours. If you have a small dog, try putting peanut butter on a long handled spoon so you don’t have to bend over so much. Then, with the treat at the dog’s nose, walk backwards a step or two. As the dog approaches, lift the treat slightly, to lure the dog into a sit. When he sits, feed him or allow him to lick the spoon. Repeat at least 3 times. On the 4th time, put the treat behind your back and walk backwards the same step or two. Wait. The dog will very likely walk toward you and offer a sit. When he does, quickly bring the treat out and feed the dog! Repeat this 3-5 times, skipping the lure and just letting the dog choose. If he regresses and jumps on you, simply go back to luring a few times to remind him what the winning behavior is.  This is a favorite fun game to show in group classes because it looks like magic. I do this without saying a word to the dog and it appears that the dog is reading my mind. In a way, he is. He is learning the winning behavior of Approach-Sit.

Now that the dog can Approach-Sit for you, here’s how to transfer it to other people, without turning them into trainers.  You will need a friend to help you. With your dog on leash so that he does not run forward and reward himself by jumping, have your friend stand still, about 20 steps from you. Keeping your leash short, take one step toward your friend. Lure your dog into a sit using a treat. Feed your dog when he sits, then take one more step toward your friend. Using this one-step-at-a-time method, work your way all the way up to your friend. By the time you get there, your dog will understand that sitting pays off really well and will very likely sit when he gets there. If he pulls you on the leash, jumps up or refuses to sit, simply walk backwards. Sitting politely gains access; rude behavior increases distance. When you are close enough for your friend to greet the dog, slide your hand down the leash and hook your thumb in the collar to help your dog keep his bottom on the floor. Have your friend feed a treat to the dog and then back away again, before the dog gets too excited.

Another way to practice polite greetings is to stand still with your dog on a leash, next to you and have your friend approach you. This time, it is your friend who takes one or two steps at a time. Each time the friend moves forward, feed your dog for remaining in the sit. If your dog gets up, the friend backs away. It doesn’t take too long for the highly social dog to put it together: “Keeping my fanny on the floor brings my friend in faster!”

Obviously, these exercises are for the friendly and social dogs who crave attention from people. If your dog is jumping up in an aggressive or threatening manner, that’s a whole other story. You may consider scheduling  a private consultation with me to work on these or other issues to determine the best training steps to remedy the problem. Happy training!

Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA