Jumping up is a common behaviour problem among dogs, and is annoying to boot! Some people are fine with their dog jumping on them, and that is their prerogative, but they get embarrassed when their dog jumps up on their guests or strangers.
Is it possible to teach our dog the difference between who they can or can not jump on OR When and where they can jump?
Yes! You can!
I personally, am okay with my dogs jumping on me - in the right context. When I walk through the door with my hands full of groceries? You better not even think about it!
I am excited, happy, and want to show affection to my dog? JUMP AWAY!
So, how do we teach our dogs rather the difference between when they can and can not jump OR if they are even allowed to jump on anyone (including you)
Let's start with the ABC's of training:
A= Antecedent (what triggers a behaviour)
B= Behaviour, & (what the dog does)
C=Consequence (what happens after the behaviour to rather increase or decrease the frequency)
You can solve literally any behaviour by utilizing this sequence.
Let's look at this sequence for jumping:
A = You or a guest walks into the house
B = Your dog jumps up
C = well, we will talk about that in a second.
So what makes a dog want to jump up people?
There are a number of reasons why dogs jump up on people, and it's not because your dog is trying to dominate you.
The truth is, though, that your dog is probably just trying to greet you after a period away! (albeit rudely)
With any behaviour, there is always a consequence. Depending on the behaviour and outcome of the consequence will depend on the risk the dog is willing to take. Not all consequences are bad! A consequence of behaviour could be reinforcement, and that is what usually happens with jumping!
Many people inadvertently reward their dog for jumping up by giving them what they want.
Take a second to think about what that might be?
Okay - I will help you out.
The consequence (C) of the behaviour of jumping is Attention. How could kneeing your dog in the chest, pushing them off and yelling at them be something they WANT? Well, as is often true with kids, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
So, your dog doesn't understand that when you push him off of you, knee him in the chest, or yell at him to get down that you're attempting to punish him. In other words - Instead, your dog is likely viewing your behaviour as exactly what he wants: attention and potentially play.
So, in the end, your attempts to punish your dog has turned into a reward for jumping up!
Oops... that is why it isn't decreasing.
You are actually making the behaviour more reinforcing, causing it to happen more and more and becomes an ingrained habit. This is why a lot of dogs will jump until the day they die, no matter how many times you've kneed them in the chest or screamed at them. You are actually making the activity kind of fun.
So, what the hell do you do?
Yikes, I'm gonna say it.
Train. Your. Dog.
Well, duh. Of course, you need to train your dog not to jump up, how hard can it be? I mean, you DID technically train your dog to jump up on you, so you know you can train efficiently. Ha!
To teach your dog to not jump up, you need a couple of things, patience, consistency, and a plan of action.
So, the first thing we are going to do is take that attention and don't give it to them...
Sounds mean, I know, but the first thing you need to do is withhold your attention when they are jumping.
There are a couple of ways to accomplish this:
As soon as your dog jumps up, turn your back. Cross your arms over your chest and don't make a sound. Essentially, become a tree. If the dog runs around to jump up again, turn the other way. Continue to do this until they stop jumping – even for a split second.
OR remove yourself altogether. If your dog jumps up when you walk in the door, turn around and walk back outside. If they jump up when you're inside, walk out of the room and lock yourself behind a door, or behind a baby gate. Count to 10 then reintroduce yourself to your dog, calmly. If they jump up, Rinse and Repeat.
Once you've mastered step 1 above, you need step 2: Reward the behaviour you want.
You can choose what it is, I go with 4 on the floor. All 4 paws must be on the floor for you to receive attention, treats, or whatever else you desire.
I personally do not ask for a sit or down, the reason being is that when something SO. EXCITING. HAPPENS like you tell the kids you have made the decision to go to Disneyland for summer vacation!! What is their reaction? Is your Disney loving child sitting still at the table acting stoic or have they pushed themselves back from the kitchen table, jumping in the air and letting out screams of excitement?
Now, think of it from your dog’s perspective. Their best friend just got home from hours away at work. It is hard to stay still and not move; their body is literally vibrating with excitement! I just don't think it is very fair in asking them to be still and to be honest, they will likely fail. Failure causes frustration. So, let's keep it easy.
As soon as your dog is standing in front of you with all 4 paws on the ground, toss them a treat or place a treat on the ground between their feet. This keeps them on the floor and not jumping up for the food.
If your dog is really struggling at staying down, keep all excitement levels down. As your dog begins to understand the expectation of not jumping, you can slowly add more excitement into the game.
Structure your training session to practice with your dog. If the jumping occurs most often when you come home from work or company comes over. Try to keep a small bag of non-perishable treats in the mailbox or in a ziplock container on the front porch. This will help you to get yourself stocked for when you walk through the door. So you are ready to reinforce that GOOD behaviour.
Structure your training session to look like this:
Armour yourself with treats outside the house
Calmly walk into the house/room
Ignore your dog, until they have 4 paws on the ground
Reinforce your dog with treats, low to the ground to prevent jumping
Walk out the house/room
Rinse and repeat, 5-10x each time. The jumping will stop quicker the more you practice and the reinforcement will happen faster (this is good!)
End the game with a food scatter on the floor or a quick session of love and attention
Spend a few minutes every time you get home to practice all four paws on the ground. If your dog jumps up, don't worry! just step back outside and try again. Reward heavily anytime all four paws are on the floor.
Now that your dog understands, start making it real.
Your dog has a basic understanding now that he can not jump on you, but that does will not generalize to everyone else.
Remember that Ziplock container of treats outside? Don’t forget to let any of your potential guests know about the treats as well so they can also arm themselves before walking into the house.
I like to have a conversation with the person who is coming over so that they are on the same page, understand what is going to happen and how to work through it. I find it works best for them to rather:
A) Call when they arrive and you can break down what is about to happen
B) Go outside and show them what to do
The conversation will go something like this:
“Hey, Jim! Okay, I am training Sparky to not jump on guests. We have been working really hard at this and he is pretty good with me, but now he needs to learn that other people are also apart of the “No Jumping Zone”. If he jumps up on you, this is what we are going to do.
I have some treats in the mailbox, grab a large handful. When you walk in the house, Sparky will likely jump on you. Ignore him, don’t look at him, touch him, or talk to him. Just turn your back. If you see that he puts all four of his paws on the floor, even for a split second. Turn around and start throwing food onto the ground as a reinforcement! If he is relentless and won’t stop. Go back outside for about 20 seconds and try again. I really appreciate you helping me out, I’ll give you a beer or two as a thank you!”
Now, remember, you need to make it clear and concise for your guest, they don’t know what they are doing so they need it to be easy to understand!
After a couple of weeks of practice, your dog will be a professional at this behaviour! All while not having to correct, scream “No!” or anything else that you’ve been doing for the length of your dogs’ life. I am sure you will both appreciate the change of approach when solving this pesky behaviour.