Help! My Dog Won’t Stop Jumping!

Does your dog jump on you or other people when he/she gets excited and it’s driving you crazy? There are some people who think it’s cute when small dogs jump up on them. Whether yours is a small toy-sized dog or not, some people may not like your dog jumping on them for a variety of reasons. Adults or children may not be able to handle your dog jumping on them, especially when they aren’t expecting it. You might also consider that they may have a fear of dogs or could be allergic. A jumping dog could scratch the skin or bruise someone with their nails. There are also those times when it’s muddy and you or your guest have nice clothes on and prefer not to have them get dirty from the dog jumping up to greet them.

The main question is, “Why do dogs jump in the first place?” They jump for many reasons. The most common stimulation for a dog jumping to greet us is that we are rewarding them if we pet them. They could also be trying to get something you have in your hands. Sometimes a dog may jump if it is nervous. Dogs continue to do what works for them, so if we are giving them attention for a particular behavior, they will tend to continue that behavior. What can we do to discourage and ultimately stop unwanted jumping?

  • Reject. When the dog jumps on you, fold in your arms and turn away, ignoring them. When they have all 4 feet on the ground turn back around calmly and reward them by petting them gently. If the dog jumps again repeat as many times as necessary. He/she will soon realize when they jump, you take the reward away by rejecting his unwanted behavior. The dog will begin to make the connection that he gets more petting and attention when he isn’t jumping.
  • Remove. Another technique you can use is to have your dog on leash and have a friend approach your dog. If he/she jumps on your friend quietly say, “too bad” as you turn and walk away with your dog. Give the dog a few seconds and go back for another try. Repeat the process if the dog jumps. Continue doing this as many times as necessary. Your friend could also be the one to walk away, leaving you and the dog behind.  Once the dog greets your friend without jumping, calmly give him praise and pet him. This exercise is teaching the dog that when he jumps his reward goes away. Pretty soon he will realize he gets rewarded (petting) when he doesn’t jump.
  • Reward. Dogs typically respond well to rewards.  Clicker training can be a valuable aid, as it associates a distinct sound with a reward.  If you use a clicker to train your dog, you should click him when he has all four feet on the floor and follow up with a treat and some gentle petting.  As with all behavioral training, we reward desirable behaviors and do not reward undesirable ones.
  • Refrain. When a dog is jumping, be sure you don’t push them away, knee them in the chest, etc. This may hurt them and even cause them to jump more out of an appeasement behavior simply because they don’t know what you want them to do. Again, dogs do what works for them so even though we intend this as punishment to us or negative attention, they only know that they are still getting attention. Therefore, this could backfire and may cause the dog to jump more.
  • Reinforce. Be consistent with your training.  Don’t reward jumping sometimes and discourage it at other times.  Consistently reinforcing the dog’s good behavior and limiting their excitement when they greet you or other people will ultimately become ingrained in their normal patterns of behavior.

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