Spring-Loaded – What To Do When Your Dog Jumps On EVERYONE!

Is your dog one who LOVES to jump up on you when you get home? How about on visitors when they’re barely through the front door?  What about those neighborhood kids who run up to say hello when you’re out for a walk?

Jumping up is one of the most common complaints I hear as a dog trainer and it’s also one of the simplest to fix. Not easy, mind you, but simple. Let me explain…

The vast majority of dogs who jump up do so to get attention. Attention is their goal and, most of the time, jumping works. When the dog is smaller, chances are that people encourage jumping up so that they don’t have to bend down so far to pet the dog – the dog gets highly reinforced for jumping up and is VERY likely to try it again in the future. If the dog is a larger breed, chances are that people don’t intentionally encourage the dog to jump up but probably (by accident) reinforce the behavior by talking to the dog “No! Get down! No Jumping!” and  touching the dog (pushing the dog away or down). We, as humans, see these interactions as corrections…however, the DOG sees them as attention – his goal – so in HIS mind, he got what he wanted!

Uh Oh! So how DO you get a dog not to jump on everyone he meets? Simple – don’t reinforce the jumping!  This is where I remind you that I said it’s simple, not easy.

To prevent your dog from continuing a habit of jumping up on visitors you MUST use management. At home this may mean placing your dog in his kennel, in a bedroom, parked on his leash (I’ll explain “parking “in the next paragraph) or behind a baby gate when visitors come to the door and you don’t have time to turn the visit into a training practice. It’s very important to set your dog up to succeed by not giving him opportunities to fail (jump up on people). Manage whenever you don’t have time to train but train as often as you can!

To start training, you will set up practice sessions with your dog and a visitor on whom the dog is likely to jump. Have your treat pouch (filled with small, tasty treats) at the ready and clicker in hand. Put your dog on a leash and then “park” him. “Parking” your dog is a great management technique to use in many different situations. While your dog is on-leash, simply stand on the leash so that the dog has enough slack to stand and sit comfortably but no more – this prevents him from being able to jump but allows him to rest comfortably provided he keeps four paws on the floor.

This dog is parked and standing calmly while people walk by at a local dog event

While your dog is parked and standing calmly have your visitor approach your dog – don’t worry about getting the dog to sit, that is much easier to accomplish once the dog has had some practice at being calm at the approach of someone new. The visitor should approach, ask to pet your dog and wait for permission from you. Then, after permission is given, the visitor should hold out a hand to the dog and pet the dog gently under the chin for just a second or two with little or no talking to the dog. Then the visitor should remove their hand, turn and walk calmly away.

Easy, right? No, but simple – yes. Here’s the trick – the visitor must be watching the dog closely for any sign of jumping and be ready, in an instant, to turn away from the dog and completely remove all attention until the dog is calm again. Remember that attention is the dog’s goal and by removing it the visitor is making it clear to the dog that jumping will not allow him to reach his goal but standing calmly will. As soon as the dog is calm again the visitor turns back to the dog and continues the process. The visitor may have to remove attention and start over several times at first, but hang in there! Your dog is thinking throughout the process and he’ll figure it out before long – dogs are brilliant creatures! The owner during this time is still standing on the leash and remaining SILENT! Keeping in mind that TALKING is ATTENTION and will reinforce the dog’s jumping! The owner does absolutely nothing, standing silently on the leash, until the visitor has successfully petted the CALM dog. This is when the owner gets to DO something. As soon as the visitor’s hand is coming off of the dog’s chin, CLICK and then deliver a tasty treat, release and praise your dog. You can practice this set up many times in a row and watch your dog become calm sooner and sooner and stay calm more reliably while being petted.

As you have success in this process it’s a good idea to vary the people who are “visitors” – men, women, children, dressed in different clothes, at different times of day and in different places around town. The more you practice, the more reliable the dog will become. Soon you’ll have a friendly, CALM dog who loves to greet new people and who impresses everyone he meets with his amazing manners!

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