When your dog jumps, he is seeking your attention. When you tell your dog to stop or push him away, you are reinforcing that behavior by giving him exactly what he wants.
The easiest and generally most effective way to teach your dog not to jump is to turn your back on him or do a “royal” pose – arms crossed, head up and looking off in the distance – while totally ignoring him. Don’t look at your dog, don’t talk to your dog, and don’t touch your dog. It may take fifteen to twenty seconds, but your dog will stop jumping. When he stops, you should turn back to him, praise him, and give him a treat. If he is not already sitting, ask him to sit. Eventually, you will give your dog a treat only after he is sitting without your telling him to do so.
Note: Whenever we refer to a “treat”, we are talking about something no bigger than a pea and, for training purposes, something extra special, like chicken, string cheese, a lick of baby food, or a dog log (available at independent pet stores). Cut back on meals when training.
Reward the behaviors you want. If you are consistent, your dog will quickly understand that jumping doesn’t get your attention; sitting does. It should be like a light switch – When he jumps, your attention is turned off. When he sits, your attention is turned on. Also remember to give your dog attention when he behaves, so he doesn’t have to do something, like jump, to be noticed.
Some dogs pick up the sequence of jump – sit – treat. These dogs will stop jumping and sit instead, in order to earn a treat. Then, they’ll jump again. One solution is to use a clicker (or other marker, like “YES”) to catch your dog before he jumps and then reward him with a treat. For this to work, though, your dog needs to have learned that the click (or “YES”) marks a behavior you want and that the marker is always followed by a treat. You also have to keep your hand with the treat down. Every time you pull your hand up or back, you encourage jumping. You can set up practice times when your dog is most likely to jump – for example, when someone greets him.
The timing on this is crucial, though; so, it’s likely you’ll need guidance. Here’s a video of Jules Nye, a trainer from Sit, Stay and Play, using this method:
If you have a “kangaroo” dog, there is another method you can also try. If your dog has already been taught “touch” (or targeting), you can teach him to “touch up.” Put your hand about shoulder height, straight in front of you, palm down. That way, your dog will still get to jump, but without jumping on anyone.
The “I’m SOOOO Glad You’re Home!” Jump
Many dogs jump on their humans when they walk through the door coming home. Here’s an exercise to try if your dog just can’t contain his enthusiasm at seeing you. It’s important that you practice at a door where there’s no risk of your dog getting out – for example, coming in from a garage that is closed to the outside. However, if you usually come in through the front door, practice this exercise at different doors in your home before moving to the front door.
When you “come home,” open the door a little at a time, and close it again if your dog is jumping. When your dog remains calm as the door is opened, open the door all the way. If your dog jumps, step outside again. Repeat this process until you are able to open the door completely and step inside without his jumping. Ask your dog to sit and give him a wonderful treat. In the future, wait for him to sit, without asking, before rewarding him. This will help your dog understand that staying on all fours has its benefits! It will also help if, after treating your dog, you keep walking instead of lavishing attention on him. A few minutes later, after everything has settled down a bit, you can give him plenty of attention – just not the minute you walk in the door.
Politely Greeting Guests
You can teach your dog not to jump on guests by practicing a similar exercise. Here’s how it works. Ask a friend to help you, and put your dog on a leash. The leash is to keep your dog from running out the door, NOT to pull him back if he jumps. Have your friend ring the doorbell or knock on the door. Open the door and have your “guest” come in. If your dog jumps up, have your friend ignore the dog, turn around and leave, closing the door behind her. Try it again…..and again…..and again, if necessary. When your dog finally remains calm, have your friend take a few steps inside. Then, you ask your dog to sit, and reward your dog for his good behavior with a great treat. After a few tries, wait until you dog sits on his own before giving him a treat. Remember to hold the treat at your dog’s face level; a raised hand is an invitation to jump. We want to set the dog up for success, not tempt him to give us an unwanted behavior. If your dog starts jumping again, your friend should leave.
You obviously can’t have a real “guest” going in and out the front door, but you can have your dog on a leash. And you can request that your guest ignore your dog unless your dog is sitting calmly. When you get that calm behavior, give your dog multiple treats, one right after the other, as an extra special reward.
Whatever approach you choose, the key is consistency. Everyone in your home has to be on the same page. Instead of yelling “no”, pushing your dog away, or even kneeing him (yes, some people still do that), it’s important to teach your dog an alternative behavior, like sit. Your dog won’t know what you want him to do, instead of jumping, if you haven’t taught him.
Key Points to Remember
- Jumping is an attention-seeking behavior. When you respond by giving your dog attention, your dog has been successful.
- Your dog can’t sit and jump at the same time. Ignore jumping, and reward sitting.
- Set your dog up for success by practicing these exercises with a friend BEFORE there are people coming to your home.
- Give your dog attention and treats at random times when he is calm, not just when you are working on his jumping behavior.
Check our classes page for our next Please Stop Jumping session. We’d be happy to help you cure your dog of his or her jumping habit.
Still Need Help?
Our trainers would be glad to help you. Our monthly Adopters Workshop is a Q&A session open to anyone, even if you’ve had your dog for a long time. Come pick the brain of one of our trainers and go home with a few new tricks up your sleeve. Click here for the workshop schedule.
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This material is not intended to be a substitute for professional help when dealing with dogs with intense or potentially dangerous behavior issues. Consider consulting a positive reinforcement trainer or animal behaviorist for situations that you feel are dangerous or that you don’t feel equipped to handle. A list of recommended trainers and behaviorists can be found on our website, www.yourdogsfriend.info.