Why Do Dogs Jump Up?
Why do dogs jump up? A plausible explanation arises from their ways of communicating with each other. A puppy greeting an adult dog often licks the adult’s muzzle — a polite, deferential behavior. Dogs, of course, descend from wolves, among whom muzzle-licking is how pups get the grownups to regurgitate food for them. Domestic dogs rarely nourish puppies this way, but muzzle-licking has survived.
When a cute little puppy jumps up to lick face, many people can only say “Awwww!” Hey presto! Jumping up has been rewarded. The puppy’s natural inclination is now a learned behavior. Too bad for the dog when he’s nine months old, bigger and less cute, muddying the pinstripes and knocking Granny to the ground.
Paying attention to a dog only when all four paws are on the floor can work well, if jumping isn’t well rewarded and if everybody who deals with the dog follows the rules. Unfortunately, much of humanity will get busy undermining you. “I don’t mind your puppy jumping up,” they say, while you tear your hair out. Or they get all disciplinarian, maybe kneeing the dog in the chest. That is not only mean but counterproductive, because dogs often respond by trying to appease. Since humans are usually taller than dogs, reaching our muzzles to lick them involves jumping up.
Don’t Increase The Excitement
One of the lovely things about coming home to your dog is that they will always be happy to see you, whether you’ve been gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours. If you encourage this excitement, it will amplify, rather than dissipate. When you come home, don’t talk in an excited, high pitched voice and don’t look at or touch your dog until he is calm and all 4 paws are on the floor.
Stopping The Jump
It sounds deceptively simple, but simply ignoring your dog when he is jumping by turning your back and looking away will eventually teach him that it no longer gets attention. Unfortunately it takes very little time to teach a behavior, but much longer to stop one. Interestingly, if you are consistent and stop everyone from looking, touching or speaking to your dog while he is jumping it will stop much more quickly than if there is intermittent rewarding (ie. If you sometimes give your dog attention or one of your family member does when the dog is jumping on them – get your house help on that side too)
Reward The Good
As soon as all 4 paws are on the ground, look at your dog and tell him he is doing well. As soon as he starts to leap again, turn your back. You will find yourself turning in circles constantly during the early stages, but eventually your persistence will pay off. Also be aware that a problem behavior often gets worse before it improves, which may make it seem like the approach is not working. Your dog has been doing the same thing for a long time, so will at first be a little confused as to why he is no longer getting the same response. The natural thing to do is to try harder, so he will leap for the skies for the first couple of weeks. Just remember, that as soon as all 4 paws are on the ground, reward him (with praise and eye contact), so he gets the idea.
Jumping On Guests
If your dog is prone to leaping all over your nanna or small children, keep him on a lead by your side while they visit. When you hear the door, ask your dog to sit and reward this. You will initially need a helper, but could use something like a Treat and Train to teach him to stay on his mat while guests visit. When the guest comes inside ask them to also ignore your dog. Keep rewarding the calm behaviour and asking your pet to sit. Only allow him off-lead when you are sure he will reliably sit by your side.
If you have some friends, ask if they can practice with your dog. The more occasions your dog has to learn the appropriate response to a visitor, the quicker he will learn. Ask them to ignore the jumping and only give attention (lavish attention) when your dog is sitting politely.
Another option for dogs that need constant monitoring when guests arrive is to crate train them or teach them to sit on their bed. Give them a high value treat such as a bone or a toy filled with his favourite treats when guests first arrive as a reward for staying put. This may not last the entire visit, but hopefully the initial excitement phase can be diverted to chewing instead. If you know you are having a big group of people over consider taking your dog out for a big run so he is not bored and full of energy. A tired dog is not only a happy dog, but a well behaved one!
Training Your Dog To Jump Up On Request
Some owners feel there are times when it is both appropriate and enjoyable for their dog to greet them by jumping-up. To avoid confusion, always herald these occasions with a suitable request, e.g., “Give us a Hug.” Never allow the dog to jump-up unless on invitation. When returning home, first have the dog greet you in a calm, controlled stay, and then once you have closed the front door or changed into dog-jumping clothes, tell the dog to give you a hug. Thus, the previous problem – joyful jumping – becomes the reward for not jumping-up during the initial greeting.