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Ask the Trainer: How Do I Teach My Dog Not to Jump on People?

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“My dog gets very excited when people come to the house, jumping on them and grabbing their arms or clothes.  She does this to family members, friends and strangers.” – Lorraine L.

Jumping on people is a common complaint for many dog owners. Most dogs jump with no malicious intent, they are just exuberantly greeting those they are happy to see.  None the less, it can be potentially dangerous.  Dogs can easily knock someone down, (especially the elderly and young children), trip a guest entering the home, or scratch with their nails.

Woman Greeting Irish Terriers At Front Door

In most cases, a dog’s jumping is our fault.  Many owners have encouraged their dog’s jumping from puppyhood.  If your puppy or dog jumps and you respond by petting/saying “hello”, you are clearly reinforcing and rewarding this unwanted behavior.  Here is a three step process which may help:

1. Avoid ALL Unintentional Reinforcement:  Make sure you are not unintentionally rewarding your dog’s jumping.  What can your dog view are reinforcing?  Petting, talking/greeting/praise, pushing them away (which becomes a game of its own), and grabbing their collar.  These actions are very engaging and reinforcing from your dog’s perspective.  Once all forms of reinforcement are removed from the equation, we can move onto step two.

2. Clearly Teach “Off”:  “Off” is a very important command for all dogs to know.  “Off” tells your dog to take their front two paws which are on either a human or object (such as a counter top) and put them back on the ground.  Remember the phrase, “All four on the floor”.  It’s essential that you clearly teach your dog what this means.  You can NOT simply yell “OFF” and expect your dog to understand…they will NOT.

One way to teach “Off” and prevent jumping is to have your dog on a leash and collar prior to meeting people.  The leash provides positive control.  Without it, you have no recourse to stop their jumping (other than the unintentional reinforcement triggers outlined above).  With the leash on, tell your dog “Off” and guide them off the person/object.  Do so by moving the leash in a backward and downward direction (angled away from the person/item they are jumping on).  Consistently repeating this process every time your dog tries to jump, will clearly teach what “Off” means.  Once a sufficient understanding and pattern of compliance occurs, you can then consider removing the leash.

  1. Teach a Socially Acceptable Way to Greet:  The final step is to teach your dog how to appropriately greet people.  There are many ways to do this, but I tend to teach the dog to “Sit” when meeting people.

In order to do this: Tell your dog to “Sit” prior to meeting someone, then allow petting.  If they start to jump, stop petting, redirect into a “Sit” and then resume petting.  Use the leash to ensure that your dog never makes contact with the person they are jumping on and to assist in redirecting back into the “Sit” position.  Your dog should quickly learn that the act of sitting is what results in the affection they are seeking.  Jumping is no longer being rewarded and is now discouraged.  As a result, sitting should now become their default way of greeting.

As with all aspects of dog training, teaching your dog not to jump requires consistent follow-through.  Every dog is unique, so this is only one possible teaching method.  Determine based on effectiveness and your dog’s response, as to whether this is most appropriate for your dog or other training techniques may be better.  Whichever training approaches you use, ensure that you are consistent in applying them in everyday real-world activities.  This is the secret to creating a reliable response and understanding from your dog.

Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Westchester, NY.  For more information about S. R. Dog Training and to sign-up for his newsletter, visit www.srdogtraining.com. Please also become a fan of Steve on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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