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Ask the Trainer: Stopping a Dog from Jumping on People

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Dear Kevin,
We acquired 8 year old Zack, a Bichon Frise recently. He is our second Bichon. Our first passed away in April. Zack is a very intelligent boy. He is house trained and neutered. For the most part he is very well behaved and obedient. His one habit that I want to break is jumping. He will jump on anyone when they first enter our house. We have been working with him to sit until the person has come in and sat down. This jumping up on people must be broken. It hurts the back of my legs when he does this. He jumps on the front of my legs and then on the back of my legs as I am walking into the room. After this initial jumping to say hello, he will become his normal docile self. What tips can you offer to help train Zack not to jump on people when they enter our home?
– Robin

Hey Robin,

Jumping is a very common problem. 99% of the time jumping is an attention seeking behavior. What happens is the dog jumps on the human, the human either knowingly or unknowingly reinforces the behavior and it just spirals out of control from there.

Lets talk about how the behavior is reinforced.  When a dog jumps there are a few typical reactions from the person. Sometimes the person is excited to see the dog and they give him attention. This results in positively reinforcing the behavior which makes it very likely the dog will do it again. For the record it only takes one person to intentionally reward this behavior for it never to be solved. The other common reaction given by the person is something that is supposed to punish the dog. Whether it’s a knee in the chest, stomping on the back feet, pinching the front feet, or just yelling and shoving the dog off, these can all be “good enough” reactions that gives the dog enough of what he is looking for causing him to continue to jump. Basically, he is looking for attention and he will take any kind of attention whether it is positive attention or negative attention.

With all that being said you can see that addressing the dog at all can cause him to continue this behavior. My advice is to completely ignore him. And I mean completely. Walk in and walk right passed him. If he jumps on your leg just keep on moving. Do not even look at him because eye contact can and will cause him to jump. This might be very tough the first couple of times, especially with him being 8 years old. For the record, the longer a dog has been rehearsing a behavior, in theory the longer it will take to get him to stop rehearsing it. When you walk in the first couple of times he might jump on you like crazy. One thing you’ll want to remember is what is referred to as an “Extinction Burst.” An extinction burst is basically the dogs last effort to try to get your attention. Basically he is thinking, “This always has worked in the past, since it’s not working now I better try extra hard.” Basically the first time he may try extra hard to get your attention. Just keep ignoring. Just about everyday the jumping should decrease. I say “just about” because it is an animal and not a robot. This means there could be a day here and there that he jumps a bit more than the last. But you will see a gradual decrease with consistency.

It is important to do the afore mentioned protocol to get the jumping to cease. That being said it is very important that we tell him what we would like him to do to get the attention instead of jumping. I see you mentioned that you have been working on getting him to sit instead. This can be effective. This would be what is referred to as teaching the dog an incompatible behavior. Basically he can’t sit and jump at the same time. You can keep trying that after you do some ignoring. This has been proven to work. One thing I do is ignore the unwanted behavior, and once he makes the appropriate decision (4 feet on the floor) I will reach down and give him the attention he wants so bad. If I reach down and he jumps, I will stand right back up and start the ignoring process all over again. If I reach down and he stays down, I will give him the attention he is looking for. There are a lot of other little games that can be played to help with this but I am going to try to keep this short. Doing what I have mentioned so far should give you the tools you need to stop this behavior.

On a side note, think of it this way. Anytime that Zack has less than 4 of his feet on the ground he is jumping. If you are sitting in a chair and he climbs up your leg, he is jumping.

-When guests arrive the best thing they can do is play this game. So tell them the rules! If they are physically unable or unwilling to ignore, use a leash inside the house so that you can physically prevent Zack from jumping on them. Give him the opportunity to greet. If he tries to jump, just fluently walk away with him about 10 feet. Give him a minute or so and allow him to try again with the greeting. If he makes the correct decision the person can reach down and pet him. If he makes the wrong decision just repeat the cycle. Stay consistent and patient and you can concur this.

Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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  1. Avatar Of Paul Greene

    Paul Greene


    Thank you very much Kevin, I will check it all out.


  2. Avatar Of Paul Greene

    Paul Greene


    Our rescue is 8 years old. He was found on the
    streets in NYC and we are his first and forever
    adopted parents. We have had him for 6 years.
    He is a Wheaton terrier/Golden Lab Mix.
    He is docile and loving and cuddly at home.
    He listens well, stays, sits, gives paw, rings bells,
    comes to you when you call him.

    We have another dog we rescued two years after we
    adopted him. She is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix.
    She has a very laid back nature with other dogs and
    loves to play.
    They get along great, wrestle, play, sleep near each other.
    They nuzzle each other and will even eat and drink out
    of the same bowl together.

    However my Wheaton Terrier aggressively goes after other
    dogs, large, small, doesn’t matter. Walking him is a challenge
    and although we have never gotten him trained because it is
    very expensive, I wonder if that would even help him at this
    He has never bit another dog, just loud barking and runs
    after them (if he gets away from us which he has done so we
    changed his leash to a durable harness)
    and gets in their faces, seemingly to scare them away.

    I must say he is also a fearful dog with thunderstorms, loud noises,
    fireworks, popping sounds (like a gun) and other loud intrusions.
    He’s a regular Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

    What we have done when we walk him is to muzzle him which helps
    dampen his aggression a bit but he still tries to bark at them.
    He will even go crazy barking if he sees a dog out our car window.

    I guess what I am asking is, it possible for us to train him to
    stop barking and being aggressive with other dogs? We want him to enjoy
    his life and have social interactions that are happy and relaxed,
    like the one he has with his little sister.

    Thank you so much.

  3. Avatar Of Elin Jonsdottir

    Elin Jonsdottir


    My one-year-old lab does not jump up on us at home, but she jumps up on strangers when we are out walking. She also frantically tries to jump on other dogs, to get them to play. Any advice, please?

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