As a pet dog trainer, one common problem for which people seek out training is jumping up. It’s annoying when dogs jump up, and if the dog is large, it can be downright dangerous. So, how do you train your dog not to jump up on you and your family/friends?
Jumping on People is Natural for Dogs!
First, it’s important to remember that jumping up is quite natural for dogs. If you watch a couple days play together, you’ll likely notice a natural rhythm of one dog jumping up on top of the other, then that dog jumping up on the other one, and so on. When dogs play, they are always jumping on each other. Dogs also jump up for attention, and when we react to their jumping up we are giving them exactly what they want.
Many dogs that jump on people are struggling to control their arousal levels. It’s hard to be calm and think when over-aroused! Finally, some dogs jump up because they feel anxious. Anxiety jumping feels frantic and clingy. Punishing a dog who is anxious is only going to make that anxiety worse.
When dogs jump for attention, they are looking to get some kind of reaction. Any type of reaction from you, even a negative one, is going to give them the attention that they crave. For a dog, no attention at all is much worse than getting yelled at and pushed away. In fact, if you watch dogs play together, you’ll notice how they commonly body slam and push in the other dog. Many dogs will get more excited by being pushed away or getting kneed in the chest. These methods of telling a dog that jumping up is not okay is not going to get us what we want, which is a calm dog with four feet on the floor.
What Can We Do About Jumping?
There are so many games I teach that help train your dog to stop jumping! You can learn all about these games in our Basic Manners class! One of the first things I do is teach the dog a behavior that is impossible to do while jumping. We call this an incompatible or alternative behavior. If we focus on putting a ton of reward history on an appropriate behavior, like sitting or laying down, the dog will learn to do that behavior for attention instead.
Some ideas for incompatible behaviors would be sit, down, or go to a station. You could also do a chin rest or a nose touch, preferably with some duration. It’s best if this behavior can be offered, rather than cued. Once the dog has a lot of reward history on an alternative behavior, you can starting pairing that behavior with either you or another person approaching.
Here’s an example of training sit as an incompatible behavior. I’m starting by encouraging an offered sit. Anytime Hero sits, I give him a cookie. You can see how I’m luring a little bit here. This particular dog did not know how to sit on cue yet, so this behavior is REALLY new to him.
The other pups featured in this video are students in one of my classes. You can see how I’m coaching the owners to give treats for sitting, and toward the end I’m working on increasing the value of sitting.
You can train other behaviors too! Some of the dogs I work with very naturally offer downs instead of sits. I run with it! A dog can’t lie down and jump at the same time. When I reinforce the downs, I try to place the treats on the ground between the dog’s front legs.
If your dog loves his place mat or station, or a chin rest or nose touch, you can use those behaviors too! Start by putting a lot of reward history of those behaviors, then start to see if the dog will offer the behaviors or respond to a simple hand prompt. The next time your dog is excited, ask for one of these behaviors and reward!
There are a lot of other games I teach to help with reducing jumping, but this is a very good first approach!