How Do I Stop My Dog From Jumping on People?
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.
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My dog is usually well behaved. But when I come home or when I have visitors, he gets excited and jumps up repeatedly. He has accidentally scratched me with his nails and almost knocked over a neighbor. What can I do to get him to stop?
Although jumping up is frustrating behavior, it stems from a dog’s need to communicate with us. Because we’re so much taller than they are, they jump in order to make eye contact and get our attention.
This can be cute when they’re puppies, but when a grown dog jumps on a person, the result can range from mild annoyance to injury. And once the behavior is ingrained, it can take a little time to change. But it can be done! The key to success is persistence, patience and consistency.
The first and most important step is to only reward the behavior you want. When dogs jump up on us and receive positive attention like petting (or even negative consequences like a gentle shove), it reinforces the behavior and causes the cycle to repeat again and again.
Instead, when you come in the door, ignore your dog and stand still until he is sitting or has all four paws on the floor. This may be difficult at first (who doesn’t want to pet their happy dog at the end of a long day?), but it probably won’t take long for your dog to get the message. As soon as he or she stops jumping, feel free to calmly praise, pet and love on him as much as you’d like…taking care not to get him overly excited again.
If your pup is especially persistent, turn your back on him and pull your hands to your chest. Most likely, he will try to follow. Keep turning your back until he plants those paws.
Once he’s gotten the idea of this little “game,” you can start adding a verbal cue like “down” or “off.” When you are first working on this new behavior, make sure to treat and/or praise every time he gets it right.
After your dog is consistently greeting you and your family members politely, enlist some friends or neighbors to take it a step further. Explain the above rules to them, stressing that it’s important not to respond to your dog until he’s is behaving appropriately.
Have them ring the doorbell, then answer the door and invite them into your home. If your dog jumps, give him the “off” cue and wait for him to offer the appropriate behavior. If he refrains from jumping, ask your volunteer to calmly greet and praise him. (For especially exuberant jumpers or large dogs, you may want to keep your pup on a leash during this exercise at first.)
Practice this new skill as often as possible and avoid sending mixed messages by being consistent with your responses each and every time. If your dog slips up, try not to get frustrated or discouraged. Permanent behavior changes take time for all of us…both human and canine!