Most behaviorists will tell you that any unrequested dominating behavior from a dog should be discouraged. Your dog might just be jumping up to say hello or get a little attention, but a well behaved dog should not be dictating when they get your attention. For this reason it’s important to teach your dog how to greet humans politely. Afterall, your dog is likely to meet people who don’t like dogs, are allergic or scared of them.
So, although your dog’s intentions are probably good, training them not to jump up on people is the best way to ensure that they are fully socialized, well-behaved, and don’t pose a threat to anyone they could hurt or knock over – particularly children and older people.
Why Do Dogs Jump Up?
In a dog’s mind, by jumping up they are greeting you at face level and saying hello in a friendly way – even if that’s not how we perceive it. And since dogs respond to rewards, they will repeat behaviors that get them a cuddle or some play time. Even if you tell your dog off when they jump up, that’s still a reward to some dogs who will take your attention any way they can. When you, your family, or friends push the dog away or grab their paws to put them down it’s likely that the dog will see this as play and try to jump up again.
It’s not that your dog is ignoring your command to get down. To them, engaging with their greeting is taken as positive reinforcement of the behavior, which is why it’s important not to reward jumping up – including with negative reactions like shouting at them – and instead teach them alternative ways to say hello to people.
Training Your Dog Not To Jump Up
The easiest way to teach a dog not to jump up is to ignore them every time they do it. By withdrawing the reward of attention, they will learn that there is no positive reinforcement for this behavior.
The issue with this training method, however, is that anyone else you encounter is unlikely to simply ignore your dog when they jump up at them. If you have a larger dog, it can also be quite difficult to ignore them when their paws are round your waist or on your shoulders and they’re face-to-face seeking your attention.
The other problem with this method is that it’s very frustrating for the dog, who isn’t being taught an alternative by being ignored. So to really teach your dog not to jump up, you need to teach them to do something else instead, rather than nothing at all – for example, sitting or lying down.
Teaching Your Dog ‘Four On The Floor’
Teaching your dog that the best way to get your attention is by keeping all four of their paws on the floor is a good way to guarantee that they won’t jump up. This might seem a difficult behavior to train, but the trick is to keep a list of any situation that might cause them to jump up, and quickly intervene with a treat before they do – i.e. when all four of their paws are still on the floor.
For example, if you’ve been out of the house and want to stop them from jumping up when you return home, make sure you have treats in your hand and get down to say hello before they have a chance to jump up. Rewarding them while they’re still sitting or standing will reinforce this way of greeting you. But the second those paws leave the floor, the attention stops.
You can also put treats on the floor for them while they greet other people, rewarding them for staying down whilst saying hello. Anticipating their behavior will mean you can get in there with the treats before they jump.
Train your dog to greet someone while standing rather than up by following these steps:
- Have a friend approach your dog while they’re on their leash
- Throw down some treats just before your friend reaches the dog
- Have your friend pet your dog and greet them while they’re enjoying their treats
- The person should then end their greeting and back away before the dog has finished their treats
- If you’re too late and the dog does jump before finishing their treats or being greeted on the floor, your friend should walk away without giving them any further attention
- Repeat this process several times, extending the greeting while tossing more treats for your dog while as they remain on all fours
- In time, your dog will learn that staying on the floor earns them attention, while jumping removes that reward
- When your dog has learned to keep all four paws on the floor, have your friend greet them before the treat is presented
- Feed fewer and fewer treats until they understand that the attention of the greeting is their reward for staying on all fours
Training Your Dog To Sit Rather Than Jump
Similar to the ‘four on the floor’ method, you can also prevent your dog from jumping up by teaching them to keep their behind on the floor. Reinforcing positive behaviors by offering them greetings and attention as long as they remain seated can be an effective way to socialize them around people who might be afraid of dogs, or who are intimidated by lively, standing dogs with wagging tails.
When your dog learns to sit down without distraction, they will learn sitting as a way of asking for something, or effectively saying ‘please’. So with practice, not only will they find it easier to greet people while sitting rather than jumping up, but they will also learn to sit before being fed, before walkies, and anything else they might want your attention for.
Train your dog to greet someone while sitting rather than up by following these steps:
- Put your dog on the leash and attach the leash to furniture, a door knob, or something sturdy that they won’t pull away
- Stand several feet away and tell them to sit. Once they have, approach them calmly
- If your dog stands up, turn away from them and walk back to your starting point
- Ask them to sit again. Once they stay sitting, approach them and quietly praise them and give them attention. Keep up this greeting for as long as they stay sitting. When they stand up, turn and walk away
- As your dog learns that they earn attention when they stay sat down, make your approach less calm and show more excitement when you greet them
- Repeat the process until they remain seated, even when greeted with excitement
- Once your dog has learned this with you, start again from step one with family and friends. You might choose to reinforce this behavior further with treats, but this will also require extra steps so your dog then learns to sit just for attention and without treats as a reward
Stopping Your Dog From Jumping During Training
Training your dog not to jump up takes time and, in reality, it’s unlikely that you can prevent them from seeing strangers and other people who aren’t aware of your training. During this time, the best way to stop them from jumping up at people who aren’t involved in your training will simply be to keep them away.
You can do this using a ‘go to your bed\crate’ or any other command you use at home to get them to go to a certain spot. You can also put them in their crate, on their leash, or behind a baby gate if the doorbell rings or you have visitors.
Distracting your dog with toys or treats when visitors enter the house is a good way to distract them from jumping up without having them leave the room altogether, which might not always be possible.
Similarly, when you’re out walking your dog, strangers will not know your training and rules around jumping up. In this instance, the best way to stop them reacting is to not greet strangers at all until they’re fully trained not to jump. Instead, distract them with a toy, treat, or ‘watch me’ command if a stranger approaches or passes by.
When your dog is successfully trained not to jump, you can let people know to ignore them if they do jump up and disregard their training. Eventually, they will learn that nobody will give them attention unless they stay down, whether they’re at home or out on walkies.
Final Tips For Training Your Dog Not To Jump Up
Training a dog can be exhausting and frustrating, but the results are well worth the effort. A well trained and socialized dog is a happy dog, and it makes for a much happier owner too. So, during training, keep these tips in mind even when you feel like giving up!
- When your dog jumps up, don’t respond. Stay calm, wait for them to stop, and reward them when their paws or bottom are back on the floor
- Don’t tell your dog off. Reprimanding them when they jump up can be perceived as the reward of attention. For anxious dogs, negative responses can also cause distress which in turn leads to more jumping up as they try to fix the situation
- Don’t give up! When you first stop reacting to your dog jumping up, they might start doing it more in an attempt to get the attention back. Though frustrating, this is normal and as you persist with training, they will learn the new way to get your attention by staying down
- Be consistent. If you stop this training or don’t inform visitors of what to do if your dog does jump up, it sends mixed signal which will confuse your dog and set their training progress back
- Always have treats at the ready. Be prepared to reward your dog every time they stay down, and scatter treats to distract them if you do bump into people while out on walks
Not all dogs are easy to train, and if you’re struggling to teach your dog even with consistent and repetitive training, seek the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They will be able to work with you and your dog to teach them new and better ways to greet people and get the positive attention they’re looking for.