Written by Ella White
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.
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.
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 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:
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:
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.
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!
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.