Probably common question I get coming from new dog owners is “just how do I get him to quit jumping up?” Puppies and dogs normally jump up on people whenever they say hello. Why? Because we’re taller than them! Dogs greet each other by going nose-to-nose and they like to do the exact same with us so it’s completely natural for them to jump up on us to make an effort to reach our faces. Our response must be very confusing to them. Suppose you see an old buddy at the grocery store and you run up to offer the individual a hug. Just imagine just how you would feel if the person yelled at you, snatched you by your coat collar, held you at arm’s distance, and after that said, “how wonderful it is to see you once again”!!! You would find this experience most disturbing.
The bright side is the fact that most dogs can learn how to inhibit jumping up during hellos; the problem is that it commonly takes significant energy on the owner’s part. There is not one right technique that works with all dogs either.
What not to do
The more excited you act when you greet your dog, the more excited the dog will act. Excited dogs are most likely to jump up. Stay calm whenever you get home. Speak calmly and pat your dog with long, relaxing strokes along the body.
Even though you may reprimand the dog with your speech, if you push the dog off or attempt to grab the dog with your hands to manage his behavior, the physical contact may really be reinforcing the jumping up. Dogs love touch and may see your attempts to control him as just part of the game. It’s a lot more effective to stand up tall, tuck your hands up to your chest, and avoid looking at the dog until he calms.
Understand that shouting “off” or “down” at your dog won’t do a lot unless you’ve made the effort to educate the dog exactly what these words mean. The goal is to train the dog to back off away from you instead of coming forward and making contact with you. This is the reason for teaching the dog “off”. But it’s not enough to just teach the dog what you don’t want him to do. You also need to teach him what you do want him to do, which for most people, is “sit”. So before you do anything else, teach “off” and “sit”.
The “Off” Exercise
Teaching “off” is pretty easy for most dogs. Sit down with your dog and show him that you have a treat tucked in your hand. Hold your hand out as though you plan to give him the treat but keep your hand closed around the treat so he can’t get it (or even taste it). When he reaches with his mouth to nibble at your hand, say “off” in a clear voice (shouting is unnecessary). If the dog pulls back away from your hand, immediately say “yes”, open your hand, and reach out to let him take the treat. If he doesn’t pull back when you say “off”, move your hand toward his nose and give him a gentle “bop”. He should retract his nose from your hand then, at which point, you say “yes” and feed him the treat. The goal is to entice him to pull away from your hand, so you can then reinforce the pulling away behavior. The bop needs to be firm enough to cause the dog to pull away but not so firm that the dog becomes frightened or hurt by your movement.
A common mistake that people make is to pull their hand away from the dog instead of waiting for the dog to pull away from your hand. That won’t teach him the behavior. Once you get it right, your dog should only need a few repetitions before he instantly pulls back when he hears the word “off”. If you are too rough with your bop or your dog is especially sensitive, your dog may become hesitant to take the treat from your hand. Be sure to occasionally offer the dog a treat from your hand and refrain from saying “off”. Simply say “yes” and reach toward the dog. That will help the dog learn that he needs to listen for the word “off”.
As soon as your dog is regularly pulling away from your hand when you say “off”, require that he wait a second or two before you give him the treat. When you first do this, the dog will likely pull away, then jump back up to mouth or paw at your hand. Say “off” and bop again. Repeat until the dog has the ability to wait the 1-2 seconds before receiving the treat. This teaches the dog to control himself. Eventually work up to 30-60 seconds of the dog getting ready for permission to take the treat.
The next step is to teach “off” while you are standing. Stand up, show the dog the treat in your hand, and wait for him to jump up on you. If he isn’t inclined to do this, just step outside your front door for a few minutes. Come back in, holding your hand, with the treat, in front of your body. When the dog runs to jump up on you, say “off” and deliver the bop to his nose. He will recognize that this is still the same game, and pull away from you. He will more than likely sit. The instant he pulls away, say “yes” and reward him with the treat. Repeat this training with you coming in the front door, the back door, the yard, and anywhere else the dog is likely to jump on you. See to it that all member of the family and regular visitors get involved in the training too. Now your dog actually knows what you mean when you say “off”.
Try these out and let me know how it goes. As always, contact us if you have any questions.