So how to stop a dog from jumping up at you or at your visitors? Dogs seems to be obsessed with face-to-face contact, wanting to lick and nudge our faces and mouths with theirs. This is rather like our preoccupation with shaking people’s hands when we meet them. Between dogs this is an important social action, serving as a greeting, a plea for an older dog to regurgitate food, and even sign of submission.
When it’s directed at a human, the height difference means that they learn to jump up to reach our faces. Since we’re not dogs, face-licking is a habit we don’t normally like. The associated practice of jumping up is even more of a nuisance. It can also be dangerous, especially when big dogs and small children or elderly people are involved.
Like most habits, this one starts in puppyhood. Puppies are small, so we naturally bend down or lift them up, giving them the perfect opportunity to lick our faces. As the puppy grows, it’s natural for him to try to continue the behavior by jumping toward faces.
While following this advice it’s important that everyone the dog jumps upon partakes in a retraining commands and actions, or the dog will become confused and even less responsive. Young children should always learn in the company of a capable adult.
Four Paws On The Ground
If you have a puppy, don’t allow him to lick faces, especially where children are involved. Hygiene is one factor, but it’s also dangerous – a grown dog can easily knock someone over. When you greet your dog, command “Sit”, and only offer praise when your puppy has all four paws on the ground. If he does jump up, stand absolutely still and say nothing. To the puppy this is boring, and he’ll quickly learn that there’s no fun or reward to be had by jumping up. All the family and any visitors must participate in this program consistently if the behavior is to be stopped.
When your dog jumps up on people indiscriminately in parks and in the street, this can be more difficult to control. It’s often difficult to stop dog lovers from petting your dog when it jumps up on them – but only in this way can you hope to prevent this behavior. Many people, especially children, find puppies irresistible, and here an extending leash can be useful to control a puppy’s exploration of a new world full of people who love puppies and unwittingly love teaching them just what you don’t want – to jump up.
Owners often try to deter their dog by hitting it or pushing it off, to no avail. Unfortunately, for most dogs any kind of touch is a strong reward, so they can interpret what is intended as a corrective measure as encouragement – a rough kind of game. Over time, the dog’s resistance to its owner’s efforts builds up, wearing the owner down.
Initial Triggers That Teach Dogs To Jump Up
When we are sitting down and a little pup jumps up, placing its front paws on our knees, it’s natural response to lean forward and either stroke the puppy or, even worse, lift it onto our lap for a cuddle. Three reinforcements have taken place, laying the foundations for a dog that jumps up in the future. Even if you then put the dog back on the floor, he has learned an important association: jumping up brings rewards.
Dogs that are lifted onto a lap obviously enjoy the contact, but it’s unfair to do this with a puppy and expect him to understand when he is bigger that you no longer want him on your knees. It’s even more confusing to him if you let him jump on you, but not on your friends. Dogs need black-and-white rules, not complex “sometimes do, sometimes don’t” situations. Teach what you want for the long term, not for the immediate moment.
It may be wiser to play with the puppy on the floor. Such play is far more interactive, and coincidentally removes the pup’s need or wish to jump up. Of course, many dog owners will have dogs who are already expert at jumping up and getting their own way. Whether the motivation is dominance, demanding attention or seeking affection, let’s look at some methods to counter the dog’s expertise.
I’m Home, I’m Ignoring You
Aim to eliminate whatever excites the jumping up. For example, if your dog jumps up when you return home, then stop greeting him when you come in. At each homecoming ignore him for the first fifteen minutes. Keep your hands still, and don’t even say hello. Ensure that all family members do the same. At first it will be difficult. Because your dog is used to an effusive greeting, he will probably be somewhat confused at first.
However, as the reward of being pushed off, pet, or praised is no longer forthcoming, the reason for jumping will have gone. Your dog should soon learn that there’s no point in continuing to jump up. After the first fifteen minutes, you can call him to you, tell him to sit, and give a reward that does not over-excite him. You have now simply reorganized the time and manner of greeting to suit you. Dogs adapt with no hard feelings.
The “Ignore” exercise is also useful around the home when your dog suddenly jumps up at you. As soon as he jumps up, pivot away from him, with no eye contact and no commands. When he gets the message, tell him to sit, praise him, and maybe offer a small treat. Ignore him again if he becomes excitable. The dog will learn that his action does not get the reaction he wants, but that staying calm and quiet is rewarded with the desired attention.
Obedience training, especially when combined with the “Ignore” exercise described, has the highest chance of success. If you train your dog to a high standard, through a reputable club or through your own efforts, you will have a dog that listens to your commands.
If your dog learns to sit on command, whenever he’s about to jump up, instruct “Sit”. When he sits, praise him verbally. Make sure that jumping up is always ignored, never rewarded. Once he realizes that, he’ll soon try sitting to achieve the desired praise. But remember that consistency is vital.
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