Dogs Jumping Up On You – Natural, but annoying

It is very common to have a problem with a dog that jumps up on you.  It is the natural greeting behavior of dogs to lick one another in the face.  [ See “Super Puppy” by Peter Vollmer] How could your dog lick your face without jumping up toward it?

Despite the fact that this is a natural behavior, it is not really an acceptable behavior.  Perhaps  you personally always wear heavy canvas overalls and enjoy the physical interaction.   It is unlikely that everyone in your family and all your acquaintances would feel that way.  Sometimes they may be wearing nice clothes, or they might be easily unbalanced and fall down.

BE CONSISTENT

Dogs generally become confused if you reward a behavior at some times (when you are wearing your grubby clothes) and punish it at other times (when you are dressed nicely, or when grandma gets knocked down).  You need to be consistent and always let the dog know that the jumping up behavior is not okay.

THE LONG TERM FIX – Something Constructive to do instead

The long-term fix for this is to substitute a positive behavior for this undesirable behavior.  [We will get to the short-term fix later.]  A commonly recommended (and usually effective) remedy is the "nothing is free” approach.

In the “nothing is free” approach to behavior problems, the dog must perform a constructive behavior before he receives anything that he desires.  This includes petting, toys, treats, food, or anything  else desirable that the dog will get from you.  This is no more unreasonable or demanding than asking a child to say, “please”.  It is just good manners.  It requires the dog to look to the person for leadership, rather than just randomly bouncing off the walls (or the person).

The constructive behavior we want as the dog’s “please” is for the dog to sit down.  He must sit down  before receiving anything he wants.  We use the sit behavior because it forces the dog to exercise some self-control and restraint, and because you can’t be jumping up if your butt is on the ground.

Step one is to teach the dog what the “Sit” command means.  The older, more authoritarian methods of obedience training suggested that you pull up on the dog’s collar while pushing down on his rump.  A method that is often simpler is to take a small treat and hold it in your closed hand in front of the dog.  Give the command,“Buddy, SIT” and keep moving the treat backward over his head until he has to sit down to see your hand.  When he sits, give him the treat and say, “Good sit!” Most dogs learn the sit command pretty easily.

When you are certain that the dog knows what the “Sit” command means (he will always sit rapidly for a treat), then you require him to sit before he gets anything that he wants.  He comes to be petted, he begs for a treat, he brings you his food bowl, he brings the ball to play fetch – it doesn’t matter what.  You give him the “Sit” command, and he doesn’t get what he wants until he sits. 
Then you reinforce that constructive behavior –  “Good Sit!” and give him what he wants.

DON’T ACCIDENTALLY REWARD THE BAD STUFF

It is important not to accidentally reward behaviors that are undesirable.  Much like a child who misbehaves in order to get attention (negative attention being more desirable than being ignored), the dog may actually view your yelling at him as a reward.  He has done something that has brought you into his sphere of influence.  You may be “bawling him out”, but at least you’re talking to him.  Maybe you’re getting into the spirit of the thing and cheering him on – in his mind, anyway.  So you don’t want to do that.

So, instead of yelling at the dog to “Stop!” or “Stop that!” or “Quit it!” or “No!” or “Bad Dog!”, we want to briefly distract him from the undesirable behavior with a stimulus that is not personal attention from us.  Many trainers use a “shaker can”.  This is an aluminum can with a few BBs or pennies in it (and the opening taped shut).  When the dog begins the undesirable behavior, you make enough noise (that is impersonal, it’s just a noise) that he is distracted enough to stop what he is doing for an instant. You don’t want him to be terrified and run away, you just want to distract him long enough to stop for a second.  During this brief instant, you give the “Sit” command.  If you have
been consistently applying the “nothing is free” approach with the sit command, he will sit down.  You reward him with “Good sit!”.

Now you have rewarded a constructive behavior (the sit) instead of the undesirable behavior (jumping on the door or whatever).

STEP BY STEP – Be certain of Step One before going to Step Two

With a dog who has been accustomed to jumping all over everybody, this will take a little time to change his behavior.  Take it a step at a time. First be sure that he knows the “Sit” command and will perform it reliably for a known reward (like a special treat).  Second, start the “nothing is free” approach to everything he wants.  When he is accustomed to this, begin the shaker can distraction, followed by the “Sit” command, rewarding only the constructive behavior of sitting down (not the undesirable behaviors).

THE SHORT TERM FIX

The short-term fix is not a good handling because it requires some practice and timing, and it requires everyone who encounters the dog to perform it.  Still, it is okay to use it.  This method is from “The Koehler Method of Dog Training”, by William Koehler.  Koehler was a very successful professional dog trainer.  His authoritarian methods are somewhat out of fashion, but are usually effective.

The goal is to make the jumping-up behavior unrewarding for the dog.  When the dog jumps up on you, you bring your knee up sharply right under his breast-bone.  You give him a shove so that he is
overbalanced and falls backward.  This is not a matter of force, but of timing.  If you catch him just right, it doesn’t take much of a shove to push him over.  You are not trying to cause pain, but simply change the outcome of jumping up.  If he falls down every time he jumps on you, it becomes something that is no fun. 

Don’t yell at him, don’t strike him with your hands, don’t do anything except overbalance him so that he falls.  It should be impersonal.  Dog jumps up, knee pushes him over.  It is as though the laws of gravity changed – “Man, every time I jump up, I fall down. I think I’ll quit doing that.”

PREVENT THE PROBLEM

This whole mess can usually be prevented with a new puppy.  You just accustom the new puppy
to licking your hand as a greeting instead of jumping up to find your face. 

I highly recommend the “Super Puppy” books by Peter Vollmer when you bring a new puppy into the home.  He has very concise explanations of the common puppy-rearing situations, and simple, step-by-step instructions on how to handle them.  The book is very short and very inexpensive.  It’s an owner’s manual for your dog’s head.

3 thoughts on “Dogs Jumping Up On You – Natural, but annoying

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the great information! Some new dog owners might be unsure of how to train their dog properly (and effectively) without having to hire a trainer. You definitely gave simple and precise directions that are super helpful. Thanks for that!

    The jumping-up greeting can definitely get annoying fast. If the behavior is not changed it can result in loss of visitors to your home or even friends for many reasons. Nice to know that our dogs can be trained not to do so at any age.

  2. Chris Loverseed says:

    Super Puppy is great. but I would still recommend that any new dog owner gets a professional trainer in to give them some guidance on training their dog. It’s a small price to pay to avoid any potential issues that can develop with poorly-trained dogs.

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