Dogs jump up because they want to greet people. They jump to get our attention and/or to reach our face. It is not a dominant behavior, regardless of what some say. As a matter of fact, in doggy etiquette a face-to-face greeting frequently involves licking the lips of the other dog to show appeasement. Harsh corrections risk changing a happy reaction to meeting people into something much more undesirable.
Here is a list of five steps you can take to put a stop to your dog from jumping up on people. Your solution will probably be a combination of these steps, not just one and certainly not all of them.
- Teach how to greet politely – staying still in the face of people is very difficult for many dogs. Instead of trying to get your dog to do that instead of jumping up, you could training “Say Hi,” an alternative greeting that allows you dog to investigate the new person without knocking them over.
Here is a document on training this behavior.
- Calm down! – We frequently react to jumping up by raising our voices and pushing the dog away. Doing this actually increases the intensity of the situation and makes it worse. Your best bet, regardless of which of the other steps you take is to calm down. Not only are your attempts to get your dog to stop reinforcing the behavior (she is seeking attention and getting it), it’s also possible that they feed an already anxious dog’s excitement level. Set up practice sessions so you don’t get so upset and try to act as even-handed and calm as possible.
- Ignore it – ignoring jumping up is frequently recommended, but rarely seems to work. There is a very good reason. Most people do not really ignore the behavior. They make exceptions (or excuses) for some situations, such as for specific family members or locations. The goal of ignoring a behavior is extinction, but extinction will only occur when the behavior is truly never reinforced. If it is reinforced infrequently, the behavior will most likely get worse. I discuss extinction in depth here on Dog Star Daily.
- Train a rock steady sit – one of the best ways to remove an annoying behavior like jumping up, is to identify an incompatible behavior and train your dog to do that instead. Sitting is a great example – jumping up and sitting at the same time is very difficult, even for the more determined dog. In my earlier post on jumping up I discuss training sit as a greeting.
- Manage the situation – sometimes your best bet is to just avoid the situation, especially in the early stages of your training. Think of every time your dog jumps up as practice, and that she is getting better at it. If you are having visitors and believe that your dog will have problems restraining herself, manage the situation. Put her in her crate, close her into another room, or maybe keep her on leash. You can either introduce her after everyone has entered, or just keep her separated and avoid the situation altogether.
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