Written by Dr. Cariann Turbeville

How to train a dog not to jump

Dogs are known for being friendly and loving creatures, but sometimes their exuberance can be a little too much. If your dog jumps on you or other people, it can be annoying and even dangerous. Fortunately, there are ways to stop your dog from jumping up. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips on how to achieve this.

There is nothing on earth more sincere than a dog barreling across the yard to greet a beloved human. And then there’s the jumping-up thing. It’s kinda cute when your dog is a cuddly, fluffy puppy, but this common behavior grows less and less adorable as your dog grows. It may even be intimidating to kids, older people, or folks who just aren’t as dialed-in to dogspeak.

Why do dogs jump inappropriately?

Dogs jump up on us to get attention, and possibly to express dominance. The jump may be accompanied by nose-boinks if your dog is tall enough, slobbering, and “mouthing,” meaning that your dog gently takes your hand in their mouth. Unless you’re in love with this particular canine, none of these gestures is welcome; most people don’t appreciate the well-meaning canine enthusiasm.

Dogs jump when you’re coming or going

Typically, dogs jump up on their person at the doorway. When it’s their familiar, beloved human crossing the threshold, the leaping, sometimes accompanied by excited yips and vocalizations (and, we have to say it, occasionally piddling), is simply an enthusiastic greeting. When someone new enters, your dog may jump in more of a protective manner.

In any case, training your dog not to jump as you arrive or depart is crucial. The key to making separations less traumatic is to take what might be called a more “feline” approach. It may feel counterintuitive, but the best way to reduce canine stress when you leave your house is to make it a non-event. No long goodbyes. After making sure that your dog has food, water, and you’ve made arrangements for needed walks, medication, grooming and other care in the case of a long absence, part quietly, and walk out without a word as you close the door behind you. The goal is to lower the level of drama.

Some dogs jump when experiencing separation anxiety

Some dogs are truly traumatized by separation from their human, even for a short time. Cues associated with the exit, like packing a suitcase, putting on a coat, or jingling car-keys can send these sensitized dogs into a panic. A dog experiencing separation anxiety may bark, whine and drool as you step out the door.

Upon your return, a dog with separation anxiety may send you a very clear message in the form of “accidents” around the house, such as that pricey loafer that’s been used as a chew toy or a sofa that’s been ripped to shreds. Many dogs that repeatedly escape their house or yard do so out of separation anxiety.

Consider if you are the source of your dog’s anxiety

Your dog understands your eye movements, facial expressions, body postures and vocal pitch. If these physical cues from you express worry or sadness, your dog gets the message. So, it’s possible that the anxiety is emanating from you, not your dog! And if this is the case, you are the one who needs training. Be particularly mindful of your behavior when preparing to depart or when you arrive.

Techniques to stop your dog from jumping

Dogs often jump on people as a way to show affection. However, this behavior can be unpleasant, especially if the dog is large or is jumping on strangers. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that can stop a dog from jumping. By teaching your dog that she needs to remain calm when on a leash, you can help stop unwanted jumping behavior.

Reduce human emotional reactions

It’s important to make your return as low-key as your exit, especially if your dog shows signs of distress in your absence. Again, this contradicts our human impulses, but encouraging a big, loud reunion after a separation reinforces your dog’s insecure response to your earlier leaving.

Don’t fan the flame of what neurologists call “arousal.” If your dog goes into a frenzy of jumping, yipping and dancing when you walk through the door, behaviorists recommend two approaches. The first is to appear as if you are ignoring the dog. Sit calmly, and withhold eye contact until the dog calms down. Second, if your dog has learned basic commands, your return to the house is an appropriate time to use commands like, “sit” or “stay.” An anxious dog simply wants reassurance that all is normal and stable, and you can help by creating a feeling of order and calmness.

Use diversion tactics to stop a jumping dog

If your dog isn’t especially anxious but is a jumper, one method of intercepting jumping is to introduce a conflicting command. When you come through the door, challenge your dog to “go get your ball!” or “get the bear!”, or whatever cue will put your pup back down on all fours with a mission to accomplish. Remember that even our tiniest, fanciest dogs carry some genetic memory of working and hunting, which is why most dogs are happy when they have a job or task that results in a reward. Yes, always keep a treat in your pocket to reward positive behavior, and be generous with praise.

Another version of this approach is to practice commands in order to defuse jumping. The “sit” command is crucial for every dog to know. Of course, this command is most easily taught to a puppy, but adult dogs can learn it as well. Once mastered, you can command your dog to “sit” (or “stay”) as you leave the house, and when you return. This skill will be especially welcome when you have guests.

Use body language to stop a jumping dog

Crossing your arms

Dog trainers have many techniques for discouraging jumping. Even subtle body signals may have a positive effect. For instance, block a jumper, especially one that loves to poke your face with a wet nose, with this simple move: cross your arms over your chest and step close to your dog as he crouches to go into a leap.

Withhold attention

Simply withholding attention may be an effective technique to teach your dog not to jump up. One approach is to silently turn your back the moment your dog jumps up. And be sure to cross your arms over your chest. If your dog dashes around you to make eye contact, continue to turn your back on your canine. This withholding of contact is powerful and persuasive.

Walk back out the door

An even more eloquent expression is to immediately remove yourself from the scene. Yes, this means that you quietly walk back out the door, even though you’ve just arrived, the moment your dog starts leaping for attention. Repeat coming and going until your dog is calm. This may be one way to “desensitize” the emotionally triggering doorway location and coming-and-going behavior.

Leashing training to stop your dog from jumping

Step on your dog’s (long) leash before he jumps

Other training techniques involve a leash. If your dog is on a long leash, step on the line before he jumps. Withhold eye contact and other forms of attention until the jumping stops.

Tie the leash to a fixed object or use a gate

Try the tie-down technique where you tie the leash to a stair rail or fence as the setting for learning the “wait” command. Practice the command while you stay out of range. This concept may also be taught with your dog behind a gate. When your dog is calm, with all four feet on the ground as he obeys the command, offer treats and praise.

To further reinforce this training, work with friends in a practice session. Have a friend approach your dog to test the response. If your dog starts to jump, have your friend back off and say “too bad” — but nothing more punishing. When the dog stays obediently seated as each friend approaches, they may pet and praise the dog. Repeating this exercise 10 – 20 times in a session is a powerful example of positive reinforcement.

Don’t use aversive or punitive training techniques

Behaviorists uniformly agree that aversive training, meaning training based on punishment, is not effective. A knee to the chest is an example of aversive training– you should only do this in self defense if you’re literally being attacked by an aggressive canine. A pet may think this is rough play, and that you are enjoying the engagement.

Exercise your dog!

Keep in mind that dogs, especially young dogs, and some breeds in particular, have tremendous physical and energetic capacity — equivalent to a human athlete in the prime of life. Often, as pet owners, we simply can’t match them in terms of their energetic output.

It’s your job as a responsible dog owner to ensure that your dog gets enough physical exercise, enough mental stimulation, and enough social contact — and remember that some dogs do best in the company of other dogs.

If your dog jumps on you or others, it’s important to take corrective action. There are a variety of techniques that can be successful in stopping this behavior, including modifying your emotional response, changing your body language and using positive reinforcement. However, before starting any training program it’s best to consult with a professional who can help assess the situation and develop a plan specifically tailored to your dog. Airvet is here to help – contact us today if you need assistance in stopping your dog from jumping!

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