Why does my dog jump up at everyone?
There are a number of theories on the exact reason why dogs do this but in a nutshell, dogs will naturally want to jump up on people to greet them simply because that’s how they like to greet, by sniffing and licking our faces. When we arrive home after being absent, they want our complete attention.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of actually teaching your dog to develop this behaviour, unintentionally of course. When they are puppies, we can’t resist that lovely greeting when we come home. The puppy just wants to smell and lick our face and because he is only small the jumping up at us is not really a problem. We think it’s really cute that he already loves us so much he showers us with ‘kisses’. We might even pick him up to allow him to lick us. This is where the mistake is made. We are teaching the dog that it is OK to greet us this way. Although it’s not a problem when he is a puppy it can become a major problem when he is bigger and much stronger.
How do I deal with it?
We need to teach the dog that greeting us this way is unacceptable and show him that to greet us properly, all four feet should be on the floor. When your dog greets you, his goal is to get your attention. The key is to make him earn your attention.
When you arrive home and your dog jumps up at you, just ignore him. Don’t make eye contact, don’t speak to him, don’t touch him. Resist the urge to tell him to ‘get down’ and don’t push him down. Stand up tall and look above him or away from him. I find it helps to fold your arms and raise them high to your chest. If he continues jumping up at you, turn away again. After a few moments he should start to calm down, some dogs will even sit to await your attention. The moment his front feet touch the floor, say ‘Good boy’ and quietly greet with gentle petting. Don’t be too enthusiastic with the praise or you’ll just incite over excitement again and he will no doubt jump even more. If he continues to jump up at you, pull your hand away, stand up tall and ignore him until his feet are on the floor again. The moment his feet touch the floor, pet him again. This will need to be repeated many times until he learns how to greet you. When he starts to get the idea leave it a second longer before you praise him, then longer still until eventually he has to wait at least 5 seconds before you greet him. He should get the message pretty quickly but the key is to repeat it enough times he does this automatically.
Alternatively, if your dog will ‘sit’ on command you might wish to try this variation. When you arrive home and he jumps up at you, as before, don’t make eye contact and don’t touch him. This time use the ‘sit’ command and watch him out of the corner of your eye until he does as he is told, then greet him gently. Again, this needs to be repeated many times until he learns.
The 3P’s (Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance) are most relevant when it comes to dog training. Remember, all dogs are different and some will take longer than others so be patient if he doesn’t get it straight away. Be persistent and keep repeating the exercise as often as possible, especially when you first start to teach him. You might want to go out more often to give you more opportunities. Don’t give in too soon and don’t miss an opportunity to repeat the exercise. If you come home and forget to do the exercise you will give him permission again and will take a few steps back in your progress towards your goal.
Your visitors should also be aware of your new exercise regime and asked to do the same if they can. You will be far more successful the more people are involved. I’m sure everyone will be pleased to take part, especially if they’ve had to suffer his jumping up when they have visited you in the past.
Like us, dogs are social animals and don’t like to be ignored, so if everyone ignores him when he jumps up and gives him plenty of attention when he isn’t jumping up, he will eventually learn.
And finally, one thing I will add, and this applies to all dog training, whether you are teaching them to do tricks, or correcting unwanted behaviours. In order to train a dog effectively, all his other needs must be met. So make sure you give him enough attention, the right amount and type of exercise and a good balanced diet to keep him in optimum health, fitness and happiness. This alone can sometimes correct some unwanted behaviours.