Many dogs jump up on their owners or others as a submissive greeting ritual or appeasement gesture. It is a natural, yet unacceptable, way in which the dogs say hello. At the very least, jumping is a nuisance and at worst, can be harmful, especially to children and the elderly. Unfortunately, you cannot just tell a dog to stop jumping – they do not know what you mean, only that jumping is gratifying – it expresses their pleasure, dispels pent-up energy, and always gets the jumpee’s attention. The following is a description of steps for eradicating jumping from your dog or puppy’s repertoire. Teaching a dog takes consistency and practice, so stick with it, don’t get discouraged, and eventually you will see results (often within one or two weeks).

There are two components to eliminating jumping: training and management. Management prevents the dog from jumping, a self-rewarding behavior. Training builds on management and involves withdrawing the reward or consequence (you) when your dog starts to jump and providing a reward (you and your attention) when your dog is not jumping or sitting. Always think in terms of behavior and consequence.

Strategies for Specific Situations

Arriving home, repeated re-entry, greeting guests and greeting passersby

Training: When you come home and your dog jumps on you, immediately leave your dog for a time out (walk away and close the door). Wait 30 seconds to 1 minute, then, walk back in to calmly greet your dog. The moment your dog jumps, walk away again and close the door. Keep doing this until your dog no longer jumps, at which point you can reward him by not leaving and petting him. Try less subdued greeting with your dog and use the same approach. You can also keep treats with you or outside the door and reward your dog when he is not jumping.

Management: Bend over and hold the dog’s collar, thumb underneath and palm facing down your dog’s back, or step on your dog’s leash to prevent jumping.

Training: With strangers and guests, tether your dog to a fence or tree or hold his leash (if outside) or tether him to a table (if inside). If your dog jumps when the passerby or guest greets your dog have the person walk away from your dog (“punishing” your dog). When your dog stops jumping, have him approach the dog again (“rewarding” your dog). Approach and withdraw until the dog ceases to jump. Practice with others to help generalize the behavior. Greet passersby once or twice a day for practice.

Management: Step on your dog’s 6-foot leash, plant your feet, elbows to your side.

Getting puppy’s leash to go for a walk

Training: When the puppy starts to jump, back away from the leash. When the puppy stops, walk toward the leash. Repeat with each step of the process of putting puppy on a leash to go outside.

Letting puppy go outside into yard

Training: When puppy starts to jump on the door, back away a few feet. When puppy stops jumping, move forward etc. Do not open the door when puppy jumps or you will reward the behavior.

General Strategies

Counter-command: It is much easier to teach your dog to do something (e.g. sit) than to teach him not to do something (jump). Teach your dog a behavior that is incompatible with jumping such as a high-distraction sit/stay (a down is probably too difficult for most excited puppies) or go find a toy. Have your dog perform an incompatible behavior before she’s inclined to jump (otherwise the natural sequence may become jump, sit, treat). Some dogs will be too excited for a sit, in which case you can teach “go find a toy” or simply reward four on floor. The idea is that the reinforcement value of performing the alternative behavior (make it worth 100K to the dog through praise, treats, affection) is much stronger than the enforcement value of jumping.

Reward: Reward the dog when he is not jumping (four on floor, being calm, sitting) with treats, praise, petting, games, or a walk. Rewarding NOT jumping will increase the likelihood that your dog will not jump. You can also reward your dog during the day anytime he is not jumping or engaging in other inappropriate behavior. Heavily reward the inter-commanded behavior.

Manage and prevent jumping: Make sure you do not allow your puppy or dog to rehearse jumping. Each time your dog jumps, the behavior becomes stronger. Try putting puppy on a leash and stepping on it when he greets a passerby, or bending down to pet your dog so that he has no need to jump to say hello. Tether the puppy when guests arrive and have them approach when he’s got four feet on the floor.

Be consistent: Do not allow jumping in certain contexts (when you are in sweats or when playing). The rule for jumping should apply for all situations and all people.

Fresh Air: If your dog starts to jump, quickly back away so your dog jumps into the air. Once your dog has put his paws on you, its too late, the behavior is reinforced.

Provide ample exercise and mental stimulation: Make sure your dog has plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a well-behaved one. Most adult dogs need 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

What No To Do

Avoid inadvertently rewarding your dog for jumping: Petting your dog or having strangers pet your dog when he jumps reinforces the behavior and should be avoided.

Do not say off or down: The puppy has already jumped on you if you are. Behavior which could have been prevented has been rehearsed and strengthened. Also you are giving your dog attention for jumping. For some dogs, screeching and attempting to reprimand the behavior equals attention and will only serve to increase the likelihood of the behavior.

Do not punish: Jumping is a submissive appeasement gesture. Punishing the dog may only make your dog more eager to appease and jump even more.

This process doesn’t happen overnight. What’s even more frustrating is that before you see an improvement in the behavior, you’re likely to see it get worse. This is called an “extinction burst,” and it’s your dog’s last all-out attempt to do the behavior that comes naturally to them in order to get what they want.

Shoshi Parks