A new dog is always an exciting time, especially if it’s a puppy. Their personalities, wet noses, playfulness and kisses are too adorable for words, and their behavior is downright cute.
Fast-forward a year later. That same puppy is now an 80-pound dog and still exhibiting the same behavior.
A dog that jumps up on people as a way of greeting them can make coming home a challenge or keep guests away. Want to curb the behavior?
Keep in mind that your dog isn’t jumping up to annoy you. The dog thinks the behavior is perfectly acceptable as a greeting — and why not? He was never taught any different.
The sooner you start training a dog, the better — but even adult dogs can be trained to curb this behavior. This will help stop the jumping, scratched legs, torn pantyhose and kids being knocked down by an overly excited pet.
Methods to Try
If you are starting out training by yourself, leave the house and return a few minutes later. If the dog jumps when you walk in the door, give a command such as sit or stay and walk out again. Keep doing this until the dog does not jump when you walk in the door, and make sure to give the dog praise or a treat to reward the compliance.
If you are already indoors and your dog jumps, turn your back to the dog and cross your arms. This way your hands are not available for licking and you are ignoring the dog.
Dogs strive for attention, and will probably walk around to face you. Give the dog a sit command and reward if it works. If not, turn around again and ignore the dog. Repeat this until the dog either stops jumping or obeys your command, and reward with praise or a treat.
Ask people in your house to do the same if the dog jumps. It won’t help with training if you are teaching the dog to stop while your son or spouse encourages the behavior. Let them know how you are doing it and ask them to help.
If you live alone, you can enlist the help of friends, neighbors or family to stop by and assist with the training. This is especially helpful if you dog gets excited whenever the doorbell rings or there is a knock at the door.
In this next video, a woman teaches her dog to stop jumping at the door and when company arrives. Notice how the dog jumps or heads to the door; this causes the visitor to leave and the door is closed. Whenever the dog obeys the command or does not react to the door, the dog is rewarded with a treat and praise. It sure looks like a lot of treats, but the dog is more willing to change their behavior once they understand they get something they want. Once the behavior is learned, the dog will be able to listen to your commands and get praise in return instead of treats.
Try practicing this in different areas so your dog learns acceptable behavior but not just at the front door. Have someone walk up to your back door, garage or approach while you and the dog are outside. As long as you continue practicing and teaching the same way, the dog will learn and be able to choose the behavior it wants to exhibit. Your praise will guide the dog to understand jumping is not rewarded.
What Not to Do
There are other methods people use to stop a dog from jumping that involves physical (and in my opinion negative) reinforcement. One suggestion is to grab the dog’s paws when jumping up and squeeze them hard. This doesn’t work for two reasons: the dog still gets contact from jumping up and you could hurt your dog by squeezing too hard.
Some people have tried it (one being my neighbor) and her dog started biting at her hands. The problem still wasn’t solved and she created a new one.
We’ve all heard the knee-in-the-chest method, and I don’t recommend it. Many vets can tell stories of misplaced knees hitting the dog in the wrong area or with too much force, and you should not chance injuring your dog. If your dog is running toward you and jumps up as a greeting, that momentum meeting your knee can cause serious damage and pain. The dog will either work harder to appease you after being hurt or become fearful or aggressive.
Do not forget to regularly exercise your dog. If you leave the dog in a crate all day or don’t allow time for play, you are limiting your dog’s ability to expel energy. That energy turns into a free-for-all when you walk in the door or someone comes to visit.
If you are expecting company, make sure to allow plenty of time for exercise and play before the guests arrive to keep the dog relaxed. You may even want to crate the dog until everyone has arrived and the dog gets accustomed to the activity, then you can walk the dog around on a leash to meet and greet everyone.
Do not forget to praise your dog every time a command is obeyed. Positive reinforcement does two things: your dog understands the behavior is acceptable and your dog knows you are pleased.
Treats given with praise offer an additional incentive for your dog to follow your directions, and once acclimated to stop jumping you should be able to reinforce the praise without treats. Dogs can regress from training if it is not kept consistent, but you can always start over with the same method that worked the first time.
When to Call a Professional
If you have tried the methods above and nothing is working, it is possible your dog may have an underlying cause for not learning the acceptable behavior.
There are trainers and behaviorists who will work with your dog, as well as obedience schools that offer classes to teach acceptable behavior in a different setting. If you have recently adopted a dog, keep in mind that some behaviors are easily picked up in shelters from other dogs and people.
Every dog is different, and finding out what works best for you may take some trial and error. Remember to give praise, be patient and be consistent, or seek the help of a professional if needed. Your guests will thank you, and your dog will be a well-mannered welcoming committee for anyone that enters your home.