Managing Your Dog’s Tendency to Jump on People

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and had their dog jump up on you? While some dog lovers may not think twice and some may even welcome this behavior, others could be taken aback, frightened, or annoyed. The truth is, dogs shouldn’t jump on people, whether it’s their own family members, a house guest or stranger. Learning how to manage your dog’s inclination to jump is essential to having a safe, happy household for both your puppy and your family.

You Make Me Wanna Jump, Jump: Why They Do It
There are several explanations for a dog’s tendency to jump on people. Although this behavior may sometimes simply be a result of your pup’s overwhelming excitement or desire to play, it may also be rooted in a dog’s instinctive desire to reflect their standing in their ‘pack.’ When dogs greet one another, they sniff each other’s faces. Therefore, jumping up on you is widely believed to be an attempt to level their height with yours and greet you as an equal. A dog may also be trying to reach your face in order to lick it, which is a learned behavior that indicates submissiveness. Puppies licking around their mothers’ mouths shows her that they are submissive to her (“sorry, mom!”), so this behavior is meant to demonstrate to you that your pup views you as her leader.

Conversely, jumping may also be a dog’s reaction to feeling uneasy when someone (especially someone new) comes into the house. In this case, jumping is an attempt to show the pup’s dominance over this visitor. Your pup may also be jumping because she is anxious, and has quickly learned that if she jumps on you, she will be picked up and held close or petted.

Fix the Problem
It’s best to correct this problem during puppyhood, when your puppy is busy growing, absorbing information and learning how to become a well-behaved family member. If the jumping continues past these early years, it’s much more likely that the dog could frighten, or worse, injure someone. At a young age, a puppy’s biological mother teaches boundaries in a firm, calm manner. You should take a similar approach to correcting this behavior, and establish your expectations early on.

The most widely accepted way to stop a dog from jumping is to simply ignore it. Each time the dog jumps up, turn away, and don’t look or speak to your dog. Only reward her with your attention once she has had all four paws on the ground for several seconds. If the pup jumps again, repeat the process until she is back on all fours once again.

It’s always a good idea to reward your dog with attention once she is calm, even if you are irritated at her for jumping. Yelling at the puppy or scolding her is generally considered not to be as effective as simply withholding affection and attention until the bad behavior is no longer happening. This will allow your puppy to make the connection between having all four feet on the floor and getting all the belly rubs and cuddles she wants!

If you believe your dog is jumping on guests to assert control, you should consider not allowing her to greet guests right away. Confine the dog and allow her to greet guests once she has calmed down. If your pup acts aggressive towards visitors, it may be best to simply keep them separated – this will keep both the guests and the dogs safer and happier.

Consistency is Key
Being inconsistent in your treatment of this behavior will only lead to misunderstanding and anxiety in your dog as well as frustration for you as the behavior will not change. Be clear every time you encounter the behavior that it is unacceptable, and that you will only greet a dog who has all four feet on the ground! It will be confusing for your puppy if you allow her to jump on you but then expect her not to jump on guests. Pick one approach, and stick with it! You can even involve your close family or friends in your puppy’s training, and show them how to treat the behavior when they come over. Pretty soon, you’ll have a polite, well-behaved furever friend ready to be part of the greeting committee at your home.