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Dogs jump when they get excited. It happens.
A dog jumping is their version of yelling "Yippee!" My guess is you think your dog jumping on people is less than ideal, so let's teach your dog to "Say Hi" when greeting people instead of jumping.
Everyone wants a dog who happily welcomes you home and LOVES to meet and greet. Whether it's visitors at your front door or new people and dogs out on a walk, the good behavior we imagine -- four paws on the floor grounding a wagging body and tail -- doesn't often happen naturally. Instead, a lot of pet parents get a jumping bean of a dog at your door jumping all over you and your guests.
The good news is we can use training techniques through positive reinforcement to teach your dog that it pays off to jump on people less and greet them with four feet on the ground more!
Tip 1: Understand when your dog's jumping occurs
Learning how to curb jumping behavior is all about anticipating the jump and getting ahead of it before it starts. What makes your dog jump? Is it when the doorbell rings? When people arrive? With specific family members? Around small children who look interesting and fun? Loud noises? When you arrive home? At the sight of dogs and humans out and about on a walk? What is it that gets your dog to start jumping?
Tell me more
It's important to remember that if your dog has been performing a jumping greeting behavior for a long time, even a few months, this has become a habit and habits can take time to break. Learning to calmly approach people is a skill many dogs need help to learn. So we humans need to be patient as we train and teach our pet new skills, like enjoying keeping four paws on the ground.
Make a list of what makes your dog jump. Is it a specific person? Is it all people? Does it happen in certain situations? Write it down and see what you find out.
Tip 2: Understand why your dog jumps
Your dog's version of "Hi" might be translating into a range of behaviors like jumping up, to pulling on the leash, even excited nipping or urination, or the inability to settle. The most common/less than ideal over-greeter behavior pet parents experience is their dog leaping and jumping on them immediately when they get home.
Since not many of us appreciate unwanted jumping (even if it's from the cutest puppy in the world), it's important to understand why your dog is jumping and prevent jumping before it starts.
Tell me more...
Dogs greet people the way they do because it works. It gets them what they want- attention and interaction from their favorite person. When your dog jumps, you react to them. It's natural. You say "no," or catch their paws mid-flight but when they do it again and again, sooner or later, our dogs begins to condition a response from us. They get what they want- our attention.
So what can I do?
If your dog is jumping and being over-the-top excited when you come home, it's because in their mind they have been waiting all day to see you and are ecstatic you're finally there! Feels good to be missed, doesn't it? But how can we make coming home an even more special experience for both of you that doesn't involve flying paws?
Give your dog a job. Teach your dog to "go say hi" to help your dog stop jumping all over the place. Having this as their only responsibility will make it more enjoyable for you, your dog, and any visiting guests. Scroll down for my step-by-step guide as a certified dog trainer on how to teach your pet this new behavior.
Tip 3: Understand your dog learns best through praise
We always want to use consistent, positive reinforcement to train our dogs, whether an adult dog or a puppy. We aren't going to punish them for doing something that comes naturally to dogs from jumping to eagerly pulling on leash to making full-body physical contact with visitors at the door.
What does that actually mean?
Always avoid things like jerking the leash, yelling, kneeing your dog, pushing your dog away (unless it's absolutely necessary to protect yourself). Science has shown that negative attention and aversive actions do more harm than good in helping your dog understand what you want them to do.
Tip 4: Make sure your dog's reward matches the difficulty of the task
Remember, your dog is the one who decides what treats are worth working for and what's high-value or not. (They're called dog treats for a reason, after all.) The better the reward, the more likely your dog will be interested to work with you in curtailing their jumping behavior.
What does that actually mean?
Most dogs will be pretty clear that bites of real chicken are much more worth working for than pieces of kibble, for example. Training your dog not to jump is a bit of an ask (versus something like a sit) so you'll need high-value treats worth changing their behavior for to reinforce the greeting behavior you want to see in your training sessions.
Tip 5: Helpful behaviors to know before teaching your dog not to jump
There are a few behaviors that are helpful to know before teaching your dog to "Go Say Hi." One of which is the Hand Target/ Touch behavior. You can learn more about how to teach that here. Come back when you're done or just continue on if your dog already knows it! Another helpful tool for your pet is a solid association to a "marker word" like YES/GOOD or a Clicker. I would highly recommend purchasing a clicker immediately if you don't have one yet.
Tip 6: How to teach your dog to "Go Say Hi"
To stop your dog from jumping, you need to teach your dog how you want to be greeted at the front door. Who doesn't want to be greeted with a "Hi?" Once your greeting is established, it's important to solidify it with lots of rewards and positive reinforcement. Teaching your dog to "Go Say Hi" is a great way to stop your dog from jumping while creating a new habit for your dog to calm themselves down without needing to jump to greet people. Before we dive in, watch the video demonstration below.
Step 1: Have your dog on leash and lots of yummy treats at your fingertips. Also, have a helper ready. In the video, I'm using a target stick as my "helper person" but you want an actual human.
Step 2: Stand with your dog at your side on a 6-8 foot leash, facing out, and with your second person turned slightly to the side.
Trainer Tip - be sure to start with a familiar person or family member the dog knows well to make training more comfortable and minimize distractions.
Step 3: Point to your person and cue “touch” as the person gives the “touch” hand signal.
Trainer Tip - if your dog doesn’t know the touch cue - simply allow your dog to take a step or two toward the person and mark with your clicker as your dog calmly approaches. (See step below for what success looks like).
Step 4: Dogs can be slightly confused here with a cue to “touch” someone else’s hand - so as soon as your dog takes a step toward the new person you can reinforce it with a mark/reward. OR have the person cue “touch” for a few reps to help out.
What success looks like
- The behavior pattern we are looking for is: Cue touch —> Dog touches opposite person's hand —> handler (you) mark/click —> your dog returns to handler (you) for treat reward. (Should look like dog ping pong.)
- Repeat as needed until a fluid pattern is established.
- Next, work to create distance between your dog and the “touch” person after the mark/click by quickly moving backwards - Goal being to reduce frustration / excitement / fear around greetings by not allowing your dog to stay near person for too long after “touch” takes place.
- Repeat as needed until fluid pattern is established.
- Change Verbal Cue to “Say Hi” or “Go Say Hi,” keeping in mind that any movement toward person is worth a click / dog treat reward.
- Goal behavior is to reduce the need to be near the other person for too long. The faster the dog wants to move away the better. Again, think of a game of ping pong.
Troubleshooting if your dog jumps again
Reduce the training criteria to set up your dog for success if your dog regresses a bit and starts jumping again, shows fear, barks, lunges or shows signs of the behavior you're trying to modify. Make it easier for your dog to go back to being successful!
Take your training to the next level when you consistently see a "calm dog" vs "jumping dog" behavior
- Practice in various environments.
- Practice with new people when your dog is ready.
- As your dog is able to show relaxed body language and the ability to calmly approach people, allow longer periods of time between mark/click and each “Go Say Hi” cue. At this stage, consider adding in short bits of time to pet (if your dog enjoys this), share verbal interaction, or give food treats and praise from the person interacting with your dog.
Practice leads to perfect and I'm here for you!
Let me know how it goes with curtailing your dog's jumping and mastering a well-mannered "Go Say Hi." Jumps happen. Focusing on a replacement behavior that makes you both happy is what matters and is most effective. As always, ask me any questions in the Community discussion or we can work together 1-1 through Dogly. I'm here.
Next up in Basic Manners on Dogly
Now that your dog is calmly greeting you when you come home, you and your dog are ready to learn how to "stay." There are four parts to teaching your dog to "stay" and you need all of them for your dog to have success with this behavior. Get started with teaching your dog to "stay" for a long period of time in the next guide here.