“You cannot always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes you must dare to jump.”
In the dog world, jumping is not a daring behavior; it’s quite common. The Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat states that jumping is the number one problem reported by dog owners.
Jumping starts early when puppies leap up to greet and reach their mothers; this behavior is subsequently transferred to humans. Dogs quickly learn that jumping is a great attention getting behavior, albeit not a desirable one from the human point of view.
Jumping is challenging to address because humans unintentionally reinforce the behavior. How often has your dog jumped up on a guest only to have your guest gush “It’s OK, I love dogs!”
What to do if your dog jumps
Your Dog magazine notes that “all living things repeat behaviors rewarding to them, while unrewarded behaviors tend to go away. If you want to pre-empt jumping up as your dog’s default behavior, you must reward him consistently for sitting.” By teaching your dog an alternative behavior, you are redirecting him from jumping.
Here are a few things to try if your dog attempts to jump up:
Other things to remember
Consistency is key – this is the primary reason why so many owners fail in keeping their dogs from jumping. Everybody who interacts with the dog must be instructed to not reward jumping by petting the dog when he does. And keep in mind that even pushing the dog off is a reward - the dog is still getting attention (being touched), even if it’s negative.
Set your dog up for success and keep your dog on a leash around humans until he learns not to jump. If you have guests coming to visit, leash your dog and have him sit as your guests enter the house. When walking your dog, have him on leash and instruct him to sit if somebody wants to greet him. Instruct your guests to ignore the dog (turn their backs) if he jumps up.
Practice polite greeting behavior with a helper who can restrain your dog on leash or, if you are alone, tether your dog to a heavy object or place your dog behind a baby gate. Approach the dog and if he jumps, turn around or step away. Do not acknowledge the dog until he sits.
Don’t become frustrated if the dogs jumping behavior gets worse before it gets better. Because jumping has been so effective in the past, your dog may keep trying what used to work. Psychologists call this an “extinction burst.”
Be firm and consistent, and your dog will soon learn that “four on the floor” gets him the attention he desires.