Humane Society of Central Illinois

Training Your Dog Not To Jump Up

By Valerie Robbins

Why do dogs jump up on people? From excitement, because they need attention, want to play or crave affection -- mostly the latter.

When buyers are first introduced to a litter, what is the first thing they do? They pick up the puppies, hold them close to their faces, and stroke and love them. Breeders are guilty of this too -- and I know because I'm a breeder and have done it often myself. So the pup quickly learns that faces mean affection. Later he will jump to get close to that face, and there you have it -- a dog who jumps up on people.

Ideally, training not to jump up should start when a puppy is first brought into the household. Too many folk regard a pup who joyfully jumps up at them as cute, unmindful of the fact that when that same youngster has attained adulthood and weighs sixty or more pounds, he's going to knock everyone off their feet, including them.

But how do you go about changing this undesirable behavior once it is established and the dog has reached maturity? First comes consistency on your part -- you train yourself, that's right, not the dog. Start off by asking yourself what you are reinforcing when you come in from the garden in your old gardening clothes, Lover Boy jumps up on you and you reciprocate by caressing and loving him. Aren't you actually training your dog to jump up on your right there -- making it pleasant and rewarding for him to put those feet up? You bet you are. Now how about when you return from a visit and are wearing that expensive suit that snags so easily and has to be dry cleaned. Lover Boy comes romping in from the garden up to his elbows in mud and hurls himself on you all licks and pawings. I'll wager he rates a different reception. No wonder so many dogs end up 'confused! How can they tell when you are wearing your best and when you aren't!

If you have made up your mind you are going to train your dog not to jump up on you or anyone else, you must be consistent and react as though you are always wearing an expensive suit of clothes. Tell your dog "No! Off!" each and every time you see those paws lifting. However, remember the dog jumps up most often because he is pleased to see you. There should be an exchange of affection and attention, but only when his four feet remain planted on the floor, not before.

How to look at some other methods of training a dog not to jump up.

  1. Every time your dog is about to jump up, tell him, "Sit" and have him perform a sit-stay. Stay exercises are calming. Reward him after a second or two by praising him while holding him in the sit position.
  2. Hold hands horizontally in front of you creating a ceiling. This obscures your face from his view. Holding a book or magazine horizontal serves the same purpose. Should he jump up, he will bump his nose on the "ceiling."
  3. As he jumps up, grasp his front feet and while talking nicely to him, walk him backwards.
  4. Take dog's paw one in each hand as they come up and hold him standing there. Talk to him kindly. If every time he jumps up he finds himself stuck in this position, he's going to have second thoughts about putting those feet up. Should he bite at your hands, hold his paws to your sides and over your hips.
  5. Attach a short length of cord to dog's collar (he should not wear this when you are not with him.) When he jumps up, say "No! Off!" forcefully and grab the cord and jerk him down and to the right to get him off balance. Praise and caress only when all four feet are on the ground.
  6. With light line attached to collar, step on line as dog prepares to jump up. This works very well with small dogs.
  7. Keep a water pistol or spray bottle handy and squirt him with water each time he puts his front feet up. Or shake a rattle can (juice can containing a few rocks or coins) and tell him firmly "No! Off!" Then have him sit. If he's excitable, reach down and slip one hand into his collar to prevent him from popping up and giving you a black eye. Quietly praise and smooth him (no patting - patting is exciting and you want to calm him).
  8. As he jumps up, grab the front paws and, while holding them and speaking nicely, gently step on his back paws. This method is not recommended since it is too easy to hurt the dog doing this.
  9. Lift knee and strike him with it as he jumps. Unless this is perfectly timed to coincide with his jump, the dog might misinterpret this as an invitation to a game. This method can also seriously injure a dog if you strike him near a vital organ. So this correction is also not recommended.

If your dog jumps on you when you praise him, demand "sit." Keep that short length of cord on his collar so you can enforce the command. Learning not to jump up means that the dog must never be permitted to take those front feet off the floor unless you say so. If your dog stands on his hind legs to peer out of the window or to check what lies awaiting him on the counter top (his supper maybe) and you laugh, what are you reinforcing? While you are training your dog not to jump up on you and others, you must discourage all jumping up, even when it is on window sills, counters, tables or even doors. Arrange for an automatic correction by taping blown-up balloons, set-mousetraps covered with paper or three empty cans on a string to his favorite spot. Dogs do not like noise or surprises.

When your dog jumps up while on leash, don't jerk upwards. The jerk must always be down, and to the side to get the dog off balance. Watch arms. When arms fly up this presents an almost irresistible temptation for the dog to jump up. Children are often innocent offenders in this respect. Tell them to keep their arms down and not to scream or yell since this only excites the dog and encourages him to jump more.

Does your dog jump up on you as soon as you come home? Downplay the homecoming. Give only a lukewarm welcome. Even try delaying the reunion for the first fifteen minutes.

No-one in your house-hold should welcome your dog if he is jumping up on them, even though it may seem like a compliment to have a dog jump up and kiss you on the cheek. If anyone is patting and praising your dog for doing this, they are reinforcing the very behavior you are trying to eliminate. One of my dogs used to wait until a certain member of my family had finished his tea break or supper and then when she thought I wasn't looking, she would put her front feet up on him and, flattered by her attention, he would reciprocate by loving and petting her. I couldn't train him but I did train her by sliding my foot in front of her hind feet and knocking them out from under her each time she courted him.

"If you have made up your mind you are going to train your dog not to jump up on you or anyone else, you must be consistent and react as though you are always wearing an expensive suit of clothes."

If your dog has stopped jumping up at you and your family but still jumps on visitors, place his collar and leash on him and take him up to the visitors. When he leaps up, jerk the leash in a downward sideways direction. Tell him to sit and see that the visitors don't give love or praise until he is sitting. Even then at first be ready to give a repeat correction if he jumps up again.

Regard the arrival of visitors as proofing for the sit and down-stay exercises for your dog. With leash on, put your dog on a down or sit-stay and have someone else open the door and greet newly arrived company. Or tie the end of the leash to a door handle or some heavy furniture before welcoming the guests. Don't forget to (a) see that the dog maintains that down or sit-stay position (b) release him after the initial excitement of the arrival by petting and praising quietly and saying "Off you go!" It is also a recommended proofing procedure to keep the dog on a stay while the visitors speak kindly to him. DO NOT PERMIT HIM TO BREAK THAT STAY.

What happens if you are five foot three and the dog who is using you as a punching bag is an oversized Great Dane or St. Bernard. First of all if you are short and lightweight, don't get a big dog. If you already have one, you will need the help of a second person, and that person must have excellent timing ability. With the dog on leash, your assistant and dog should approach you and as the dog starts to jump up, you must say "No! Off!" At the same time your assistant jerks the dog down. Both should then praise the dog, after which assistant and dog walk away from you. The entire act should then be repeated until the dog gets the message and stays off. Next you should proof the dog by setting up conditions and situations in which the dog will be most tempted to leap up while your assistant stands in readiness to apply a correction.

One elderly friend of ours owned a lively oversized Samoyed who repeatedly bowled her over and trampled her flat whenever she opened the gate to his run. Her answer was to carry his flea spray can with her whenever she approached. The sight of the can unfailingly calmed her Sam, permitting her to enter his run with ease and dignity, after which she could put the can aside, slip one hand under his collar and exchange loving greetings.

Another form of distraction is to toss a ball or give the dog a favorite treat when he obeys.

You might also use noise and surprise as a correction. Try dashing a rattle can, a set of keys or a chain at the dog's feet (just rattling the can or jingling the keys will be sufficient if the dog is shy or nervous). At the same time say "No! Off." Follow up by telling the dog to "Sit" and give quiet praise.

But suppose there are times when you want your dog to jump up! I occasionally suffer from back spasms at which times I find bending painful. So when it is time to put on that collar and leash, I pat my waist with both hands and say "Feet Up". But a simple "No!" stops my dogs if they are contemplating jumping up at any other time.

Whatever method you decide to use, remember consistency is a must. You will never get anywhere if you correct your dog when he leaps up on your neighbor and then later allow him to jump up and lick your face.

And be prepared. Some dogs learn quickly not to jump up. Others take considerably longer. If this behavior problem has been going on for a long time, it may take a month or more to establish an alternative behavior pattern. You have to outlast the dog on this one, so hang in there. It can be accomplished. Every dog can learn to show his affection while keeping all four feet on the floor and should do so.

From the Canine Post, Washington State OTC, JoAnn Mather, Editor.