Dog Jumping Up - Article #1

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Dog Picture 61Dogs must think we are the rudest creatures on earth. They greet each other by sniffing noses. But when they try to give us a polite greeting by jumping up to sniff a human face, they are met with bizarre behaviors. We yell. We bump them in the chest with a knee. We smack them on the nose. We grab their front paws and won’t let go. We squirt lemon juice in their mouths. We stomp on their hind feet...

These are just some of the coercive methods that have been used over the years to teach dogs not to jump on humans. Too bad that we resort to violence when the solution is really a simple one. As in all positive-based training, we “reward the behavior we do want, and ignore the behavior we don’t want.”

The problem with jumping up is that a lot of it gets rewarded. When puppies are small we pick them up and cuddle them, teaching them that “up” is a very rewarding place to be. When they do jump up, someone often pets them or pays attention to them, rewarding the very behavior we want to extinguish. Dogs that get rewarded for jumping up keep doing it. For some dogs, even the coercive techniques meant to punish are perceived as rewarding – plenty of active Labradors view a knee in the chest as an invitation to a great game of body slam!


How do we ignore jumping up? If we stand still, Aero rewards himself by slamming his paws on our chest. There are effective exercises and management tools that can teach Aero that four-on-the-floor is far more rewarding than aerial maneuvers. For starters, consistency is important. You must never reward jumping up, and you must convince your friends and family members to react appropriately to Aero’s antics as well. Behaviors that are rewarded randomly can become very strong, because Aero discovers that if he tries often enough, sooner or later a jump gets rewarded. While he may inevitably succeed in jumping on you occasionally, avoid having anyone actually encourage jumping by hugging or petting him when he does.

By the way, if you start doing these exercises with a young puppy, he will never learn that jumping up is a rewarding behavior, and you will never have to deal with an adult dog that is leaping and jumping.

Exercise #1 – The On-Leash Jump

Start with Aero on leash next to you. Have your helper approach and stop just out of leash-range, holding a tasty treat high against her chest. Hold the leash tightly, and stand still. Now you wait. Aero will eventually get frustrated that he can’t jump on the helper, and he will sit to figure it out. The instant he sits, have your helper say “Yes!” and pop the treat in his mouth. Keep repeating this exercise. It usually takes a half-dozen or fewer repetitions for Aero to start sitting as the helper approaches. Now if he tries to leap up to get the treat when it is offered, have the helper whisk it out of reach and say in a cheerful voice, “Too bad, Aero!” When he sits again, say “Yes!” and offer the treat again. He will soon learn to sit tight in order to get the treat, instead of jumping for it.

In a variation of this exercise, you can say “Yes!” and pop the treat in his mouth when he sits. If you do it this way he will start looking at you and sitting when people approach, instead of looking at the people.

Repeat this exercise with as many different people as possible. When you are out walking and a stranger admires Aero and asks if she can pet him, toss her a treat and have her do the exercise. You will be amazed by how quickly Aero will start sitting as he sees people approach him.

Exercise #2 – The Off-Leash Jump

You come home from work, walk in the front door and see Aero flying over the back of the sofa. You know a brutal greeting is coming. What should you do? Turn your back on him! Watch him out of the corner of your eye, and continue to turn away and step away as he tries to jump on you. Again, in a surprisingly short period of time Aero will sit in frustration to figure out why he’s not getting his ration of attention. The instant he sits, say “Yes!” in a happy voice, turn and feed him a treat. (Yes, you have to have a treat with you when you walk in the door. I suggest keeping a jar on the front stoop. Or have cookies in your pockets all the time...!) If he starts to jump up again after he eats the treat, turn away and step away. Keep repeating this until he realizes that “Sit!” gets the attention, not “Jump!”


Exercise #3 – Asking For An Incompatible Behavior

This works if your dog responds really well to the verbal cue for sit or down. When Aero approaches, ask for a sit or a down before he has a chance to jump up, and reward that behavior with a “Yes!” and a treat. With enough repetitions, he will learn that the sit or down gets rewarded, and he will start to offer them voluntarily.

Exercise #4 – Putting the Jump on Cue

I only recommend this when someone in the family finds Aero’s aerobics endearing and wants to be able to invite him to jump up. In this case, you teach Aero to jump up on a particular cue such as the word “Hugs!” (not patting your chest, as too many well-meaning strangers and children will likely invite the behavior), and teach him that the only time he can jump up is when someone gives the cue.

Management Tool – Tie Down/Time-Out

A “tie-down” is a 4’-6’ plastic-coated cable with snaps on both ends. One end can be secured around a heavy piece of furniture, or attached to a strategically placed eye-bolt. You will want to put a comfortable rug or bed at the tie-down locations. When Aero is out-of-control and jumping on the company (or you!), he gets a cheerful, “Too bad, Aero, time-out,” and a few minutes on his tie-down. If you know in advance that he’s going to maul Aunt Maude the instant she walks in the door, clip him to the tie-down before you open the door, and release him once he settles down. If you release him and he revs up again, you can always do another “Too bad, Aero, time-out!” Remember, despite your frustration over his behavior, this is a cheerful interlude, not a forceful punishment. He will learn to control his own behavior in order to avoid time-outs, and you won’t need to yell at him.

Jumping up is a normal, natural dog behavior. Like so many other normal dog behaviors that are unacceptable in human society, it is up to us to communicate to Aero that jumping up isn’t rewarded, and to help him become a more welcome member of our human pack by rewarding an acceptable behavior that can take the place of jumping. It’s easier than you think!

Article submitted by: © Pat Miller CPDT (Biography & Additional Information)