Q&A: How do I stop my dog from jumping on people?

Question

Our new Pets for Patriots rescue has been with us for three weeks now. He is very well behaved, except he likes to jump up on people when he gets excited. He is approximately 12-15 months, chocolate lab/pit mix. I am embarrassed when someone comes to the door, and he jumps on them. Albeit to kiss them, but still inappropriate. 

- Brooke

Answer

Hi Brooke-
 
Firstly, congratulations on your new family member! 
 
It is great to hear that he is thrilled to welcome visitors into the home, and no surprise he wants to express his enthusiasm. However, he needs to learn that one of the best way to make friends with visitors is to master the art of ‘Four on the Floor.’ That means, saying hello while keeping all four paws on the ground. 
 
Preventing and resolving behavior issues is best broken down into two parts, Management and Training. Management is about doing your best to prevent your dog from having the opportunity to practice unwanted behaviors. Because practice of them means they are likely to become stronger habits. Training is about teaching your dog specific behaviors that compete with the behavior you don’t want.
 
In this case, the management component consists of keeping your dog on a leash at all times when you are home to supervise, particularly when you are having visitors. This isn’t forever, just until he develops a strong habit of greeting people politely. You can use the leash to prevent jumping up by having the slash tethered to a stable object and giving your dog a great chew toy to play with when people are entering the home. You can also hold the leash in your hand and use it to prevent him from jumping. You can also hold the leash handle and tsp on the leash midway down to prevent the jumping. But, if he is super strong and bouncy you might wait to use this approach until you have taken some of the bounce out of his greet! 
 
Using any of these management approaches is about simply not giving him the opportunity to jump on people to say hi, and preventing him from being unintentionally rewarded for doing so. That is, eye contact, giggling, even yelling “No!” can be perceived by your dog as a reward as all of these are some form of attention from people, and that is what is sounds like your dog is looking for.
 
In addition to management, you want to teach your dog that keeping four feet on the flow while standing or sitting is the best way to get what he wants…attention!
So, start with controlled sessions of 3-5 minutes in duration with just family members or one friend. Have him tethered to a stable object and walk towards him. If he starts to jump and bounce, step back. When four feet remain on the floor, say ‘yes’ and step forward. With repetition he will learn that the word ‘yes’ means what he was doing when he heard it is the thing you want and will result in him getting what he wants. In this case, you moving closer. 
 
At first, you may be doing a whole lot of stopping and stepping back. But, with some practice, he will have a ‘lightbulb’ moment whereby he will figure out what it is about his behavior (four feet on the floor) that gets him what he wants.
 
You can also practice this using his normal meals or special treats as rewards. So, in addition to stepping closer to him after saying ‘yes’ you can also offer him a tiny bit of food as an added reward. 
 
You’ll be surprised how quickly he will master the art of polite greetings if you are super careful to employ both management and training. Doing both helps set him up for learning success. Also, that your actions and those of your visitors will play a big part in your dog’s behavior. So, stay calm (which is much easier to do now that you are keeping the leash on for gentle control), and be specific in your feedback. Lots of talking to your dog during training sessions can actually be confusing for him. Let your actions (ignoring him and stepping away when his feet come off the floor and stepping closer and rewarding him when they stay not he floor) do the talking.  

About Andrea Arden

Andrea can be seen on Animal Planet's shows Dogs 101, Cats 101, Pets 101, America's Cutest Dog and America's Cutest Cat. She is the author of numerous best-selling books on animal behavior and training. Andrea is thrilled to be a part of Pets for Patriots' efforts to help its members successfully adopt and share their lives with shelter pets! Read more...