Those four paws bounding towards us, that waggy tail and excited face. It’s lovely when our dogs are excited to see us, but not everyone loves a dog who jumps up – especially if they’re a bigger breed! And with safety factors to think about too around children or vulnerable adults, people often ask me: how can I stop my dog jumping up?
Why do you need to teach your dog not to jump up?
There are many times of the year we have more visitors. This leads us to think about our dog’s behaviour more – including jumping up and how to stop it.
The festive season is one of the biggest. Whether you’re excited about it or not, it’s likely you’ll have friends, family or an endless parade of couriers passing through. If you have children, they’ll no doubt bring friends to visit as well. And if you have grandparents or elderly parents, you may also have additional vulnerable adults in the house.
- Clothing. Your holiday visitors may have donned their best outfit, which may not be dog-proof. Tights, sequins and beads are all prone to damage from overexcited pups. Plus, muddy paws and party dresses just don’t mix!
- Age. Little ones or elderly relatives can be tripped or knocked over by dogs who jump up, particularly larger breeds.
- Not dog people. I know I know, but they really do exist! If one of your guests isn’t the biggest fan, they’ll likely prefer their own space, rather than your pup sharing it with them.
Why do dogs jump up?
While we all want our dogs to be friendly towards visitors, being overly friendly, or a bit too enthusiastic when greeting nearly always results in excited jumping up.
In adolescents or in certain dog breeds, this jumping up can also be accompanied by mouthing or clothes-grabbing. This is a natural instinct when excited, but they need to have something to do with all that canine energy.
Not only is this bad manners and likely to alarm people, it can cause injury. And it’s something that could, if done in the wrong place or the wrong time or to the wrong person, land you in legal trouble.
So now you know why dogs jump up, let’s talk about how to stop it.
How to stop your dog jumping up?
First of all, it’s important to understand this isn’t your dog being naughty or ‘bad’. This is a natural canine greeting behaviour that starts right back in puppyhood.
If you watch a litter of puppies greeting their mother, they jump up at her face and even try to lick around her mouth. Dogs who live in the same family or who are closely bonded will do the same thing. So when a dog jumps up, they’re greeting you or trying to interact with you in a way that’s natural and totally acceptable between canine friends and family.
In addition, you’ve spent time socialising them and getting them to look on people as ‘a good thing’. Pair that with the excitement of new people arriving, and the craziness of events like Christmas, and they’re unlikely to be able to contain themselves!
As always with behaviours we want to change, we have to turn the question around.
We shouldn’t be asking ‘how do I stop my dog jumping up?’. But instead we should be asking ‘what do I want my dog to do instead of jumping up?’. By framing it that way, you have something you can actually train – and reward – as an alternative behaviour. It also makes it far more obvious what to do!
The 12 Days of Christmas Not Jumping Up
Singing is completely optional, but welcomed!
- Start with the simplest bit. If it’s possible, use stair gates to prevent your dog having access to the door. This gives visitors a chance to come in and get settled without having to battle across the threshold.
- Consistency is key. This kind of training can benefit you every day, not just at Christmas. And the more you do it, the more your dog will learn what you want. That means you want to stop and change your dog’s default natural greeting behaviour (jumping up) into something more appropriate (greeting with all four feet on the floor).
- Remember your dog’s language. Dogs jump up because in dog language, this is how you greet your family and close friends. They continue to do it because it’s rewarding (they get your attention and you ‘greet’ them back). Energetic, active and busy breeds or individuals also need a way to use up the energy the excitement of your re-appearance has produced!
- Practice makes perfect… Or not. What you need to do is to give them a way to get your attention, use up energy and be rewarded for doing something else instead. Always remember a behaviour that’s rewarded (intentionally or unintentionally), will be more likely to be repeated.
- Treats, treats, baby. Have a pot of treats outside the front door – or always carry treats with you ready for these greetings. These should be particularly delicious ones your dog loves! Every time you come through the door (or at times you know your dog can’t resist jumping up), drop a few treats on the floor. Every single time.
- Think down. Drop the treats on the floor – don’t give them from your hand. You want their focus to go from ‘up’ to ‘down’!
- Redirect their excitement. Your aim is to change your dog’s thinking from “Helloooooo – you’re back… I love you… let me jump up…” to “Hellooooo – you’re back… where’s my treat that’s going to be down there on the floor”.
- Reward what you want them to do. This rewards ‘not jumping’, gets past the overflow of energy, and gives you a chance to greet your dog with all four paws on the floor. This isn’t just for greetings – it’s also for the times when you can see your dog getting a bit fizzy and about to jump up. It stops them and refocuses them on the floor – and rewards them for making the choice not to jump up.
- Team effort. Make sure everyone in the household does this consistently – that’s often the difficult part.
- Test with guests. Set up training opportunities where friends or family come to the house – and do exactly as above.
- Plan B. If your dog can’t contain themselves, and they do jump up, ignore them (as long as it’s safe to do so) and turn your body away or step back so they get back down. But be very quick to give them what they want (your attention) the instant their paws are back on the floor. Soon it’ll become a default behaviour for your dog as ‘up’ doesn’t get rewarded or produce the desired outcome, but ‘down to the ground’ does.
- And enjoy! Now you’ve stopped your dog jumping up, you’re ready for visitors, or at least your dog is!
Get more tips
Christmas can be a very different time for our pups, but we’re here to help with our tips to keep them happy and treats you can give them, as well as ones to avoid.