A puppy jumping up aggravates and even terrorizes people. His paws muddy slacks; her claws snag pantyhose. Being tackled by a dog is an unpleasant, dangerous surprise. It’s also rude behavior that should not be allowed in polite human/canine society.
Puppy training goes beyond potty training. With our Bravo-Dawg weighing over 120 pounds, jumping up becomes a safety issue. Shadow-Pup at only 25 pounds still causes plenty of aggravation. Teach limits early–but even adult dogs can be taught not to jump up. You can learn more about puppy must-knows in my book Complete Puppy Care.
Puppy Jumping Up? Here’s Why
It’s not the pup’s fault. Dogs instinctively lick each other’s faces as a greeting display, and a submissive pup aims attention at a dominant individual’s eyes and mouth. Jumping up is a type of doggy communication and licking the owner’s face is a polite canine “howdy!”—a way for him to acknowledge you are the boss, and to solicit attention. Since puppies don’t stand eye-to-eye with owners, they tend to jump up toward people to compensate for their size.
Many people consider jumping up to be cute when the St. Bernard is a puppy, but the attraction tends to fade as the dog matures. It becomes a safety issue around children and elderly people who can be seriously injured by a jumping dog. Your circle of friends may include folks who (gasp!) dislike or are even frightened by dogs of any size.
Teach your pup a more appropriate way to greet people. Once she realizes her behavior offends you, and isn’t a legal way to play, she’ll strive to find another way to say hello.
How to Stop Puppy Jumping Up
- Don’t step on her toes, and don’t knee her in the chest. Either action can be painful, which tends to prompt avoidance behavior or even aggression. Instead of teaching your dog to greet you appropriately, such actions tell her to avoid greeting you altogether—and that’s no fun for anybody.
- Do NOT reward the jumping up with petting or playing or any sort of reciprocal greeting. That’s what she wants, after all. Instead, teach her that she only gets attention when she SITS on command.
- Have a family member help you with the training. As Pete enters the front door, he should stand still and greet the dog with, “Cricket, COME!” followed by “Cricket, SIT!”
- When Cricket sits as requested, Pete should offer his hand for a sniff (very important to dogs in greetings). Once Cricket sniffs the hand, Pete can stroke her cheek or neck, saying “Goooood Cricket,” to reward the behavior.
- If the dog still insists on jumping up, Pete should step back so the dog’s feet miss—and at the same time, turn away from her. That interrupts the canine “howdy” because a dog can’t properly greet a person’s back. Cricket learns that if she wants to receive a greeting, she must keep all four feet on the ground and plant her furry tail.
- Once the pup’s paws hit the floor, again give the “sit” command and repeat the exercise. After this social greeting has been exchanged, Pete can then walk into the house and take a seat. The puppy will likely follow—have other family members waiting in the room to reinforce her good behavior with “good dog!”
- Drill with your dog, until a sit prompts more attention for her than jumping up ever did. If a wet slurp across the mouth doesn’t offend you, then you kneel down on your pup’s level to put yourself in range of her kiss so she doesn’t have to leap.
- And remember, there’s nothing to stop you from training your extremely well-behaved dog to jump up—but only on your command.
How to Stop Dogs Jumping Up
When your puppy reaches adolescence the dog often becomes rude out of testing limits (just like a human child), or the clueless baby doesn’t understand how to control impulses. Adolescent jumping up can turn into “nose boinking” behavior which can lead to broken glasses or even a bloody nose. Jumping up often combines with mouthing behavior where the pup bites and grabs at your hands, clothing or even (ahem) your buttocks in a drive-by grab-tag game.
In most cases, the puppy doesn’t mean to be bad and it’s simply how he plays. Each dog is different so not all work with every pup. Here are some of my favorite.
- Keep It Low Key. Homecomings and departures are a prime time for jumping-up because puppies want to greet or stop you from leaving. Turning your back on some of these dogs actually revs them up even more, so instead try ignoring the bad behavior. “Ignore” means you make no eye contact, say nothing, and stand still like a boring zombie and offer no reaction for idiot puppy behavior.
- Dance Your Dog. When your puppy jumps up, grab her front paws, and dance her around the room. Some pups hate this so much that’s incentive enough to stop jumping. However, with other pups that enjoy the “dance” it could reward the behavior. If this causes more intense mouthing and biting of your hands, try a different tip.
- Play A Game. Teach your puppy a conflicting behavior such as “fetch your ball.” She can’t jump up if she’s running to bring you her ball or another favorite toy. Just the name of a special game or toy—“go get your bear!”—can change the dog’s focus and redirect the behavior long enough for you to evade the jumping. With enough repetitions, your puppy will begin to associate your home-coming with “go find” instead of jumping up.
- Hide A Toy. For pups that ambush you and bite your ass-ets while playing outside, hide a toy or two in the back yard and ask them to “find” the toy. Bad weather can give puppies cabin fever when they don’t have adequate time outside to run off the energy. Mental stimulation can wear them out, too. Show your puppy a favorite toy and then roll it up inside an old towel and knot it to make a puzzle. Encourage the pup to un-ravel and get the toy. You can even tie the first toy-in-the-towel inside a second one for more of a challenge for relieving boredom on days.
- Practice Commands. A conflicting behavior—like “sit” when you come home—helps enormously. You’ll need to practice your puppy’s “sit” during calm moments first, and then ask for this polite behavior before you leave and when you arrive home. Guests will appreciate a polite “sit” when they arrive, too, and won’t appreciate your puppy leaping around and mugging them for attention.
- Cry and Yelp. Many puppies don’t know their own strength. When they jump up and you wave your arms and try to push them off, they may think it’s a game and grab and bite harder. Tell them it hurts the same way another puppy would, with a YELP! Lay it on thick, overact, and cry and sob like the pup has done major damage. Some tough dogs really get the message using
this. For the out-of-control grabby ambush type of dog play, give him a taste of his own medicine and SCREAM (very loud but very short), and fall over “dead.” Don’t move, don’t say anything. Play dead for at least 15-20 seconds. The shock value may be enough to send a permanent message that such games stop all interaction, plus they hurt you—and playing dogs really aren’t interested in hurting you and won’t want you to cry.
- Body Block Noise Boinks. An anxious or playful pup may leap high and very rapidly and suddenly “poke” at your face with their nose. That can be triggered by leaning over the top of them especially when they’re in a high-arousal situation like a homecoming or around other dogs. It may be a way for stressed pups to relieve their anxiety so be aware of situations that cause these behaviors. Dogs control each others’ movements with their body language. Think about how a Border Collie makes sheep move just by getting close. You can stop your pup’s jumps by stepping close to him just before he leaps. Cross your arms, and step into the pup’s personal space before he crouches to leap.
Training Hard Case Dogs to Stop Jumping Up
- Use A Drag-Line. This is a long leash that the pup can “drag” along the ground. When the pup approaches before he can jump simply step on the line. That prevents him from jumping up. While you step on the line, don’t make eye contact or give attention until he stops trying to jump.
- Employ A Tie-Down. With a tie-down, you simply attach your drag-line to a fixed object like a fence, stair rail, or other immovable objects like an eye-bolt into the wall. This exercise uses the same principles as teaching the “wait” command only instead of closing a door or gate, the pup is confined by the leash. That keeps you safe from mouthing and claws and prevents the pup from jumping up and grabbing. Practice puppy sits and downs, while you stay out of range. The puppy only gets rewarded with contact from you when he stays calm with all four feet on the floor.
- Recruit Help. Practice the tie-down exercise with several friends. Have them approach, one after another, and the pup only gets to be petted if he doesn’t jump. If he tries to leap, back out of range and say, “You blew it! Whoops! Too bad!” or something similar. Repeat the exercise ten to twenty times in a row, and the pup will learn the lesson.
Your turn–do you have a jumping-jack dog? How do you deal? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!