Dogs love to jump up! Jumping up on us is the fastest way to get our attention, often given in multiple ways. Jumping usually gets us to look at the dog, talk to him and to physically touch him when we naturally want to push them off. The dog also gets the added benefit of being closer to our face and easy access to sniff us. All of this is to say that jumping up is a highly reinforcing action for dogs, and our own actions often, accidentally, add even more reinforcement to the behavior.
Management: Using Barriers
One of the hardest parts about changing a behavior is preventing it from happening in the first place. We need to give time for the dog to learn the behaviors we want (four feet on the floor and quiet) and not continue to let the dog rehearse the jumping behavior she already knows will reward her. The longer history she has of a behavior being rewarded, the longer it will take to provide enough reinforcement for the new behavior to overtake the old one.
With jumping up on people, this becomes really difficult to do. We’ve probably all had dogs who learn to “punch” people first, then sit nicely for petting.
The easiest way to prevent the jumping up behavior is to block access to the person the dog wants to greet. This usually means tethering the dog’s leash to a surface, or putting him behind a gate or x-pen. A crate can also be used, but since the dog can’t really move at all, it will have less carry-over versus a gate or x-pen where the dog still has to practice being calm and not jumping up on the gate.
Do this every time family members come home, and guests come over.
Ideally, you will not release the dog from behind the barrier until after the initial excitement has died down. This is usually between 5-15 minutes after the person enters the house.
Keep in mind that with guests, you don’t ever have to let the dog greet. If the dog is too worked up and you know you can’t successfully manage the situation, leave him behind his barrier. The dog doesn’t need to learn that guests coming over are all about pets for him! Most of our dogs do great “in public” when they know they don’t get to greet people. This clear expectation can help at home too when visitors come over to your house. At least until your training starts to catch up, your dog is in a more thinking state of mind, and then you can reevaluate what both you and the dog are ready for.
Excitement with the Release
If most of the excitement is with family members and the dog still struggles when let out of her crate/barrier even after she has demonstrated waiting calmly, then we can manage the situation even further through the use of a leash and/or cookie scatters.
Have a leash hanging up by the crate/barrier and put it on before releasing the dog out. A slip leash (goes over the dog’s head vs clipping to a collar) might be easier if your dog is too wiggly to let you put on a leash! As you release the dog, immediately cue "find it" and scatter several cookies on the floor. Repeat this several times if you can see your dog is going to go into launch mode as soon as his head comes off the ground. You can step on the leash during this scatter if needed to further prevent a jump up.
Some dogs may need to be redirected to grab a toy on the release so they have an outlet for their energy. Make sure you have one on the ground near the barrier so you can start attaching a cue such as "Where’s your toy?" to redirect the dog and teach him this new sequence instead of the old sequence of jumping.
Training 4 on the Floor
With your management in place to prevent the dog from jumping, we also need to focus on teaching the dog what behaviors get our attention. Remember the dog wants us to look at him, talk to him and touch him!
Approach and Retreat - Behind a Barrier
For this training, you will want to have the dog either behind a barrier such as a gate or an x-pen. Your goal is to be able to practice approaching the dog and petting her when she is behind the barrier, and to also communicate that jumping up loses that reinforcement.
Approach your dog, and as long as four feet are on the floor (not on the gate), continue to walk up and start petting your dog.
As soon as your dog jumps up, stop moving forward and actually back up a step or two. There’s no need to say anything, as your retreat should provide instant communication that the jump up causes the petting to stop. Since the dog can’t follow you, he loses all reinforcement for jumping.
When this is easy, increase the difficulty by upping your excitement on your approach. Can you talk excitedly to the dog? Clap your hands? Throw your hands up high? Or increase the difficulty of the petting by really moving your hands in quick, exciting rubs.
Approach and Retreat - On a Tether or Cot
When your dog knows that jumping up is not an option as long as she is behind a barrier, we can start to generalize this concept.
At first, create a tether by attaching a 6-foot leash to a heavy piece of furniture. Repeat the same process as earlier with approaching as long as four feet are on the floor, and then retreating as soon as he jumps up.
Now, start to increase the difficulty by encouraging the dog to get onto a cot. While a flat mat can be used instead, a raised cot or platform is very black and white and easier for the dog to understand when she makes a mistake. This cot will eventually be used for visitors, or family members, coming into the house, so the dog is waiting in a specific location away from the door. The other advantage of a raised surface is that it gets the dog closer to your face, where he wants to be.
As long as he is on his cot/platform, you will continue to approach and pet him. If your dog steps off the platform, even if he hasn’t jumped up on you, redirect him back onto the surface.
Excitement to Calm
When the dog is doing fairly well with the approach/retreat games, you can start seeing if you can gradually increase the amount of excitement she will tolerate before jumping up when she is not as structured by being behind a barrier or on a cot.
With the dog already in a pretty calm mood, slowly start to ramp up your excitement as you talk to her and pet her for 3-5 seconds. If she jumps up, remove your eye contact, take away your hands, and either freeze, turn your back or take a step into the dog’s space to get her off. When the dog gets back on the floor, wait a second and then resume your play at a slightly calmer level.
If she was successful and didn’t jump up, still pause after those 3-5 seconds and see if the dog can respond to a cue like sit or nudge your hand. Reward with food if needed, otherwise praise and resume your excitement play!
Your goal is to gradually ramp up how much energy and excitement from you that the dog can handle before being asked to do a behavior.
Dealing with Visitors
The eventual goal of this training is to create a space that the dog can be sent to when visitors are at the door, and to remain waiting calmly until released. Upon the release, the dog can greet others but will keep all four feet on the floor.
Since this not only takes a lot of training to build up the dog’s "go mat" or "out" skills, but also maturity on the part of the dog, you will likely be using management with guests for quite awhile! Use those gates, x-pens or tethers to prevent the dog from practicing jumping habits.
You may be able to manage just the first part of the goal (the "send" and "stay" at the defined area) and be able to release the dog from his barrier once the initial excitement wears off. Be prepared with lots of cookies and a leash!
A great way to practice the dog’s ability to be calm around other people is to redirect the dog’s attention to food. Help the dog to think more about how to earn a food reward versus how to earn petting. Practice this game with family members first before inviting over helpers who will follow your instructions.
Start by having the dog already in a calm, training-brain mode. Have lots of cookies in your pocket and hand over a cookie for your helper to hold in her fist. Your helper will keep her hand low, fist up, at the dog’s nose level, and try to keep her hand as still as possible while the dog investigates her food hand. The helper is using what we call a "zen hand." The dog will likely sniff, poke and even lick the helper’s hand.
Your job is to wait until the dog stops physically mobbing the hand and looks back at you to see what is happening. At that moment, mark "yes" and back up as you show the dog the reward he earned from you. The dog may not come with you to get his reward but will look back at the helper’s cookie and that’s okay. Wait again!
If you are struggling, try calling your dog or moving around to get the dog’s attention. Only call him once he is not actively mobbing the helper’s hand so that he can hear you.
If the dog is jumping up on the helper, have the helper move her zen hand up to the dog’s nose and lure him back onto the floor. Her goal is to redirect the dog’s focus back to the treat in her hand and away from thinking about greeting. She can also try using her other hand to hold a few inches above the dog’s eyes to prevent the dog from being able to look up at her.
Progress until the dog easily comes to you and you can give the dog multiple treats for staying with you without having him rush back up to greet after swallowing his reward. Your helper can make things harder by approaching you and adding in excitement to her greeting.
Send to a Place
As you think of a place where you would ultimately like the dog to wait when visitors come over, think of not just waiting while the door is open, but a location far enough back that the visitors can come in and not be accosted until everyone is settled.
A raised cot is going to be the easiest for the dog to learn to maintain position, as it’s very obvious when she comes off and provides a very clear visual boundary. Another option would be using your out cue and teaching the dog to wait behind an obvious threshold, such as in another room.
Now, work on progressing the training. Can you send the dog to her place when you are 10+ feet away? While you have your hand on the door? If you knock or play a doorbell sound on your phone? What if you are holding a pizza box in your hand?! Can the dog wait on her place while you open a door? Can she wait while you greet imaginary people outside? While you bring a pizza box into the house?
Challenge the dog’s understanding before people are involved!
What if the dog makes a mistake and jumps up on you while you are practicing and he is not behind a barrier so you can retreat?
In this situation, you want to provide the least reinforcing scenario, knowing that he already received some reinforcement for the act of jumping up.
For some dogs, simply removing your hands, looking away from the dog, and quietly waiting is enough. He will put his feet back on the floor when he realizes you’re removing attention and you can re-engage him after a brief pause.
Other dogs are optimistic. If the dog is persistently trying to get attention even when ignored, try taking a step or two into the dog’s space to knock him off balance and to claim your personal space.
If this does not deter the dog from jumping up, you may need to calmly grab his collar and either hold him still against your leg, or physically remove him to a barrier. Be careful that the dog doesn’t bonk into your face as you lower your head. You may need to have a persistent dog drag a leash around the house so that you can step onto the leash and prevent repeated jumping.