The holidays are a time when we can visit with friends and family, eat good food and have fun celebrating the season. None of us want this picturesque vision to be disrupted by an enthusiastic dog jumping all over our nicely dressed guests, but how do we stop this behavior?
Firstly, if you want your dog to be a polite greeter in time for the holidays, start practicing now and as often as you can. Jumping is not a behavior that can be fixed overnight, especially if your dog is older and has been practicing the behavior for a while. It takes patience, consistency, and time to teach them a new way of saying hello.
Next, it is important to understand why our dogs are jumping on guests. Contrary to previous thoughts in dog training, jumping up is not an effort to be dominant over anyone. Rather our dogs (especially puppies) naturally say hello that way, whether to other dogs or to people. In addition to it being a natural, young behavior, we tend to reward our dogs for it. Who hasn’t pet and praised a little puppy while they jump all over you. We usually cannot help ourselves because they are small and cute, but we are basically training them that jumping gets our attention/affection. As they get older and bigger, this behavior becomes unacceptable, but how are our dogs supposed to learn what we do want them to do?
Train your dog to sit instead of jumping to say hello
Methods to avoid:
- Do not knee your dog as he jumps: There is no reason to hurt your dog to get your point across and it can also be dangerous for you if you get knocked over in the process.
- Do not say “Off” or “Down”: We want to train our dogs never to be “on” in the first place, so these words are unnecessary and give our dog attention when he jumps (even negative attention is still attention).
- Do not push your dog off : This is interpreted by our dogs as a sign that we want to play, so they usually come back at us even harder.
- Do not give any attention to your dog whatsoever: This includes talking to your dog, saying “No!”, petting your dog, or even eye contact– any of these lets your dog know that jumping got your immediate attention in some way.
What to do:
- Ignore your dog: Immediately turn your back and cross your arms if your dog jumps; then take a slow step or two away.
- Leave the room: If the jumping continues even with you ignoring your dog, leave the room, shutting the door behind you (wait for 10 seconds and try going back in).
- Reward behavior you like: Pay attention to your dog when he has four paws on the floor or is sitting– if he jumps, immediately remove all attention and ignore him. Wait for four paws on the floor for 5-10 seconds and try giving him calm attention again.
It is important to teach other members of the household and guests these simple rules, or your dog will not learn to stop jumping.
Another exercise you can do (and have guests practice too) is teach your dog sit to greet.
Sit to Greet:
- Step 1: Come into the room through a door and ask your dog proactively for a sit (before your dog even has a chance to jump). If your dog sits, they get calm praise and a treat. If your dog jumps, ignore the dog and immediately leave the room. Repeat several times, until your dog is sitting readily.
- Step 2: Repeat- many sessions a day with every member of the household until your dog is sitting the first time you ask, not after you have had to leave the room 2 or 3 times due to jumping.
- Step 3: Repeat with familiar dog-loving family and friends. Your goal is that your dog will sit the first time he is asked, not after jumping a few times.
This exercise teaches our dogs that if they want to say “hi” to someone and get attention, they need to sit first. Remind guests that anytime the dogs jumps, they are to turn their backs, cross their arms, and walk a step or two away from the dog.
**What do you do if your dog is jumping all over guests who don’t love dogs or who have nice clothes on?
Management is your best option here until you can teach your dog not to jump in the first place. Put your dog in another room, his crate or the backyard (if it isn’t too cold) with a yummy chew to work on so he can enjoy himself and your guests can enjoy the holiday without runs in their pantyhose or paw prints on their pants.