Tired of Your Dog's Jumping? Here's Why He Does It — And How to Change the Behavior

Dog jumping on person
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Dogs often jump on people as a way to get attention.

We've all been there: You walk into someone's house or apartment and become the target of a pogo-sticking canine, leaping at your face and pawing your clothes and nearly knocking you off your feet. Unfortunately, the typical owner's response is to grab the dog's collar and announce either “Oh, Bouncer just loves people!” or “Bouncer! Get down! I’ve told you a thousand times — no jumping up!”

Either way, the dog got exactly what he wanted: For just a second, he was the center of attention.

Understanding Your Dog's Motivation

Jumping up is most often a type of attention-seeking behavior — and in most cases, it's pretty effective. People tend to react to a jumping dog by focusing their attention on him in one of several ways: by distracting him with petting and caresses, by admonishing him to stop it or by shoving him down or punishing him in some other way. Unfortunately, all of these responses, even the punishment, get the dog the attention he is seeking and reinforce the unwanted behavior.

If your dog seems to be jumping as a way of getting your attention or that of other people who come into your home, start by addressing that issue. Make a point of giving him your undivided attention at regularly scheduled times each day. Set aside the first 10 or 15 minutes in the morning or when you come home from work as playtime with your dog. Use this predictable time to work on training, play with toys or practice tricks. Whatever you do, make your dog the focus of your attention.

Jumping up is also common in dogs that are extremely excitable. Your high-energy dog isn't simply hyperactive — he's probably not getting enough exercise and may be a little bit bored as a result. The solution is to challenge your dog, mentally and physically, every day (of course, after your veterinarian determines there's no medical condition that would prevent your dog from exercising). Jogging, playing games and other forms of exercise can tire your dog physically, but that's only half the battle. Tricks and food puzzles will stimulate him mentally, which is important as well. Canine sports such as agility and flyball combine mental and physical exertion. If your dog was bred to do a job like hunting, herding, or pulling, giving him an opportunity to do that job is one of the best ways to fulfill his needs and help channel calmer behavior when needed.

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