Dog jumping on person

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.

Put a Stop to the Jumping

Traditional training advice has been to knee the dog in the chest or to step on his rear toes when he jumps up. However, this approach is extremely problematic; not only can such physical punishment easily injure the dog, it still rewards him for jumping. Punishment is a form of attention — your dog will continue to jump if you continue to respond to this behavior, even if that response is negative.

A more effective way to put a stop to jumping is to teach your dog an alternative behavior that he can use to greet people. Train him to sit and stay when people come into your home; when he does so, reward him with attention: either praise, petting or treats (or all three). It is also important to remove any type of reward or reinforcement for jumping; if he jumps on you, ignore him and leave the room. He will eventually learn that the best way to get your attention is by doing as you ask.

No matter why your dog jumps up, this type of attention-seeking behavior should be ignored rather than reinforced or rewarded. Instead, teach your dog a set of acceptable behaviors — sitting, lying down, shaking hands — that he can use in place of jumping and reward those behaviors with attention and praise. It’s always easier to reward good behavior than it is to fight bad behavior.

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