Jumping Up

The normal greeting behaviour in dogs is to firstly make eye contact with another dog. For puppies, this eye contact is generally followed by an attempt to lick the muzzle of the other dog. Given the discrepancy in height between pup and human, the natural reaction for the puppy to make is to attempt to reach the face of its owner by climbing or jumping up.

Do you sit in front of the TV with your pup climbing up your leg? Have you petted it, looked at it or told it it's a good dog? Well done! You've just rewarded jumping up! No problem when your puppy is 7 weeks old but have you thought of a wet November night, best dress and wet paws? So now you push the dog away; now the dog and humans are playing "push-me" games with the dog jumping back for more.

If you shout at it, either the dog interprets such shouting as barking and joins in or else realises something is wrong and will make an appropriate canine appeasing gesture, such as eye contact and muzzle lick, ie another jump into your face.

Young Pups, 7 - 10 Weeks Old

With a young pup, discipline yourself and your family to only reward your puppy when its' 4 paws are on the ground, preferably in a sit. The sit can be taught very quickly by placing food in the flat of your hand and passing it over the pup's head. As he watches your hand, he will "fall back" into the sit position. Now release the food. Quickly your pup will realise that sitting produces a food reward and you will find that you no longer have to have food in your hand ie the "empty" hand now acts as a signal for the sit position. Furthermore if the puppy is sitting then it cannot be jumping up!

When greeting the puppy, squat down to a position where eye contact is at the same level. Again, reward for the dog keeping his paws on the ground or for sitting.

If the puppy attempts to jump upon you, leave the room. The consequence of jumping up is now to drive you away, rather than to earn a "play" session. Return to the room after a few seconds and reward a sitting position if given. If leaving is impossible then ignore the dog completely; look at the ceiling, refuse to talk or acknowledge its presence. Again the jumping up behaviour results in the dog being excluded.

If you are sitting down and the pup attempts to jump or climb up on you, you can either cross your legs or stand up so that the pup falls off you. Don't look at or say anything to the dog when doing this. The puppy will realise this jumping behaviour is unrewarding and will offer you an alternative behaviour which can be rewarded if appropriate.

10 Weeks Old and Above

If your puppy has had time to learn that jumping up results in rewards, then you need to structure it's retraining. Keep the pup on a loose lead and have a volunteer or family member calmly walk towards the pup but looking at you not the dog

If the dog attempts to jump up your volunteer turns and leaves the room. Jumping up equals failure. If the dog sits, he is rewarded by food initially and eventually by the "visitor" remaining to interact with him. Sit equals success. Repeat over the next 10 minutes, and try to hold several sessions per day.

Hold a "puppy" party for your new arrival by inviting 4 friends to walk past your puppy 10 times. Again, instruct them not to make eye contact with the puppy and to leave if jumped on. You may wish to hold the puppy on a loose lead for the time being. In 10 minutes, your pup has met 40 people and, more importantly, has had 40 opportunities of learning which behaviour is more rewarding. Reward your friends with a suitable drink!

Repeat these little sessions gradually increasing the level of interest your volunteers display, until you have repeated them on and off the lead.

  1. Calmly walking, no speaking, no eye contact
  2. Calmly walking, "Hello Rover", no eye contact
  3. Excited walk, no speaking, no eye contact
  4. Excited walk, speaking, no eye contact
  5. Enthusiastic run, no speaking, no eye contact
  6. Enthusiastic run, speaking, no eye contact
  7. Much more animation, no speaking, no eye contact
  8. Much more animation, speaking, no eye contact
  9. Calm approach, speaking WITH eye contact
  10. Excited approach, speaking WITH eye contact
  11. More animation, speaking WITH eye contact

Because learning is context specific and you have been training your dog indoors, you should also ensure you repeat the above outside, with your volunteers "accidentally" meeting you on your "walk" around the streets. This is important, firstly so that the learning generalises across different environments and secondly so that the puppy has a chance to learn the correct response / greeting behaviour BEFORE it meets the general public who will inadvertently attempt to undo your hard work by encouraging the dog to jump.

When extinguishing a behaviour which has been learnt and rewarded on a haphazard basis you will notice that the behaviour will actually get worse before it gets better i.e. the dog will jump up more. This is normal and does not mean your training is failing (what do you do when you try to start your car? Do you give up straightaway and call the mechanic or do you turn the ignition key again and see if it works or is it really broken ?). This is what your pup is attempting to discover by repeating the action.

Owners with older dogs may require further guidance to de-sensitise and counter-condition their pets to successfully inhibit jumping up.