Jumping up when greeting is one of the most common complaints pet owners have about their dogs. The reason this behavior happens so frequently is that in dog to dog communication, moving right toward the face is not only common but may show social politeness and deference to the other animal.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to put up with this annoying behavior.
While the idea of "training" may seem daunting, it is simply teaching an animal what behavior works or doesn't work through resulting consequences — so whether you realize it or not, you are actually training your dog every moment of the day. Fortunately for you, preventing jumping is possible even without structured training. There are some simple solutions to this problem that require minimal effort and fit easily into your normal interactions with your dog.
Here are six ways to keep your dog jump-free.
Delay Greeting Until Your Dog Is Calm
Before you answer the door and welcome guests, clip a leash on your canine, preferably to a front-clip harness or head halter, so that he can be controlled in a manner such that he cannot greet if he jumps. When your dog is calm, with all four paws on the floor — which may take up to a few minutes for more excitable dogs — allow him to approach guests and say hello. If he jumps, gently turn and lead him away; wait for calm behavior before approaching again. For particularly excitable dogs, another option is to remove the dog to a contained area before guests come in. An exercise pen or baby gate is adequate containment for many dogs. If you have an athletic or large dog that can easily scale a gate, use a crate or move him to a room with a closed door. Once your dog calms down, clip on his leash and allow him to come out and greet your guests.
Ignore Your Dog When He Jumps
When your dog has all four paws on the floor, give him attention and praise. If he jumps up at any point, freeze with your arms folded on your chest until he calms down. Instruct guests and all members of your household to consistently ignore jumping. If you have visitors who ignore the no-jumping rules, keep your dog on leash during the visit and gently remove him if he jumps. For anything your dog gets in life, whether it's your attention or a meal, only give the reward when all four paws are on the floor. Jumping up should end all attention and rewards, while remaining fixed on the ground garners all the pleasurable reinforcement a dog desires — treats, petting, play.
Give Your Dog Something to Carry in His Mouth
For some dogs, simply holding something in their mouth during a greeting sequence nixes jumping. The preferred item depends on the animal, as some dogs prefer stuffed toys or balls while others like long-lasting chews. Pre-stuffed food puzzles are another option. Keep them near the door and give one to your pooch when guests arrive.
Get Your Dog Moving
For retrieving dogs, initiate a game of fetch when guests arrive to distract from the urge to jump while greeting. Use a soft toy that’s unlikely to cause damage or bounce far when thrown; toss the toy in an open area of your house away from breakables, like the hallway. Another option is to toss loose treats on the floor. Doing so will keep your dog’s nose glued to the ground in pursuit of the food, and by extension, off the guest during the most exhilarating initial moments of greeting. After a few minutes of this type of play, the new person has been in the house long enough for your dog’s excitement level to decrease, and jumping up will no longer be an issue.
Get Down on the Dog’s Level
Some dogs jump because they want to complete a proper greeting by sniffing a person's face. You can allow a dog who is greeting you to get near your face while still discouraging jumping by lowering yourself to the dog's level. Kneel down when saying hi; keep your upper body upright and lean forward from the waist. Avoid bending over the top of the dog, which can be threatening and can put you at risk of a facial injury or chipped tooth if the dog jumps up. Alternatives to kneeling are sitting in a chair or positioning your hand lower to the ground for petting, thus directing the dog’s attention away from your face but still allowing him to say hi by sniffing your hand at nose level.
Other Strategies for Calming Your Dog
There are a few other strategies you can try in order to calm your dog and put a stop to jumping. A canine anti-anxiety wrap like the ThunderShirt gently squeezes pressure points in your dog's body that encourage a sense of calm in a noninvasive manner. In many cases, the vest alone may stop the jumping — no training necessary — because it can lower arousal levels quickly.
Exercise also helps. Many dogs don't get the exercise they need, which sets them up for extreme reactions when anything out of the ordinary happens. To combat jumping, increase your dog’s exercise, aiming for twice daily walks that leave him panting, not from the heat, but from the exercise. But be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s exercise routine.