Overly rambunctious greeting behaviors are very common in puppies and juvenile dogs, and if not corrected, this behavior can often follow them into adulthood. It’s cute when they’re little puppies, but it becomes annoying later – and when they grow up to become 60 lb dogs, the annoyance is accompanied by bruises, scratches and damaged clothes from dirty paws.

As owners we inadvertently encourage this behavior by occasionally allowing jumping up, or reaching out to pet or even pushing our dogs away when they are jumping up. It is up to us to eliminate any reinforcement of this behavior in order to control and prevent it.

Starting Off on the Right Paw / Managing Your Environment

Setting ground rules early on will help to prevent problems later. Jumping up is an attention-seeking behavior. When a dog jumps up to greet you, in most cases, it’s to solicit attention from you. If you respond by giving any attention at all then the dog has been rewarded, and behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to happen again and again. Even by scolding your dog or pushing him away when he jumps up, you are giving him attention.

Try this instead: when your dog jumps up, completely ignore him. Cross your arms over your chest and turn your back to your dog. If your dog continues to jump excitedly, walk away and turn your attention to something other than the dog. When your dog finally settles down and has four paws on the floor, acknowledge him with verbal praise and a small food treat. The reward should come immediately, so pay attention and wait for it; it will happen. Remember to keep the verbal praise low-key so you don’t return your pet to an excited state.

Training a non-compatible behavior is also a critical part of controlling and preventing jumping up. Think about what you would like your dog to do when greeting you, instead of jumping up. A good choice would be to have him sit politely while being greeted. Work on training a reliable “sit” cue, in addition to eliminating unintentional reinforcement (ignore the behaviors you don’t like and reward the behaviors you do like).

Making sure everyone in the family is on the same page is an important part of training. If Uncle Joe allows Buster to jump up on him, then training will inevitably break down and be unsuccessful – plus, frustrating for you and your dog. Whenever your dog greets or interacts with anyone, even meeting someone at the part, enforce the “no jumping up” rule. One bad apple can ruin a whole basket of good training.

If the unwanted behavior has been allowed in the past and left unattended, controlling it will take some time and patience. It may even get worse before it gets better. This is just part of the learning process. Don’t give in and don’t give up! The reward is more than worth it.

Tips and Hints

The most common mistake people make in trying to control jumping up behavior is joining in on the game. Any form of attention will reinforce this behavior.

  • Physical punishment is a form of attention. Hitting or stepping on your dog’s back feet, kneeing him in the chest or just pushing him away will not be effective tools for eliminating this behavior.
  • Punishment may also create fearful behaviors. Fearful behaviors will influence future training and make learning difficult for your pet.
  • Your puppy may learn to be afraid of you.
  • He may become defensive and develop aggressive behaviors.
  • He could shy away from physical interactions with you, like not wanting to be petted.
  • Always reward calm behavior in your pet.
  • Be careful when using verbal praise. Keep it low key so you don’t get your dog overly excited.
  • Remember this behavior is often a product of a very friendly and very happy dog. This is a good thing.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise so he may burn off excess energy.
  • Your dog will repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not.

If you find you are still having problems and need a little extra help, we offer group obedience classes and private training at the shelter. For more information, visit humanebroward.com/behavior or call our Behavior and Training Department at 954.266.6819 to schedule an appointment to meet with a trainer.

This article was written by our Training and Behavior Department Specialist, Stephanie Rodgers, CPDT.

Need help with training your new dog or puppy?

Private and group lessons are available. Call Stephanie at 954.266.6819 for more information, or click here.

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