We love our dogs, but we don’t always love their behavior. Jumping on you, or worse—on your guests—is a behavior that most families just don’t want to have to deal with. While jumping up might be a perfectly respectable part of canine society, it does not translate well into their lives as much loved, domesticated pets.
Part of the problem stems from size. Fido doesn’t know that he outweighs Granny Parker. In his mind, he is still very much a lap dog; all 109 lbs of him. But Granny knows that Fido could very easily knock her off her feet possibly causing her to break a bone. The potential for injury is great when dogs jump up.
But more than that, some people really aren’t huge fans of dogs, and they don’t want dogs on them. This always seems to be news to your dog. He, in fact, is quite convinced that everyone loves him, especially the people who try to avoid him. To Fido, it’s an elaborate game of hide and seek with your guest trying to hide while he tries to skillfully find ways onto their lap.
Jumping up can be very problematic. It can lead to spills and breakage throughout your home. But more than that, it can cause harm to children and the elderly. It’s time to get the jumping under control!
What’s behind all the jumping?
While jumping up is an undesirable trait in the modern dog, it served its purpose in the wild. The behavior seems to be instinctual and is but one way canines express themselves to one another. Since dogs do not have a spoken language by which to convey their wants and needs, they have to rely on actions to get their message across.
Among the potential messages your dog is trying to communicate are:
- “I want your attention!”
There is no doubt that jumping up is designed to get our attention. Unfortunately, it often misses the mark when it comes to the desired response as a lot of people don’t like being jumped on. This is particularly perplexing to our dogs because jumping up is a sign of a polite, respectful greeting in the dog world. Puppies will often jump up and paw at or lick their mother’s face. This is not meant to be nuisance behavior. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is a means of expressing their willful submissiveness to older or more established dogs or even to gain attention from a valued family member.
- “I’m hungry!”
The wild dog was responsible for sourcing his own food and the food for his dependents. Sometimes this would entail travelling a vast terrain in search of a sufficient food supply. One of the limitations the wild dog would run up against is how to get a large food item back to the pack for their nourishment. A deer would be too large for the average dog to carry or drag. How could he provide for his family? The answer was simple; he would eat the food and later regurgitate it for the young back at home.
In the modern dog, we still see mother dogs doing this for their puppies. In today’s homes, it is not necessary for our dogs to procure their own food, but mothers intuitively know when a food is going to be too difficult for her babies to chew and digest. Because of this, she will masticate it for them, then swallow, and regurgitate it to enable the puppies to gain the maximum benefit from the food.
What does this have to do with jumping?
In order for a puppy to communicate to his momma that he was hungry, he would need to jump up and lick her face or muzzle. This was a signal to the momma dog that her baby was hungry and in need of sustenance and would appeal to her natural maternal instinct to provide for her young.
- “I submit to you. I mean you no harm!”
Jumping up and licking another dog’s face is also a calming signal. It communicates to other dogs that the dog comes in peace. He isn’t there to fight, and he wants the top dog to know that.
With a solid understanding of the why’s behind jumping up, we can now tackle what to do about it!
How to train your dog to stop jumping up
If you’re like most families, you don’t mind Fido jumping up on you so much, but you do want to be respectful of your guests. With this in mind, you’ve made it your mission to teach Fido that it is not always appropriate to jump up. But how?
Here are some simple steps you can take to help Fido successfully and painlessly learn his place.
- Never reward your dog when he jumps up. Dogs require consistency to be successful in training, so it is very important that you never send mixed messages.
- Teach a solid “off” command. Off is a very versatile command that applies to a lot of situations. It is very useful for your dog to learn. In order to teach this command, you must be prepared with super yummy treats. When your dog jumps up on you, you say loudly and firmly “OFF!”. When your dog backs off into a sit, you reward the dog with much praise and some yummy food. This exercise will need to be repeated numerous times until it takes root in Fido’s little doggy brain, but dogs are very intelligent, and he WILL get it.
- Teach a default position. Teach your dog that he will only get your attention when he assumes the position you want him in. For most people, this is a sit facing you. If Fido begins jumping up on you, remain standing still and do not look at him. He will continue to jump, but when he realizes that he is not getting the desired response, he will start to offer you other behaviors. When he selects the default position, reward him lavishly. Fido will soon learn that the best way to get your attention is by assuming the “position”.
- Instruct any guests that come to your home to ignore Fido if he jumps up. If attention is his end goal, and he’s not getting what he wants, he will soon learn to attempt different behaviors until he finds the correct one.
Jumping up isn’t the end of the world, but it isn’t the most polite behavior either. For the utmost in safety and politeness, take the time to teach Fido the “off” command. The time you invest in him will enrich your relationship with him. And your guests will thank you too!