An innate canine impulse, jumping up serves two purposes for dogs: it’s a way to show excitement, and it allows for an up close and personal sniff of scent glands in the human face. Combine the two–your pup’s excited you’re home from work and craves a whiff of your natural aroma–and the result is one jumpy dog.
As puppies, our pets are encouraged to get right in our faces, put their paws on our shoulders, and lick our noses. We make it easy by getting down on the floor with them and praising their exuberant displays of affection. Pups quickly learn that jumping all over us is fun and rewarding, and we reinforce this behavior because it’s fun and rewarding for us too. But what’s adorable in a 10-pound puppy isn’t so cute in a 70-pound adult dog, so it’s important to begin teaching your pup to keep “four on the floor” as early as possible.
The goal is to teach your dog that jumping won’t lead to what she wants–in fact, it will decrease her chances of getting it. So whether she’s hoping for a sniff of your forehead, showing excitement about an impending walk, or attempting to snap a treat out of your hand, jumping up must unfailingly result in the absence of the desired target.
When your dog jumps up, hug your chest and turn away from her so she doesn’t have access to your arms and face. If she keeps jumping, tell her, “Off!” in a low, stern voice. Then ask her for what you do want: “Sit.” When she complies, softly stroke and praise her. Take care to use soothing tones and slow movements so as not to incite more jumping.
If your dog is constantly jumping up, the good news is that you’ll have many opportunities to train the behavior out of her. If jumping is limited to certain occasions–for example, when you return home from work–practice a polite greeting. A few times a day, leave the house for a minute or two so that she can practice greeting you each time you come back.
Consistency is crucial. If you don’t want your dog jumping on you when you walk in from work in your business clothes, don’t allow it when you come in from the garden in your dirty overalls. Until there are “four on the floor,” she doesn’t get to greet you, the door doesn’t open for a walk, the treat isn’t placed in her bowl.
Start early by making sure you’re not rewarding your puppy for jumping. Encourage her to chase tennis balls, roll over for belly rubs, and do all the things that are appropriate for puppies to do, but refrain from giving treats, praise, or any other kind of attention when she jumps. Request that guests (or anyone who comes in contact with your pup) do the same.
If she’s an adult dog, you can still set her up for success by greeting her at her level. When you walk in the door, bend down to greet her and speak to her in calm, soothing tones. Place treats on the floor (as opposed to holding them above her head) so her attention is immediately focused downward rather than upward.
Bottom line: Jumping up is so instinctual–and so often tolerated–that it will probably take several weeks to cure your dog of the habit. To reduce it, hone your dog’s impulse control (through general obedience training) and clearly let her know what behavior you expect from her.