How to Stop Your Dog Jumping on Guests
While a little puppy is quite cute when they jump up excitedly, this behaviour in a 20kg dog is unwelcome, particularly when nanna comes to visit!
Simply put, the behaviour was reinforced during critical stages and extinguishing it takes persistence and a team effort from everyone your dog comes in contact with.
Why Does Your Dog Jump Up?
A dog leaping up to get closer to your face is simply saying ‘hello’ and looking for attention. A few stray licks are often incorporated, so ensure you always keep your mouth closed! Chances are you push him off, thus giving him body contact, which he loves in any form. Even if you say ‘no’ or ‘bah’, your dog hasn’t learnt to speak English so doesn’t understand you want him to stop. The reinforcers of eye contact, physical contact and your voice are powerful enough to make him repeat the problem behaviour. And no, a knee in the chest won’t work either and is kind of mean!
Don’t Increase the Excitement
One of the lovely things about coming home to your dog is that they will always be happy to see you, whether you’ve been gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours. If you encourage this excitement, it will amplify, rather than dissipate. When you come home, don’t talk in an excited, high pitched voice and don’t look at or touch your dog until he is calm and all 4 paws are on the floor.
Extinguishing the Jump
It sounds deceptively simple, but simply ignoring your dog when he is jumping by turning your back and looking away will eventually teach him that it no longer gets attention. Unfortunately it takes very little time to teach a behaviour, but much longer to stop one. Interestingly, if you are consistent and stop everyone from looking, touching or speaking to your dog while he is jumping it will stop much more quickly than if there is intermittent rewarding (ie. If you sometimes give your dog attention, or if one member of the household gives your dog attention for jumping- so get Uncle Bob on side too!).
Reward the Good
As soon as all 4 paws are on the ground, look at your dog and tell him he is doing well. As soon as he starts to leap again, turn your back. You will find yourself turning in circles constantly during the early stages, but eventually your persistence will pay off. Also be aware that a problem behaviour often gets worse before it improves, which may make it seem like the approach is not working. Your dog has been doing the same thing for a long time, so will at first be a little confused as to why he is no longer getting the same response. The natural thing to do is to try harder, so he will leap for the skies for the first couple of weeks. Just remember, that as soon as all 4 paws are on the ground, reward him (with praise and eye contact), so he gets the idea.
Jumping On Guests
If your dog is prone to leaping all over your nanna or small children, keep him on a lead by your side while they visit. When you hear the door, ask your dog to sit and reward this. You will initially need a helper, but could use something like a Treat and Train to teach him to stay on his mat while guests visit. When the guest comes inside ask them to also ignore your dog. Keep rewarding the calm behaviour and asking your pet to sit. Only allow him off-lead when you are sure he will reliably sit by your side.
If you have some friends, ask if they can practice with your dog. The more occasions your dog has to learn the appropriate response to a visitor, the quicker he will learn. Ask them to ignore the jumping and only give attention (lavish attention) when your dog is sitting politely.
Another option for dogs that need constant monitoring when guests arrive is to crate train them or train them to sit on their bed or mat. Give them a high value chew like a Greenie or a Pigs Ear when guests first arrive as a reward for staying put. This may not last the entire visit, but hopefully the initial excitement phase can be diverted to chewing instead. If you know you are having a big group of people over consider taking your dog out for a big run so he is not bored and full of energy. A tired dog is not only a happy dog, but a well behaved one!
A Final Note
It is always easier to train your dog to do something, than to train him NOT to do something. Often behaviour like jumping up has been unintentionally reinforced. In the same way that your dog learnt that to sit gets him praise and perhaps a treat, when he jumps up you look at him and touch him. He then continues to repeat the same old pattern to get that attention. Training an alternate behaviour will take a little time and persistence, but is worth it in the end.