Rambunctious rovers: How to stop your dog from jumping up on people

A dog that pounces on all your guests can make life tricky, even though experts say this is mostly a friendly gesture. Here's what to do if you want your rambunctious rover to heel!

A dog awkwardly trying to jump up on you is, well, adorable, but it can get inconvenient.
A dog awkwardly trying to jump up on you is, well, adorable, but it can get inconvenient.  © IMAGO / Image Source

A puppy clinging to your trouser leg and awkwardly trying to jump up on you is, well, adorable. But you'd likely be less than thrilled if that once small ball of fur, now a full-grown Labrador and fresh from a dip in a duck pond, pounces on you.

Why do dogs like to greet people this way?

According to dog trainer Susanne Endler, it can be a sign of insecurity, but is often just plain enthusiasm. In some cases, she says, the obnoxious habit is the dog owner's fault: "They hold reward treats too high. So jumping up is the inevitable result, especially if the dog is small."

Dog lovers unite to find missing poodle in New Zealand
Dogs Dog lovers unite to find missing poodle in New Zealand

To prevent this, she advises giving the dog treats at below-knee level.

Melanie Lippisch, an online dog trainer, says puppies in particular jump up at their owners because they want to get close to their face.

"It's actually a friendly gesture, as puppies always seek proximity to their mother's snout," she explains. "If you tolerate it, the dog stores it in its memory and will naturally continue to do it in adulthood."

So she advises always putting your hand on the jumping puppy's chest and pushing it down. When all four paws are back on the ground, you should praise and pet the pooch.

Tips for kicking your dog's jumping habit to the curb

Puppies always seek proximity to their mother's snout and that behavior transfers to people too.
Puppies always seek proximity to their mother's snout and that behavior transfers to people too.  © IMAGO / Ardea

There's also a good chance you can break a grown dog of the habit of jumping up on people, Lippisch says, since "dogs do things they think will be rewarding to them, and usually stop a behavior at some point if it's not worthwhile."

She has three tips on how to get a dog to stop jumping up on people:

"First you can try holding the dog's front paws," she says, noting that dogs don't like standing on their hind legs. Keep holding the paws for a few seconds after the dog attempts to free them, and then let them go. It's important to stay calm and not speak to the dog.

A second option is to hold out your hands at waist level, fingers spread like a protective shield, to block the dog. It's very important to stay calm and not forcibly shove the dog away.

Endler, too, sees this as an effective method, especially for dogs that jump up on people in an unruly way and to test limits. "Your palms facing downward are a visible boundary that clearly signals to the dog: Go no farther!" she says.

As soon as all four paws are back on the ground, you can praise the dog in a calm tone of voice and give it a treat as a reward. "Jumping up on people is often caused by excitement," Lippisch remarks. "If you stir things up again with excited praise, you're only shooting yourself in the foot."

Treats often do the anti-jumping trick!

Most dogs are quick to learn and will stop the unwanted behavior after a few days, she says. "There are dogs that are more obstinate though – some types of terriers, for example - that keep at it and test who's got more staying power."

As a third option, mainly suitable for smaller dogs, Lippisch suggests tossing two or three treats onto the floor to distract the dog when you enter your home. If the dog jumps up on you after eating them, you can try the first two options.

Having learned not to jump up on its owner doesn't mean that the dog won't do it to other people. So Lippisch recommends enlisting the help of friends and acquaintances for further training. Ask them to ignore the dog at first if it excitedly jumps up on them when they come round to visit.

Dogs that jump up on passersby during walks can be deterred with targeted towing-line training and a reliable "come" command, she says.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Image Source

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