• Ashley Hill, CPDT-KA

How to fix Jumping Up when Greeting People

Jumping Up when Greeting People

Jumping up is often a self-reinforcing behavior; that is, every time a dog jumps up, they are slightly rewarded for it (either because humans notice them, or they get closer to our face, or they eventually get our attention - even if that attention is negative). So in order to eliminate jumping up, the first and foremost key step is strictly prevent it from happening while we are training our dogs what they should do instead. Use leashes, crates, baby gates, and other management tools until your dog is trained up and ready to go. While preventing mistakes, try the below technique to teach your dog that resisting the impulse to jump is actually what gets them the social interaction they want.

Training Polite Greeting Behavior

When we can control an approaching person's behavior (such as planned guests to your home, or compliant acquaintances on the street), seize the opportunity to practice properly greeting humans, and make the reward your dog wants (interaction with the human) contingent on maintaining a sit or other control position.

(1) Keep your dog on a short leash so he/she cannot get too far from your side, and get them into a sit, stand, or other control behavior. Reward liberally especially in the beginning - this is NOT easy for your dog to do.

(TIP: If possible, DO NOT let him move your hand or lunge any further forward than the length of the leash allows. Any time the dog is able to get closer to the person, they will feel a little hopeful that maybe lunging forward could work, and that behavior will be slightly reinforced, thus taking longer to disappear. Try to make the rules as clear as possible.)

(2) Coach the person approaching to only move towards your dog if he/she is in the position you want.

I will use sit as an example. Instruct the person that as soon as your dog pops out of the sit with excitement, they need to halt and look or even move away from him/her.

(NOTE: Control gets harder for dogs to maintain as the person gets closer. Frequently, the dog will hold the sit until the person is so near they can lean over to pet, and then leap up when the person no longer has time to move away. If this happens to you, practice several iterations of the person simply approaching first and only move forward to the actually petting and greeting when the dog is able to hold a sit the entire approach. In a pinch, the last minute jumping up can also be averted if the greeter quickly leans over and greets the dog as soon as they are within jumping range, BEFORE the dog jumps up, and pets the dog such that they do not feel they need to jump up for more attention. In the beginning stages, you can help your dog maintain the sit by letting him/her nibble a treat between your thumb and foreigner, and verbally reminding them to sit until the person is petting them.)

(3) Once your dog understands and is getting good at this exercise, you can put it on cue, like “easy” or “greet nicely”.

Simply say the cue whenever someone is coming to see your dog, and before you start with steps 1 and 2 above. I like this kind of wording for a cue because it will not only help cue the scenario and your expectation in the dog's mind, but also alerts or reminds the oncoming person that you're working on polite greeting behavior.

(4) Practice, practice, practice. Proof against excitement.

You can further reinforce this in the home in any situation in which your dog leaps up, such as when you get home from work. If there is at least on other family members present, you can do the above two steps. You can also do this yourself using a baby gate in front of the entrance or foyer in home. Only approach and interact with your dog when he has all four feet on the floor or is sitting, and be very clear you will back and pull away from him - and your face and attention will get further away - if he jumps up. This is also easy to do if the dog is in a crate – have the dog sit before you let him out (don’t cue it after the first few repetitions, just wait for him to try sitting), and gradually expect longer duration of sit before he or she is invited out. Once he's good at sitting to be released, work up to him holding the sit even as you open the crate door slowly to let him out. If he breaks, just close it and wait for him to sit again. Practicing self-control in this tough, high-arousal situation is great for high-energy dogs, and helps them acquire the skills to work through other exciting scenarios!

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