I’m sure many, if not all, dog owners reading this blog will relate to the problem of dogs jumping up! Puppies and dogs are naturally excitable, energetic creatures who often want to be close to us, so jumping up when greeting us, in play or when trying to illicit attention is hardly a surprising behaviour to see them exhibit! Though normal, jumping up is also usually something we humans don’t particularly enjoy – even our small dogs can leave bruises and muddy our clothes! These excited behaviours are often also accompanied by other signs of overarousal such as mouthing/nipping and barking. This can be a tricky problem to resolve, so we’ve put together some top tips to help you.
Get in front of the behaviour.
There’s lots of advice out there telling owners to simply turn their backs and ignore their dogs when they jump up. While this may have some effect, it’s certainly not guaranteed to work and it’s definitely not the most efficient way to teach our dogs not to jump up. It also often causes frustration in our dogs, as it doesn’t address the cause of the behaviour, and can be increasingly difficult for humans to do successfully – especially with a large breed dog, or even a small but persistent one!
So instead of waiting for the behaviour to happen, let’s look at when, where and why the behaviour is happening so that we can take steps to fix this issue before it even appears. So, how do we do that?
Management is woefully underrepresented when seeking training advice, but is one of the most integral elements in changing behaviours – particularly if we are trying to prevent unwanted behaviours from occurring. Any time a dog does anything, they are learning what the consequences of those behaviours are and that information will dictate whether or not they do it again. When we walk in the door and our dogs jump up at us, we probably give them some kind of attention. They certainly achieve their goal of getting closer to us! So, the best way to stop our dogs from learning how great jumping up is for them, is to avoid giving them the chance to do it in the first place. Crates, baby gates and puppy pens are a wonderful way to allow us to enter a room and interact with our dog (and implement the rest of our training!) without them practicing this behaviour.
Teach an Alternative Behaviour
Once we’re able to enter the room without our dog jumping all over us, we can start to ask our dogs to do something different before we approach them. This will help them to learn what they can do instead to get our attention. For example, you might ask your dog to sit before you reach over to give them a fuss or open the gate.
Understand the Cause of the Behaviour
All behaviour has a function – is your dog jumping up because they are excited a want to say hello? In which case simple management and training a new behaviour will go a long way to create a new greeting routine. Are they bored? Maybe they need some extra training sessions or play time during the day. Are they tired? Puppies need a LOT of sleep, and an overtired puppy will struggle to settle and become more frantic, jumpy, bite-y, and irritable! So perhaps you need to look at their routine and enforce some nap times during the day. If we meet our dogs’ needs, they are much less likely to exhibit problematic, annoying or unwanted behaviours and our attempts to train more appropriate behaviours will be much more successful.
A broad approach to training might not feel like the best way to resolve a specific problem, but anything we want our dogs to do usually requires them to develop more than one skill to be successful. For example, if we have a dog who is excited to greet us at the door and struggles to control themselves, training impulse control exercises will be hugely beneficial in helping them learn to manage themselves in these situations. Not only that, but the more training we do with our dogs, the greater our communication with them will be. We will have more things to cue them to do instead, so we can find the best solution for us and our dogs – for example, you might prefer to teach your dog to station themselves on a mat or dog bed rather than using a baby gate to stop them invading your space, or you might want to teach them to fetch a toy to play with rather than offering a sit – and your dog will be looking to you for guidance on what to do next.
Both group classes
– where you dog can learn to be calm, engaged and focused around other people, dogs and outdoor distractions – as well as one-to-one sessions
where you can work directly with a trainer to discuss your routine, home layout and preferences so you can create a bespoke plan to suit you and your dog, are great ways to make the most of training!