Jumping up can be embarrassing, it can hurt, get people dirty and it can be dangerous. Dogs need to be taught to keep four paws on the ground when greeting people
It is natural for dogs to seek out people’s faces – this is often what causes dogs to jump up.
Management strategies should be implemented to prevent a dog from learning jumping up behaviour.
Punishment should be avoided as it can increase anxiety (one of the motivations causing a dog to jump up in the first place) and does not teach the dog what they should be doing instead.
Food can be dropped to the floor to redirect the dog’s attention downwards and reinforce them to keep four paws on the floor.
Why do dogs jump up on people?
There are various reasons dogs jump up:
To get near to a familiar person’s face. Face-to-face contact is a form of dog communication.
To get near an unfamiliar person’s face - to gain information about the person;
To push someone away – this is common when a person approaches or leans into the dog’s space uninvited, or if someone gives the dog direct eye contact which is considered to be threatening in dog body language;
Because they are anxious – jumping up is part of a strategy known as “faffing about” which is how an animal responds when they are unsure about a person and want to diffuse a situation, communicate that they are not a threat, or when they are unsure what else to do;
If excitement-levels are high – it is common for all four feet to leap up into the air and mouths can also grab when arousal levels are high.
Face-to-face contact is a big part of normal dog communication – dogs are able to sniff each other’s faces, and it is strange to them that our faces are not easily accessible. Jumping up is the only way to access human faces!
However, jumping up can be dangerous because dogs can easily knock over small children or infirm people, and their claws can scratch. It can also lead to embarrassment due to muddy paw prints on clothes or dog tongues on faces - not everyone appreciates this!
What can I do to stop my dog jumping on people?
Management tactics need to be implemented to prevent a dog from learning jumping up behaviour from when the dog is very young.
When you welcome visitors into your house, place your dog in another room, in the garden or behind a baby gate until your dog is calm and everyone is settled. Then give the dog a chew or a stuffed Kong before letting them in to greet the visitor – and use a lead if there is still a chance the dog will jump on the person.
Your dog might need to be kept on a lead or longline on walks, if they have a tendency to jump up on people when out-and-about.
Avoid taking the dog into environments where jumping up is more likely – for example a school drop off or pick up, where people tend to approach to interact with dogs and invade their space (leading to a jumping dog).
Avoid getting angry or physically pushing a dog off or hurting a dog in an attempt to stop them from jumping up is likely to increase anxiety and the need for the dog to seek information – both of which will increase the drive for the dog to gain face-to-face contact!
How do I train my dog to keep four paws on the floor when greeting people?
Once these positive training strategies have been put in place to prevent your dog from getting in the habit of jumping up you can start to teach your dog to keep their feet on the floor in the situations where they would previously have jumped up.
It is also important to request visitors and friends to follow your instructions to prevent the dog feeling the need to jump up in an attempt to communicate with them. Often, this involves asking them to ignore the dog.
Keep your dog on a lead and at a distance from other people so that they are unable to reach them should they attempt to jump.
Drop food to the floor to reward the dog for keeping their feet on the floor.
Redirecting their attention down to the floor, rather than up to the person’s face, can help teach them staying on the floor pays. Leave a pot of food on the doorstep so that as you return home you already have something readily available to reinforce the dog as you enter, by dropping a food trail.
It is natural for dogs to want to reunite after a period of absence from a family member so crouch down to their level, gently hold their collar to manage any jumping and calmly say hello to them to prevent them attempting to solicit a greeting from your face by jumping up.