Why do some dogs jump on humans?
There are multiple reasons why a dog may jump. It is likely the case that this behavior was encouraged during puppyhood or right after adoption when you were so excited about having a puppy/dog in the house. Dogs do what works for them and what gets reinforced, so look at how you are interacting with your dog and what you may be unconsciously encouraging and reinforcing. Oftentimes the dog has been reinforced for jumping, so they keep doing it. This reinforcement may come in the form of petting and affection or it may come in the form of an animated human telling them “no!” and pushing them away – a fun game for the dog.
A few other reasons a dog may jump are as follows: they are overly excited, have not had enough exercise and/or attention, have not been trained/taught appropriate alternate behaviors, or they are nervous. The bottom line is, you need to implement a zero tolerance for jumping if you want to conquer it. No more “well, just this one time” or “well, sometimes I like when he gives me hugs”. That is not fair to the dog and sets the dog up to fail.
A few tips to teach your dog that having "4 paws on the floor" is rewarding:
- You must be consistent. The jumping must never be rewarded. When dogs are puppies, smaller, or freshly rescued we may have patted our legs and encouraged them to jump on us because they were cute, but now you find the behavior annoying at best, dangerous at worst. This means you can no longer allow the dog to jump on you AT ALL - this is all or nothing.
- Ignore the jumping, then cue the behavior you do want. Fold your arms across your chest and do not engage with the dog; turn your back to the dog. DO NOT bring your knee up to the dog’s chest – this can hurt the dog. If you push the dog off you, knee the dog, talk to it to tell it “no!” or engage in any other way - aside from cueing the behavior that you do want - while it is jumping the dog may find this reinforcing and a reason to continue with the behavior. Instead, ignore the jumping until you have taught the “OFF!” cue OR until you have taught a reliable “sit”.
- If the dog is jumping and does not currently know any cues, wait for a lull of at least 2-3 seconds and then reward the dog for having all four paws on the floor. Be sure to mark the behavior with a click or “yes” so the dog knows why the treat is coming and be sure to keep your treat hand low so as not to encourage the dog to jump up for the treat. With a serious jumper you may want to toss a few treats on the ground, this helps to make it very rewarding to have all four paws on the floor.
- Teach an alternate behavior such as “sit”, “place”, “OFF!”, “stay, “down”, “wait” or something else that involves all four paws on the floor.
- Management may be needed if jumping has become more an ingrained behavior for the dog rather than a periodic nuisance. The tips on this sheet will be helpful but the sheet on “management” will give more insight on how to stop jumping by managing to environment.
- Be sure you are giving the dog enough daily exercise, interaction with you and rewarding calm behavior.
- REWARD CALM BEHAVIOR! I cannot stress this enough – YOU GET MORE OF WHAT YOU REINFORCE. If you would like a dog to be calm - provided you have given it enough exercise, attention, and stimulation - you must reward the dog when it is calm. Oftentimes we do not reward a dog when it is calm (laying down, sitting by you, just being calm) and we are missing a golden opportunity for positive reinforcement. Calmly go to the dog and quietly praise it (so long as praise does not stimulate the dog, in this case, smile and give a treat), perhaps even give it a treat. YOU GET MORE OF WHAT YOU REINFORCE, SO BE MINDFUL OF YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR DOG! Set them up to succeed by teaching the behaviors that you do want rather than constantly telling them what you don’t want.
Kate Godfrey, 2019 www.comprehensivecaninetraining.com