Hey everyone! Kathy and Sarah here!
Have you missed us? Because we sure missed you!
Today, we're back with a brand-new episode of Dog Sense, and yet again, it's about something pretty important: How to teach your dog NOT to jump on people when saying hello!
As you know, with people getting vaccinated for COVID, social distancing rules are being loosened, and this means one thing for a lot of dog owners: Their dogs are going to be meeting a lot more people from now on.
This also means that a lot of dogs will be jumping on a lot of people very soon.
If that's ever happened to you as a dog owner, then you already know how embarrassing it can be, especially if you own a large breed.
But, no worries, because, as always, Sarah and I are here to help!
If your dog jumps on people when he’s trying to say hi, this episode is definitely for you, so tune in now!
This is one of the most popular questions we get from students. How do I stop my dog jumping on people when he’s greeting them? And it’s getting even more popular now that people are out and about more than they were a year ago.
During that time, most people weren’t really socializing. But now that we are, our dogs are, too! Our social skills are not the only thing that’s suffered during the pandemic. Dogs had to go through the same thing, so it’s quite normal that their greeting skills might have slid a little bit too.
Whether you’re at home or on a walk, having your dog jump on people can be embarrassing. And if you can’t get the behavior to stop, every walk can become a bit stressful.
And yes, we understand. Sometimes, people let it happen because the puppy is small and cute, so when he jumps on you, he only reaches your ankles. But, unless you’ve adopted a small breed, that puppy is going to grow into a bigger dog, and one day, that jump is going to feel like a tackle. And by the time you realize that this is an issue, it will be way more difficult to train your best friend not to jump on you every time he wants to say hi!
So, our best advice here is to set rules straightaway, whether it’s Day One with a puppy, or Day One with a fully adult dog you’re bringing into the household.
To learn how to do that, keep reading!
Our Top Tips
To train a dog not to jump on people when greeting them, we divide the work into two sections: Management and training.
Management is what you usually do to prevent repetition of the behavior that you don’t want to happen anymore. Think of it as some form of dog rehab, and your dog is a “jumpaholic”. This means you’re not going to allow jumping at all. And this rule has to be 100% followed at all times.
It might be difficult in the beginning, but just like during a diet, day one always sucks. This is why you have to stay very motivated to not let the jumping happen, and that comes in a lot of different management forms.
The first one would be what we like to call “Stand on the dog”. Don’t be alarmed, we don’t mean literally standing on your dog. This technique is easy, all you have to do is hold on to your dog’s leash handle in one hand and put your foot on the leash, a few inches from your pup’s collar.
Therefore, if your dog attempts to jump and you don’t notice it, your foot does, and the dog isn’t able to accomplish his goal and doesn’t get rewarded.
This is also a great opportunity for you to feed your dog a high-value treat and praise him when he *doesn’t* jump (I know, it’s just because he can’t, but it’s important to show him what he has access to when he has 4 on the floor!)
Eventually you won’t need the leash at all to accomplish this because he’ll choose to do it on his own!
Something else you should do is assess risk. By that, we mean the risk of your dog wanting to jump on that person. For example, if I’m going on a walk and have the terrifying experience of a group of kids running towards my puppy, I assess the risk, conclude that it’s just too much, and I scoop up my dog or go behind a tree or car, or even body-block and feed him.
And if the children get too close, I may tell a little white lie that I know will convince most anyone not to touch my puppy: He just threw up (or had diarrhea). I find that the idea of a dog’s bodily fluids on your clothes definitely deters strangers from petting my pup.
Training is about preventing and correcting the behavior. For example, let’s say your dog jumped on your friend to say hello. What should you do?
The first thing you have to do is communicate to the other person that they should not pet him. This is because that’s what your dog wants at that moment, and by petting him, that person will be rewarding him for the behavior.
You also have to remember that the reward is not just in the petting, but also in the jump itself. There are different ways you can work it through.
If your dog jumps on you and invades your personal space, shuffle into him a bit, just a few steps, and don’t say anything. Going into your dog’s personal space is enough for him to kind of pause and hesitate for a second and think “whoa, that was a bit rude”. (This should be done while your dog is on a leash - and be sure to hold onto it so he doesn’t have the opportunity to run from your shuffle!)
At that moment, let your dog make a decision, and ask him to greet you again (“Hey there, want to see me ?”), and if he doesn’t jump, reward him for making the right choice! If he does, shuffle and offer the opportunity to greet you again.
The reason shuffling works is because dogs don’t like you getting into their personal space. Normally, when they jump on a person, the person stands there or backs up. But if you do the same thing back to him, it’ll destabilize him enough to stop and think.
However, some dogs might think it’s a game. For example, Labradors (we lovingly refer to them as the frat boys of the dog world) may see that as an invitation to play. For this type of dog, playing a different game helps.
We call this game “Velcro Dog”, and this is when you do a collar grab, guide your dog back down to ‘all four on the floor’, and hold him there for a few seconds. You’re not mad, you’re not angry, you’re simply communicating: “I don’t want you all the way up there, I’m just going to grab your collar and remove you from my body”.
Give your pup a couple of seconds, wait for him to settle, then release the collar and let him make another (hopefully better) choice. If he chooses to jump on you again, repeat the same thing, and maybe hold the collar for a bit longer. If he chooses not to jump on you after that, reward him.
That will teach your dog that jumping on you isn’t as much fun as it used to be, but be patient with the process, because changing behavior takes TIME and you’ll likely have to go through this process many times before it becomes your dog’s new HABIT.
However, before you start using this technique, you need to stack the deck in your favor: First, your dog needs to know the ‘collar grab’ exercise. Don’t start collar grabbing your dog if he’s not learned that game!
Secondly, always have a plan B. If you collar grab your dog and he goes: “oh yeah, let’s go!”, and he gets mouthy or aggressive, you have to know how to handle that. And if you don’t have an in person dog professional in your life, now’s the time to find one.
Teaching a dog not to jump on people while saying hello might take some time (depending on your pup’s temperament and personality), but with patience and consistency, it will work.
Want to learn more about this subject? Give this episode a listen and let us know what you think in the comments!