Jumping-Why Does My Dog Love It So Much?

When young puppies “greet” an adult dog; jumping up to lick the face of the older dog is normal behavior. It’s called “appeasement” behavior, and the puppy is saying something like: “I know I’m smaller, I don’t mean you any harm, please don’t hurt me”.  You may have seen a dog display this show of submission during play—the ears are dropped back, eyes blinking, muzzle turned up, as the Appeaser is hoping to “neutralize” or tone down the perceived escalating arousal in the other dog.

However, since we are people, this greeting display doesn’t translate well.  We may not notice or really care if our 10-week-old or 4-month-old puppy is bouncy…but depending on the breed’s size, it soon becomes a problem.  Think of how much practice your puppy has had jumping, licking, and pawing at the humans in your home!  So, now what do we do?

Modifying the dog’s “greeting ritual” of jumping can be more straightforward, once we realize how we reinforce, or pay the dog for doing it.  When your adolescent or adult dog jumps on you, what do you usually do?  Any form of human-type nagging is giving the dog attention.  What does that really mean? It means we are delivering a potent concoction of eye contact (yours), sound (your voice), touch (pushing, kneeing, shoving), and movement (virtually all of this interaction involves some sort of motion).

Eye contact + Excited sound + Touch + Movement = More Jumping.  You can bet on it.

Changing this endless positive “feedback” loop needs a plan.  The plan involves 2 types of training:  One, Managementdecreasing the opportunity for the puppy or dog to practice the jumping, and Two, Training–replacing the unwanted behavior with something you do want.

First: Keep your puppy/dog on leash when people come into your home. Even more important, you must make it clear to guests that they should not look at, talk to, or touch your puppy, until you say so.  It’s your home, and it’s your call.  Putting your puppy away in their crate is OK, but the crate should be in another room, if you have company.   Remember, movement is the “Big Kahuna” of canine stimulation; and putting the dog behind a baby gate, with the festivities in full sight, creates agitation and frustration needlessly. This will teach your puppy to jump and bark even more when you have visitors. Watch out for Gratuitous Eye Contact. (it’s stimulating!)

Secondly: Replacing the jumping behavior with something else you do want is next.  Remember, our plan is to always find a way to make your puppy successful.  Practice the dog’s Sit behavior, [remember to stand up straight] often!  Spend a lot of time working on the Sit near the front door, perhaps in the doorway of an adjacent room-be creative!  Practice it all over the house, if possible.  Dogs are not good at generalizing, so a solid SIT in the kitchen may fall apart in a hallway, bedroom, basement…each part of your house looks and smells different to your dog!  Don’t underestimate the influence each environment can have on your dog’s behavior.

So, when the dog starts to jump, you may say: (in a neutral or bored tone) “Nope!” and look away into the distance, straighten your bent-over posture if excessive, and let all the energy drain out of your body.  Hands go still. You really have to ‘sell it’.  Think of letting the air out of a tire: “ssssss”

Notice when the dog, puzzled, also ‘deflates’, and as soon as she’s got all 4 paws on the floor, immediately say “GOOD, SIT!” or just cue a Sit; have treats handy to reinforce (behavior has a price!) Practice with family members or friends you can TRUST to behave appropriately.  Have them first stand inside the door.  Have them start outside, walk inside and stop.  Next, they are outside with door shut, they open the door, and come in.  Then add a knock, or doorbell ring.  Take the steps slowly, until each step is solid.  Use highvalue treat items.  Whatever gets results.  You are training an animal, after all!!