Why does my dog jump on people?

Why does my dog jump on people

Jumping is one of the most common problems that are brought to the attention of dog trainers and zoopsychologists. Dogs that jump on people can frighten or injure people.

There are many reasons why dogs jump, and it should be noted that this is normal canine behavior. Dogs that are not specifically trained not to jump will put their paws on people, not because they are bad dogs, but simply because they don’t understand that there are other ways to greet people when they meet them.

Why does the dog jump?

Most dogs start jumping at an early age. Tiny puppies jump up, lick and sniff adult dogs’ faces. Jumping on other dogs is a normal greeting ritual for puppies; but as they get older, the need to sniff and lick the muzzle no longer exists, and they naturally stop doing it. Puppies who are well-socialized with adult dogs stop this behavior soon enough, at 4-6 months of age, and no longer jump on adults except when playing games.

Of course, puppies not only jump on adult dogs but also on people. Unfortunately, most people in this situation pet the puppies, talk to or play with them, encourage them to jump. There is a great rule of thumb: don’t encourage puppies to do things that you wouldn’t want an adult dog to do.

The dog jumps in a friendly way

If your dog jumps on people in a friendly way to greet them, there are three simple things you can do to solve this problem.

The first is to make sure that he is not getting reinforcement for his behavior. If you greet your dog cheerfully when he jumps on you when you’re wearing jeans, but get upset when you’re wearing office clothes, that’s not fair. Behaviors that are reinforced tend to be repetitive, so if you don’t want your dog to jump – make sure you never encourage him to do so.

Sometimes we may unwittingly encourage jumping. For many dogs, negative attention is still preferable to no attention at all, and these dogs notice that jumping is a great way to get the attention they so desperately need. In this case, the more you yell at the dog and push him away, the more likely he is to keep jumping on you because it brought him the attention he so wanted.

Once you have made sure that jumping is not rewarded, it is important to prevent this behavior from happening to your dog. Remember that practice is what reinforces the behavior, so the more your dog jumps, the more likely he is to do it in the future.

Preventing your dog from jumping

Preventing jumping can be a variety of things. A leash is the easiest way to prevent guests from jumping. Hang a spare leash near the door so you can always latch on before opening the door for guests. In doing so, simply step on the leash with your foot, allowing your dog to stand, lie or sit comfortably, but not to jump on visitors. Alternatively, you might consider a baby baffle to keep your dog away from visitors until he calms down.

If your dog jumps on you – this, too, needs to be prevented. The first easy way is to use treats or your dog’s favorite food, which will be more valuable than jumping. When you’re about to meet your dog after a long absence, or when he’s very excited and likely to jump – stock up on treats before you see your dog: keep some of them outside the door or in your pocket. As soon as you enter the room/place where the dog is – drop the treat on the floor/ground. Timing is important here – you need the first thing the dog sees is that you threw the treat on the ground, i.e. before he decides to jump on you. After your dog picks up all the pieces, you can greet and pet him, encouraging him to stand on the ground with all four paws.

After your dog stops getting encouragement for jumping and a chance to practice it, you need to teach him the behavior you want during the greeting. This is an important step because dogs understand better what we teach them, not what we forbid. Many owners teach their dogs to greet them sitting down – and this is one of the best options in this situation. For active dogs, going and fetching a toy or doing another task to give an outlet for their overflowing energy is fine.

When the jumping is not friendly?

In addition to welcoming friendly jumps, there are other reasons for dogs to jump. And you need to learn to distinguish between them. Let’s discuss the less common reasons why dogs may jump on people.

Some dogs use such jumping as a way to communicate. The nature of such behavior varies greatly. Communication can have several different purposes. Sometimes dogs may jump to communicate their discomfort about being too close to you. In another situation, the dog will jump to you for help. How, then, do you distinguish between friendly jumps and jumps for companionship? It’s all about context.

How to stop a dog from jumping on people?

Jumping to increase distance occurs when the dog is not comfortable around you and wants you to make his personal space available. It may seem like a show of friendliness or, conversely, an attack, but the important thing here is to respect the dog’s discomfort and step back (or get the dog away from the person, if you own him). Dogs that communicate their discomfort in this way will accentuate their behavior by bouncing/pushing away from you, as opposed to those that greet you. The dog will do this with his mouth closed and a tense expression on his muzzle. When you try to pet a dog that is jumping to increase its distance, it may start jumping even harder, maybe even hitting you, or running away so that you can’t touch it.

Jumping to increase distance is usually demonstrated by dogs who feel anxious or at odds with your presence. Below is a photo of Lila the dog, a great example of this behavior. While she enjoys the company of people, she doesn’t like it when people try to pet her. When she meets a new person, she will jump and quickly wag her tail. Her pupils dilate greatly, and if you try to pet her, she will bounce, pushing away from the person, which can be very unpleasant and painful.

If your dog jumps to increase his distance, he is letting you know that he needs help. Jumping in this case means that she feels uncomfortable in the situation she is in and needs your help to get out of it. In the case of Lila, she is kept on a leash or by the collar when she is introduced to new people. Once introduced, she is given more freedom, while cautioning the new person not to try to pet her unless she asks. Leila usually prefers to sniff new people, wagging her tail slightly while they ignore her or talk to her without trying to touch her. Once introduced, she relaxes and may lie down next to them.

In addition to jumping to increase distance, some dogs also jump to ask their owner or someone they trust for help. This behavior is often seen in dog parks, veterinary clinics and other unfamiliar social situations. If your dog jumps on you, puts his paws on you, tries to climb into your arms, or just reaches for your face while looking at you, they are most likely asking for help.

If your dog jumps on you to ask you for help in a situation that is causing him stress, it is important to actively respond. Ignoring her requests for help will teach her that you are unreliable in difficult situations and that she needs to take matters into her own paws, which often results in your dog lunging, growling or biting in situations in which she is not comfortable. Remember, it’s not just about controlling the situation, if you teach your dog that you can help him out of a stressful situation, he is more likely to look to you as a leader in the future. This is a necessary level of trust for your dog.

Although these jumps occur much less frequently than friendly jumps, increasing distance and asking for help are “legitimate reasons” for a dog to jump on people. Understanding the reason for the jumps is the best control over your dog’s behavior, but eliminating them requires not only training, but also working with your dog’s emotional instability.

Autumn Jolley
Rate author