One of the most common problems dog owners have when joining the club seems to be that their dogs jump up when greeting. To be able to address the problem, we need to understand why dogs jump up. Many people assume that the dog is being “dominant” or trying to show dominance. In fact the opposite is true. The dog is trying to show a submissive greeting display and if allowed, first prize for him would be to lick your face as submissive dogs lick the side of the mouth of more dominant ones. That’s where he’s heading when planting his paws on you. Now that you understand his motivation – to greet – that doesn’t mean you have to accept the behaviour. Rather your aim needs to be to teach a more acceptable greeting behaviour.
Step 1 is to remove any reinforcement which is encouraging the jumping. The reinforcement would be in the way of any kind of attention your dog gets for jumping – negative or positive -physical, verbal or eye contact. It is essential that his attempts to greet by jumping up are ignored completely- no knee in the ribs, no paw squashing and no shouting. Turn your back on your dog, say nothing and do not look at him at all until he has calmed down and stopped jumping.
A week of no greeting at all, just walking past him, will cool him off considerably. You probably hate ignoring him and would love to greet him when you return home so your second step is to teach him a new greeting behaviour. Teach your dog to come to you and sit for a series of tiny treat (first prize) or petting. If he pops his bum up off the floor, the treats or petting stop and you turn your back on him. Try this separately from greeting times till he has worked out the rules – i.e. keep your bum glued to the floor and great things happen – lift it up and you become invisible!
Step 3 is to ask for the sit during a greeting. At first it is best to do your ritual ignoring of jumping, wait for calm, then ask for your sit and reward. Once this is working, you can ask for a sit before your dog has calmed and obviously reward if you get it. If your dog resorts to jumping again, do not correct him, just look away from him and turn your body away. Eventually you can ask for a sit to greet as you walk in the door. If you see things start falling apart and he is resorting to his old tricks. Go back to the beginning.
You may find after a few weeks of work that your dog is great with you but still lousy with visitors. The reason is that visitors tend to reinforce jumping, with “No,no ….he’s fine – I looooove dogs”, while they pat the jumping dog. Even if one out of 10 visitors encourages the jumping, your opportunist dog will keep trying his jumping on everyone. Your best bet is to pop a lead on your dog when the bell rings and physically control him. The lead is just to stop him launching at the visitor not to reprimand him. If your dog is really powerful and likely to pull you over, use a head collar along with the lead. Have someone else open the door while you stand a bit away with your dog. Ask your visitor to ignore your dog completely while you ask for a sit to greet and reward him when he gets it right. Just ignore him if he won’t comply and have your visitor walk right past him while you stay put. His plan was to greet the new person on his turf and all he got was the cold shoulder for his troubles. Have your visitor leave and try again (if he is a paid stooge) or if not, put your dog away without allowing him any greeting until next time. Definitely put your dog away before the,” No, he’s fine I loooove dogs” friend pops in until your dog is fixed!
This technique will only work well if everyone your dog is exposed to displays a “united front” and gives the same reaction to the dog. For any situation where you are unable to guarantee that the person your dog is greeting will follow the rules, make sure you remain in control of the dog so that they don’t undo all your hard work. This programme will work even with hardened jumpers of many years experience.