There Are No Bad Dogs Part 10: Dogs Jumping on People
Dogs jumping on people is one of the most common problems we hear about and deal with at meet and greets in our roll as in home pet care specialists. As with any unwanted or undesired dog behavior it is first important to understand why it happens. The big reason it happens is your dog is happy to see you or your guest or anyone in general. Dogs jumping on people is a greeting of sorts. Your dog just wants to say hi but more importantly they want to know what information you bring. Think about when two friendly dogs meet. They might start with the butt sniffing but or they could sniff around each other's muzzles. It is their way of greeting and asking what news.
If your dog is jumping on people you should first be happy that your dog likes people and understand that it could b much worse. Your dog could be aggressive or fearful of strangers and then you'd have a long road of behavioral correction in front of you. Your dog is jumping up on someone the same way we shake hands or hug people we are happy to see. So when your dog jumps up on you just imagine them saying, "Good to see you friend. What did you do today? Let me sniff all about it."
Now that we understand the behavior we can go about changing it. There are multiple ways to change an undesired behavior but let's first get into what we won't do, and to do this I'll use the example of Travelling Tom. Travelling Tom is an explorer of sorts and he's stumbled upon a different culture. Tom doesn't speak their language or understand much of their customs but they keep giving him food, delicious treats, and are generally nice people to Tom. Travelling Tom develops a fondness for this strangers and he wants to express this so when one of his hosts comes home he goes to shake their hand, and they punch him in the face. Tom is a little confused and he goes to shake someone else's hand and suddenly his host horse collars him and pulls him away. Tom just wants to be friendly but suddenly he's under attack and has no idea way.
This is how your dog might view a knee to the face or a shock from an e-collar when the behavior of jumping on people is corrected in this manner. Your dog is just trying to be friendly and say hi like Travelling Tom trying to shake hands. This is one of the reasons we think it is of the utmost importance that we understand why a behavior is happening before we try and correct it instead of just relying on traditional ways of correcting dog behavior.
Now of course we can't have a dog, especially a large dog, jumping up to greet every visitor that enters our home. So how do we correct this behavior without wounding our dog's psyche. That's easy. We have a few ways. The first thing to know is does your dog have their foundational skills like sit, stay, lay down, come, and leave it? If not then perhaps teaching them those is a good starting point. Or if you are not in the mood for that then simply ignore the action of jumping, wait for he dog to be on the ground and reward any action that is not jumping up on someone.
If your dog does have it's foundational skills then set up the environment in a way that will make the desired behavior happen naturally. This could be setting up a baby gate so that when you or a guest arrives your dog can't get to the door and then teach them to sit behind that baby gate when someone enters. Reward this behavior and then remove the baby gate and continue to reward the desired behavior. If your entry cannot be set up in a manner that restricts the behavior then enter, give the sit command, and reward the sit until your dog is sitting to greet you and then repeat with several guests until your dog learns that sitting to greet people is much preferred and leads to reinforcement while jumping up on people brings no reward. As always remember there are no bad dogs and all undesired dog behaviors can be explained by understanding dog culture and how it fits with human culture.