There’s nothing sweeter than a little ball of fluff leaping up on you to get your attention—of course you reach down for a snuggle! While jumping up is an adorable trait when puppies are small, it can become uncomfortable, and sometimes even dangerous, as they grow up. Curbing puppy jumping before it becomes a habit is a great way to instill manners and will help your pup become a polite canine citizen.
Why Do Puppies Jump?
Long ago, people thought dogs jumped on people to try to establish dominance, as if dogs viewed life in our homes as a daily struggle to stay on top of the pack. The fact is, jumping has nothing to do with hierarchy and is likely due to a much more innocent reason. Dogs jump up because it’s a successful strategy for getting something they want—namely, your attention.
Puppies are hard to resist, so when an adorable little furball leaps up to get attention, most people usually respond by reaching down for a pat. In cases where the jumping has become unwelcome, as with an adolescent pup, people may respond by scolding. Every time jumping up is rewarded by attention—even if it’s negative attention—it becomes more entrenched in the pup’s behavioral repertoire as a viable way to get attention. The behavior might be charming in petite pups, but as dogs mature, jumping up can become a nuisance. Depending on the dog breed, puppy jumping can also become painful or dangerous.
Jumpy behavior can be likened to a human handshake—it’s a dog’s way of making a connection during a greeting. That’s why it’s important to learn how to train a puppy not to jump before the behavior becomes their go-to greeting.
How to Stop a Puppy From Jumping
The secret to figuring out how to stop a puppy from jumping involves the theory of “attract and repel.” Puppies that keep four paws on the ground attract people to them, and jumping up drives people away.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges with puppy jumping is that it’s a behavior that sneaks up on you. People often don’t even realize that they’re accidentally encouraging jumping up—they engage with their jumpy puppy for a few seconds before understanding what they’re doing. Even giving eye contact to a leaping puppy is enough of a reinforcer to keep the behavior alive. That’s why it’s important for everyone in the household to agree to the same training protocol.
The first step is simple: Whenever your puppy lifts her front paws off the ground, pretend like she’s invisible and turn away from her. This can be challenging, because it’s almost reflexive to reach down and pet when a puppy asks for attention. You need to remember that every rewarded jump strengthens the behavior.
The moment your puppy has “four on the floor,” interact with her. Tell her she’s a good girl, give her a little treat, and let her know that puppies in a standing position get everything they want. Be aware that your tone of voice can impact your puppy’s reactions, and a high-pitched voice might accidentally encourage more jumping.
Keep in mind, this step can be challenging for puppies that have a history of being rewarded for jumping. If your puppy continues jumping up even if your back is turned, step out of your pup’s “jump zone” into a different room or over the baby gate so she can’t reach you. The moment she has four paws on the floor, come back and quietly acknowledge her.
How to Train a Puppy Not to Jump on Guests
The best time to teach a puppy not to jump up on people is before it starts to become a habit, but if your puppy is already regularly greeting new friends with happy hops, there’s still hope. Puppies are eager students, and this lesson has double rewards: Your puppy will earn treats and the opportunity to interact with new friends.
Put your puppy on a 6-foot leash and move to the spot in your home where you regularly welcome guests. Ask a friend or family member to come through the door quietly and approach your puppy as long as she’s able to keep all four paws on the floor. Toss some treats to your puppy while she stands and waits for the person to get closer. If your puppy is able to keep four paws on the floor, allow your guest to approach and pet her, and reward her with a few more goodies.
The moment your puppy starts to jump, ask your guest to walk away quickly. Then once your puppy is standing again, repeat the process and ask them to try to approach her. Within a few attract/repel repetitions, your puppy will start to realize that jumping makes the person retreat but standing makes them come closer.
Once your puppy starts to figure out that standing “works,” it’s time to graduate to the next level. Ask your puppy to “sit” as the guest approaches and give her a treat while she’s in position, then have your guest get closer to say hello. (If getting a treat makes your puppy move out of the “sit,” skip this step.)
If your puppy gets too excited and gets up, ask the guest to turn around and walk away. Then, ask your puppy to “sit” again and have the person approach as long as your puppy remains seated. Repeat the process until your puppy is able to hold the sit during the approach and greeting. Within a few repetitions, your puppy will probably figure out that sitting makes the person come closer and might offer a sit position without you needing to ask for it. Celebrate that moment with treats and praise.
This simple exercise provides the foundation for polite greeting behavior, but it’ll take time and practice in order for your dog to generalize it to all people and environments and respond with a sit every time. Try adding variety to your lessons by asking people to knock on the door or ring the doorbell prior to entering the house. Help your puppy get used to excitable strangers by having your helper greet with an animated voice and expressive body language. Take the behavior on the road, and try it in safe environments outside your home.
As you transition to practicing in the “real world,” keep in mind that there are outdoor risks your puppy may encounter, ranging from toxic plants and chemicals to pesky parasites. Make sure to puppy proof your yard or garden, and talk to your veterinarian about year-round parasite protection. For instance, Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) is a tasty monthly chew that helps protect dogs against heartworm disease and hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm infections.
See important safety information below for Interceptor® Plus.
Watch Out for the ‘Sneaky Jumps’
Puppy jumping happens in a variety of situations beyond saying hello, such as:
- Waiting to go outside
- During your puppy’s meal prep
- Before you throw a ball
- As you put on the leash
- While you’re on the phone
Avoid accidentally reinforcing these jumpy behaviors by giving attention or access to what your puppy wants.
Recognizing that puppy jumping can sneak up on you is the first step in helping prevent it long-term. With a gentle, puppy-friendly training approach, your furry best friend will quickly figure out that four-on-the-floor—or better yet, a sit—is the best way to greet the world.
Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.
Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus, for her services in writing this article.
Interceptor is a trademark of Elanco or its affiliates.
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