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Help my dog jumps on my guests! A how to guide

Unwanted jumping on owners and guests is an extremely common behavioural issue that I see clients struggle with as a professional dog trainer. What may have been a cute behaviour when our dog was only a 5kg bundle of joy, hopping on its back legs, desperate to lick us to death with puppy kisses has now evolved into a 35kg adult dog leaping like a kangaroo and almost knocking us to the ground in the hopes of receiving that same affection. This is usually when people will reach out to a professional dog trainer to help them get on top of the unwanted jumping and stop the behaviour once and for all.

Before we get started with how to stop our dog from jumping all over our guests, lets chat about exactly why this behaviour occurs. Taking it back to our cute little puppy who was just so adorable, it was hard to discourage this behaviour- in fact, some of us may have actively encouraged it! Look, I get it, puppies are cute and more often than not, we are misinformed that they will ‘grow out’ of this behaviour as they mature. Unfortunately, this is not the case and in fact, you will find that quite the opposite will occur.

As a general rule, behaviour which is rehearsed, is behaviour which is reinforced. For example, this could be rewarding or even just acknowledging our puppy every time they sit and as such, they begin to offer this sit more often in the expectation of reinforcement. However, this same rule applies to behaviour we may not like as much. Remember our little puppy, cute as a button, jumping up at our legs for pats and snuggles? When we allow this behaviour to be rehearsed over and over again until they are beginning to mature, have now piled on a few extra kilos, and are jumping with much more vigor and enthusiasm, and as such it is now a problem. What has happened is that our puppies have had 6/7 months of practicing this behaviour and being reinforced for doing so, that is it now one of their go-to behaviours in their repertoire.

But I always tell my puppy to ‘get down’ and push them off and they still do it!? Yep, unfortunately in many occasions this is still unintentionally reinforcing the behaviour and as a result, it continues.

Am I doomed to have a crazy, jumping bean as a pet for the remainder of its life?

Not at all, now lets jump into some of the ways that we can combat this behaviour!

Use a leash

Contrary to popular belief, leashes can be used inside the home as well as when you are taking your dog for their walks. I recommend getting a lightweight, standard leash (not a flexi or bungee leash) and clipping it to your dogs collar when in the home. This way you can use the leash to block the dog from making contact with yourself, or your guests without having to physically push or pull the dog down.

Teach an incompatible behaviour

Rather than only focusing on what we don’t want our dogs to be doing (in this case, jumping) it is important to consider what we would prefer then to do instead. Teaching your dog to run over to its bed when guests arrive and stay there until they are calm and ready to be released is a great option.

Start off by teaching your dog a simple bed stay by luring them onto their bed and rewarding when all four paws are on the bed.

When your dog gets the hang of this, you can then begin to add in the verbal command ‘bed’ a second or 2 before you present the lure and their paws hit the bed.

You can then begin building duration that your dog is required to stay on their bed for. From there, you can look to increasing the distance you are from the bed, and finally increase the distraction level that your dog must perform the command in.

Manage the environment

Utilising baby gates, crates or other barriers to keep your dog safely contained when guests first arrive allow you to prevent the rehearsal of the jumping while you get yourself organised and settle in your guests whilst simultaneously briefing them on how to interact with your dog. (more on this later!)

Teach your dog how to appropriately greet guests

From a young age, it is important to teach our puppies how we would like them to respond when interacting with other people. This isn’t to say that older dogs cannot be taught this too, but particularly with puppies, teaching them how to appropriately interact with guests from the start, instills good habits and can prevent poor behaviour choices in the future.

You will need:

  • Puppy or dog
  • Leash and collar
  • Tasty food that your dog loves (we recommend Prime 100)
  • Willing participant
  • Lots of patience!

Start by having your puppy or dog on an appropriately fitted collar and leash. As you stand at one end of your hallway, have your guest enter through the front door. The most likely scenario is that your dog will pull on the leash to get over to the guest. It is important to hold onto the leash and stay in one place and NOT allow your puppy to greet the other person just yet.

The next part tends to be the hardest part for us humans… now we wait. Until your dog chooses to offer a calm behaviour such as a sit or a down without being prompted, we simply stay still and so does out guest.

As soon as your puppy sits or lays down, you say ‘yes’ and give them a piece of a food. If they remain in this calm behaviour, your guest can also begin to take steps towards you. If your dog gets out of position, your guest stops in their tracks and then waits for puppy to sit or down again. Marking with ‘yes’ and feeding as they do so. It is important that you use the leash to block them from reaching the other person if they pull forwards. We do not want to teach them that pulling allows them to be able to say hello!

Practice this until your guest can walk up to your dog as they remain sitting or laying down at which point, your guest can calmly give them a pat on the chest.

This takes many repetitions and with lots of different people for our dogs to understand what we would like, but with lots of patience it can be done!

Don’t wait to practice!

As dog trainers, we often come across a common problem where people tend to wait until they’re in the middle of a situation to apply what they’ve learned, instead of setting up controlled scenarios for practice.

What I mean by this is that instead of waiting until a guest drops in unexpectedly to practice your dogs mat stays and calm greetings, invite people over with the intention of training your pup.

This allows you to focus on exactly what you and your dog need to be doing without worrying about ignoring your guest and missing out on quality catch ups! Brief them on the training exercises beforehand and let them know that puppy cuddles are up for grabs once your pooch is calm. Ask them to avoid excited greetings and keep their energy calm during the training exercises to help set your dog up for success.

If you find yourself in the situation where a surprise visitor pops in unannounced, I would recommend popping your dog on a leash and then securing them behind a baby gate/in a crate or outside while you settle in your guest and catch up. This avoids the opportunity for your dog to rehearse jumping if you are caught off guard and therefore unable to concentrate on them. It is these exact situations where we are unprepared and then allow the problem behaviours to continue which leads to set backs in our dogs training. Consistency is key when trying to change behaviour!

Well, thats a wrap!

I hope you found this blog useful and remember, if you are struggling to curb your dogs jumping, get in touch with one of our trainers who can help!

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