Tired of asking yourself: “Why is my dog jumping on every person he meets?”.
The short answer? It’s their way of getting you to pay attention to them. Or to ask you to do something for them. Either way, they want your attention.
Believe it or not, attention-seeking behavior like jumping on people is usually an appeasement gesture, according to Pat Miller for Whole Dog Journal. That basically means they do it to show they are submissive to you and not a threat.
VetStreet writes that they do it for social reasons, as well. They may want to sniff or lick a visitor’s face as a way to get to know them. (Dogs smell faces as well as anogenital regions to get acquainted.)
Or your dog could be a high-energy breed that doesn’t get enough exercise. A dog in this situation is easily overexcited. He may find it difficult to control his enthusiasm to greet a guest with a behavior that’s become a habit.
Whatever the reason, when we show our dogs attention for it—positive or negative—we reinforce the behavior.
There are several good reasons to train your dog to stop jumping on people. They include:
- You don’t want your dog to soil or tear a visitor’s clothing.
- Dog’s toenails can scratch faces and arms, split lips, and cause bruising.
- Large dogs can knock people over and easily injure small children or older adults.
It’s important that you train your dog to stop jumping and to greet people appropriately.
No matter how much you love your dog, an out-of-control dog (like a bratty child) won’t be welcomed by others who are forced to deal with it.
The following are several methods for training dogs not to jump. One or more are sure to work for you.
#1 Way to Stop Your Dog from Jumping Up on People: Teach an Alternative Behavior
The most effective way to teach your dog not to jump up on people is to train him to do something else instead—something that’s incompatible with jumping.
Sit is the easiest behavior to teach, and it may be all you need. But some owners prefer a down-stay, possibly in a spot at a distance from the door.
We’ll discuss how to train both for those who have new puppies or untrained rescue dogs.
Method #1: Teach an Automatic Sit
Step 1: At Home
Start by making sure your dog will sit reliably on command. To train him to sit, hold a treat in front of his nose and move it upward and backward. When his bottom hits the ground, give him the treat immediately.
Repeat this several times until he is quick to sit down when you ask him to. Then add the command sit.
When he is reliable at sitting instead of jumping on you, it’s time to challenge him by teaching him to sit when he meets other people.
Step 2: At Home with a Friend
Ask a friend or family member to come to your door, armed with treats. When they come in and your dog looks like he is just about to jump, your friend should command him to sit. When he does so, have them give the dog a treat.
Repeat the process, just as before. If you’re consistent with this, it won’t take long before your dog sits automatically when a visitor approaches. He’ll be eagerly anticipating something tasty.
But not everyone who comes to your house will have treats with them. Keep some nearby for those times so you or they can reward your dog when he sits as asked.
Step 2: The Containment Variation
You may find containing your dog more helpful when he has trouble controlling his jumping at the door. Try containing him in another room (or behind a baby gate) when guests knock or ring the bell.
Lead him out on a leash when he has calmed down and then have him sit in front of the guest and allow him to greet the guest appropriately.
You may also want to practice this variation with a friend or family member first. When he’s doing this reliably on leash, you can then try it without the leash.
Step 3: Take it Outside
Bring your dog outside for the next step. Try this routine, suggested by VetStreet training consultant Mikkel Becker:
Tether your dog to a tie-out or tree. Back up beyond his reach and approach your dog. If he jumps on you, turn your body sidewise and withdraw your attention.
When he backs off and sits, reward him.
Keep repeating the approach and rewarding when he sits and doesn’t jump. Gradually, he will learn that jumping loses your attention and sitting politely earns him treats.
Step 4: Out and About
The last step in your dog’s training is to take him walking so he can meet people in the street. Again, arrange for someone you know to meet you on your walk, and arm them with a pocket full of tasty snacks.
You’ll be able to tell when your dog is preparing to jump up on them, and they should immediately ask him to sit (before he jumps) and reward him when he does as he’s asked.
Again, of course, not everyone your dog encounters on the street is going to have treats in their pockets. You will need to keep training the sit command but gradually phase out the treats.
When he is sitting reliably without treats, his sit response should become automatic.
Method #2: “Go to Your Place” with Down-Stay
A study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science found that training a down-stay combined with the command go to your place (or just place) was effective in teaching dogs not to jump on people or crowd the door when the doorbell rang.
The study used a remote-control treat dispenser, but it should work just as well with a person dispensing the treats.
For this method, first be sure you’re using the right command when your dog jumps up. Trainers usually use the word off to mean “get off me, please!” They use down when they want the dog to lie down.
You don’t want your dog to be confused when you use the same command to mean two different things. He won’t understand what you’re asking him to do. In his confusion, he is likely to do nothing.
So, the first step is to teach your dog down and stay if he doesn’t already know these commands. There are many videos on how to train these basic commands on YouTube.
Next, you want to teach your dog the place command. Set up a mat or a dog bed in the area you want your dog to retreat to when the doorbell rings.
Then train him to go to his place by tossing treats onto his mat from a close position. Quickly reward your dog while he’s still on the mat.
Gradually increase the distance you command him from, and then the time he’s expected to stay before you reward and release him. Each time, hurry back to the dog to reward him before he breaks his stay.
Once he has place, add down before rewarding. (You may be able to skip this step, as many dogs will automatically lie down when they go to their place.)
When he is reliably going to his place and lying down, teach your dog to stay until you release him.
The last step is to train him to automatically go to his place and lie down when the doorbell rings. Practice this with a family member until it’s automatic for your dog.
When someone comes to the door, release your dog reasonably quickly and allow him to greet the visitor with a calm and polite sit.
How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on You or a Family Member
But what about when your dog jumps on you or a family member when you come home? There are a few things you can do to stop that behavior.
- Keep your demeanor calm as you walk in the door. It’s tempting to greet your dog with as much excitement as he shows you. After all, it’s hard not to be delighted that he is so happy to see you.
But the best thing you can do to stop his jumping is to act as normally as possible.
- Ask him to sit. Reward him (have treats nearby), then lower yourself to his level to greet him. Remember to stay calm throughout.
- If you’ve worked on this, but he’s just not getting it, you may need to try containment with the gate, as discussed above. Contain him in a room with the baby gate when no one is home. When you get home, don’t greet him at all (ignore him) until he’s sitting calmly on the other side of the gate. Then reward him, greet him calmly, and let him out.
- Continue practicing this until your dog sits automatically. Once he is no longer jumping at the door, you won’t need the gate anymore.
How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on the Couch
If your dog jumps up onto people who are seated on the couch, try this training method, as described by Dr. Sophia Yin in a YouTube video:
First, make sure everyone in the family has easy access to treats.
Then, whenever your dog approaches to jump on someone, anticipate him and offer a treat at his face level before he gets to the couch. When he sits, reward him generously with treats.
Then toss a treat behind the dog to “reset” him from the sit. He will more than likely come back for more, so repeat the exercise.
If he jumps at any time, turn away and refuse to pay him any attention until he gets off. Then reward him for off and practice again, rewarding for sit and off and withdrawing attention for any jumping.
It won’t take long for your dog to realize that sitting politely is much more rewarding than jumping on people.
Other Methods to Stop Dog Jumping
There are other ways of training your dog to stop jumping up on people. We feel these methods are less effective, but some dog owners say that they have worked for them.
Ignore Him: “Turn to Stone”
You may choose to ignore your dog, let arms hang at your sides, and freeze. Don’t give him any attention, not even eye contact, when he is jumping up on you. When he stops, you can reward him with a tasty treat and lots of praise for keeping his four paws on the ground.
This method will work for many dogs. However, some dog owners find that the “ignore it” approach can make the jumping behavior worse.
According to dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, this is not unusual. Your dog is having an “extinction burst” when that happens.
An “extinction burst” is an increase in the behavior you’re trying to eliminate. This happens when your dog realizes that his previous way of getting your attention (jumping on you) isn’t working, so he tries even harder before he’s willing to give up.
Extinction bursts can be frustrating, but don’t give up. They mean that your efforts are working. With a little more patience on your part, your dog will soon “get it,” and the jumping should stop.
While this method can work well at home with family members, you may still need to train the automatic sit (Method #1 above) for guests at the door.
Turn Your Back
Alternatively, you can turn your back when your dog gets ready to jump. This may have the same result as the “ignore it” method. Again, reward him when he has all four on the floor.
A word of caution: We don’t recommend using this method for large dogs. Some owners say that turning their backs on a large dog like a German Shepherd caused their dogs to discover that jumping on backs is a fun game.
You certainly don’t want a large dog to jump on your back (or worse—someone else’s!) when you’re not expecting it.
Again, we recommend Methods 1 and 2 above as the best methods for creating long-term behavioral change in your dog.
The Importance of Physical and Mental Exercise
As with any behavioral issue, exercise (or lack of it) can play a significant role in dogs jumping up on people. A dog that doesn’t have enough opportunity to burn energy is more likely to become overexcited.
Mental stimulation is another essential element in eliminating behavior problems with dogs.
So many of our dogs are home alone all day while their humans are at work and school.
All this time alone can lead to boredom, which can result in behavior problems. When a dog is bored, he is bound to be excited about any event, large or small, that breaks up his day.
To combat this, make sure your dog has opportunities for stimulating his mind and alleviating his boredom during the day. This will help him control the overexcitement that can lead to jumping when you get home or have a visitor.
If your dog is home alone much of the time, here are some ideas that will keep him occupied and burn up some of that excess energy that causes him to jump:
An early-morning walk
We know it’s not easy to get up earlier than you have to, but this one change could make a big difference in your dog’s overall quality of life and his jumping behavior.
He just had a full night’s sleep, so your dog raring to go. After a 30-minute morning walk, he will find it much easier to be left home alone. He will appreciate the chance to burn off that excess morning energy.
Play and training
When you are home, be sure to spend as much time as you can playing with your dog and training him. Vigorous play, such as a game of fetch, will add aerobic activity that will burn energy, leaving your dog calmer and less likely to become overexcited.
Dogs love structure and routine, so if possible, schedule play and training at roughly the same time every day.
Most dogs look forward to a scheduled activity and will even let you know you when it’s time. This alone can add joy and meaning to a long day of waiting for their humans to come home.
Better yet, consider enrolling your dog in a canine sport such as agility, rally, or flyball. Your dog will love the experience, and the exercise and training between classes will help him to relax contentedly at home.
These activities are also great bonding experiences for dogs and their owners.
Consider doggie daycare
A day or two a week at a good doggie daycare—even for just an hour or two if you can arrange it—would do wonders to relieve your dog’s boredom and exercise need.
It would also provide critical socialization experiences for your dog.
Hire a neighbor
Maybe you could hire a teenaged neighbor to take your dog for a walk after school. This would have the added benefit of calming him down just before the crucial jumping-up period when you get home from work.
Hide your dog’s favorite toys around the house and teach him how to find them. In no time, he’ll catch on and will look for them himself if you hide them for him to find while you’re gone.
Pet stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, have extensive selections of toys your dog can interact with. Have a good supply on hand. To help with boredom, leave him one or two and rotate them every few days to keep him interested in them.
Make your dog work for his meals. A Kong is probably the ultimate feeding toy. Fill it with kibble, peanut butter, banana, yogurt—any healthy treat is okay. Fill it with part of your dog’s daily food ration and leave it for his breakfast when you leave for work.
For an even longer-lasting meal, try freezing a Kong. Moisten his kibble with water so it expands, fill the Kong, mix it with something smooth like peanut butter if you like, and freeze.
This will keep him occupied for a while. As a bonus, your dog will probably be happy to work for his food. After all, that’s what dogs in the wild did, so it’s a natural behavior for dogs.
The Kong has the added benefit of being a nearly indestructible chew toy even after the food is gone.
Other feeding toys are puzzles that your dog must manipulate in some way to discover food hidden inside a series of compartments. They are available in several difficulty levels, and most dogs seem to really enjoy the mental challenge.
Again, fill the toy with food and put it out for your dog’s breakfast when you leave for work in the morning. You can make him work for his evening meal, in the same way, to add more mental stimulation to his day.
An evening walk
An evening walk is a great idea to help your dog settle in for the night. Let this 30-minute walk be a leisurely sniff-fest for some sensory enrichment and relaxing before bed.
Consistency is Key
No matter which method you choose to stop your dog from jumping up, every member of the family must expect the same behavior every time.
Otherwise, your dog will think your command to sit or stay down is optional. He’ll learn that he must obey it sometimes but not always. You will not get the automatic response you’re looking for unless everyone in the house is on board, every time.
A Final Word About Dog Jumping
For dog lovers, there are few things in life more heartwarming than an affectionate dog that greets us with joy. But when that greeting includes jumping up on people, it can very quickly become annoying and even dangerous.
And we can’t expect visitors to our homes to find the behavior as charming as we might.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
For help with training your dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.
- Becker, Mikkel. VetStreet. Curb jumping when greeting. Video.
- Becker, Mikkel. VetStreet. 6 Easy Ways to Stop a Dog from Jumping. March 7, 2014.
- Miller, Pat, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA. Whole Dog Journal. Understanding dog appeasement signals. Updated April 22, 2019.
- Stilwell, Victoria. Positively Dog Training. Jumping.
- Yin, Sophia, et al. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113 (2008) 123-138. Efficacy of a remote-controlled, positive-reinforcement dog-training system for modifying problem behaviors exhibited when people arrive at the door. November 11, 2007
- Yin, Sophia. Teaching a dog to sit politely rather than jump | drsophiayin.com. YouTube.
- Your Dog. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University. Dear doctor: The puppy won’t stop jumping on people. April 2018.