This post is pretty extensive, but is not all-inclusive. There are other factors to consider as well! Try not to be intimidated by all the information below, I’m just offering lots of ways to work on this issue. Try them all, and stick with what works!
Jumping on visitors, or jumping up on you when you come home, can be big problems when it comes to our dogs. Most of our friends and family don’t enjoy having our dogs hop all over them. We may love our dogs, but sometimes we just want to get in the front door peacefully!
When our dogs jump on us, they’re not trying to be bad dogs. They just want to get close to our faces to greet us! However, we humans don’t find this isn’t very polite. Most dogs jump on us because… it works! They get attention (even if it’s “bad” attention, like us pushing them down or telling them no!). Every behavior your dog does, they do because it benefits them in some way.
There are three keys to helping our dogs learn how to calmly greet visitors.
- Figure out what MOTIVATES them to jump. This is pretty easy.. it’s attention! Now we can use that motivation as a reward for NOT jumping.
- Make sure that all their needs have been met. Have they had enough exercise? Have they had enough mental stimulation (training, food puzzles, etc)? Have they gotten enough one-on-one attention from you?
- Be fast! We need to reward them for all four feet on the ground, sitting, or staying on their bed BEFORE they jump.
Management is your Best Friend
Until your dog’s behavior is under control, you need to help them be successful. This means we need to prevent them from practicing jumping on people. We can do this by:
- Taking them for a walk, playing with them, giving them a food puzzle to work on before visitors arrive
- Crating them (or putting them behind a doggy gate) when visitors are coming over (and making sure they have something fun to do in there, like a stuffed Kong)
- Having them on leash and by our side so they can’t jump on visitors. Reward calm behavior!
- Using doggy gates to prevent your dog meeting you at the door and jumping on you when you get home
There are 3 main ways to work on this.
Leash and Treats Method
For this method, you will have your dog on a leash held in your hand. You will need a volunteer to help you out with this! If your dog is an adult and has been jumping for a long time, you will need to start with rewarding them for just standing, then move up to rewarding them for sitting.
- Prepare lots of super tasty, pea-sized treats for your dog.
- Attach your dog’s leash to their harness or collar.
- With your helper about 10 feet away, ask your dog to sit, with your dog facing the helper.
- Reward them for sitting.
- Ask your helper to slowly move forward.
- For each step forward the helper makes, reward your dog for staying seated.
- If your dog jumps up, have your helper stop. Wait 30 seconds to see if your dog sits again. If not, ask them to sit.
- Once the dog is sitting, reward them with a treat, and have your helper move forward again.
- Repeat Steps 4 through 8 until your helper is in front of your dog.
- Have your helper slowly reach down to pet your dog. If they jump up/move from being seated, have them return to standing upright and bring their hands back to their body.
- Once the dog is seated again, they can reach for the dog.
- When the dog is able to stay seated for petting, have your helper gently pet them and feed them several treats.
Repeat this process over and over, slowly increasing the excitement the helper shows as they move towards your dog.
Attention Only Method
For most dogs, they jump because they want our attention! Therefore, we can give them our attention as a reward for not jumping, and withhold our attention when they are jumping. We aren’t talking to our dogs and telling them what to do in the exercise. We are allowing them to puzzle it out. I will admit, this method can be the hardest for our dogs.. and us… but is still very helpful.
- Attach a leash to your dog’s harness or collar. The harness is the safest for them and what I suggest.
- Attach the leash to a sturdy piece of furniture, the handrail for the staircase, or a similar object. I also suggest giving them a bed to sit or lay on.
- Walk away from your dog., about 10 feet or so.
- Return to your dog, walking slowly and quietly. Do not make a big production of coming towards them – we are trying to set them up for success! Only walk forward if they keep all four feet on the ground.
- If your dog strains at the leash or jumps, stop immediately.
- If your dog calms down within 5 seconds (all four feet on the floor or sitting), move forward again.
- If your dog does NOT calm down within 5 seconds, take a few steps backward until they have all 4 feet on the floor.
- Repeat steps 6 & 7 until you are right in front of your dog.
- Reach for your dog. If they jump up, stand up and bring your hands back to your body. Wait for them to sit or return their feet to the ground. Repeat.
- Once your dog can stay standing/seated without jumping, reward them by calmly petting them. You can also slowly feed them several small treats.
As you progress, you will add more and more excitement to your approach. We want our dogs to learn to stay standing or sitting, even if we’re running around like a nut!
On Your Mat Method
Once your dog is doing well with either of the first two methods, you can move on to this one! The first method below helps teach your dog how to STAY calm with visitors. The second one is specifically for greeting visitors.
To do this, you will first need to teach your dog how to find their mat and how to stay there with minimal distractions. Learn more here. You will also need to “build value” for their mat/bed by feeding them there, giving them food puzzles or natural chews there, and dropping random rewards on the mat for them to find. We want them to love being on their mat!
I suggest starting with teaching your dog to just BE on the mat after visitors have arrived. If your dog is in their crate, on the leash, or in another room and is CALM, bring them, lots of treats, and an enrichment toy to the mat.
After visitors are in the house:
- Place your dog’s bed or mat and a chair in the room your guests are (quietly) gathered in, about 5 to 10 feet away.
- Sit in the chair. Use your cue to ask your dog to go to their mat.
- Reward them with several small treats, one at a time, then give them their Kong/bully stick/enrichment toy.
- Periodically, drop a treat or two down and reward your dog for staying on the mat and staying busy with their Kong.
- If your dog gets up, redirect them to the mat, ask them to sit or lay down, and begin again.
- IF your dog is able to be calm for a minute or so, start taking longer to drop a treat.
Over time, you can move your dog’s mat closer to the visitors, go slowly, though! We want them to succeed! You can also move farther and farther away from your dog as you decrease the rewards you give them. With dedication and time, you will be able to ask your dog to go to their mat, give them a “job” to do there (by giving them their enrichment toy) and then everyone can relax!
For visitors arriving:
This method is more advanced. Your dog needs to know how to stay on the mat to be successful!
First, you need to practice this without visitors!
- Place your dog’s mat near the door, close enough you can toss treats to them.
- Walk towards the front door. For each step away from your dog, toss them a treat so that they stay on the mat.
- Touch the door handle, toss a treat.
- Open the door an inch, toss a treat.
- Work up until you have the door all the way open and your dog is staying on their mat!
- Place your dog’s mat near the door, close enough you can toss treats to them.
- As your visitor approaches the door, send your dog to their mat (have a kong or something similar waiting for them there)
- Toss them treats as you open the door and welcome your visitor.
- If your dog stays calm, your visitor can approach them. If not, have your visitor walk on by.