Why Does My Dog Keep Jumping Up?

A lot of people ask me "Why does my dog keep jumping up on me or other people?" 


The most simple answer is “because he's getting paid well for it” 

I'll let you in on a secret: "scolding" your pup very often actually strengthens the behavior that you intend to punish! 

What? How can that be? 

Let’s take a closer look at the situation: the dog jumps up, you look at him, say "Fifi No! Off!" and you push him away. Now, you might believe that you have communicated displeasure and "punishment” and therefore, the dog should learn not to jump, but instead your dog seems to jump even more often. 

First we need to know why the dog jumps up: Dogs greet each other by touching noses and sniffing ears (and back ends). Your nose and ears are usually out of his reach. He has to jump to "properly" (in dog) say hello. 

What does your response look like from the dog's point of view? Your dog might think:

·         You looked at me! I love when you look at me! (Ka-ching! = that was rewarding and reinforcing!)

·         You said my name! I love when you say my name! (Ka-ching! = that was rewarding and reinforcing!)

·         You touched/pushed me (not painfully). I love it when you touch me! (Ka-ching! = that was rewarding and reinforcing!)

·         Jumping up gets me 3 of my favorite things -- I am going to do that more often! 

Most times when people nag & scold their dogs, it actually reinforces/ strengthens the dog's behavior.

So how to fix it? Positive Punishment (meaning adding a punishment after a behavior) that is intensive enough to be effective (= causing the dog pain, fear or intense discomfort) is unethical and destructive to your relationship with your dog. Imagine getting punched in the gut when you try to give your friend a hug! 

Ignoring is sometimes a possible solution, but it is not easy to ignore behaviors like jumping up, especially if the dog has muddy paws and you are well-dressed. 

When the dog jumps up, you can try to say "ugh" and turn away. That's certainly not giving the dog the attention, however, persistent dogs may just continue to jump up on your back.

So, what can be done? Here is a 3-part solution to help stop a lot of problem behaviors, including jumping. It takes dedication and focus on your part and is not an instant fix but scolding and punishment don't teach the dog what you want him to do.

 Important Note: If the dog is not allowed to jump up on your mother-in-law, then he can’t be allowed to jump on anyone! The dog will not understand that it’s OK to jump on people if they are wearing dirty dog-walking clothes, but not on people wearing evening dresses or suits. In the dog’s mind “sometimes OK is ALWAYS OK”. Therefore, please make certain that everyone who has regular contact with the dog, family members, dog sitters, etc. all understand what is allowed and what is not.

  1.  First, whenever possible, prevent  the dog from doing the behavior. In the case of jumping, keep a house leash (a long piece of rope) attached to the dog. Step on it before greeting the dog. Step close enough so he cannot physically get his front paws off the ground. (This is also useful when approaching people that your dog is eager to greet. Simply let the leash hang down and step onto it, then skooch your foot closer to the dog.)
  2. The next step is to immediately greet the dog and praise him for keeping his paws on the floor. I say “Four on the floor gets you more! Good puppy!” 
    Make sure to look at him, say his name and pet him – all of those things he gets for jumping, (minus the scolding!)

Misty 4 on the floor Ljpg

Prevent the dog from jumping up and then reward

Steps 1 and 2 will go a long way in stopping the dog from rehearsing the behavior, but that’s not enough. Positive reinforcement trainers don’t spend their time trying to correct unwanted behavior; we want to train the dog to do a different behavior in those situations: one that is incompatible with jumping up. I recommend teaching a rock solid “sit”. This can solve a lot of other problem behaviors as well!

The dog cannot simultaneously sit and jump on someone at the same time.

·         practice and reinforce the “sit” cue repeatedly in various situations and places until your dog learns to instantly put his bottom on the ground when he hears the cue.

·         Next, arrange to have people calmly approach without engaging with the dog and give your “sit” cue. Reward generously and repeatedly.

·         In the beginning you can also step on the leash after the dog is sitting, to encourage him to stay in position.
Then practice with additional challenges: (just one new challenge at a time, though!!)
Challenges might be:

·         Randomly giving your “sit" cue while out on a walk outside

·         When the ground is wet

·         When there are other dogs nearby (as long as they cannot approach your dog – ALWAYS consider your dog’s safety and emotional state before practicing!)

·         Get people to greet him more excitedly before you give the sit cue

·         Practice “sit-stay" separately and step by step.

After teaching the sit to greet, you can also add a "shake hands", if you wish:


If the dog should fail to sit at any of the above challenges: it means that he wasn’t ready for that level of distraction. Don’t scold him. Just go back to the distance or place or point where he was last successful and progress in smaller increments.

Happy Training!