You come home from work, open the door and are immediately greeted by an exuberant dog leaping and jumping all over you.  Sound familiar?  If it does, you are not alone.  Jumping is a common behavioral issue that many dog owners face.  In this month’s installment of “Why Does My Dog Do That?” we will look at both why this happens as well as tips for how you can address it.

Jumping 101

Dogs jump for a variety of reasons.  To begin with, jumping is a behavior that puppies learn from their moms.  When they are very young, mom brings her litter small amounts of food.  The puppies learn to jump up and lick mom’s face to get her to drop the food.  In addition, licking the face is a sign of being submissive to mom and a natural form of greeting.  When your dog becomes part of the family “pack” they greet you as the leader with the same greeting as mom, a lick on the face.  Only in this case, your mouth is much higher off the ground, causing them to jump.

Another reason dogs jump is they may have a lot of pent up energy and are over excited when you come home or people come to visit.  Have you ever felt elated seeing a family member or friend you haven’t seen
for years?  Or imagine how it would feel to win the lottery . . .YOU may be the one jumping for joy.  For your dog, every time you come home feels like they’ve won the lottery and they just can’t contain their excitement.

Thirdly, your dog may jump on guests because they have stress or a lack of confidence.  In this case the dog is jumping in an attempt to regain control or dominance over the new comer.  Think of it as a dog’s way of telling someone who’s boss.  Whatever the reason, if not addressed properly, jumping can become a behavioral issue.  Nobody wants to have their clothes torn by claws or see grandma knocked down by Rover.  

Redirecting Behavior

The best way to address problem jumping is to redirect their behavior.  Trainer Ian Dilworth recommends two different solutions.  The first is to adjust how you greet your dog at the door.  “If you shower your dog with affection when you first get home AND they are jumping at the same time, you are in fact rewarding them for jumping.  The best thing you can do is wait until your dog calms down before you greet them.  Otherwise, they think you want them to jump.”  This is especially true with puppies.  A lot of people don’t address puppy jumping because they think it is cute.  But this is a mistake.  Ian reminds us, “The reality is that it may be cute now, but it could turn into much worse behavior when they grow up.  They could knock people down or unintentionally scratch them demanding attention.

The second solution is a great option for when your dog jumps on guests or other family members. “When your dog greets people, have them on a leash and collar.  Make sure guests wait until your dog is calm and sitting before they pet them.  It is ok if it takes 5 minutes.  They can’t jump and sit at the same time.  Your dog needs a job other than attacking the door with craziness.   You don’t want to reward anxiety because it will then turn into more extreme unwanted behavior.”  Giving your dog a task such as sitting, redirects their attention and energy and makes saying hello a much more pleasant experience for your dog and your guests.

Although it is a natural tendency in dogs to jump, it is important to address this behavior as soon as it starts.  As pack leader, dogs rely on us to teach them acceptable ways to interact and greet people in the domestic world.  Smart Dogs is here to help you address your dog’s unwanted behavior through our training programs.  Check out our Video Gallery to see some of the work we do at Smart Dogs Training and Lodging!