Ask a Trainer: Jumping


"I have a small dog that jumps up on our legs when we come home.  What should I do to stop this behavior?"

-Pat K.

Question #2 in the Ask A Trainer series is a common one!  Before we get to solutions, I want to address one very popular myth about jumping.

MYTH: Dogs jump on humans because of dominance.

Folks, it's simply not true.  Check out these thoughts from the Association of Pet Dog Trainer's website: "dominance is 'primarily a descriptive term for relationships between pairs of individuals.' and moreover, 'the use of the expression 'dominant dog' is meaningless, since 'dominance' can apply only to a relationship between individuals. (Bradshaw et al., 2009)  Dominance comes into play in a relationship between members of the same species when one individual wants to have the first pick of available resources such as food, beds, toys, bones, etc.  Even between dogs, however, it is not achieved through force or coercion but through one member of the relationship deferring to the other peacefully."

Dogs jump when you arrive home because they are excited to see you.  Normally, that's all there is to it.  Dogs are highly social creatures--a solitary lifestyle is quite unnatural for them--so when you arrive home, they are ecstatic to have the family back together again!  This unconditional love is one of our favorite things about our dogs.  The jumping, though, is something most of us could really do without.

TECHNIQUE #1--Seek n' Find
This is one of your easiest options.  Keep a little dish of yummy treats just outside the door and grab a handful on your way inside.  As soon as you get the door open a couple of inches, toss the treats away from yourself.  Your dog will chase after the treats and give you several minutes to get inside without your nice work clothes getting ruined.
This technique is helpful because dogs are often most boing-y right when you come indoors.  The treats give them something appropriate to do during that initial surge of excitement.

Check out this video featuring Livi, our 1 year old Border Collie boarder.  She LOVES people and often gets very excited when people walk through the gate.


TECHNIQUE #2--Click the Sit
Where Technique #1 relies on distraction, this option teaches your dog to behave differently when people walk through the door.  Because we're actually training here, you'll want to set up some practice runs on days you won't be as irritated if your dog jumps.  This technique also uses a clicker or verbal marker.  To learn more about clicker training, see this article from Karen Pryor.
Similar to #1, you'll grab a handful of treats on your way inside.  Once you're just inside the door, stop moving and look at your dog's hips.  He'll most likely be jumping on you at this point; be ready to reward!  As soon as he has four feet on the floor, click your clicker and toss a treat away from yourself.  Continue standing still; your dog will most likely approach again.  If he stays on the ground, click and toss at treat away.  After several repetitions, wait and see if your dog will sit before you click!  

Pro Tip: Livi is very used to offering Sits without verbal instruction.  If your dog isn't as familiar with this, you'll want to practice that separately.

Here are several responses to jumping that you should avoid:

  • Kneeing the dog in the chest, grabbing his paws, or stepping on his toes.  This does not teach the dog to stop jumping.  This does teach the dog to be fearful of approaching humans.
  • Touching the dog, talking to the dog, or looking at the dog's face.  Many dogs jump for attention, and will perceive these as rewards.
  • Continuing to move.  A sudden cessation of activity helps remove any further reward from the activity and clues them in that something's not right.
  • Yelling.  Does not teach the dog what you'd like him to do instead, but will create a fearful dog.


If you need personalized help to ground your Airborne Greeter, contact me!