Swagger jumping up by invitation.

Initially, the title of this blog post was “how do I stop my dog jumping?” … then  I changed it to “how do I train my dog not to jump?” … then I added “up” to the end. The changes were made because for agility, we DO want our dogs to jump, and I write about agility frequently.

But this post is about dogs jumping on people, and you guessed it, the question about how to teach a dog to NOT jump on people is one we see frequently. I know that many of you will be reading this thinking, “Susan, I’ve seen your dogs jump on you” … and you would be absolutely correct! My dogs jump up by invitation, and it also has a strategic purpose. More on that below.

Dogs Don’t Understand DON’T

When I was interviewed by Tim Ferriss for his podcast… and if you like podcasts, I’d certainly recommend you check out the Tim Ferriss Show… we covered the topic of jumping up. I told the story of training a group of dogs in a B&B we were staying at when on vacation in Ireland to not jump on me, and how it did not take very long at all to change that behaviour.

Anyone can teach this, you don’t have to be a professional dog trainer; you just have to know what you want your dog to DO. The thing is that most people try to train from the world of “don’t”.  Don’t jump on me, don’t bite, don’t bark. Dogs don’t understand don’t, because don’t is a concept. Dogs understand DO. They understand behaviours.

What you have to do, is look at what you don’t want, and create a behaviour that you DO want, so that your dog can be right and you’re setting him up for reinforcement. This makes for a much better relationship for you and your dog, and for anybody else who comes in contact with your dog. Reinforcement builds behaviour, and what is reinforced will be repeated.

There are many reasons a dog will jump up, but the main reason is that we teach dogs to jump up with reinforcement. The behaviour continues as our dogs grow up because it is very rewarding. When our dog is fully grown, we decide we don’t like the behaviour because it’s annoying, and it suddenly becomes a problem. The good news is that you can help your dog and have fast results if you know what you want your dog to DO.

Remove the Reinforcement for Jumping Up

We let our dog know that jumping up when uninvited is not appropriate by removing our attention. It is also essential to also reinforce the dog’s good decisions not to jump up. If your dog jumps up without being invited to do so, turn around so he can’t see your face. Turning away removes the reinforcement of your attention. As soon as your dog chooses another behaviour, give him a treat that he loves.

When your dog starts to understand what will earn him reinforcement, you can reward him for all four feet on the ground with your attention, you don’t always have to give him cookies for not jumping up. When we take the reinforcement away for jumping up by consistently turning, our dog is not going to want to jump up as there is reinforcement for alternate behaviour. The dog is going to start to offer the behaviour that has the most reinforcement for him, which is “four on the floor”.

The dogs in Ireland you hear about in my chat with Tim Ferriss. Turning away removes the reinforcement of your attention. As soon as your dog chooses another behaviour, reinforce that!

Embrace Opportunities to Reward Appropriate Behaviour

Look for all opportunities to reward your dog when his feet are on the ground.  Reinforcement will show your dog what it is you DO want. By teaching our dogs what we do want, we are empowering the dog to be in control of the ‘good things’, be it a cookie, or our attention, by offering the behaviour we want to see.

Start to notice the good choices your dog makes and be quick to reward those good choices! Be conscious of where you are in your training and what it is you want your dog to DO. This may need considered effort on your part initially, but looking for good choices will soon become a natural part of your life with your dog.

Put Jumping Up on Cue

You might not want your dog to jump on you at all, and if that is the case, ensure you heavily reward all your dog’s good choices for “all four feet on the ground” and be consistent in removing reinforcement by turning away if he does jump up. Empower your dog to make good choices. If you don’t mind your dog jumping up, you can train it as a behaviour.

Putting “jumping up” on cue will help our dogs understand how we would like to be greeted. It is usually easy to teach a dog to jump up on cue. Pat your leg, and when your dog jumps up on you, give him a treat.  When you know your dog will reliably jump up on you when you pat your leg, introduce a verbal cue.  Give your verbal cue just before you pat your leg, and reward your dog with a treat when he jumps up.  Soon you will be able to fade patting your leg and your dog will jump up on your verbal cue. You now have a physical cue (patting your leg) and are introducing a verbal cue (e.g. “paws up”) to let your dog know when jumping up is appropriate.

The Advantages of  “Paws Up”

As I said at the start, my dogs jump up on me. They do so when invited with a verbal cue “paws up” and the way I present my body. As well as being something my dogs and I enjoy, jumping up can be used for balance breaks, as a good trigger, and to make sure you have optimal “desire” (the D in my D.A.S.H. acronym) when you and your dog are working together. Remember that work = play and play = work.

If you are training with food rewards, having your dog jump up on you to be rewarded with a treat is far more dynamic and engaging to keep enthusiasm up and to maintain your connection, rather than just mindlessly feeding him a cookie. We always want reinforcement to be a celebration with us.

Rewarding Tater with a “paws up” cookie to maintain enthusiasm and connection.

Do you have a dog who jumps up and you want to change that behaviour? Let me know in the comments what it is you want your dog to DO instead. Have you trained your dog to jump up on cue? Let me know what the cue is, and where you use it!

Today I am grateful for our dogs letting us know where the reinforcement is… that knowledge gives us great information to train what we DO want to set them up for success.

Update: Due to popular demand, I’ve got a tutorial video on YouTube with three easy steps to stop your dog jumping up on people for good.