I’ve heard a lot of awful advice on teaching a dog not (when to) jump. Most of it involves some kind of pain or violence inflicted upon the dog. Be reasonable here: who taught the dog to jump to begin with? You did. Or some human did. So why are we hurting our dogs to get them to stop? Think about when your dog was a puppy (or imagine it if you adopted him). How did that adorable little baby get your attention? Did he jump up on you to get closer? What was your response? Did you pick him up or reach down to pet him when he jumped? Probably. I know better and even I am not immune. This early interaction is almost certainly the source of your dog’s jumping habit. Rewarding your dog for the right behavior at the right time is crucial. Rewarding the wrong thing at the wrong time creates undesirable habits.
Not all jumping is bad. Service dogs, therapy dogs, and pets all need to jump to function in our human world. Service dogs jump to reach things, therapy dogs jump to entertain and to reach people, pets jump to get into laps for cuddles or cars for rides. No one would ever think that these opportunities are inappropriate. Keep this in mind when raising a puppy or redirecting your dog’s jumping behavior.
Fortunately for your dog, teaching him not to jump can be simple and pain free. The easiest way to teach your dog to stop jumping on you inappropriately is simply to stop rewarding him when he does. In your dog’s mind, any kind of attention is a reward. Speaking to your dog, making eye contact, and especially physical touch, are all forms of reward for your dog. Shoving him off and saying “get down” is the equivalent of an ear scratch and “I love you” as far as he is concerned. Instead, the best thing to do is ignore your pup. You can walk away or stand in one place until he puts his paws on the floor. Reward immediately when your dog has all four feet on the floor. He’s welcome to your affection and play time any time he is behaving in a way you like.
Teaching your dog not to jump on others is a similar process. If your guest is a friend who doesn’t mind ignoring your pup while he jumps and rewarding when he stops, simply tell your friend how your dog is learning not to jump before your dog comes out to say hello, and help your friend respond appropriately. If you’re working with your dog around someone who might be hurt if they are jumped on, keep him on a leash at a safe distance and tell your guest that while he’s in training, he can only be petted when he is calm. There is no reason at all for your dog to be petted by everyone every time. If he is terribly excited by guests and cannot calm down enough to be petted you can put him away with an appropriate chew or keep him close to you on leash, to be rewarded by you when he finally does settle. Children often raise their hands above their heads in an effort to get dogs to stop jumping on them. This often encourages dogs to jump. Instead, teach your children to put their hands behind their backs or to fold their arms. Babies and very small children should be protected while the dog in question learns to greet people politely.
It doesn’t take long at all to teach your dog not to jump, but as with all dog training, it does take consistency. Get in the habit of reminding yourself that any time you interact with your pup when he might jump (usually after a separation, during play, or any very exciting event) that you should not touch, talk, or make eye contact. With practice, usually in very little time, your dog will understand that jumping is not rewarded and that paws on the floor is the desired behavior. Frequent practice and generalization will have your dog a well mannered pup in no time!