There are two main reasons why dogs jump up; because they want your attention or they are excited. Sometimes it can be a combination of both, like when you get home from work they are excited to see you and want you to pat them.
Both of these reasons have similarities in the way they started and in the way we address them, but there are subtle differences too. So I’m going to cover them separately.
Jumping up for attention is usually a learned behaviour. By that I mean that we have inadvertently taught our dogs that if they want our attention they can jump up at us to get it. I say inadvertently because most people wouldn’t set out to do this on purpose and don’t even realise they are doing it.
Most often this starts when the dog is a puppy and only becomes a problem when they start to get bigger or more demanding. Here are some reasons why this starts in puppies:
- They are so much smaller than us and try to jump or stretch to get our attention or reach us
- They can’t speak English so to communicate what they want they use their body language in a variety of ways and learn which actions get them what they want – then repeat!
- They are just so cute and we pat them and reward them even when they are doing something they shouldn’t
- When we start training them with treats, the delivery of the treats can be too slow so the puppy jumps to reach them (ties in with the first point of the huge size difference)
- They are small and it doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, and remember they are so cute!
We have been rewarding our puppies with pats, our attention or treats when they jump up on us and have basically told them “Yes that’s exactly what I want you to do when you want my attention”.
Ok so now that we understand what caused the jumping up, how do we fix it? The good news is the fix is actually pretty simple. The hard part is remembering to do it and being consistent.
You have to IGNORE your dog when they jump up at you. Do NOT touch your dog, push your dog away, say “No” or “Uh-uh” and definitely don’t laugh, pat them or make eye contact with your dog. You are REMOVING or NOT GIVING your attention to them when they demand it.
To help you to ignore your dog, you can do the following:
- If standing, turn your back to your dog,
- Lift your head up and away from your dog,
- Walk away,
- If sitting, and your dog puts their paws on your lap, stand up so your lap is no longer available.
Now we know how to ignore them but how and when do we give them our attention? This part is even more important than the ignoring. You now need to teach your dog WHAT activity will get them your attention. After all we want them to communicate their needs and wants to us right? You are now going to REWARD them with your attention when they offer you polite behaviour like a sit. With practice your dog will start to offer you a sit straight away to communicate to you that they would really like your attention please.
This one is a bit more tricky to manage as we are dealing with a dogs emotions and reactions and there is often little thinking involved from the dog.
Why do dogs get excited?
- It’s in their genes. Some breeds are more prone to excited behaviour than others, think Staffy’s, Labradors etc.
- It’s their temperament and their natural go to state,
- They have not learnt to control themselves,
- They have learnt that being excited in certain situations works out for them (i.e. play).
To address excitement you can follow the same steps as you would when addressing attention seeking behaviour. One of the main differences though is that it will likely take much longer for the dog to calm down and offer you a polite sit as all those excited emotions are getting in the way of their thinking. This is where you need to pull out all of your patience and consistency and wait out your dog. This can form part of a bigger impulse control plan (where we are helping our dogs reduce their exicitement in many different areas of their life) which I will write about in a future email as it is simply to large to include here.
Another option is to disrupt the behaviour before it even starts. My favourite way of doing this is by using a clicker. In situations where you know your dog is going to be excited and will likely jump on you get the clicker and treats ready. As your dog runs towards you click, and throw the treat on the floor where the dog can see it. Your dog will be distracted by the click and treat and will stop to collect it. Click and treat another couple of times to get your dogs attention and focus then ask for a sit. Click and treat that too. With practice your dog will slow down, expecting the click and treat and will start going straight into a sit waiting for the reward!