Jumping up on people is a common and often very aggravating behavior that dogs will do that is often because of a number of reasons:
1. Exuberant Greeting
4. Fear based
Most often it is because the dog is being playful or is excited and saying hello. An example of a threatening jump would be that the dog holds a stiff posture and growls, and a fear based jump would be them using their paws to literally keep the person away from them at a distance. If this is the case, socialization and leadership exercises need to be addressed.
For the excited dogs, there is a number of treatment plans and ideas that will work. The most important things to remember when addressing a problem behavior are these four things:
1. Positive reinforcement of an alternate behavior- most “bad behaviors” are self rewarding to dogs and are only considered bad to us. We need to provide and reinforce them with an acceptable behavior instead of what they are doing.
2. Manage the problem and set the dog up to succeed- Set the dog up in situations where he can be successful and actually learn. Don’t give him the opportunity to use the behavior you are trying to extinguish, especially if you are not around to deal with it.
3. Consequences for inappropriate behavior- this may not always be necessary, but can sometimes be useful if other tactics have been extinguished. These could be things like bark collars, squirted with water, etc.
4. Consistency- this comes from managing the problem as well. Make sure you are consistent with your responses so that the dog isn’t confused about when the behavior is acceptable and when it isn’t.
Treatment for Jumping as a Greeting Using a Clicker
Step 1: Come in through the door with a handful of treats and the clicker (that your dog is conditioned to, otherwise start with that step!) You can anticipate that he will jump to say hello, so you can try to redirect his attention by tossing a couple of treats on the floor. The moment he directs his attention towards the treats instead you will click. If this is successful, you will click every time he halts his progress towards you and turns his attention towards the treats on the floor- practice this several times.
Step 2: If the treats weren’t successful, try another option. Ignore your dog completely while turning away from him- don’t give him a “no” or a no reward marker, just pretend he doesn’t exist. Often dogs will jump in order to get attention (both positive or negative) so when he has four paws on the floor you will click and reward him with a treat, praise, or attention. If he jumps on you when you praise him, turn your back and remove your attention until his paws return to the floor.
Step 3: As the dog improves you can delay clicking until he offers a sit.
Once this has been practiced you can move on to him greeting guests or other members of the family.
Your guests will follow the same steps, though to set the dog up for success you can incorporate putting a leash on him and having him practice a sit-stay. The alternate behavior you are reinforcing is to either keep the paws on the floor or sit politely, and the reward will be the calm attention or a treat. (or a toy! whatever works.)
Remain consistent with this exercise by practicing with a friend and letting your guest know what it is that you are trying to do. If you are unable to keep consistency and practice this every time your dog greets somebody, it may be best to put them in their crate or outside. You want to set the dog up to succeed by not confusing him; he needs to know that it isn’t acceptable to jump on any person or at any time, not just whenever you feel like practicing.