Down, Boy!

How to Keep Your Dog from Jumping

One of the most heartwarming things about life with dogs is their joy over your arrival . . . even just returning to the car at the market.  All that exuberance — over you — never gets old.  Some dogs also show excitement by bouncing repeatedly as if to say, “Hello!”  “I’m here!” “Hurray!”  “Look at me!”  While this may be endearing at times, allowing a dog to jump encourages poor etiquette and can at minimum be annoying with company, at worst, harmful . . . of course the bigger the dog, the greater the risk.

Spot brings you two local trainers’ tips on correcting jumping behavior.  Both stress that these techniques can work with dogs of all ages, noting however that the longer a dog has practiced a behavior, the longer it may take to change.

Kirsten Nielsen, a trainer who works with private clients and others at Schroeder’s Den in Hillsboro, OR, says, “One of the first things I tell people is that everyone has to be invested.” 

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Nielsen encourages clients to put themselves in their dog’s mind when working to change a behavior.  “We tend to rely on words a lot, but they’re not that important to a dog,” says Nielsen.  “If you need to let them know you don’t like something, it has to sound and look like you don’t like it.  I tell people that you don’t have to sound furious, but you should at least act like you’re offended.”  Nielsen demonstrates, mocking admonishing a jumping dog by saying in an annoyed tone, “Hey! What are you doing?!”

The next step actually gets to the heart of the matter — what your dog is actually doing when jumping.  Jennifer Biglan, owner of Dog and Cat training services in Eugene, says, “Jumping is, in most cases, an attention-seeking behavior. The dog wants you to look at them, touch them or talk to them, and is trying to get close to your face so you will do one of those things.  So it’s really important that you don’t do any of those things while their feet are off the floor.” 

Biglan also stresses rewarding good behavior.  “It’s equally important that you reinforce behavior you want as soon as it’s offered.  If the dog jumps on you, stand still while calmly looking up.  As soon as the dog’s feet hit the ground, count to one so there’s a little bit of delay and then offer praise in the form of looking at him, or saying, “Good boy” or maybe dropping a treat.”

Nielsen adds, “You want to make the jumping behavior unproductive.  If the dog jumps, take your attention away by saying, ‘What are you doing!’ with a stern expression, then turn your back on them.”

Both trainers agree that pushing a dog down does not correct jumping since this can be interpreted as play in dog-speak.  Biglan and Nielsen both suggest turning the tables on dogs who stand or lean on you by stepping toward them, invading their personal space and, as Biglan says, “Making it a little less comfortable to hang out with their paws on you.”

When consistent vocal and physical corrections are used in addition to regular “atta-boys” for good, “four-on-the-floor” behavior, your dog will quickly learn that the best way to get your attention is to curb his jumpy side and wait for you to come to him.


Kirsten Nielsen, Ph.D; CPDT

Jennifer Biglan, CPDT; Dog & Cat, LLC

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Nikki Jardin is a Portland-based freelance writer who loves to write about people dedicated to making the world a better place for all beings. When she’s not writing, she’s either exploring the great outdoors, traveling, or volunteering with Fences For Fido, a local nonprofit dedicated to giving dogs freedom from a previously chained life.