How to Cure Jumping Up

Military Dog Jumps Up During Training

Does your dog jump up on you when you come home? Does he do the same thing when friends visit? Have you been telling him “Down!” or “Off!” with little or no results?

Social Attraction

There’s an easy fix, but first you should know that when a dog jumps up he’s usually expressing a positive emotional state called “social attraction.” This is not something you’d want to quash or squelch in your dog. In fact, you actually want to nurture your dog's social attraction because it's what makes your dog want to come when called and walk nicely on the leash. These emotions comprise one of the basic keys to Natural Dog Training.

It might be helpful to know that when military dogs, detection dogs, and police dogs are trained, they’re almost always rewarded for obeying commands by being invited to jump up on their handler!

There are two simple rules about jumping up: 1.) as much as possible, the dog should never be rewarded for jumping up on his own. He should only be rewarded if he’s asked to do so (i.e., if he’s given the command), and 2.) the dog should also never be punished for jumping up.

There are lots of mean ways some trainers discourage the behavior, like kneeing the dog in the chest, giving a painful leash correction, or hitting the dog with a rolled up towel, etc. The problem is, these techniques will have a negative effect on your dog's feelings of social attraction. And social attraction is what makes a dog feel like coming when called, etc.

In order to “enforce” the no jumping rule, all you need to do is make sure that whenever your dog jumps up without being asked, you simply twist sideways while saying, “Okay, off!” in a pleasant, inviting tone. His idea is to make contact; yours is to not let him unless you give him the command to jump up first. You do not need to scare or hurt the dog.

Jumping Up on Command

As for teaching your dog to jump up on command, that’s pretty simple too. Just show him a treat or a toy, hold it in front of his nose, then move it up to your knee or thigh, or wherever your dog would naturally put his paws if he wanted to jump up on you.

Then, as he jumps up, say “Okay, up!“ in an inviting tone and give him a treat or a toy to play with.

It might not seem like a good idea, but when first teaching your dog any new behavior it’s actually a good idea to give the command after the dog has already obeyed it, not before. I know it sounds backwards, but it actually works much better during the initial learning stages. For dogs who show a reluctance to jump up, try doing the exercise while you’re sitting down. Do that for a few days, then transition to teaching the dog to jump up while you’re in a standing position. Once you've gotten the dog to jump up on command, and the dog has taken the treat or toy from your hand, then you twist sideways while saying, “Okay, off!” in an inviting tone of voice. With most dogs you’ll only need to do this for a few days and he’ll have learned to jump up and get down on command—no more need for treats or toys.

Bigger Dogs, Shy Dogs

For bigger dogs, like Great Danes, have them jump up to an outstretched arm, or just have them lean up against you. (The love to lean!)

For dogs who are shy or nervous about jumping up, start from a sitting position or even by lying down on the floor. Gently encourage the dog to come make contact, starting with just one paw on your chest and building slowly and gently from there. Give yourself two weeks of short, two-minute sessions, several times a day to bring this type of dog along. For dogs who are too energetic about jumping up, teach them that they only get rewarded when they make calm, steady contact. No “pogo-ing” allowed! Then, after a few days, add a twist: hold the dog’s collar gently as you give him the treat or toy. Don’t let him jump down on his own. If he tries to break contact, hold him in place for a fraction of a second, then let him go while saying, “Okay, off!”

The goal here is to eventually teach the dog to only jump up on command.

Changing the Rules

Okay, now that the dog has learned the “Up!” and the “Okay, off!” it’s time to change things around a little! Stand as you usually do, then pat your knee or thigh, but don’t say “Up!” Just induce him to jump up without giving him the command. You can do this by using the treat and the hand gesture. When he tries to jump up without hearing the command or, step back or twist sideways so that he doesn’t make contact. Do this two or three times in a row, depending on how soon he starts to show uncertainty about what you want him to do. Then, on the third or fourth time, pat your knee or thigh and say, “Up!” Praise and pet him when he obeys.

This is important because you only want the dog to do this when he hears the commands so that he doesn’t think that jumping will be a constant free-for-all. And you also want to be very gentle in how you

With really hard cases—where the dog is always a bit out of control—you may have to put the leash on him, let it fall to the floor, then stand on it with just a little slack so that he self-corrects when he tries to jump up. When he realizes that the rules have changed, make sure to give him lots and lots of praise and throw a ball for him to chase and then play tug with him.

You really only need to do this for a few minutes—several times a day—for two or three days, and you’ll be surprised at how your dog no longer jumps up on you or house guests, yet is still socially attracted to you!


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© 2016 by Lee Charles Kelley.