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How to Stop Dogs Jumping on Guests

Most dog owners have run into the problem of an excited pet who jumps up on guests to greet them. While dogs jumping can be cute, it isn’t cute when your pet has grown up. It can even lead to either the guest or the dog being injured.  A recent reader asks Kristen White how she can stop dogs jumping on her guests.

My dogs insist on barking at and jumping up on guests when they come into the house. I’ve tried disciplining them, but they don’t pay much attention because they are so excited and people tend to give them attention when they jump up. What are some tips for stopping the jumping? I don’t want to have to crate my dogs when company comes because otherwise they’re very well behaved and they love people.                                                              – Abigail, Georgia

Kristen’s response:

“Jumping is one of the more difficult behaviors to stop once it has started. The key is to either ignore the behaviour completely and only give attention if all four paws are on the ground or ask for an incompatible behaviour such as ‘sit’ and reward that behaviour. Saying ‘no’ or pushing your dog away is still paying attention to the behaviour and reinforces it. Dogs will take negative attention over no attention.

Consistency is Key

If your dog has been doing it for a long time, it will take a while to get the behaviour to decrease. She will likely go through what is called an ‘extinction burst’, which is where they try harder at a behaviour that has worked for them before giving up. It is the extinction burst that is hard for people to get past. The other issue that makes extinguishing jumping difficult is the other people that she will encounter.

Enlist the Help of Guests

I often hear people say “It’s okay, I don’t mind” when a dog jumps on them. Unfortunately, this puts the behaviour on what is called ‘variable reinforcement,’ making it that much harder to get rid of. Think of a slot machine – people continue to put money in, in the anticipation of the eventual pay off. It is the same idea with jumping. The dog will continue to jump because occasionally someone rewards the behaviour. You have to make sure that everyone that encounters your dog ignores her until she has all paws on the ground or ask her for a sit. Be consistent!

Alternatives for Dogs Jumping on Guests

One slip up by a person she encounters can spontaneously reinforce the jumping and you’ll have to start over. If you aren’t in a position in the home to make sure the jumping is ignored, then you can also tether her to restrict her from jumping on guests. This is attaching her leash to a piece of furniture so she cannot move enough to jump up. This way she can be in the same room as you and your guests until she calms down. If she has been jumping for a long time, then it will take a long time to stop the behaviour. Be patient and consistent and you should see results.”

You can learn more about Susan H. Smith on our Contributors page.

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