We have all heard commands like “down, Spot" and “down, Princess" with desperation in the guardian's voice to stop the dog from jumping on the door and people. Trying to communicate with a determined dog to prevent jumping is often an act of futility. Perhaps, even YOU have given the command to little or no avail. How you stop the dog from jumping is a universal problem, but having a better understanding of what is motivating the canine's behavior can go a long way toward addressing it.
Some dog guardians don't mind if their dogs jump up on the door or people in an excited greeting.
The last thing we want to do is take the enthusiasm out of our pets’ personality and make them feel they can't be excited to see us, but we want to prevent the dog from jumping up on other people. It can be awkward to others unappreciative of such attention, and even dangerous.
So why does the dog jump up on people?
As simple as it sounds, dogs literally jump for joy. Over-excitement is often the answer. Jumping behavior is partly instinctive. Puppies will jump over one another for their mother's attention. Dogs will lick each others’ faces in greeting. A lower-ranking member of a wolf pack would instinctively lick the faces of the higher-ranking wolves returning from the hunt. This is a carry-over behavior ingrained from pack ancestry when puppies would target their mother's face, as she would typically regurgitate food for her litter, another reflection of the wolf pack.
We often positively reinforce the behavior, however momentarily.
People become excited when they greet their pet companions after an extended absence, as well as when they are met by their jumping dogs. We immediately offer praise, treats, walks and/or play activity with enthusiastic engagement right after getting jumped on in the greeting process. In this way, jumping becomes part of the routine, and is rewarded and reinforced.
Although less common, our canine companion may be trying to establish dominance.
Understanding the dog's body language will help you stop your dog from jumping. Dogs jump up on each other as an expression of dominance within pack mentality. In particular, they may rest their head, paw or both paws on the shoulder of a dog they want to dominate with exertion of downward pressure. Because we walk on two legs, it's more difficult to get us to succumb under the directional force, but the motivation is the same. The dog may be trying to express dominant status. If such is the motivation, the dog often may jump up once and lean on you.
Stopping your dog from jumping may also be stopping dominant behavior.
A disobedient dog isn't necessarily dumb if it doesn't listen to you. While still thinking the world of you as a companion, it may decide not to recognize you as its superior in the pack hierarchy. You may wish to stop the dog from jumping up on you, but, male or female, it may be exhibiting one of many behaviors of the Alpha dog.
Stopping the dog from jumping will involve heavier correction if it's an expression of dominance.
This doesn't require harsh physical punishment, and screaming is never necessary. However, you need to do more than simply ignore the dog when it jumps; you must train it to sit and settle before getting your attention. If necessary, a sharp growling tone to the voice in a “sit" or “down" command, even forcing the dog down and holding it down until it's still, are corrections that will short-circuit this behavior. The good news is a well-trained dog can learn to jump up only when “invited" to do so by its owner. This is fine for playtime. But let's learn the rules before we break them.
The plan that will stop the dog from jumping on the door and visitors
Anticipate the dog will jump and put both hands out in front of you and stand still. With repetition, the dog will learn this gesture as a signal not to jump on the door or you. Don't verbalize any commands UNTIL the dog has demonstrated the correct behavior. Only when your dog gets down on its own accord do you use the “down" command to accompany the behavior. This is how the dog learns the command and what is expected.
Patience and consistency are required; results are not immediate.
To train your dog not to jump, it is more important to know what not to do. Do not get overly excited when greeting your dog, thereby getting your dog more excited than it already is. Do not forcefully push the dog away from you. This will be interpreted as playful engagement. Turn away from the dog and calmly give the command to sit. When it has calmed down, and ideally responded to the sit command, you can turn and greet the dog. If it starts jumping again, repeat the process. To keep a dog from jumping, people will often put a knee up, but turning your back to the dog is better.
Try to greet the dog at its level.
A non-threatening posture is to squat or kneel down, and open your palms toward the dog. This is interpreted as kindness. We appreciate when others meet us on the same level and your dog is no different. Just be sure it's acting properly and has earned the gesture.
Who is the alpha dog, is it you?
Establish your position as the dominant member of your pack. Give a calm and firm “stay down" warning in advance just before you open the door for a visitor. Your dog will sense your composure and assertiveness, and start to understand that there is no reason to “freak out" every time the door opens.
If all else fails in stopping the dog from jumping
If you have not made progress in stopping the dog from jumping on the door and people, in spite of due diligence, then the solution could well be a need for an energy outlet that is not being met. Dogs require plenty of exercise and if they have no other outlet for their energy, they will find one, and that may include jumping up and down, be it on the door or people visiting. A walk will do you both good.
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