Any dog that jumps up at people is regarded as having bad manners, is a downright irritation and has never been recognized by its owner as a public nuisance.
In most cases the individual dog has the inherent propensity to jump which is then reinforced by the human attention, whether it is encouragement or rejection, which results from this action. Certain breeds are more excitable and physical by nature e.g. Boxers, German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers and Dobermanns and more inclined towards this behaviour whereas the Chow-Chow, Basset Hound and Clumber Spaniel are far less inclined to jump up due to their anatomical conformation and temperament.
It is usually the owner’s ignorance and culpability when they greet their pet dog on arriving home that stimulates this unacceptable behaviour. Most pet owners cannot control their emotions when they make contact with the novelty of a puppy. People scream with excitement and instill a motivation in the animal to become hyper-excitable with human contact. Unfortunately, some dogs cannot control themselves during this hyped-up greeting and while some will urinate from neurogenic excitement or bolt around the house as a frisson, many will attempt to jump up to make a facial contact greeting, as it occurs in nature in the pack system, the only difference is that the dog is plantigrade (on all fours) while their owners are digitigrade (in erect position on their hind feet) and in order to achieve the meet-and-greet behaviour the jumping becomes necessary.
In the early stages of the human-pup relationship people think that jumping is “cute” and “sweet”. Puppy-hood is very short and when the dog is bigger the jumping up at people has many annoying implications. Family members or visitors can get their clothing soiled before going out or on arrival home. Some visitors have had very expensive and sentimentally valuable clothing torn by the dog’s nails during the leaping process. Children, the elderly and disabled people have been very badly injured by a dog bounding at them, some with fatal injuries – even young able-bodied people have lost their balance and been sent flying by an undisciplined mutt. I have seen how people encourage their Poodles, Fox Terriers and Jack Russells to jump into their arms when they arrive home. What for? Dogs that can be trained to do this, inadvertently, can easily land a bite in an unsuspecting person’s face. One is not always hands-free and ready. Some dogs can fall backwards and damage their back or cause chronic ligament damage in their knees and hips. I have also seen medium-sized breeds weighing up to thirty kilos take a running leap into their owners arms. This is reckless, immature and stupid. Dogs must keep their feet on terra firma – some people regard jumping up as fun, love or a party joke, until it hurts someone. Dogs can only behave in this badly-mannered way if the owners have taught them to do it – by constant reinforcement.
It is unfair and dangerous for dog owners to create this activity, to reinforce this unacceptable behaviour and not take responsible steps to curtail the jumping up at people.
This has to be prevented or cured across the board – it is hopeless for family members to allow it and expect the dog to discriminate by suddenly respecting guests – a dog cannot do this. Animal behaviourists and veterinarians will identify this behaviour as a clear signal that there is no discipline within the home and that the owners are subservient to their dog. It is a travesty and tragedy that the dog has no rules or parameters – a sure recipe for an unhappy, insecure and dysfunctional pet – here is an example where dogs do take after their owners.
Ignoring the jumper infrequently helps to reduce the frequency of the habit. Even when punishment is applied, the behaviour can be surprisingly persistent. The reason for this is attributed to the fact that jumping up at people falls in to a high-order class of attention-seeking. Most puppies do not learn, in the act, what to do by being punished for most behaviour problems. A punishment can indicate to your puppy that the deed is uncomfortable or that it has made a mistake but it does not direct the puppy what to do instead. Dogs need to be given more pleasant alternatives which will incite the desire to repeat the positive action. There are a variety of suggestions for stopping a dog leaping up at people.
One can interrupt the action by having the dog on a lengthy leash and setting up the scenario. As soon as the dog intends jumping up at an approaching person it can be yanked backwards so that the deed is averted, the pup has no idea who is at the end of the line and when the pup looks around for reassurance after being puzzled by the whiplash it may then be rewarded for being in a sitting or standing position. This may be repeated several times and often results are achieved provided the advancing person avoids eye contact and does not stimulate the dog’s emotions. It is important to brief friends, family and visitors beforehand not to reinforce the jumping behaviour.
Some people advocate turning one’s back on the dog when it shows the gleam in its eye to jump up. Once the back is turned, without talking or looking to the dog wait for it to settle, then you can turn and continue in your intended direction simultaneously rewarding the dog for being calm.
Some recommend tossing a toy or a treat to redirect the dog’s behaviour before the jump happens.
The piston-type method of kneeing the dog in its chest during the act of leaping produces excellent and rapid results but is offensive to many pet owners and trainers. The dog is not kicked, but, rather, without looking the dog in the eye the knee is brought up until parallel to the ground and jammed into the chest of the jumping dog. This is not intended to hurt the dog but rather alarm it. Most dogs will never attempt a third jump and can be cured for life provided you know how to do this. The dog does not associate the person with the aversive approach as the dog is making eye contact and the knee is coming up from underneath. If people apply this method and are too gentle the dog will eventually be doing the same thing with those people that turn their backs during greeting – the dog will learn to jump up on to the person’s back – anecdotally I know of one person who got seriously mauled by his dog grabbing his neck from behind.
Ideally the dog owner and pet should subscribe to obedience training at a reputable dog training school. As part of the training the dog owner is taught to train the dog. One of the most important aspects of the course is to teach a dog to sit on command. Many people shout “Sit!” to their dogs in veterinary waiting rooms when the dog has never been taught to associate that particular command and word with the position of sitting on its haunches. Most people have the illusion that dogs are born with a vocabulary and cannot understand why it will not listen. Once the dog trainer has taught the dog owner to teach its pet to sit most behaviour problems can be prevented or cured. As a example, if one arrives home and you do not want your dog to jump up at you, command it to sit, give it a reward and then Bob’s-your-uncle. It is amazing how the dog enjoys responding and receiving the reinforcement of a treat for obeying. This needs to be practiced at every opportunity until it becomes a habit for the dog not to jump up at visitors or family.
The dog needs to be polite and a canine good citizen. It is your social duty to prevent your dog from leaping up on people, even when they say they don’t mind – some people do, so there must be consistency.
If you fail to stop your dog for jumping up, the least you can do is apologise, pay for the dry cleaning, foot the bill for any hospital expenses and make sure that you are heavily insured as one day someone who really knows the law and is seriously hurt and angry will take you to the cleaners and I guarantee you that they will not be the local laundry.