How to Train Your Dog Not to Jump
Many dogs have a propensity to jump on people at least some of the time. How often this happens revolves around your dog’s breed and his or her individual personality. One particular argument surmises that dogs jump because they are trying to get close to someone’s face; they do this not to attack that person, but to facilitate interaction. Dogs do this with each other as well, only in that case, their faces are close to each other (especially if they’re of comparable breeds or sizes). Dogs use both sight and smell to explore.
Therefore, one way to get your dog to stop jumping is to remove his or her need to reach out to you. Instead, kneel down and “get on the dog’s level.” Let your dog explore your face safely, at the same time watching for too much assertiveness on the dog’s part. Most dogs won’t bite their owners this way, especially if the owner has assumed the “alpha” position, or leader of the pack position.
If you’ve just adopted an older dog and don’t know his or her personality, take some precautions to make sure you won’t be injured when you do this. To protect yourself and train the dog, put a collar on the dog and insert your thumb behind the dog’s neck between the collar and the dog’s neck. If the dog shows signs of aggression, jerk your thumb sideways.
The idea here is not to injure the dog or to punish him or her, but to teach the dog and to protect yourself from any aggression at the same time. A dog’s neck muscles are very strong, but his or her throat can be very easily bruised. Therefore, you should not pull sharply backwards, but instead use the sideways jerking motion as previously described.
You can also practice off leash training to teach your dog not to jump. Wear some rugged pants that will protect you and have your dog stand in front of you. You can, of course, train your dog to “sit” as a way to get him or her to stop jumping, but it’s not possible to get your dog to sit all the time. Most often, a dog jumps when he or she has been standing or running. Therefore, you need to start this exercise with your dog in a standing position.
Your dog will have a particular body language that you can see if he or she is about to jump. If you see this, order your dog to “sit.” If the dog still jumps, lift your leg ever so slightly and gently nudge the dog’s chest with your thigh or knee. At the same time, put your hand palm out near the dog’s face, saying, “Off!” as you do so. (You shouldn’t say “down,” since this indicates a separate behavior.)
Again, when you do this, be gentle. Don’t knock your dog in the chest overly hard, and don’t push your hand into his or her face. Your raised knee or thigh simply blocks the dog from jumping and puts it slightly off balance. You’re putting your hand palm up and outward as you do so to block the dog’s vision and discourage him or her from jumping again.
If you can work with a partner to train your dog, you may decide you want to use leash training instead, especially if the dog is particularly stubborn about jumping. In that case, when the dog begins to jump, have your partner jerk the dog sideways as you say, “Off!” You, not your partner, should say, “Off!” It’s you the dog needs to focus on and respond to.
If you don’t have a partner and you are working outside, you can wrap the leash (assuming it’s long) around a post or tree. This is somewhat more difficult, because the dog will be jerked backwards instead of sideways, which is less helpful than a sideways jerk.
You can also use positive reinforcement to train your dog. Take a favorite toy or a treat in your hand and when the dog begins to jump, hold the treat or toy slightly behind and above your dog’s head. This will distract your dog and somewhat “unbalance” him or her. It also encourages the dog to sit even though the initial impulse was to jump.
Using repetition and being consistent are key when you want to train your dog not to jump, and as is true of any training. Be firm but patient, and most dogs will learn to suppress their natural urge to jump until you give them permission to do so.