Jumping up can be endearing when a puppy is very young. However a dog has no concept of how heavy, big or muddy there paws and legs are, so when they get older it can become problematic. Jumping up can be painful because of the weight of the dog and if they have long nails this can also be very painful and cause bruising too. If an elderly relative has very thin skin this can tear if a dog jumps up. Sadly, I’ve known elderly people have to go to hospital because a dog has jumped up at them, scratched their skin and caused a nasty tear and infection.
Why do dogs jump up?
A lot of dogs get heavily reinforced for jumping up. We often give them eye contact, speak to them (by telling them to get off), and push them down. This is three forms of attention from the dogs perspective and what gets rewarded gets repeated. If the motivation behind a behaviour is attention, then if we do any or all of the three aforementioned forms of attention then the dog receives what they are looking for. If you have seen two dogs sparring with each other you’ll notice that they often go up on their back legs and take it in turns to bat the other one down. In theory, this could be a similar behaviour to what we do when we push a dog down when they jump up at us.
It’s sensible to cross your arms and look away from your dog if they do jump up.
You can teach a dog to jump up on cue (if you’d like them to jump up at you only).
How can you prevent it?
Have a rule from a young age that a dog will only be reinforced (get food, eye contact and attention) when they have all four paws on the floor. Ask people politely to only greet your puppy when they do this. A lot of people will understand if you explain that you don’t want your dog to get into the habit of jumping up at people – especially children or elderly people. Also make sure you reward your dog for any behaviour that involves them not jumping up when they walk past people.
When you come home, have something ready to throw down the hall such as toy – that way your dog can scuttle after that rather than jumping up.
Also use management – have the lead on so your dog doesn’t practice the behaviour and reward them for having all paws on the floor.
If you need some support with jumping up behaviour then consider joining my adolescent dog classes.