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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice April 2018 Issue

Dear Doctor: The Puppy won’t stop Jumping on People

Q My new puppy is adorable, but at 12 weeks of age, he has already developed a habit of jumping on people. It’s clearly a sign of affection, but not everybody likes it. Besides, he’s a Lab, and I fear that as he grows, the excitement and happiness he exhibits by jumping is going to be taken with less and less good cheer by people we come across. I keep telling him “Down,” but it doesn’t work. Any suggestions?

Ellen Hughes

Abington, Massachusetts

Dear Ms. Hughes,

A Yup, we've been there. Especially when it’s wet out and the paws are muddy, people don’t appreciate paw prints on their pants — or shirts, if the dog is tall enough.

And yup, there are things you can do. For starters, don’t say “Down” but, rather, “Off.” A lot of people use “Down” for both “Don’t jump” and “Lie down with your chest on the ground,” and dogs will not be able to figure out the difference because of context. They’ll think you’re telling them to lie down while they’re jumping, which will make no sense to them.

Second, we presume your dog jumps on you, too, so teach him not to by starting with yourself. Let’s say your pup jumps up on you in excitement when you come in from outside. He’s cute — we know — and you want to make him feel good. But stand still with no reaction. Don’t do anything. Don’t tell him to “Stop it,” don’t pet him, don’t laugh at how adorably pushy he can be — don’t even push him off. Pushing him off as a response to jumping will make him think it’s a game — he pushes, you push back. What fun!

You really need to turn to stone. At first, that might make your young pup try even harder, jumping all the more. But the behavior will finally extinguish after a minute or two, or maybe even less time. When the jumping does stop, come alive. Immediately smile and praise him warmly and enthusiastically, pet him lovingly, and give him a reward in the form of a great treat.

It’s not going to work at first. He’ll still come back for more the next time you come in.

But after two or three more episodes, the lightbulb will start to go off. Add the word “Off” when he starts his antics. He’ll get the hang of the outcome you seek — and the one he seeks (a treat) — in pretty short order.

A word to the wise: until your dog learns that jumping up on people is not acceptable, do not let him get close enough to favorite passers-by on walks to let him do the deed. When he starts to try to jump up toward someone even though you are several feet away, use the same “Off” and the same immediate reward of praise and a treat — even though it’s you who are making sure he follows through. That rote repetition will help him to understand what gets your approval — which he wants more than anything.

Comments (4)

Well,I taught my dog, "No people". Not only is it a useful command at the front door, but when my guests are seated having cocktails, I also give her that command when she is near someone who doesn't like dogs. When I give the command at the front door, I make sure that I am hugging & touching her affectionately. She understands that I am telling her not to interact with the person she is presently interacting with. I am often in the dark as to how dogs figure out meaning.
I'm changing the subject a bit, but how did she figure out what the word, "gentle" means when she is taking food from my fingers??? She adjusts her behavior from grabbing something ravenously to taking it gently and softly

Posted by: Deja vu | April 24, 2018 3:21 PM    Report this comment

My GSD pup learned not to jump.....visitors feared the jumping, I did too, especially when nails scratched skin or snagged clothing. Also not good around children! Instead of jumping on me and her favorite people when arriving, she then jumped around in circles in her excitement.....she still got her jumping in and was still as happy to see me, but once she learned, she never jumped on anyone. It's dangerous when a large dog is allowed to jump on people, especially children and elderly.

Posted by: icicle | April 24, 2018 12:53 PM    Report this comment

I have used the method described in the article with many dogs over 25 years and it works quickly and wonderfully! Put arms to sides, no eye contact, say nothing--dog becomes disinterested in you quickly and slides off. Do this just a few times and they get it and then you can add the 'off' command (but it will be rarely needed). As soon as they have "four on the floor," you can lavishly pet/praise them. I do not have to put my dogs up when guests arrive. None of my dogs jump on people and therefore are a delight to have around even when company is present. They still have enthusiasm plus!

Posted by: SharonScott | April 23, 2018 4:05 PM    Report this comment

Yup, the above method works. I used it on one of my dogs a long time ago and decided never to use it again. The dog quickly learned not to jump, but then the dog was not enthusiastic when I would return home from work. He would nicely say"hello, how have you been". I would rather have the jumping and a "boy an I glad to see you" than that!. Probably, it would be better to just teach the dog to sit when asked - no matter what.

Posted by: Lassiea#1 | April 23, 2018 3:25 PM    Report this comment

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