Teaching a Dog to Stop Jumping

Question: Our cavapoo, almost 2, gets so excited when someone comes over. He jumps up on them for maybe 5 minutes then he’s his usual good boy. We’ve tried putting our knee up to deter this, as well as using the word Off in a loud voice but nothing stops this. Any other ideas? We are hoping it’s something he quits doing when he gets older. – Diane

For the most part, jumping up to greet new human friends is, in doggie terms, a nice, friendly behavior. To begin with, such enthusiasm is indicative of a people-social dog. Licking at another dog’s face, (if you bend down and allow a jumping dog to continue jumping on you, many will, of course, l lick your face) is a solicitous, appeasing gesture. Of course, we humans communicate differently and many of us do not appreciate such behavior the way another dog might.

Kneeing a dog in the chest is one of the older methodologies for dealing with jumping behavior. Even putting aside the divide between dog trainers who use such methods and those who use newer methods, there are a couple of problems with this technique. One is that there is probably some other body language accompanying the knee. The jumpee is probably addressing the dog in some way, whether with her eyes or voice; and and she’s certainly addressing the dog with her body. So is the knee doesn’t hurt/ surprise/ upset the dog enough to make her stop, then it’s actually rewarding her jumping because it qualifies as interaction with the human; which is just what she wants! Secondly, the most effective possible outcome of putting your knee up is that it deters your dog’s jumping; it tells her that jumping on guests is bad; but how is she to know what she is supposed to do when people come over? You’ve given her no alternate behavior. It’s much easier to remember to stop offering one behavior when there’s another, incompatible behavior to replace it.

Saying the word “off,” similarly, has some pitfalls. First, it doesn’t mean anything to your dog until you teach her what it means. Simply saying “Off!” to a dog (who’s doing what she thinks is appropriate), no matter the voice, will be as meaningful and as effective as saying “Off!” to a Moroccan child who’s never heard a word of English and who is simply sitting in a chair; or, as my saying to you (assuming you don’t have immediate access to translating software), “Выйти, Диван прямо сейчас!” In order to have meaning, the word must carry a consistent consequence. This is why, when teaching a dog a new behavior, we say a word, make it happen, then pay, or reward, it. After experiencing this sequence of events several times, the dog learns to associate the word with the behavior and the behavior with the reward. Similarly, when learning a word in a new language, it is repeatedly associated with an image (whether on paper or in your mind) of what it represents.

Secondly, as I said in the first case, simply telling your dog “off!” does not tell her what she should be doing. In order to stop your dog from jumping on guests, you must provide a consistent and relevant (to her) consequence, and teach her an incompatible alternate behavior.

What is the appropriate consequence for jumping on guests? Well, considering that what your dog wants is to interact with the person she’s jumping on, the most effective penalty is for the person to go away. Quite literally, immediately, and consistently; when your dog’s front paws come up, the person she’s trying to interact with turns and leaves. When she has all four paws on the ground (or when she’s sitting; that’s up to you), she can be petted; calmly, as a sudden exuberant burst of “good dog!”s  will incite more jumping. You dog now understands that jumping will not get her what she wants; and she knows an alternate behavior which will.

It may also be a good idea to get your dog a bed and put it off in a corner of the living room where you can tether your dog. Practice having her on her bed, with you giving her treats for sitting or laying down, perhaps with a nice stuffed kong or bone, while a guest enters and gets settled. After a few minutes, it will be easier for your dog to contain herself and remain calm. You can then release her to interact normally. Once she’s begun to associate sitting quietly on her bed with yummy treats, she shouldn’t need to be tethered. You can, in fact, teach her a verbal cue to ask her to go to her bed and lay in it when you need her to. This is a nice way to make sure that she’s not underfoot when there’s a bit of commotion and you need to focus on getting the humans settled; and it’s someplace where she will feel safe and happy and know what she’s supposed to be doing!


Guest Contributor–Danielle Grand has spent the last decade working to parlay her affinity for animals into a dog training career. While earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she was involved in an experimental study on canine cognition. She has also obtained her dog training certification from Animal Behavior College and attended numerous dog training seminars conducted by respected behaviorists. At home in New York’s capital region, she works closely with colleagues and mentors to expand her expertise; she hopes to help forge strong, happy relationships between many dogs and their humans.


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