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Why Does My Dog Jump on Visitors, and What Do I Do?

Dogs, especially young dogs, can become easily excited, and one of the things that excites them most is when visitors come to the house. It’s a chance to greet old friends, and maybe make new friends, too. It can be a problem, though, when dogs express their excitement by jumping on guests.

You may even have unwittingly encouraged this behavior. Perhaps when he was a puppy, you rewarded him with cuddles and petting when he jumped into your lap. He’s learned that when he jumps up, good things will happen. So you’ve created a bad habit. The good news is, it can be unlearned.

Follow these tips, and soon you’ll have a well-behaved dog that your guests will be happy to greet.

1. Begin with Basic Obedience Training

If you haven’t already been doing basic obedience training with your dog, you will need to start. Simply teaching your dog to sit and stay can be enough to keep your dog from jumping on your visitors. Make sure your guests know that they should not pet the dog until he is sitting politely.

2. Don’t Reward the Behavior

Teach your dog that jumping is not going to be rewarded. When he jumps on you, gently push him off, and ignore him. Make sure your guests know to do the same. Your dog wants attention, so teach him that undesirable behavior is going to get him the exact opposite of what he wants.

3. Desensitize

Often, just the sound of the doorbell is enough to motivate a dog to get ready to jump on a guest. You can desensitize him by recruiting a helper to ring the doorbell repeatedly until the dog loses interest. You might also let your dog look out a window at people who are ringing the doorbell. Recruit several helpers, and have them take turns ringing the doorbell and then leaving. This teaches the dog that the doorbell may mean that nothing much is going to happen – in other words, that no one is going to come inside. He’ll be less excited when you actually do admit a bell-ringer to your home.

4. Take it Up a Notch

Next, have several helpers ring the doorbell. Admit them, one by one, to your home. If the dog jumps on one of your helpers, have them leave. This teaches your dog that he will lose the pleasure of their company if he jumps. Dogs want good things to happen, and a friend leaving without paying attention to him is not a good thing.

5. Be Consistent

Some of your guests are probably going to say “Oh, I don’t mind,” and maybe some of them actually love having a friendly dog bounce them. Others are going to be less than enthusiastic. So be firm with your guests as well as with your dog. Tell them, “It’s great that you love being friends with him, but I really don’t want him jumping. Some people don’t like it, so I’d be really grateful if you’d help me train him to stay down. You can pet him once he’s sitting.” You don’t want your dog to get the idea that it’s okay to jump on some people, but not on others.

6. Reward Your Dog

Don’t punish your dog or shout at him for jumping. Positive reinforcement is always best. This goes back to the idea that dogs like it when good things happen. So, when he sits calmly in the presence of a guest, give him a treat, and tell him what a good dog he is. If he’s ignored when he jumps, and rewarded when he doesn’t, he’ll soon get the idea that although nothing terrible is going to happen if he jumps, something good will happen if he behaves.

The Final Word

If you’ve been rewarding your dog for jumping, it’s not too late to change the behavior. Be firm, but also be kind and consistent. You don’t want your dog to be afraid that you’ll punish him if he jumps – you want him to understand that if he jumps, no one is going to pay attention to him. If he doesn’t jump, he’ll be rewarded with a treat, or with petting and kind words once he’s in a sitting position. Keep in mind, of course, that you’ll have to do a bit of training with your guests as well as your dog.