And a great many of them give up the battle.
Jumping up is a behaviour that typically sneaks up on you.
After all, a three month old Labrador puppy is simply cute when he stands on his little hind legs and puts his paws on your knee.
The problems begin to arise when your labrador reaches six or seven months old.
Jumping up is just playing – isn’t it?
An adult Labrador can weigh seventy to eighty pounds or more.
Even if you don’t much mind your best friend resting his paws on your shoulders so that he can greet you when you return home, the chances are, your friends and relatives may be less enthusiastic.
“He’s just playing” will wear thin as he gets bigger.
So why do so many Labrador owners let their dogs carry on leaping all over visitors, scratching their bare arms, knocking over their toddlers, and ruining their clothes?
It’s so hard to stop him!
This is because these methods rely on some kind of action or reaction from the person being jumped on.
And because they fail to take into account how dogs play and interact with one another.
Let’s take a look at some of those traditional approaches.
The ‘knee in the chest’ approach
A popular traditional method for stopping dogs jumping up requires the person being jumped on, to lift up his knee.
This means that the dog meets a pointy object instead of your nice soft tummy when he hurtles toward you.
The initial problem with this method are firstly that for most people it is a natural reaction not just to raise the knee, but to use momentum and actively push the dog in the chest with their knee.
With a smaller dog this can actually cause injury.
With a larger one it can also hurt your knee! It looks pretty undignified too, and unbalances the person being jumped on so they are more likely to fall over when the dog collides with them.
Let’s not get physical
More importantly, unless you cause the dog considerable pain, shoving the dog in the chest actually encourages many young dogs to repeat their behaviour.
This is because pushing and shoving is a normal part of dog play. Your dog will simply think this is a fantastic game.
Generally speaking, getting involved in a physical tussle whilst training your dog is never a good idea. Especially with a boisterous and powerful young labrador.
What about Granny?
However these are not the main reasons for rejecting this method. The main reason is that to be successful it depends on the dog getting the same response no matter whom it jumps on.
This is fraught with difficulty.
Is your two year old nephew going to oblige, or simply fall flat on his face? What about your granny who thinks that getting up close and personal with your Labrador balanced on her chest is the best fun she has had all week.
A training method that puts people in hospital, or that relies on everyone who comes in contact with the dog to do the ‘right thing’ is not much very much use.
So, if we are not going to hurt the dog to stop him jumping up, what about ignoring him?
Ignoring the dog?
Some trainers will recommend that you simply ignore the dog when he jumps up. It is true to say, that the dog will stop carrying out a behaviour that is completely unrewarded.
In theory if you simply fold your arms and turn your back on your dog, he won’t receive any reinforcement for jumping up, and jumping up will therefore naturally die out.
In practice are three problems with this approach
- Some dogs find the act of jumping up and down and bashing into your back quite rewarding in itself, even if you ignore them completely.
- It is actually quite difficult to ignore 80lbs of labrador when he greets you after a swim
- It is impossible to ensure that everyone he does it to will ignore him. Is the toddler you just picked up off the floor going to turn his back and ignore the dog? Is Granny?
Just as with the knee in the chest method, not everyone will follow your advice. For some reason best known to themselves, there are people out there who enjoy being embraced by a large wet dog, and will make a big fuss of him when he jumps up, no matter what you say.
Where do we go from here?
So once again, you are in the difficult situation of having a technique that relies on every potential victim / visitor carrying out your instructions. And the simple fact is, most of them are simply not going to do that.
We need something more. We need a method which prevents the dog being rewarded for jumping up, but which also offers him another more acceptable way of greeting people.
The two pronged approach
The answer is a two pronged approach
We need to first manage the jumping up to stop the dog being reinforced for it and to protect visitors and vulnerable family members.
We then need to teach the dog a polite way to greet guests. Or people he meets in the street. Used together these two strategies form a winning combination
Outdoors, with your dog on a leash it is a simple matter to prevent him jumping up on people. At home, when he is romping around the house, it is a very different story.
The management technique you need to use in this situation is the ‘house line’. The house line is simply a short training lead that ‘his bounciness’ wears everywhere he goes whilst indoors.
It’s best to attach the house line to a body harness so that you have control over the dog without yanking on his neck.
Every time he attempts to jumps up, the houseline can be grasped firmly to enable you to detach him from your visitor, or preferably to prevent him getting near enough to jump up in the first place.
It is much easier to manipulate a wriggling dog wearing a house-line than one wearing just a collar.
The house line is however simply a management tool. It doesn’t teach your dog how to behave.
You are going to need to do that using a simple training technique
Once you have your dog under control using a house-line, you can train him to greet people politely using one of two techniques
- Sit to say hello
- Four paws on the floor
This short video from Battersea Dogs Home illustrates the ‘sit to say hello’ technique
You can watch the four paws on the floor approach on the Kikopup Youtube channel, and Kikopup has lots of other fun videos which will help you train your dog without any force.
We strongly recommend this clicker solution to your jumping up problem. Let us know if you have any other suggestions or questions about the method.
Find out more about your dog’s behaviour
If you would like to find out more about how dogs think and learn, and to improve your ability to influence your dog in many different ways, check out my ebook: How to Win at Dog Training
How to stop your dog jumping up was originally published in October 2011. It has been completely revised, expanded, and updated.
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