No more jumping up: how to stop your Labrador leaping all over you and your visitors

An awful lot of people struggle with trying to stop their Labradors from jumping up on people.

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.

no more jumping upEven 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!

The answer is that jumping up can be very difficult to stop using the traditional methods that are so often recommended.

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.

Ouch!

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.

Three problems

In practice are three problems with this approach

  1. 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.
  2. It is actually quite difficult to ignore 80lbs of  labrador when he greets you after a swim
  3. 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

  • Management
  • Training

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

The ‘house-line’

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

Greeting politely

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. The article was written by Pippa Mattinson.   Pippa is the author of:  Total Recall – A complete recall training programme for dogs and puppies and The Happy Puppy Handbook   Both available online and at bookstores

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on October 27, 2014

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Sasha Heseltine June 8, 2012 at 10:36 am

Hi Pippa
Our two-year-old Lab Jazzie does not jump up on my husband or pull on the lead with him but persists in doing it to me; we think this is because I spoiled her when she was a pup and now she doesn’t listen to what I say. How can I correct her behavious towards me and mine towards her? We have three other older Labs and I have not had this problem with the others.
Sasha

Reply

Pippa June 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

Hi Sasha, did you watch the video at the bottom of the article? This is the method I recommend. Let me know what you think. Pippa

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IRMA October 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Hello My female Lab is 2years old and we moved from a home to a
townhouse. At the old house we had a field infront of us and she normally
run frealy but now she walks on a lead. She completely refuse to walk further than the corner of the road we stay in and frequently look back to the gate of the Complex. Is it because of fear?
She also talking to me in a way to say do not leave and try to grap/bite
my arm. Please assist me. She was a puppy when i got her.

Reply

Pippa October 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Hi Irma, it does sound as though your dog is afraid of the new location. Try and get her used to it as gradually as you can, and give her lots of nice rewards each time you take her out. If necessary you could even give her her dinner in the places that she is scared of to help her associate them with pleasure. Pippa

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Kim November 13, 2012 at 4:01 am

how do I get my lab used to the leash so I can take for walks? She hates the leash and will just sit down or wont budge shaking her head back and forth….Please help me…I really want to take her out for walks…

Reply

Pippa November 13, 2012 at 9:02 am

Hi Kim, there are some articles about lead walking on this page. If your Labrador is very young you will need to be patient and offer her lots of small rewards each time she moves along next to you. You can find puppy training articles here Pippa

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akshit January 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

hi,i have a lab of 2 months 8 days named Tyson. He comes to all the family members of our family but he ignores just 1 of them ,can you tell me why this happens and how to cure this.

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Pippa January 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Hi, You need to train your dog to recall to different people. He won’t do it automatically. Check out our recall training centre

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akshit January 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

but the problem with Tyson is that he recall all the family members and just ignores 1 of us

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Samantha January 7, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Hi Pippa
I am currently browsing this website looking for behavaioural help with my 7 month old lab named Cane. We went on holiday for one week over the festive period and left him at my dads house where he had a great time as my dad also has a lab of around two years old. Half way through the week he stopped eating his food (eukanuba) but i think it was because my dads dog gets wet food and possibly Cane was jealous. He was excited to see us when we got back however wasnt very pleased when we tried to take him home. Since then, nearly one week ago he has been very sad doesnt really want to play, still isnt eating his food even after a flavour change and seems to have an icky stomach and generally just wants to sleep all day long. This is very different to how he was before we left for holiday as he was very active and happy. What do you think is the matter with him and do you think we should take him to see a vet?

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Pippa January 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hi Samantha, there are so many reasons that a dog might be off colour, the best person to make a diagnosis really is your vet. Good luck and I hope your dog is ok. Pippa

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Jane McDougall April 4, 2013 at 7:04 am

We have a nine month old female chocolate lab . Who is nipping all visitors, who also are trying to ignore her , but she persists in nipping . How can we solve this. Other than putting her outside , or in another room.

Many thanks Jane .

Reply

Pippa April 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hi Jane, there is an article here on biting. But this is often also a training and overexcitement issue. It can be helpful to decide what you do want your dog to do when visitors come. Do you want her to lie in her basket? To sit quietly while she is stroked? These are things you can train for. You might also find this article helpful. Excitable Labrador Putting a shortish trailing line (house line) on the dog indoors will give you some more control whilst you work on training new behaviours
Pippa

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Maggie Thomas. Herefordshire uk May 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

Hi our 23month old lab Jack is brilliant on the lead in the garden,however he still will pull on the lead when out for a walk he is not as bad as he used to be but he sniffs alot which in turn allows him to pull. We have started to come back home when he pulls even if he has not been out long on that particular walk. I think we are getting there. he is a smashing loving dog and quick to learn but equally quick to distraction.

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NIGEL October 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Hi pipa, we have a 7 month female black lab, that jumps and want to mouth my rist, and my wifes, we do egnore, and turn around but she seems to persits to jump, we have the lead on as well at all time so we can control, but she thinks thats a game. can you help. Nigel

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Aileen Ross November 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Hi Pippa, My nearly 2 year old lab tends to sometimes jump up a me and grab my arm. I wouldn’t call it biting more of a grab. Its sometimes when I’m leaving the house or when she’s a wee bit over excited. I have tried to be firm and tell her no but its not working she then starts to bark and jump higher and grabs more. Its not a daily thing but I’m afraid in case it becomes one. Otherwise we don’t have any promlems generally with jumping up only this one. Thanks. Ax

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KAthleen February 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm

We have a Beautiful black lab whose name is Coda, she is2 years old. Coda would jump on all our visitors. They would just turn their backs to her and she would stop jumping . She no longer jumps on anyone coming in the home. My question I have about our Coda is sometimes she won’t eat , she asks for her ball and after a while of chewing on her ball she will eat. Why

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Amy February 22, 2014 at 4:34 am

Our 7 month labrador Busta, insists on pulling on the lead, jumping, digging and biting. He has many stimulating toys, yet he also enjoys biting everything. He really is getting out of control when we see other people or dogs, what can we do?
Thankyou :)

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Wendy March 18, 2014 at 1:04 am

Hi Pippa
We have an 11 week old puppy and wondered what you recommend to help stop him biting. Often he is biting us when we bring him inside from being outside. He is not left alone for long periods and we have to young children who he is playful with although doesn’t seem to bite.
Do we punish him for biting and how do I train him so he doesn’t bite the children?

Reply

Pippa March 18, 2014 at 8:29 am
Victoria July 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

My dog’s name is Scout. He jumps on me. When you walk away from him, he will bit you in the butt. Why?

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Victoria July 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Scout is 1 year old

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Dan C August 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm

My 2 year old chocolate lab will always jump up at guests regardless of if he knows them or not. We’ve resulted in putting him in the spare room but this isn’t very ideal due to the whining/barking. He’s a lovely and calm dog when he’s around us but turns into a completely different dog when a guest enters the house. It’s really quite a pain because I know that he’s a really good dog when with us. Any suggestions in stopping this hyper behaviour?

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Elaine Dyke August 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Could you please let me know how to stop our 2 year old labrador Alfie jumping up at people when he is out for a walk. He usually does this when he is about 20-30 yards away so it is impossible to grab him! We are hoping it is a phase and he will grow out of it but any help you can give would be marvellous. We want him to be a PAT dog which is not possible at the present time.
Elaine Dyke

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