In this article, I’m going to show you how to stop your Labrador jumping on people. That includes you and your visitors.
Does your Labrador leap on everyone that walks through your front door?
Does he bounce at strangers when you are outside trying to enjoy a walk?
An awful lot of people struggle with trying to stop their Labradors from jumping up on people.
Why do dogs jump up?
Young puppies jump up because they want to get near to your face. If you watch a mother dog greeting her puppies, you’ll see that they all run up to her and lick the sides of her mouth.
This is how puppies get adult dogs to regurgitate food for them to eat. Puppies do it to people too, and the behaviour often persists for many months as a kind of greeting gesture.
Young dogs also jump on each other as part of play – it is completely normal for dogs to do this. And because this is normal behaviour for young dogs in a family group, they do it to their human family members too
Why Labradors jump up more
They take a long time to reach maturity – emotionally – and are often very playful for several years.
Some Labradors are also quite excitable.
Why is jumping up worse in 1 year old labs
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. And weighs enough for you to really feel it when his paws hit the centre of your chest.
If the dog is not stopped at this point the problem is likely to get worse and often peaks at about one year old.
Is jumping up a behaviour problem?
I know quite a few people that don’t mind their dogs jumping up at all. To them, it isn’t a problem.
But for most of us, it is.
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?
Why do people let their Labradors jump up?
While there are a few thoughtless dog owners that are happy to let their dogs leap all over people, most do so for the simple reason that they cannot stop them.
Bad ways to stop dogs jumping up
Traditional methods are often ineffective. Usually 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.
1 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.
He will also thoroughly enjoy all the attention he is getting and if you provide him with something he enjoys while he is jumping up, he’ll jump up even more in the future.
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 only 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 your dog with a knee in the chest, or will he 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?
2 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.
And sometimes this works, especially to prevent the dog jumping on his owner. But usually, ignoring the dog is a part of the solution, rather than a solution in itself. You will need to incorporate some training techniques as well
In practice are three problems with ignoring the dog
- 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?
- You may be able to control this situation at home, with baby gates or barriers, but outdoors it’s another matter.
And, 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.
The best way to stop your dog jumping up
The answer is a two pronged approach
- Management – physically preventing the dog from jumping
- Training – teaching him not to jump
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
How to prevent your dog jumping up
Jumping up is one of the many behaviours dogs indulge in, that are ‘self-rewarding’. In other words just the very act of jumping up makes the dog happy.
So the more he does it, the more he wants to do it. We need to break that cycle and make sure that he is no longer rewarded by being permitted to do this.
Large dogs need to be physically prevented from jumping at people. Outdoors, you must prevent your dog jumping up using his leash.
If you can’t control him with his collar and lead you need to try a body harness, or as a last resort a head collar. This will help you control your dog until you have trained him.
Many Labradors are at their worst indoors, when visitors arrive. To avoid this, and give you back some control, you need to have your dog trail a 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 visitors arrive, before the dog 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.
How to train a dog never to jump up
Once you have your dog under control using a house-line, or leash, you can train him to greet people politely.
What you need to do next is to choose an alternative behaviour to the jumping. And then reward the dog for that behaviour. You can pick one of these
- Sit to say hello
- Four paws on the floor
Preparing for success
You need a little preparation in order to succeed.
- Have treats ready
- Distract the dog
- Mark the behaviour you like
- Follow the mark with a reward
Have treats ready
A lot of people fail because they don’t take the simple step of making sure they have something to reward the dog with when he gets it right. A pat and a kind word are not going to cut it. You need to be very generous at the beginning of training a new skill.
Later on, you can be less generous if you want to.
To start with make sure there is always a pot of training treats handy in your home. If you are out on a walk, make sure you have training treats in a treat bag clipped on to your belt, or in an easily accessible pocket.
Distract the dog
This isn’t necessary with all dogs, but if your dog is very excited it can help to distract him from your visitor by scattering some treats on the floor as they arrive.
This helps to break his focus on the visitors and get his attention on you as the source of all good things.
This is especially important if your visitors are people that have previously rewarded your dog for jumping up by petting him and making a fuss of him.
From now on, the rewards come from you, and only when all four feet are firmly on the ground.
Mark the behaviour you like
Practice marking behaviours you like and following them with a treat. This helps the dog to focus on you when you give your ‘mark’ and not on the visitor.
The mark is a word or sound you make that tells the dog YES you did the right thing.
You can practice doing this in the kitchen when there are no visitors about. Wait for your dog to sit, then say YES or GOOD and throw him a treat. Choose the marker word you are going to use, and stick to the same word. You can use a clicker instead if you prefer.
Reward good behaviour
Now when visitors come, you can prevent your dog jumping using your houseline, then wait for your dog to sit, or to keep all four paws on the floor, say ‘GOOD’ and then put a treat on the ground for him.
Feeding on the ground is better than from the hand because it reduces the chance of him jumping up for food.
Tips for training a dog to greet visitors politely
- Prevent jumping and lunging using restraint or barriers
- Distract the dog from visitors and refocus his attention by scattering food on the ground
- Reward polite behaviours using the mark and reward techniques outlined above
Advanced polite greetings!
As your dog becomes calmer and more manageable around visitors or passing strangers out on walks, you can teach him to take rewards politely from other people.
As him to sit as the visitor approaches and if he remains calm, give the visitor a treat to feed him with. Use the houseline or lead to control the situation and make sure he is unable to jump on people.
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.
More help with raising a well mannered dog
Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
How to stop your dog jumping up was originally published in October 2011. It has been completely revised, and updated for 2015.