How Tolstoy Taught My Dog Not To Jump – Quick Tips

Is there anything more annoying than having a dog jumping on you when you’re trying to do something?

Okay, maybe you don’t understand if your dog weighs less than 20 pounds. But if you live with a big dog, you know what I mean.

Big jumping dogs knock you off-balance. Slobber on your face. And tear stuff out of your hands.

Honey the golden retriever thinks dog lovers are weird.

Of course, maybe the “no jumping” thing would go easier if I didn’t have a training saboteur in the house.

Unless you can teach your dog what a friend of mine did: jump all you want but don’t touch a human. Yes, my friend’s 65 pound dog jumps vertically in excitement without laying a paw on anyone. It’s adorable.

But my dog Honey doesn’t balance so well. When she jumps on someone she puts all her weight on them.

I’ve discovered a secret. And I’ll share it with you.

Honey the Golden Retriever plays with Mike.

And yet again. More jumping.

Teaching A Dog Not To Jump

When Honey came to live with us as a pup, we took the standard advice for teaching her not to jump: don’t reward her for jumping.

It’s simple.

Every time she jumped on us, we’d turn our back on her and ignore her. Once she stopped jumping, we’d stoop down and give her lovies.

Honey is a smart girl. And she’s highly motivated by lovies. So it wasn’t long before she always greeted us with four-on-the-floor.

Although I could walk in the door unmolested before Honey was a year old, she would still jump up at other times. And I struggled to figure out how to stop her. Until I noticed what caused Honey to jump. And I took a lesson from Tolstoy on how to stop her.

Honey the Golden Retriever plays tug on the beach with her person.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Tolstoy As Dog Trainer

Tolstoy wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

I’d rewrite it as, “Everyone thinks of changing her dog…”

In other words, to keep Honey from jumping on me, I would have to change.

I noticed that Honey was jumping because she was curious about something I was holding. I also noticed that she was more likely to jump on friends or family members who fidgeted or were carrying things in their hands.

First, I kept my hands very still or at my sides when I Honey was already excited. And secondly, when I did have something in my hands, I let her sniff it.

Putting groceries away? If she was curious, I’d hold an item at nose level and let her sniff.

Bringing the mail inside? Let Honey sniff.

And the crazy thing? It worked.

Honey never (well, rarely) jumps on me. And just because I noticed that she was jumping because she was curious. And because I found a way to satisfy her curiosity.

Now if only I could perfect her behavior with visitors.

Honey the golden retriever wants to sniff.

But I just want to sniff what’s in your mouth.

Dog Training Is People Training

My father likes to pet Honey. But only when she’s perfectly calm and relaxed.

Unfortunately, he starts petting her before she’s calmed down and they get caught in a circle of over excitement.

If I could teach him to sit with relaxed hands instead of being fidgety, Honey would stop jumping. And the two could have what they both want more quickly.

Unfortunately, dads are harder to train than golden retrievers. Maybe I need to send him a copy of War and Peace to read.

Disclaimer: The “let her sniff” method only works if your dog won’t grab what’s in your hand and run with it. That’s why this method works with Honey. If you put a bag of treats at nose level and your dog takes off running, you might want to figure out a new way to keep your dog from jumping up.

Your Turn: Can you think of a time when changing your behavior helped your dog behave better? Please share. I’m always looking for new tips.

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  1. That’s a pretty good idea. Torrey will jump for a second, but is good at getting down. Sometimes he doesn’t jump at all and I will bend down and pet her. Roxy can be a jumping bean, but she doesn’t get far off the floor.

    • You have an in-home example of the difference between having a medium-to-large dog jumping up and a small dog. I bet you hardly register Roxy jumping on your legs. :)

      I also find that you’re method of bending down to pet your dog is a good one. After all, they just want to be close to us.

  2. Harley’s a jumper as a greeter. It’s so hard to stop him. It’s as if he associates this behavior as his way of saying “welcome, come on in” i’ve tried everything, but it’s sadly become his personality and unfortunately I’ve given up trying to alter the behavior. #hopeless

    • Or it’s his way of saying, “The plane! The plane!”

      I just keep seeing that picture of him next to your own Mr. Roarke in a tux. :)

      I’ve been desperate to work on jumping with Honey because I have some frail people in our lives that aren’t strong enough to stand up to a golden (or doodle) greeting.

      If Harley stops jumping someday, you’re probably going to really miss the behavior.

  3. My mom likes having us jump on her and put up paws and give hugs, but the problem is we don’t distinguish between okay with Mom, not okay with others. With Katie, she finally got old enough she couldn’t jump up, problem solved. Bailie is pretty good about staying down when told, with me it is always a crap shoot. Oh well, luckily, we don’t get visitors too often.

    • I once read about a woman who bred and trained Irish wolfhounds. She taught them they could jump up on her for greetings when she was wearing pants but not when she was wearing dresses.

      Apparently it worked very well. Except she never could teach the dogs to distinguish between dress pants and jeans.

      Maybe that would be a fun trick to work on with your mom?

  4. I’ve heard (and don’t quote me on it) a good way to train your dog not to jump is to train your dog to jump on command. The theory is that once the jumping becomes a command, the dog doesn’t do it unless it’s requested of them.

    Of course, I have a jumper, but she really only jumps on me or the Hubs.

    • As you can tell from the pictures, Mike has that command down pat. :)

      You’re lucky Delilah only jumps on family. Honey never jumps on me (unless I ask her to) but I do struggle training outsiders. :)

  5. Have you shared something similar to this before, or are we just so in sync that I know what you are writing before you publish it as although a brilliant post I am thinking I knew this?!

  6. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband, to my Wife:
    You’ve also trained Honey not to sneak out of the house to fetch me all the junk food a twenty-dollar bill in her mouth can buy. And so to my next planned act of sabotage.

  7. Teaching Maya not to jump on me was easy. Teaching her not to jump on other people, however, was not. You’re right, dogs are sometimes easier to teach than some people. 😉 With Maya, she will try to jump whether someone is doing something with their hands or not. It is all about wanting to be petted and unfortunately, despite my best efforts, they reward her behavior.

  8. Oh, dear. If you figure out how to perfect jumping with visitors, please share the secrets. Cooper is horrific about jumping on visitors, and his back legs are strong enough to launch him all the way into someone’s face. Not fun. And people always say, “Oh, I don’t mind!” UGH! I do!!