My Dog Taught Me How To Train Her Not to Jump

Honey the Golden Retriever jumpin

First you don’t want me to jump. Now you do? Make up your mind, woman.

I couldn’t figure out how to keep Honey from jumping. Until she showed me.

Stop Jumping, You Darn Dog

Training every person we knew to turn away from Honey if she jumped on them made her less likely to jump. But it didn’t stop the jumping completely.

And besides jumping to greet strangers, Honey also jumped up on me.

No, not when I came home. And not when I got her ready for a walk.

Honey jumped every time I had something new and interesting in my hands.

  • dog treats (of course)
  • keys
  • the mail

I also noticed that she was more likely to jump on strangers if they had something in their hands or were moving them about.

After months of frustration, I finally understood what she was telling me.

Stay Still, I Just Want To Smell You

Honey didn’t put her front paws up on my body like she was soliciting something. She was leaping to put her nose closer to the item in my hand.

Aha! Now I know what’s going on.

The next time I took an onion out of the cupboard, I held it down for her to sniff it. When I brought the mail in from the front porch, I allowed her a sniff. And when I was carrying dirty mugs leftover from teaching a home buyer’s class, I lowered the tray to the level of her nose.

She hasn’t jumped since.

Don’t Try This At Home, If…

Honey gets a polite sniff of everything, including food I’m taking out of the fridge.

I can do this because she’s never grabbed anything out of my hand or off the counter. She waits until something is offered to her. She’ll simply sniff and wait to see if she’s getting a piece.

I could never have done this with my first dogs, Agatha and Christie. But then again, they didn’t bother jumping up when I had food in my hands. They were too busy plotting how they’d get it away from me when I wasn’t looking.

What Is Your Dog Telling You?

I’ve gotten great training advice from readers. It’s almost as if you are able to look at the problem from the outside and suggest new solutions because you’re not frustrated and tired. Imagine that.

Can you do the same thing with your own dog? Watch his behavior and find out what he’s telling you about how to change it? Or have you done it already?

I’m beginning to suspect that all the secrets of the universe are known to our dogs. Now we just need to learn how to listen.

Have you ever solved a training issue by figuring out what your dog was telling you? 

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  1. That sounds fantastic! Good on you for realizing what Honey was telling you.

    There are definitely times when Elka just wants to know what you have; there are other times she wants whatever it is that you have.

    Also, did you know that there’s a new happiness project book? I think it’s called “Happier at Home”.

    • I haven’t read Gretchen Rubin’s latest book yet but I want to.

      If I like it as much, do I need to start the Puppier Project? :)

      • Oh, you might! 😉

        I haven’t read it yet either, though I did skim the introduction at work (it’s not my turn for it yet). She’s an engaging writer, certainly (and her husband is tolerant, certainly!)

  2. It really is a shame that dogs can’t write a manual for the owners. It would make it so much easier for us.

    • Sounds like a great idea for a book. But I suspect the manual would depend on the dog writing it. For instance, I suspect Misty the Poodle’s book would be very different from Honey’s. :)

  3. Problems are so much easier to solve when you take a step back and observe. Good on you for understanding what it is Honey was really after!

    I wonder if there is a way I can apply this technique to Shiva’s running off on the agility course…

    • I loved reading What Shiva wants you to know. Maybe you’re hot on the trail.

      BTW, I know someone who had the same problem with her mini Aussie. I remember seeing them compete when Jet went running out of the agility ring and started visiting spectators. Two years later, they’re considering a trip to the National Agility Trials.

      One never knows, do one.

  4. I wish I could figure out what Delilah is trying to tell me. I can’t tell you how many times I shouted NO, as I was trying to clean the fridge/freezer out this morning. :-(

    You are far more in tune to your dog than I am. Of course Sampson just says, “love me.”

    • You know what Delilah is trying to tell you, Jodi. It’s “I want to sit in the fridge and clean it out for you.” :)

      It’s one thing to know what your dog is telling you. It’s another thing to like it. :)

  5. Good observation, Pam. I think Bogie’s size is behind his jumps, however. He does anything he can to make himself bigger. Prefers to sit on a footstool or the arm of a chair up high off the floor, for instance.
    Bogie really resists the “lie down” command anywhere except when we are alone in our kitchen–and sometimes the living room. I THINK it is because he is so small, that when he lies down he can’t really keep an eye on what is going on around him and therefore feels vulnerable. I’d love to know if other small dog owners have the same challenge with getting their dogs to lie down. Meanwhile, I”ve decided if he’ll sit when he is supposed to (meaning when I want him to) I don’t need to worry about lying down.

    • Rose Humphreys says:

      Hi Vera
      A suggestion for little Bogie could be to teach him to touch your hand so you can reach down with a hand and he’ll still get his “hello” which is all he wants I guess.
      Arm yourself with treats in one hand and hold out your other hand , most dogs will
      be curious and sniff that hand. Click (if he knows the clicker) or just praise and give a treat. Do it lots with either hand and move your hand around so he can generalize the cue to touch anyone’s hand. Ignore all behaviour that attempts to get attention in any other way. Oh and ask for a sit first, then reach down to his height. Its only fair, the little guys just want the same attention the big guys get!

      I have noticed in my puppy classes that little dogs can have more resistance to “down”.like you we usually conclude that one stationery position could be enough.
      But some clients keep working on it and eventually it can happen.

      • Rose: Thanks for your professional reply. I think you may have misunderstood a bit, because my challenge is different than Pam’s. Bogie does respond to down, when he’s inclined to jump up on someone and although it kills him, he’ll stop jumping if we say, No or Down. My other challenge was I’d like to have him lie down at my feet while I look at the veggies at farmer’s market, or talk to neighbors on a walk, but that’s a no-go. I’ll just accept if he’ll sit and stay.

        But your suggestions to get him not to jump in the first place are solid, and we’ll start working on that.

        • It sounds like Bogie is exercising intelligent disobedience. I suspect he feels much safer on his feet or sitting than lying down when people are milling around.

          Smart boy.

          • Yep, Pam. I think you’re right! He’s picky that way. For instance, if we get the leash wrapped under his belly or around a leg, he stops dead and refuses to move until we straighten it out.

  6. There have been a few times when I’ve figured out the “why” of our challenging behaviors, but not a way to fix it that worked for us. But I do think it’s a really important first step to solving a lot of problem behaviors!

    • And of course, not all behaviors can be fixed. Some can only be managed. I think that’s a lesson Morgan has probably taught you. :)

  7. I haven’t been successful at figuring how to do what you did.
    You post reminded me of a book I read many years ago – “All I Know About Management I Learned From My Dog” by Martin P. Levin. It’s a good read and remarkably true.

  8. Honey is such a special girl, and lucky to have someone like you that takes the time to figure out what drives her behaviors! I think some dogs are easier to figure out than others, but you definitely have a special connection with Honey :)

  9. What a great post! Something for all dog owners to think about, although i think anything you show her food wise she should be allowed to have her fill of!! BOL

  10. Our golden Sheba is our jumper. I think what drives her is jealousy of the other dogs. She wants the attention. If someone just kneels down in front of her and gives her that attention, she is fine. She still jumps some but is much better than she used to be (age has calmed her a little). With four dogs, it is hard for everyone to get attention at once….and she is the impatient one. For the most part she only will try to jump on company now. But if you tell her “no” she is pretty good…..but you can just see her barely containing herself. It is all she can do to hold that urge back, but most of the time she does, and you can see how hard she’s working at it!

    • Sounds like you’ve figured Sheba out. Goes to show that personality trumps breed and not every dog will do things for the same reason.

  11. Kolchak jumps because he wants my undivided attention, immediately. No exceptions. We’re working to teach him that you ask for attention by sitting nicely and one polite woof, not by coming at my like a spider monkey. It’s a slow process., but by coming in, putting down the groceries and acknowledging him right away, we’ve at least learned how to avoid getting knocked down the stairs and belly flopping on the eggs.