Why Do Dogs Jump?

Why is this dog jumping?

This dog is going to have to jump for a long time before he gets any attention.

Why do our dogs like to jump up on us?

I’ve heard lots of reasons: Because they’re excited. So they can sniff our smelly parts. To get closer to our faces. Because they want our attention. And some people even think our dogs are trying to show us who’s boss by jumping up.

The current, science-based solution to keeping your dog from jumping is to not reward him for doing so. I won’t repeat the suggestions from trainers who think your dog is dominating you—most are ineffective and some are even cruel.

That means if your dog is jumping up, don’t give him attention. Turn away and only acknowledge him when his paws are planted on the floor.

And it works. Pretty well.

Ask this dog why dogs jump.

This dog has excellent training chops. He’s not encouraging her one bit.

But if dogs jump on us for more than one reason, maybe there’s more than one solution to keeping them from jumping in the first place.

At least that’s what I suppose from watching Honey.

What Makes My Dog Jump

Honey never jumps on us when we come home. Sorry I can’t say the same for every guest who visits the house. But after a few weeks of always turning away from Honey when she jumped up for attention, she learned that “four on the floor” got her what she wants.

I’ve watched Honey when she jumps on visitors. Sometimes she’s so excited she can hardly contain herself and the person she’s jumping on is not consistent about ignoring her behavior. Other times she’s imitating the behavior of other dogs in the house. But then I noticed something interesting.

Honey was most likely to jump on someone who appeared to have something in his hands.

My dad makes a funny motion with his hands when he comes in that always attracts Honey’s attention. If someone is clutching a pair of gloves when they enter, Honey is fascinated. And then she jumps to figure out what it is.

Honey will even occasionally jump on me in the course of the day if she thinks I’m holding something interesting.

So I did an experiment. If I allowed Honey to sniff what was in my hand at her nose level, she didn’t jump. She took her sniff. She was satisfied. She went on to the next thing.

Now, when I get an orange out of the fridge, I let Honey take a whiff. If she seems curious about the dust rag I just picked up (and how could be not be curious about something that appears so rarely?), I hold it down near her nose.

Allowing Honey to satisfy her curiosity with a sniff, has given her one less reason to jump up.

Honey the golden retriever jumps up.

Playtime wouldn’t be the same if there was no jumping.

Know Your Dog

I’m very pleased to have figured out how to lessen Honey’s jumping. Now I just need to get my visitors to follow through.

But it works because of who Honey is. If I hold a piece of food in front of her nose for a sniff, she won’t grab it and run off to the couch for a good chew. And she won’t steal a piece of cloth and start tugging on it if I don’t tell her it’s time to play.

Allowing a quick sniff won’t work with many dogs. But it works great with Honey.

The trainers I most admire, whether professionals or just savvy dog people, are those who figure out what works by watching the dog in front of them.

That’s what I want to do.

Whether I’m trying to keep my dog from jumping or getting her to come inside the house quickly when it’s cold outside, I won’t find every answer in a training book. I’ll only find it by watching my dog.

So if I want to know why my dog jumps, I’ll just have to ask her.

Your Turn: Does your dog jump? Do you know why? Has that helped you stop the jumping?


photo credits: (jumping dog) Tim . Simpson via photopin cc, (jumping woman) Coco Mault via photopin cc. Click images to learn more about the photographers.

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  1. Torrey jumps when we come home. But I can put my hand out and tell her down, and that works. Roxy, jumps when we are going somewhere, But with her, I think she is just excited and wants to make sure we see her little self.

  2. I jump. Mummy and daddy know they haven’t been strict enough about it, but I don’t do it so much or so hyper with them, it’s much worse with visitors. And most of them encourage it which doesn’t help. Not jumping is going to be my new year’s resolution!

  3. Shamefaced confession: Cooper jumps. All the time. On everyone. Even on the other dogs. Unfortunately, we could ignore it all we wanted, but (we discovered) our pet sitter actually encouraged the behavior. So he’s been reinforced for years. We’re ignoring it now, but… he also barks the entire time he’s jumping, so I’ve prioritized that over the jumping because it’s WAY more annoying. I have video to share soon… Once the barking is managed, we’ll move on and work on the jumping. It’s so embarrassing. 🙂

  4. We don’t jump, but Bailie and I do put our paws up on Mom because we love to hug and she loves it too, so she encourages it. Mom isn’t a stickler on top notch training. As long as we obey reasonable well she is happy. This is an issue at obedience school right now, but once Bailie gets the basics down, she can relax a bit too. Mom is an independent free spirit type and our breeds are the same, so it works out well.

  5. Delilah jumps but only occasionally. Sampson wouldn’t know a jump if it jumped up and bit him. LOL

  6. I swear, Silas learned to jump on strangers *because* it made me take him away.

    Picture this:
    Silas is greeting a stranger. People make him a little nervous, but he likes this one.
    Person pets Silas for a minute
    Silas starts to get a little restless–this is going on too long.
    Silas jumps up on person
    I call him away.
    Silas is so relieved!

    I noticed a lot less jumping after he learned that it was okay to just walk away from someone when he was done. And, of course, I picked up on it and learned to give him a break.

  7. Both girls jump for attention. Cricket jumps because she is so much shorter than Sheba and wants to be seen. Sheba jumps when someone is giving one of the other dogs attention. I ask company to please give Sheba attention if they are not, and that does stop it. Our biggest problem was always getting company to please not encourage her. Many of my family/friends would say “oh, it’s okay, I don’t mind” and act like we are the big meanies for simply asking for them to behave nicely! I think I’ve finally gotten through to them though.

  8. I cannot tell a lie. My dog often jumps on me because I kind of like it and have definitely encouraged it. However, she has become much better about jumping on strangers, unless they are holding something. She has spent so much of her life in fear of people she doesn’t know and we spent so much time trying to teach her that people are not so bad, usually by asking them to give her food. Unfortunately, this now means she often sees people as a source of food and if they are holding something up, she thinks they are encouraging her to jump for whatever is in their hand. Oops. It’s completely my fault. If only I was motivated to do something about it. 😛

  9. Bailey jumps because we lack consistency.

    She jumps on my husband because he always encourged and rewarded her behavior. He would tell her not to jump while rubbing her belly. He finally started to get annoyed with it and I find myself telling him to turn around and ignore her on a daily basis.

    She jumps on other people because I’m bad about telling other people to turn around and ignore her behavior. People seem to get weird when you give them directions like that. Like if they don’t understand why they’re doing it or what the purpose is. I have to be more consistent about telling people what to do when they encounter my jumping dog.

    The one thing is is pretty good about is not jumping on me. She doesn’t do it often because I started ignoring her behavior from the very beginning. I also stopped making a big deal about leaving or coming home so she doesn’t get all riled up. When I come home I say hello, but keep walking until I put my stuff down. She follows me, very excitedly and promptly sits when she sees my arms are empty. Then I go in for the big hellos and belly rubs. It’s proof that the method works, we just have to keep at it.

    After reading your post I did try letting Bailey sniff the things in my hand. She also likes to jump and snatch things so maybe this will help.

  10. I’ve had a trainer tell me Toby was being dominant for jumping up. TOBY. LOL!
    Like Honey, Toby is more likely to jump if he thinks I’m holding something. Especially if he thinks it is edible. But he is a jumper through and through. Glad you found a way to help Honey jump less. She’s a good teacher. 🙂

  11. Its amazing how much you can learn from a dog simply by watching them.

  12. Honey and my Labrador Maya sound very much alike in this. Maya doesn’t jump on me or any other family members because she knows we won’t give her attention for it. But if a guest comes over, it is exactly what you described with Honey – “she’s so excited she can hardly contain herself”. Incidentally, Maya is the same way when it comes to taking her sweet time to come inside from the cold.