Most often, dogs jump for attention. It’s natural to want to be up near the hands of the face of someone who may pet you. Unfortunately, owners do generally pet dogs when they jump up. This reinforces the behavior making it more likely to occur again. Any type of attention can be considered reinforcement by the dog. This includes pushing the dog away and yelling at the dog. Some dogs may jump because they’re anxious or because they have excess energy.
Teaching dogs not to jump is pretty simple–ignore the dog when he is jumping and teach him an alternate way to get attention–yet this behavior is a common unruly behavior. It’s not because the behavior itself is particularly difficult to correct. It is because owners and the guests who visit their homes are inconsistent. Some people pet the dog, some yell and some ignore the dog when he jumps. This causes the dog to be variably reinforced for jumping. This means sometimes the dog gets rewarded for jumping and sometimes the dog doesn’t. Believe it or not, this kind of reinforcement (reward) is the most powerful kind you can apply to a behavior. That means that dogs who are sometimes rewarded and sometimes punished for jumping become very persistent jumpers. Follow these simple tips in your dog will be asking for attention politely in no time.
Do not knee, kick, or yell at him when he jumps on you. This is generally ineffective and some dogs can view this as a reward if they got your attention.
Ask your dog to sit for every bit of attention he gets. Now, he knows how to get your attention.
If he’s jumping on you, walk away from him. When he stops jumping on you, ask him to sit. Then, reward him with petting, praise and/or a treat.
If your dog jumps on you when you come in the front door, try walking out the door without a word to him as soon as he jumps on you. While on the other side of the door, count to 5. Then, walk through the door again. If he jumps on you, repeat the sequence until when you walk in the front door he doesn’t jump. Ask him to sit and give him calm attention and a treat.
When you praise your dog for sitting for attention, make sure to keep your praise calm and cool. It’s not fair to the dog for you to get extremely excited praising him and ask him to stay under control.
Like any other behavior, you will see the most improvement if everyone in your dog’s world follows the training techniques outlined here.
Until you can get your dog’s jumping under control, you can try distraction techniques like tossing small treats off to the side or tossing a toy when you come through the front door.