You walk in the door after a long day of work and your loving St. Bernard jumps up to give you a big ole kiss. You might have preferred your significant other to greet you like this, but your dog beat her to it. Your dog loves to greet you with jumping, tail wagging, and lots of kisses when all you want is for him to sit calmly and let you move out of the doorway so you can put down your bag and take off your coat. You do not want to make him feel rejected, but he is a big dog and this jumping is a lot to take.
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The Root of the Behavior
Dogs jump to greet you for several reasons and for the most part, it’s for positive reasons. It’s an instinct and natural behavior, a tool to screen you for your whereabouts, and excitement that you are home. As he hears the key in the lock and sees the knob turn, you can only imagine his tail wagging feverishly in sheer anticipation. The last two or four or eight hours may have seemed like an eternity to your pup, but finally, you’re home.
While you may notice that dogs sniff each other’s butts upon meeting, dogs in the same pack who are familiar with each other will greet each other with a lick on the face. As puppies, dogs were taught to lick their mother’s face as a way to get her to drop food. This sign of submission still carries throughout their lives. Your dog sees you as one of the pack and wants to lick your face when you get home, which results in the jumping. Otherwise, he couldn’t reach you.
This gesture of jumping is partly out of love that he is greeting you like this, but he does have an ulterior motive. You’ve been out all day, roaming the streets, eating tasty food, meeting other people, and your dog is dying to know where you’ve been. He must jump on you immediately to find out. By bringing his face close to yours, he can smell you and where you’ve been. He doesn’t even have to ask how your day was because he sniffs it out of you.
One great reason for a dog jumping to greet you is his excitement. If he has been sitting patiently at home all day, this is his moment. He is your welcoming party who knows your return comes with petting, kibble, walks, playtime, and if your pup plays his cards right, a belly rub. Those are pretty much the highlights of a dog’s life, so what dog wouldn’t be excited over that prospect?
Encouraging the Behavior
It is nice to be greeted and welcomed home, but if you have a medium to a large sized dog, this could be uncomfortable and problematic. Your dog can knock things out of your hands, like hot coffee or water, he can knock you down if you are not prepared, or he could learn this behavior as acceptable for everyone who walks through the door and scare or even hurt your friends.
However, since dogs see this behavior as loving, you do not want to be harsh in your dismissal of it. If you do not want your dog to jump, there are a few ways you can handle it. The first is to ignore the behavior and only give attention when he has all his paws on the ground. You can either avoid looking directly at your dog or turn your back. You do not want to give attention to an unwanted behavior. When your pup settles all paws on the floor, then you can greet him with the same enthusiasm he greets you with. If he gets excited again and starts jumping, repeat the steps. This might take some time for you and your dog to work out, but like all training, be consistent. If you aren’t, you will send your dog mixed signals and possibly make things worse.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you have tried some basic training techniques but seem to have an untamable jumping jelly bean on your hands, it is best to take him to a trainer. The trainer can share more effective techniques to teach your dog how to greet you with love but not jump on you. The trainer might show you how to redirect your dog when he jumps so he can still show you lots of love in an appropriate way. You might be thinking that your little dog doesn’t need to have this behavior changed because he’s not going to knock over guests. He may not take anyone down, but people unfamiliar with little paw claws scratching their legs or a 10-pound dog getting under their feet as they try to walk might be off-put by your tiny friend.
While your dog’s greeting doesn’t have to be as stiff as a guard’s at Barkingham Palace, you still want to feel comfortable walking through your front door with groceries, coffee, a purse, and the five books you carried from the car. Train your dog to greet you with all paws to the ground and if he continues to struggle with an overzealous greeting, take him to a trainer.