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Imagine racing through an agility course with your Australian Shepherd. You run alongside him as he jumps over obstacles, races through tunnels, and darts around poles. You excitedly race all the way to the finish line together, and praise him enthusiastically as he jumps into your arms. Next, imagine that you are with your Aussie getting ready to try to beat his previous Dock Diving record. The lure is tossed out over the water and your pup flies into the air, soaring across the sky for an instant before falling into the water below. Now picture yourself with your dog on a cattle ranch, signaling him from a distance to herd the last of the cattle into the corral. Your dog darts back and forth, nipping at a stubborn cow's heels and jumping out of the way when the cow kicks.
Now imagine that you are walking into your home with your family from out of town. You open the door for your guests and soon realize your mistake as your energetic and very excited Australian Shepherd runs to the door, jumping on your surprised guests, and getting so much air when he leaps that he practically licks them on their faces. You grimace and wonder if the jumping is simply unavoidable with your bundle of energy and fur, or if perhaps there is something that you can do about it?
Jumping is natural for your dog, but jumping becomes a problem when it is on people and causes injury, annoyance, and sometimes fear. Jumping on people is something that your dog can learn not to do though. With your help, he can learn to greet people in more appropriate ways and to save his jumping for all of the other, more appropriate, areas of his life.
Jumping is a problem not only because of the potential injury, annoyance, and fear that it can cause, but also because your dog is less likely to be taken places, greeted by people, and welcomed back if he jumps. Ongoing social interactions are important for your dog, and a dog that greets people politely is much easier to bring around people.
Your dog is likely jumping on people to get closer to whoever he is jumping on and to receive attention from that person. Your dog is probably trying to be friendly, which is a good thing, but he needs to be taught a better way to express his friendliness. It is important to show your dog a different way to greet people while he is learning not to jump. The training is more likely to be successful if your dog is being rewarded for his calm behavior while he is being taught not to jump. It is also important for your dog not to be rewarded by anyone with attention for jumping. If your dog is being rewarded with attention for jumping then any efforts at training him not to jump will not be very successful.
To get started you will need lots of small treats that your dog likes. You will also need a small Ziploc bag that can fit into your pocket, or a treat pouch. You will need people who will practice greetings with your dog as he improves, and lots of patience and a good sense of humor. If you are using 'The Leash Method' then you will also need a six or eight-foot leash and an assistant to help you. If you are using 'The Sit Method' then your dog will also need to know the 'sit' command.
The Step Toward Method
Approach your dog
To begin, place treats into a bag in your pocket or into a treat pouch that your dog cannot see. Walk up to your dog after you have been gone for several minutes and tell her hello.
As soon as Fido begins to jump on you when you approach, calmly but firmly step toward her one or two steps, to throw her off balance and to communicate to her that you want her to respect your space.
If she continues to try to jump on you, take another two steps toward her every time that she ties to jump. Do this until she stops trying to jump on you.
When your pup stops trying to jump on you then stand still, praise her, and then give her a treat underneath her chin while you calmly greet her.
If she attempts to jump when you greet her and give her a treat, then stop giving her a treat and step toward her again. Do this until she stops jumping and you can attempt to reward her for her calm behavior once more. Repeat this every time that she tries to jump.
Practice stepping toward your dog when she jumps and rewarding her for not jumping when you greet her. Do this until she no longer jumps on you.
When your pup no longer jumps on you then recruit friends, family members, and other willing people to practice greetings with your pup. Instruct the person who wishes to greet her to step toward her whenever she attempts to jump, to not give her any affection or praise until she is calm, and to reward her with a treat, and to greet her if you wish, when she is no longer attempting to jump on him. Have only one person greet her at a time, until she has mastered not jumping.
Practice greetings with lots of different types of people often, until she no longer jumps on other people also. Do not let anyone reward her for jumping at any point, so that she does not become confused.
The Sit Method
To begin, place small treats that your dog loves into a small bag or treat pouch, where your dog cannot see them. Leave your home for long enough for your dog to become excited again when you return. If your dog cannot be safely left alone in your home then either confine him while you are gone or have another person stay with him until you return.
Greet your dog
When you return home, go over to your dog to greet him and tell him to sit before he has the opportunity to jump on you. If he is confined then let him out and greet him over by where he was confined.
If he jumps on you instead of sitting, then fold your arms across your chest and look up at the ceiling, ignoring your dog. Ignore your dog until he stops jumping on you, and when he is calm tell him to sit again if he has not done so already. Wait until he either sits or leaves.
If he chooses to leave, then any time for the rest of that day that he comes over to you again to receive your attention, repeat your "sit" command, saying it once. Do not pay attention to him until he sits, for that entire day. Make sure that your dog does understand the 'sit' command before beginning this method though.
When your dog does sit, then praise him, greet him, and feed him a treat below his chin. If he remains seated then feed him an additional treat every two minutes that he remains seated, for up to ten minutes.
Practice telling your dog to sit whenever you greet him, before he jumps on you. Whenever he jumps on you, ignore him until he is seated. Praise him and reward him with a treat below his chin whenever he sits when you greet him, whether you have told him to sit or he chose to sit on his own. Do this until he no longer jumps on you, but instead sits down without having to be told whenever you greet him.
When your dog no longer jumps on you but instead sits when you greet him, then recruit friends, family members, and willing strangers to help you practice this with your dog. Have one person at a time greet your dog. Instruct that person to tell him to sit and to feed him a treat below his chin if he does so. Also instruct that person to ignore your dog if he jumps, until he is sitting. Practice this with lots of different people, until your dog no longer jumps on other people also.
The Leash Method
Get set up
To begin, recruit an assistant and give your assistant a Ziploc bag or treat pouch with treats inside, and hide the treats from your dog's sight. Have your assistant leave for long enough for your dog to become excited again when she returns.
Step on the leash
Attach a six-foot leash to your dog's collar and stand with your dog by your side, with the middle of your dog's leash underneath your foot. Do not let go of the handle of the leash though. If your leash is too short, then use an eight-foot leash for this instead. With the leash running from your dog, to your foot, to your hand, create enough slack in the leash for your dog to stand comfortably beside you, but not enough for him to be able to jump up more than four inches.
When you are stepping on your dog's leash and ready, then have your friend return and come over to greet your dog. When your dog attempts to jump on her, then allow the leash to catch your dog and prevent him from jumping on her. When your dog attempts to jump, also have your friend turn her back to him and ignore him until he calms down.
When your dog calms down and stops attempting to jump, then have your friend turn toward him again and attempt to greet him again. If he jumps then allow the leash to stop him again and have her turn back around to ignore him. Repeat this until she can greet him without him jumping up.
When your pup remains calm enough for your friend to greet him, then have her calmly greet him and give him a treat below his chin. If he attempts to jump up again, have her stop giving him the treat and turn her back to him once more. Repeat the process of rewarding his calm behavior and letting the leash correct his jumping behavior while the person ignores him until he calms down. Do this until he no longer jumps on that person.
Practice with other people
When your pup no longer jumps on your friend, then recruit another friend to help you, and practice with that person until he no longer jumps on that person also. Repeat this with as many people as possible, having only one person greet him at a time while he is practicing this. Do this until he no longer jumps on anyone.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021