Paws on the Ground: A Guide to Teaching Your Dog Not To Jump On Visitors
Do you dread when visitors first come over because you dogs jumps and barks and can't wait to say a very personal hello to each person? Learn how to teach your dog not to jump and discover some of the common problems that come during this training.
Many social dogs want to jump up on visitors, whether it’s someone the dog knows well or if the person is a potential new friend. Many different training approaches can show dogs what to do instead of jumping. Sometimes, one game will be a better choice for an individual dog or home, while other dogs benefit from doing many different kinds of training games.
Please note that these are activities for friendly and social dogs. If your dog is frantic, whether from fear or over-excitement, please reach out, and we can help you find more appropriate steps for your dog.
Friendly dogs like to get closer to guests. Jumping up and getting a response is a big reward. We need to be sure that we minimize how many rewards your dog is getting for rude greetings.
You can use a leash, gate, closed door, crate, or dog pen to prevent your dog from having free access to guests. Once your dog is more experienced, this won’t be necessary, but for now, it can be a helpful way to make sure an eager visitor does not undo your training.
Ignore the Visitor
Have your dog on a leash and about 10-20’ in the house. Ask a guest to practice walking in and out of the house. You will reward your dog for holding still, looking at you, or sitting. If your dog sits but looks at the guest? Feed them! If your dog is looking at you but standing? Feed them!
Deliberately have your guest go in and out extra times. If we only go in once, that is the most exciting. If we go in and out many times, it gets less interesting, and you’ll get more opportunities to reward your dog.
Go to Bed/Place
Your dog can learn to go to their dog bed or a specific location. Once trained, the doorbell, the sound of the knock, or even a person coming in can signal your dog to go to their bed. To read more about the process, click here.
Allow Greetings Once Your Dog is Calm
Most dogs, if calm, are not going to jump up. By having your dog on a leash or behind a gate, they cannot practice jumping on people. Reward your dog for focusing on you. This can reduce their excitement over the new visitors. Once they are uninterested in the new arrival, which may be 5 minutes or an hour, you can let them briefly greet. They are less likely to jump now because they aren’t worked up anymore.
Common Problems for Greeting Guests
Guests Do Not Follow Directions
Some family and friends may think they know better - sometimes with good intentions and sometimes less so. It might be someone who is more harsh with your dog than you are comfortable with or someone who encourages your dog to jump up, “I love dogs!”
You are responsible for your dog. You might find it easier to meet certain people away from your home so that the conflict doesn’t come up. You might have your dog confined when your guest arrives so that you can have more control over the situation.
Another way is to get your guest on your side - explain how important this is to you and that you’re working towards your dog being very calm. I also give you permission to falsely claim your dog “has parasites” or “is allergic” if you need to!
Not Enough Prevention
It’s easy to get busy and do the same things you always do - have a friend walk in, remember to do training after your dog jumps rather than before, or give your dog free access to the house.
Preventing unwanted behavior is just as important as training. We are unlikely to make a lot of progress if we do all the training and let dogs make many mistakes. You may find keeping treats by the door helpful or putting up a sticky note to remind you of your training plans.
Calm In Many Other Areas of Life
While greetings are our focus here, most dogs who struggle will also struggle with impulse control in other areas of life. Maybe they’re rushing out doors, diving into the food bowl, or pulling on the leash to investigate every leaf.
Having a “perfectly obedient” dog who only does things when told is not realistic or fair to dogs - but dogs can learn to look to us for permission to investigate and to eagerly wait for a signal before going to a food bowl. This isn’t about control to be bossy or “in charge,” but teaching dogs to listen even when excited.
If you’re working hard at greetings and your dog is still struggling - check out these other areas of life to see if they may compromise your progress.
Rewards Don’t Match Up
Greetings are so fun for dogs who love people. If we’re using dry dog food and dry biscuits for training, we’re probably not going to progress as fast as if we’re using chicken, cheese, or really smelly dog treats. Every dog is different - some may like the biscuits best, but most dogs will take some warm chicken as the better option.
Experiment with dog-safe foods to find out what your dog likes best to help them progress even faster.
Keep working - ask guests to practice with extra “out and in and out and in” repetitions during each visit. These additional repetitions can make a huge difference for many dogs.
If you have multiple family members or people in your home, ask others to help you. Even if these people aren’t as exciting as strangers, your dog can still benefit from the rehearsals.
And - as always - if you’re stuck, reach out, and we can help you change your training. We want you and your dog to reach your goals.