Four on the Floor, why dogs jump and how to change it.
Updated: Apr 25
One of the most common behavioral complaints we hear from people is that their dog jumps anytime they greet someone whether its a guest, or themselves. Don’t worry, you guys are not alone! Jumping is an attention seeking behavior. If our dogs jump up and that gets them the attention they crave, they will continue doing it. And why wouldn’t they? It’s easy and it works! So what do we do to stop the behavior? We have compiled a list of helpful tips to help stop the jumping and keep those four paws on the ground.
If your dog knows what is expected of them it will go a long way toward developing good habits. Whenever your dog jumps, turn your back and cross your arms. As soon as those paws hit the floor turn around, ask for a Sit and immediately reward them either with treat’s, affection, or both! It is natural for us to be super excited when we come home and see our dogs, but while you are working on this it will be very beneficial to come in nice and calm and instead of greeting with hugs and an abundance of exuberance of your own, work with them for a little bit. Ask for rewardable behavior; Sit, Down, and Place are all polite behaviors. That way they will develop a routine of working a little and offering some more appropriate behaviors when you get home. It is a great idea to leave a bag of treats in your car. That way you can grab some and be ready to start working right away. When working with guests it is extremely helpful to ask that people call or text you instead of just coming up and knocking on the door. That will give you the time to set up everything you need to give your dog the best chance at being successful as you work on this.
Use your tools.
If you don’t have some way to stop your dog when they are extremely excited, we will often lose them to whatever distraction is more pressing in their mind. If you have them behind a gate it will give you a way to deny their access to that thing. The ability to train will be so much easier and it will not allow them to practice those undesired behaviors. Remember, practice makes perfect, even with things we don’t want to happen! The more practice they have jumping on people the better they will get at it. Starting young can be very beneficial as new habits are much easier to build than old habits are to break. Set up behind a baby gate and work there until your dog has calmed down a bit and started to listen to you around the new guests. Then leash them and bring them out so you have the ability to control whether they can go greet or not. Work on leash until they are calm then unclip and see how that goes!
If you expect your dog to stop jumping it is important that everyone respects that. If Fluffy can jump on some people but can’t jump on others, that will get very confusing. Consistency in training helps everything go faster because it makes expectations clear and only the desired behaviors will be practiced. This might mean some awkward conversations with people who say “don’t worry! I love dogs!” It is important however, to explain that though they may not mind, you are working hard to change that behavior. It can be especially difficult to get that cooperation if you have a puppy. Just remind them that it may be cute now but that puppy will grow up soon and it won’t be as cute when they have the size to knock someone over.
For a jumper, I always like to over reward sit. If they are sitting they aren’t jumping right? So if jumping is an attention seeking behavior that means it serves a purpose in our dog's mind. If we make sit something that gets them that attention, then over time it can replace the undesirable behavior of jumping. A strong Place command that is proofed around exciting and distracting scenarios is also extremely helpful. Once on their Place you can wait until they’ve settled and given you attention before giving them the permission to greet. It can also be a great way to interrupt a jump that you see coming. If you see them rearing back to jump you can interrupt with a “Fluffy, Place!” that will give them something appropriate to do instead.
Have a backup plan.
If you are going to be busy cooking, setting up, or if your dog is just too frantic to greet guests successfully, a backup plan can be priceless. I like to have some good treats that take a little while to get through. A bully stick, a cow ear or a frozen Kong can all be good options. Put Fluffy in a crate or behind a gate and let them chew their hearts out. This will give you the time to greet guests and get to the point where you can work with them on their jumping while giving your dog the time to settle, get used to the fact that there are new people around and calm down from the initial excitement. After that it should be easier to work with them to create those good habits.