Dogs That Jump on People

By: Bonnie Beaver, DVM, MS, DACVB

TVMA Member
College Station, TX

Published January 2017

Dogs that jump on people can be particularly irritating, especially when they intimidate children, damage clothing or knock someone over. Understanding what you can do about it can help alleviate the issue.

While jumping may be a normal behavior for a dog, it is one that should not be encouraged. When a dog jumps on a person, we often respond inappropriately by giving the dog some kind of attention. Sometimes we encourage the behavior, and other times we try to stop it. The inconsistency of our response actually makes matters worse. It reinforces the behavior because the dog gets attention. Even a reprimand is often enough attention to reward the behavior.

While there are several different techniques that have been used to stop the jumping, here are three humane, effective approaches that do not affect a dog’s well-being and can be performed easily by most family members.

  • Teach the dog a behavior that is incompatible with jumping. The dog cannot sit or lie down and jump at the same time. Try giving the dog a cue to “sit” or “lie down” when the dog gets ready to jump. Give the dog attention only when it obeys the cue, not before.
  • Ignore the dog when it begins to jump. The person can fold his or her arms in front of his or her chest and look straight ahead. Eye contact can be rewarding too so it’s best to not look at the dog. You also can turn your back to the dog and stand still until it settles down. Then be sure to reward the dog with praise or a treat when it sits quietly.
  • Instead of reacting to the dog jumping, walk into the dog as if to push it over. While doing this, fold your arms in front of your chest and look straight ahead. It’s as if you didn’t even know the dog was there. Again, be sure to praise and reward the dog when it keeps all four of its feet on the floor.

Success depends on everyone in the family taking consistent measures each and every time. There can be no exceptions because each successful jump is rewarding to the dog and encourages further attempts.

Bonnie Beaver, DVM, DACVB, is graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine who lives in College Station, Texas. Dr. Beaver is a professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at Texas A&M University.