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Jumping up becomes a default behaviour for a lot of dogs. They learn very early that wonderful things from humans usually come from up high. This learning typically continues to be reinforced as they grow. Often, people will say they don't mind when the dog is a puppy, but that lesson stays with the dog regardless of their size. So how do you teach your dog to greet people without jumping up? Here are some tips!
Set Them Up for Success
There's an old saying that goes, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." This applies so well to jumping up. If you allow your young pup to jump on people, that will become their default behaviour. To teach good greeting manners that will stick, you need consistency from the start. That means having a plan in place and executing that plan. When I'm working with a youngster, I will put on a "Do Not Pet" or "Dog In Training" harness on them. I've found that this helps to stop people from running right up to my puppy, which gives me an opportunity to organize my training plan. I can ask the person to help me and I can concentrate on training my puppy!
Teach an Alternate behaviour
One of the tried and true favourites for teaching a dog not to jump up is teaching them to sit when greeting people. You can eventually fade out the need to sit once your pup has learned to keep 4-on-the-floor, but with a young dog, the sit skill will help them learn to greet people calmly. It's physically impossible for a dog to jump on a person while they hold a sit, which allows you to build on success.
Start with Familiar People
The novelty of strangers can be too much for a lot of friendly dogs, so to get in enough repetition that your dog learns, work this set up with people the dog already knows and isn't really excited to see. For example, practise with other people in your household. Keep the rewards high value and reinforce well.
It will be too much for most young dogs to let people come in close for a greeting right off the bat. For that reason, you'll want to break this process down and take baby steps on their approach. Start with your dog sitting and a person simply standing in the same room. Reinforce the dog with high value rewards to build value for holding position around distractions. If they make a mistake, gently place them back into position. Wait for a few seconds of calm before rewarding again. When they are solid in this scenario, bring the distracting person closer and closer with each repetition. Get to the point where your dog can hold the sit as a person walks right up and stands beside the dog. The length of time you will spend on this will depend on your dog. Some dogs will get this right away and others will take longer depending on their excitement level.
Continue to build on this exercise adding in touch and greeting as your dog shows they are capable and willing. Remember that when you are practising in different locations with strangers, you'll almost always want to start from the beginning and reinforce each step again.
Practise at the Front Door
If you want your dog to greet people politely when they come to the house, you'll need to practise and build this skill. There's no better place to practise than the place where this skill will be needed - at the front door! Remember your baby steps - start with familiar people and keep the distance buffer in place as your pup learns. Build value for manners with people your pup isn't excited to see first. You can work up to the point where the person can ring the bell and you can open the door and invite them in without your pup breaking the sit. Lots of repetition and high value rewards will help your dog understand the goal.
Teach Them to Jump Up
With some behaviours it's helpful to identify the thing you're working on. With jumping up, I often find it valuable to teach a young dog to jump up on cue and to jump off on cue. This identification can help your dog understand the desired position. I've written about this on the McCann Blog before. You can read all about this trick here!
Take your time with a youngster and enjoy watching their light bulbs turn on!
As always, Happy Training!