Probably one of the most frustrating behaviors dog owners experience is the inability to stop their dog from jumping when greeting visitors.
We first have to understand why dogs jump… Most people do not realize throughout their dogs life someone, somewhere has inadvertently “trained” their dog to jump, the reality is this behavior is likely to have started when the dog was a young puppy, and the behavior was encouraged into adulthood.
When a young puppy starts out, wanting to either get attention, greet or to get closer to people, the puppy only knows one behavior and that is to jump up. To the puppy this is their way of connecting with us, due to our desire to interact with the puppy, we crouch down to the puppy’s level, encouraging the jumping, thus providing the puppy with the attention he desires, inadvertently “training” the young pup to jump to greet. This becomes a pattern of behavior, the puppy (through to adulthood) maintains this behavior, believing this is the way to greet people. The only problem now is as an adult dog, to the owner this is no longer cute and rather upsetting for many dog owners. The dog now goes from being encouraged to greet people with the usual licking, and jumping gestures, which remember are all the dogs way of saying “hello” to now being punished by receiving a firm knee in the chest, or worse, and remember the dog has been taught as a puppy to greet us this way.
Can we change this? YES, we now have to show our dog an alternative way to greet people. Through “counter conditioning” i.e. an alternative more desirable way of greeting or getting our attention. We can teach our dog to “sit” instead of jumping. Counter conditioning makes it impossible for a dog to jump and sit at the same time. When your dog is instructed to “sit” rather than “jump” he will receive our attention, otherwise he gets no attention at all.
Remember dog training requires a lot of patience and consistency. In order to change behavior, we have to undo what the dog has learned in the past, this can take time, with patience and consistency; undesired behavior can be extinguished successfully.
Janet Oquendo, CPDT-KA Certified Professional Dog Trainer