"My puppy jumps on me and everyone she meets!" This is probably the number one puppy problem that people call me about. I sympathize with dog owners who have paw prints all over their clothes, especially with red dirt and rain being so prevalent in Hawaii!
WHY DO THEY JUMP?
While it's true that some dogs will jump as a status-seeking gesture, most dogs and puppies jump on people simply out of excitement, e.g. upon reuniting after a period of separation, and to get attention. In addition, they don't understand that it's not acceptable to us humans because often we inadvertently reinforce their jumping behavior by scolding them, which is still giving them attention.
It's also common for puppies to jump up on adult dogs and lick their muzzles as a submissive gesture. Biologically, puppy-licking is a request by a very young puppy that encourages the adult dog to regurgitate food for the puppy to eat. (Canine Body Language p.97 by Brenda Aloff) We humans are so much taller than the pups are, and my feeling is that the pups jump up to get closer to our faces.
TIPS TO STOP JUMPING
* Avoid inadvertently reinforcing the jumping behavior - If your dog is seeking your attention, then any kind of physical contact, eye contact and verbal communication will reinforce the behavior. Even pushing your dog away, scolding or saying No will give your dog attention. So try ignoring or turning away from your dog as soon as he jumps, and interact with him when he is not jumping or once he gets down on all four paws.
* Survive the Extinction Burst - When you first start ignoring your dog when he jumps, you might find that he starts to jump even more. This is what's called an extinction burst, which is like a last ditch effort by your dog to do what used to work for him in the past (jump up and get attention). Recognizing this will help you get through this period, which usually ends fairly quickly if you stick to your plan.
* If it's not enough to simply withdraw your attention from your pup, then give him an added consequence. Immediately mark the wrong behavior with a word like "Uh-oh!" and turn away or walk away from your pup. Turn around and face your pup as soon as he stops jumping. If you execute this with good timing, the dog will figure out quickly that jumping makes you ignore him, while standing on all 4 paws gets him the attention he wants.
* What would you like your dog to do instead? Teach and reward your dog for doing another behavior that is incompatible with jumping, such as a Sit every time she walks up to somebody. It's physically impossible to Sit and Jump at the same time. In the beginning, you'll have to be quick about asking for the Sit so that you can prevent the jumping.
* Identify your puppy's triggers for jumping and set your puppy up for success. For example, if eye contact sets your puppy off into a jumping frenzy, don't look at him when he's excited. Or keep the eye contact or greeting very short so the excitement doesn't escalate. If he only jumps on you when you're standing still, keep moving slowly when you're around him. These are temporary solutions to prevent your dog from practicing and perfecting unwanted behaviors, so don't worry, you'll eventually be able to pet and look at your dog normally.
* Make your departures and returns as uneventful as possible. Walk in quietly, don't speak in a high-pitched excited tone, etc.
* If you're coming through a door or gate, wait until your puppy has stopped jumping and then go through. If puppy starts to get over-excited and jump again as soon as you crack open the door, close the door again and start over. This technique is called the Evil Door, and it shows your dog what the consequences of jumping are (door closes, dog doesn't get to see you) without using harsh punishments or making you the bad guy.
* Mark and reward the right behavior (e.g. "Good girl!" followed by a treat) - a Sit, for example, or four paws on the ground. Dogs don't do well if they are only told what NOT to do. Instead, we should also teach them what TO DO and reward that behavior. Behaviors that are rewarded will happen more often.
* Make sure your dog doesn't chain the behaviors: jump, get down, get rewarded.
* Ask everybody who meets your dog to follow the same rules. This means that you may have to explain these techniques to house guests prior to their visits. If you have elderly guests or workers (cable guy, electrician) who can't help with training, then put your dog in his crate or in the yard with a food toy. Preventing the unwanted behavior is better than setting him up for failure.
* You can also keep your dog on a leash when house guests arrive, so that you have control over your puppy. Teach your dog to wait calmly next to you and give you eye contact before you give her permission to greet your guest. Once you release your dog, the leash should be loose. Keep the sniffing and greeting short (i.e. 1-2 seconds) then call your dog off ("Let's Go!") before he gets a chance to escalate to jumping. Reward the dog with a treat for disengaging from the guest. If your dog jumps on the guest before you get a chance to walk him away, verbally mark it ("Uh-oh!") and walk your dog away from the guest. Try again. If your guest would like to pet your dog, then you can be feeding your dog a treat while your guest pets your dog. Just release the treat slowly so the dog will keep his focus on the treat instead of jumping on your guest.
* Kneeing your dog in the chest - This (and other forms of physical correction) may work for some dogs, but I do not recommend it. Not only is it unpleasant for both human and dog, but it could cause injury, or may encourage your puppy to try harder. Scientific studies show that dogs (and humans) get accustomed to physical punishments and will start tuning them out unless the punishment gets harsher and harsher.
* Scolding or telling your dog to stop - Again, this may work on some sensitive dogs who can sense your displeasure. But for many exuberant and confident puppies, being scolded is not enough of a consequence for them to stop jumping. Negative attention like scolding can even be rewarding to a puppy who is craving attention.
It is a lot more effective to show your puppy:
* The consequences of jumping (he loses your attention)
* What to do instead - reward him for four paws on the ground and/or prevent the jumping
* Consistency - insist that all your friends and family follow the same rules.