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Paws on the Ground: Taming Your Dog's Jumping Behavior

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

It can be gratifying to know your dog loves you so much that they're excited to see you. And there are huge benefits to having a dog who is such a social butterfly that they never have met a stranger. However, dogs who are so excited and out of control that they tend to jump on people becomes problematic. Especially if the dog is a medium or large size dog!

Why dogs jump on people

Several factors may contribute to a dog's tendency to jump on people. One reason could be their attempt to reach our faces as a part of their greeting ritual. Alternatively, jumping might simply be an effective way for them to grab our attention, even if we attempt to discourage the behavior. Interestingly, attempting to push a dog away might inadvertently be perceived as an invitation to play!

Greetings can also be a time of huge excitement for a dog, and an overly simulated dog may literally just lose control of themselves and jump because they are so excited.

Dog jumping on woman

Jumping prevention strategies

So what can you do about it? The first thing to think about is how you can prevent your dog from continuing to practice this behavior. Behavior that gets practiced gets more ingrained and is harder to break. So once you decide that you are going to train your dog to not jump on people, you need to come up with a plan and use management to prevent your dog from being able to do so.

When encountering guests or meeting people outdoors, the leash can become a valuable tool. With a leash, you can exert more control over your dog's movements compared to when they are off-leash. Instead of the common approach of lifting the end of the leash up and away when a dog jumps, a more effective method involves sliding your hand down the leash towards the collar, and then gently pushing the leash straight down until your dog's feet are on the floor. You can use gravity to your advantage!

Another effective strategy involves looping the middle of the leash down onto the floor and stepping on it, ensuring there's enough space for the dog to stand comfortably, yet not enough room to allow them to leap. This prevents them from gaining height, courtesy of the leash acting as a restraint. What I like about this method is that by ignoring the jumping and rewarding moments of calm, you encourage positive behavior.

Training appropriate greetings

In terms of training, teaching your dog an alternative greeting behavior is key. While some trainers will advocate for teaching a dog to sit before meeting people, this can be very difficult for some dogs who are a little bit more energetic or hyper and temperament.

You can start with the sit, but if you think that your dog is struggling to maintain it, you could just require that your dog keeps four paws on the floor.

Combine the leash method with positive reinforcement for keeping all four paws down. As someone approaches, ask your dog to sit, rewarding them with treats for maintaining the position. If your dog gets overly excited, dropping treats on the floor can shift their focus, providing an outlet for their energy. It's better to do this when the dog first notices the person, rather than wait until the person is fairly close and the dog can no longer restrain themselves.

As people approach, ask your dog to sit. If your dog sits, start to feed them small, tasty pieces of treats. As long as they remain seated, give them a treat every second or so. If they stand up, re-cue the sit and resume praising and treating. We don’t want to teach your dog that briefly sitting results in a single treat and then they can jump! If your dog tends to get overly excited you may want to drop the treats to the floor and then re-cue sit once they’ve gotten the treat off the floor.

If your dog cannot sit or is too hyper to sit, simply drop treats on the floor when you see all 4 paws are touching the ground. Dropping the treats on the ground achieves two things. Dogs are very efficient, and if the treats are on the floor the dog is more likely to pay attention to the floor instead of the person that they want to greet. Additionally, it allows a very active dog the opportunity to move a little bit, which is something that some young dogs really need to do as staying in a fixed position can be difficult for them.

If your dog lifts his feet off the floor, use the leash to push them down, have the person turn around and walk away until you have your dog under control – then they can return. We want to teach the dog that when he jumps people go away, when he’s sitting they stick around.

You can start with the sit, but if you think that your dog is struggling to maintain it, you could just require that your dog keeps four paws on the floor.

Using the leash method described above, you're going to pair it with reinforcing your dog for keeping 4 ft on the floor. As the person approaches you're going to ask your dog for a sit. It's better to do this when the dog first notices the person, rather than wait until the person is fairly close and the dog can no longer restrain themselves.

Additional training and jumping prevention will depend on the context of the jumping.

Jumping on guests to your home

There are a number of things you can do to prevent your dog from jumping on guests, and what you choose will depend on your dog, the layout of your home, and possibly even who the guest is!

If your dog's jumping isn't too enthusiastic, you may choose to use the leash method that I outlined above. Leaving a leash by the front door will make things a lot more efficient for you. I would recommend that you put the leash on before you open the door to your guest, and be ready to prevent your dog from jumping by either stepping on leash, or by pushing down with your hand close to your dog's collar.

If your dog is the kind of dog that loses their brain when they get excited, then you may choose to remove your dog from the area until your guest has been in your home for a period of time. Many dogs will calm down after somebody has been in the home for a period of 5 or 10 minutes, and at that point can be released.

It will be much easier to train your dog to go to another room or behind a gate when guests are not coming over, rather than wait until they are excited after the doorbell rings! Decide where your dog won't go when guests come over, whether it's in another room or behind a baby gate. Name that area, and then toss a treat into that space for your dog to run and get. Repeat this process over and over several times a day, until your dog is readily running into the space when requested.

Then you can start pairing it with signals that indicate that there is a guest on the other side of the door, however this is just a dress rehearsal and there will not be a guest. You can knock on a table or wall, or simply stick your hand out the door and ring the doorbell, and then give your dog the cue to go into their space and reward with treats. Once there isn't any hesitation on going into their space with the doorbell ringing and knocking sounds, you can start to pair it with real people.

Another option is to teach your dog to go to a station such as a mat or a dog bed when somebody comes to the door. First you would want to teach your dog to go to mat when asked, and then you would add in the doorbell or knocking as described for going to a room or behind a gate. This can be a very difficult thing to train since you are asking the dog to exhibit self-control and a situation that is extremely exciting.

If you have a dog that likes to carry toys around, you may have a simple fix. Many dogs that like to carry toys do not jump when they are holding a toy. If this is the case with your dog it may be as simple as teaching your dog to go grab a toy before you open the door to let your guests come in!

Jumping on you when you come home

One of the easiest solutions to resolving jumping on you when you walk through the door is to do a treat scatter. The only downside to this method is it does require some pre-planning. This is also not a method to use if you have multiple dogs and are concerned that they will fight over food that has been thrown on the floor.

You'll need to have a way to get some food before you open the door and walk in. Either have really great treats stashed in your jacket pocket, or keep a container of food just outside the door.

Just like with anything in training, it is better to practice this before you use it in real life. Start by simply going out the door, closing it behind you, and then coming right back in. Be prepared with a handful of six or seven small treats in your hand, and as you open the door stick your hand in first, say the word scatter, and then making sure your dog sees what you are doing, toss the treats on the floor to get your dog to turn away from you and start eating the food that you've thrown.

Repeat this until your dog understands that the door opening is an indication that you are going to toss treats for them to find.

There are several advantages to this method. First of all, it takes your dog's focus off of you and places it on the floor. Secondly, the act of sniffing and searching for the food is calming to dogs. This is very helpful because once your dog has found all the food you are going to ask your dog for a sit, and again toss the treats on the floor for your dog to seek again. How many repetitions you have to do of this will depend on the dog. If your dog is settled you can stop and greet your dog. If your dog is still hyper you may have to repeat a few more times.

When you use it in real life it will look exactly the same. You will not have to do this for the entire life of your dog. This is a matter of breaking your dog's habit of jumping when you walk through the door, and so this will take several weeks if not a few months, depending on the dog. Once your dog gets pretty reliable and not jumping when somebody walks through the door you can slowly fade treat scatters out.

Another option is to teach your dog to go to a mat or a bed you have located within sight of the door through which you are entering. Just like with the treat scatter you will practice this before you use it in real life. If you haven't already taught your dog to go to mat and settle, that will be your first step without the context of somebody entering through the door. Make sure that is a solid behavior before you add doorway entries to it.

Once your dog has very solid mat behavior, do practice sessions of walking through the door, and asking the dog to go to their mat as you do so. Because you're adding a new context to this behavior your dog will most likely be confused, or too excited to respond to the queue. Help your dog out by leading them over to the mat, and giving them treats for going on it. Continue to practice until your dog is reliably going to the mat on cue.

Dogs jumping on children

If you have very young children in the house, then you may have to make an effort to supervise closely when the dog and children are together. Again, we don't want the dog to practice this behavior, and young children won't be able to help in the training process without assistance from an adult.

Keeping a leash on the dog as a drag line (when you are home to supervise) can be very helpful to give you something to grab onto and provide a little bit more control. Young children should be told not to handle the leash, that is something that a parent should be using to remove the dog if the dog is jumping on the children.

Child demonstrating Be a Tree
Be a Tree

However, children can be given a tool to use when dogs start to get a little bit too wound up or start to jump. Teaching children to “Be a Tree” in this situation can be extremely helpful. When the dog gets wound up the children should plant their feet in the ground, cross their arms, and look at their feet. This makes them a little bit more boring, and will help the dog calm down until a parent can get in and manage the dog. Practicing “Be a Tree” ahead of time will be really helpful so that the children understand what to do in these situations. It's easier to do a dress rehearsal than to try and coach the children during the actual event.

Older children can also be taught “Be a Tree”, and also shown how to use leash to prevent the dog from jumping.

dog jumping on boy

Additional training notes

  • A very important part of training is making sure that you observe your dog making good choices, and reinforcing that. If normally your dog would jump in a situation and they choose not to, that is worthy of a tremendous amount of praise, attention, treats, and or play time.

  • Your demeanor makes a difference as far as how your dog is able to control their impulses to jump. Make sure interactions with the dog are done in a very calm, low-key manner. Also pay attention to body language. Fast petting will get revved up, as opposed to slow massage type petting which will help calm your dog down. Using your hands to push the dog away or moving your arms around as you move away from the dog will actually encourage the dog to jump even more. And children who are running and screaming are likely to trigger a dog's excitement level and encourage them to jump.

  • Be very consistent with your expectations that your dog is not going to jump. If sometimes you let it go, and other times it's a problem, it's giving mixed messages to your dog and will make the problem a lot more difficult to resolve. Everyone in the family should be on board with the no jumping rule, and you should not provide exceptions for people who say that they don't mind it! Dogs appreciate consistency, and it will make your job a lot easier in the long run.

  • While providing enough exercise and appropriate enrichment will not directly prevent your dog from jumping, it will go a long way towards helping resolve the behavior issue. When a dog's needs are met, it is easier for them to respond to training.


Dogs can be trained not to jump on people. It takes time, patience and practice through teaching the dog a more appropriate way to greet people, while at the same time implementing management to prevent unwanted jumping from occurring.


Do you need help training your dog? I offer virtual consultations for separation anxiety resolution, as well as for other behavioral issues or training needs.

I also offer in-person training within a 30 minute drive of Ixonia, WI.

I would love to work with you and your dog!

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