dog jumping up

Are you a Firefighter or a Planner?

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I get so many emails along the lines of 

      • “How can I stop my dog doing xyz?”

      • “Every time x happens, my dog does y”

      • “My dog does xyz out of the blue.”

      • “My dog always does xyz - I say NO, but he doesn’t seem to learn and does it again next time.”

Let’s take these one by one.

1. “How can I stop my dog doing xyz?”

Far, far, easier than stopping your dog, is to ensure he doesn’t start!

It may be that you’re new to living with a dog, and you can’t foresee what’s likely to happen. Once you have a few dogs “under your belt” you get much quicker at spotting hazards in advance. So, if your dog already has an established behaviour pattern that you don’t like (and if he was re-homed with you, he may have come with this habit already well-learnt), you want to look at what causes that action to happen. 

Once you know the precursor, you have a chance to change the outcome

Perhaps your dog jumps up on visitors. What happens before he jumps?

1. Visitor arrives at house and knocks at door (huge excitement!)
2. Visitor is admitted (excitement unparalleled)
3. Maybe visitor tries to greet the dog, in self-defence (dog is massively rewarded for lunatic activity)

So you have three clear points there where you could make changes. 

1. When visitor arrives, or - if expected - before visitor is due, settle your dog in his crate or another room with a chewtoy or stuffed foodtoy.
2. As the visitor is admitted to the house, your dog is either safe in his crate or other room, or is on lead beside you with your foot on the lead, and cannot jump.
3. If visitor wants to greet dog (preferably when you ask them to) dog has to stay sitting in order to earn this mighty reward.

So there you have three easy fixes to a nuisance behaviour with little effort - just a little advance planning.

2. “Every time x happens, my dog does y”

This is along similar lines as the first point, but this time my correspondent has picked up on the fact that something happens first, then the dog reacts. So we’re ahead already!

Sometimes the full question may read:

“Every time another dog walks towards us on the street, my dog lunges and barks.”

What’s happening here?
1. Strange dog (and probably strange person) are advancing towards your dog
2. Your dog is afraid of this incursion
3. Your dog is on lead and cannot exercise the “Flight” part of “Fight or Flight”, so he puts on an aggressive display to frighten away the intruder
4. Other dog and owner turn and go, or hurry past, or you turn and go (Result! The threat has gone! The barking and lunging worked!)

So we want to change this to:

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1. Strange dog/person advancing - turn and go the other way, or cross the road
2. Demonstrate to your dog that he needn’t be afraid, you will take care of him
3. Keep hands soft on the lead so he doesn’t feel trapped, and make distance
4. The other dog has gone without the need to be shouted at!

3. “My dog does xyz out of the blue.”

So you can see by now, that your dog never does stuff out of the blue. Unless your dog has dementia, there’s always a reason, just like there is for anything we do. 

The trick is in identifying the reason so we can fix it at that stage, without waiting for the full bad thing to happen.

And one of the commonest times I hear this statement is in regard to dogs reacting - perhaps leaping up and snapping. There’s always a reason!

Perhaps the dog is resource guarding - a speck of food, his owner, a shred of tissue, a toy - and someone got too near. Perhaps he felt another dog was threatening him, too close. Perhaps someone leant over and scratched his bum without permission! (How would you feel if a stranger scratched your bum without so much as a “by your leave”?)

Dogs always run through a sequence of calming signals before biting. Granted, they may run through it pretty fast, especially if they do it a lot. But they do do it. Just as you’d be unlikely to spin round on that stranger and pull a knife: rather, you’d fix him with a frosty glare and maybe say something loud enough for others to hear. 

Kendal Shepherd's Canine Ladder of Aggression

Kendal Shepherd's Canine Ladder of Aggression

So the dog who bit “out of the blue” will probably have tried to turn away, gone still and stiff, shown the whites of his eyes, given a stare, wrinkled his lip, mumbled a growl, swished his tail stiffly, maybe snapped - all steps ascending the Canine Ladder of Aggression - before he felt forced to bite. Fighting is dangerous for all parties, and is not entered upon unless it’s the only choice. 

By the way, dogs are so much faster than us, that if a dog is going to bite you, you are going to get bitten. There is no “He nearly bit me but I moved away in time.” If you are genuinely threatened by a dog, your best course of action is to avert your gaze and posture, keep your arms still, and stop being a threat. 

Teaching children to “be a tree” when confronted by a dog they don’t know is an essential skill: 

  • Plant your roots (keep your feet still)

  • Fold your branches (fold your arms across your body)

  • Watch your roots grow (look at your feet)

A child running away screaming and flapping arms and legs is a great target for a chasing dog!

4. “My dog always does xyz - I say NO, but he doesn’t seem to learn and does it again next time.”

Here we have a combination of acting too late to affect the outcome, and using punishment to try and fix the situation. Both are doomed to failure.

We’ve seen above that you have to identify the precursors to an action if you want any chance of changing it. If your dog “always” does whatever it is, this means it’s a firm habit which you are allowing to happen every time. Change something! Find out what the sequence is and interrupt it. 

If you wait till he’s done it and punish, he’s already been rewarded and you are too late

And as for saying NO, this really is not going to help. Saying NO gives the dog no information about what you do want, and just tells him that you are angry with him and adversarial. You’re not on the same side as him any more, so he can’t expect any help from you. This is exactly what we don’t want in our relationship with our dog! 

Instead, decide on what you want him to do instead, teach him how to do that, reward his response enthusiastically, and you now have a new go-to action for that situation. 

Let’s revisit the first example above:

1. Your dog jumps up on a visitor (fun - visitor dances and flaps hands)
2. You shout NO (more fun! You’re joining in with him now!)

How about, instead:

1. You ask your dog to sit on lead as visitor arrives (you have taught and rewarded this endlessly)
2. Dog sits as you welcome your visitor
3. Dog is rewarded - either with a treat, or by being allowed to greet the visitor calmly

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No firefighting!

A lot of these “beginner” mistakes can easily be avoided or changed with a little foresight. Don’t expect your dog to be a small hairy version of a civilised human brought up with our society’s values. 

He’s a dog.

So think of how he sees the situation - get inside his head and think like a dog - then you can pick out the turning points where you can directly influence the outcome, with a happy dog!

You have to be proactive, not a firefighter. This is true of life in general, and never more true than in developing the magical bond with your dog.

Lots more help can be found in other articles here at Brilliant Family Dog, and specific “recipes” to change things you don’t like can be found in our free 8-part email course.

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5 Surefire Tips to Get Your Dog to Jump Up on People


There’s a ring at the doorbell.

While you make your way to the door your dog is running rings around you, barking, jumping, grabbing at toys. 

You yell “Stop! Get down! Be quiet!” Now you’re both barking!

You open the door and your dog launches himself at your visitor, striking heramidships, sending her reeling.

You yell “Stop! Get down! Be quiet!” 

Your visitor staggers through the door with your dog dancing in front of her on hind legs, grabbing at her sleeve and leaving drooly smears on her bag.

You yell “Stop! Get down! Be quiet!” 

Your panting dog stands still for a moment.

You yell at him for being a bad dog.

Your visitor says “I won’t stay,” and starts to make her escape.

As she leaves you grab at your dog’s collar to stop him running out after her.

You close the door and shake your head in exasperation at your happy dog.

Look familiar? 

Here are my 5 Surefire Tips to ensure that this happens every time:

  1. Make sure dog is super-excited and racing around loose, barking

  2. Shout “Get off! Stop! NO!”, wave arms, dance, add to the excitement

  3. Give dog lots of attention for jumping on people and no attention whatever when his feet are on the floor

  4. Make sure dog knows that wherever he goes and whatever he does, it’s WRONG

  5. Don’t bother to train your dog. After all your old dog didn’t do it (though he was 12, come to think of it)


WAIT! You don’t want this to happen? 

You really want to change things? Ok - have a look at these:

  1. To contain the flying excitement, clip a lead onto your dog’s collar and put your foot on the lead so that he’s still free to sit, stand or lie down, but can’t jump up

  2. Greet your guest and ask them to ignore dog

  3. When your dog is sitting or standing patiently, ask guest to hold their palm out for the dog to sniff

  4. Reward your dog with a treat and gushing praise as you draw him gently back to your side

  5. Cleverclogs stuff: teach him to go to his bed near the door when the doorbell rings, and stay till invited off


Practice makes Perfect - so try this out with a friend who is prepared to wait outside the door while you take your time and calmly lead up your dog without having to worry about someone waiting for you. 

You could practice each stage with your friend, so that if your dog tries to leap up when the door opens to reveal the visitor, you can simply close the door gently and open it again when he’s calmed down a bit. 

Your dog will soon understand that it’s his good choices that enable you to open the door and admit the visitor! Such empowerment will have him making those good decisions over and over again.

Your regular visitors will be astonished and amazed, and glad that they’re able to wear ordinary clothes to visit you instead of disposable overalls. 

And they won’t need the ear-defenders any more either!

Maybe your dog’s been doing this since forever - but you can change it! It’ll take a bit of time and application, but you’ll be so glad when you can welcome a visitor to your home without them getting mobbed! You’ll be proud of what you’ve achieved, proud of your dog, and relieved that you’re no longer the big bad shouting joy-killer.


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How can I stop my dog jumping up?

This is one of the first questions I’m asked by new dog-owners. Whether they have a brand-new puppy or an older rescue dog, this is the universal cry!

But as you’ve seen in New Puppy? New Rescue Dog? Start here! you’ll do better if you look at it from another angle.

Instead of trying to stop your dog doing something, rather teach him what you’d like him to do instead.

If he has something he can do and knows it will please you, he won’t need to do all the things you find annoying when he would like your attention. Or when he wants to greet you.

Feet on the Floor!

It's natural for a puppy to try to reach your face with a "kiss" - that's how they greet their dam in the nest. When she returns after a hunt, the puppies will all reach up and lick her face and teeth, to prompt her to regurgitate her kill.

So one way to prevent your puppy jumping up is to get down to his level first!

Another regular winner is to focus him on keeping his feet on the floor. If you have a solidly-trained Sit (be honest! That means you say the word Sit just once, and your dog throws his tail-end to the floor as fast as he can) you can ask him to do that before you ever give him any attention.

You have to get your word “Sit” in before he jumps, otherwise you’re teaching a neat behaviour sequence of Jump - Sit - Reward. He’ll think he has to jump before he can sit! Not the outcome you want at all.

In fact, you can just stand and wait for him to work out that jumping is not doing the trick and he'll either stand or sit without you having to say a word!

Be sure you don't reward his jumping with cries of "Off! Get down! Ouch!" which he will take to mean "I love this! Keep jumping!"

If your Sit is still a bit wobbly, or you have a young pup who doesn’t know it yet, simply placing a treat on the floor between his feet will get him to look floorwards. He can’t be staring at the floor at the same time as jumping up, so the problem is eliminated.

Similarly, he can’t be sitting at the same time as jumping up. Either way will work to keep your pup’s feet on the floor and off you - without having to admonish or scold him for his enthusiasm.

These methods will work perfectly to focus your dog’s attention on the floor when he’d like to put his paws on you.

But you can’t expect your visitors to do this training for you! They need to be protected from flying paws and playfully snapping jaws. And the quickest and simplest way is to have your dog on a lead before you admit a visitor to your home, and stand on that lead so that it’s loose enough for your dog to sit, stand, or lie down, but not loose enough for him to jump up.

If he’s keeping (more or less) still, he gets the opportunity to say hello to your guest - as long as his feet stay on the floor. Now he’s learning how to greet visitors politely.

Oakley is learning she has no need to jump to greet her owner

Oakley is learning she has no need to jump to greet her owner


The quickest way to solve many puppy behaviour problems is simply to ensure that what you don't like cannot happen.

Much more fun to direct your puppy to something you do like, rather than continually nagging him and focussing on what you don’t like.

Once you find this system working for jumping up, you can start to apply it to anything else you’d like to see changed in your pup.


You’ll find lots more helpful hints like these in our free e-course which you will find here.

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How can I stop my dog jumping up?