Untrained puppies will jump up at people just as they do at other dogs. This can be through sheer exuberance but is often based on a pup’s instinct to lick his mother’s mouth to encourage regurgitation of food or to get to her teats for milk. When meeting people a pup may jump up to reach the faces of the people looking at him. As a pup grows up, its mother and other pack members will let it know in no uncertain terms when they find jumping up unacceptable, by growling, snarling or ignoring, and the pup will soon learn good manners.
Once we bring a new puppy into our homes we have to take on the responsibility of teaching him the manners he needs to learn. In a human family this doesn’t always happen. Endearing though jumping up can look in a sweet, small puppy it is no joke when a fully grown dog with springs for feet is leaping on your visitors’ backs and bounding up to lick their faces as they pass unsuspectingly through your doorway or on the street. This jumping up can easily become a habit if it is not discouraged. As an adult dog it can also be symptomatic of wilful behaviour in that the dog will jump and barge people, trying to reach a higher level than those around him and thereby claims the ground that they are standing on.
Jumping up often happens when the excitement of greeting overtakes a dog, so the first thing to remember is to keep a calm environment. If you are arriving home, don’t call your dog madly, raise the pitch of your voice in greeting or slap your thighs in invitation. Calmly go about the business of doing what you need to do and completely ignore the dog for a few minutes until he calms down completely. This means he must have given up completely with any attempts to leap on you and otherwise get your attention. Then when you decide to greet him, if he tries to jump up, turn away from him and ignore him again. This will eventually work but you may find, if your dog is very persistent, that you’ll have to put up with him bouncing up and down behind you or even putting his paws on your back. If you are finding this impossible it is a good idea to introduce a crate for your dog to teach him to be calm. Please see my article on crate training for more information.
It would be so much nicer if your dog would sit when greeting people rather than leaping on them. What he really wants is attention from them, and if he gets it from sitting down rather than jumping, then that is what he will be more likely to do. Think about all the situations in which he jumps up and set up a training session around them so you can be sure he knows what you want him to do.
The first thing to do when visitors are due at your home is to put him in a separate room or a dog crate when they first arrive and once he is calmer, bring him out on a lead to be introduced. At first he may still try to jump up when you bring him out to meet them. Ask your visitor to stand still, ignoring your dog completely. Bring your dog up to the visitor on his lead and tell him to sit. When he does, ask your visitor to give him a treat. If he then becomes very excited, walk him away without talking to him or touching him. Practise this several times if your guest is agreeable. Ask her to take a step or two back and walk towards her with your dog beside you on a loose lead. Ask him to sit again when he gets close. Do this several times and after a while you will find that he will sit down when approaching the visitor without your command as he anticipates getting food and attention. Once all four paws are on the floor, congratulate and treat him. Practise this whenever people visit and in any other situation in which your dog jumps habitually. Keep a pot of treats near the door and in your pocket to help to reinforce this.
When a dog jumps up on a person he is claiming their personal space which is an impolite thing to do, both in human and canine society. As a puppy he probably isn’t aware of what he is doing but personal space is very important to dogs. One way to deal with persistent jumping in larger dogs is to step towards them when they jump, claiming the ground they are jumping into rather than backing away which tends to be the natural inclination. Do not look at, speak to, or touch your dog when you do this. Again, once all four paws are on the floor, congratulate the dog.
Never reward or even acknowledge a jumping dog; always wait until all four feet are on the floor before praising him.