In our society human greetings are not always conducted in the same way. Sometimes they involve controlled and polite shaking of hands and sometimes they involve demonstrative hugging and kissing. Which greeting is offered when is dictated by the ambiguous rules of our society and culture.
In the same way that humans have different ways to greet each other, dogs also can greet each other in different very ways. Some greetings require a calm and reserved butt sniff and sometimes they can involve play bows and boisterous bouncing. Both kinds of dog greetings are natural and considered normal in the dog world so it is up to you to teach your dog how you want him to interact both with people as well as other dogs.
What’s “UP” With Dogs Jumping Up?
So why do dogs jump up? A plausible explanation arises from their ways of communicating with each other. A puppy greeting an adult dog often licks the adult’s muzzle, a polite, deferential behaviour. Among wolves, muzzle-licking is how pups get the grownups to regurgitate food for them. Even though domestic dogs rarely nourish puppies this way, the muzzle-licking has survived. Muzzle-licking is also an appeasement behaviour, something you might see a dog do to de-escalate a fight.
It is not uncommon for puppies in human households to jump up and try to lick our faces. When a cute little puppy jumps up to face lick many people only say, “Awwww!” And PRESTO, the act of jumping up has been rewarded. The puppy’s natural inclination is now a learned behaviour. Unfortunately, when this dog is no longer a puppy his jumping up to face lick will no longer be met with an endearing, “Awwww”. Instead, his actions will most likely be met with scowls, reprimands, and shouts for him to “Get Down.”
The main reasons that dogs jump up is because people have trained them to do so by either:
- omission – never told them not to,
- default – unwittingly rewarded the behaviour, or
- by being too lazy to deal with problem in any way other than with a short term band-aid solution.
Don’t Punish, Train Your Dog
Many people tend to deal in the short term with the problem of dogs jumping up by shouting at the dog, squirting it in the face with water or lemon juice, hitting it in the face, yanking on the leash, hang the dog up by its collar, kneeing the dog hard in the chest, or flipping it over backwards all of which are punishment based, cruel, and completely unnecessary. Don’t punish your dog for doing the behaviour. Train him what to do instead of jumping up.
Understand that pawing, licking, and jumping up are friendly appeasement gestures in the dog world. They are just a way for your dog to say “Welcome Home! I am so happy to see you.” And when the human responds to the jumping up by getting angry or physically punishing the dog the initial reaction of the dog will be to further attempt to appease the now angry owner by, you guessed it, further pawing, licking, and jumping up! The more one punishes the dog for this behaviour the more this behaviour increases in frequency. Sadly, people employ these harsh invasive reactions and all because the dog was trying to say hello in a manner that was not acceptable to us.
So what can you do about this behaviour? Teach your dog what to do instead of jumping up to greet you or another person.
Addressing The Problem
If we nurture and cultivate a behaviour by giving it our attention, then the key to this problem is that no one should be giving the dog any attention when they greet you by jumping up. As a matter of fact, no one should even interact with the dog for several minutes after entering into the house.
This is a good time to hang up your coat, take off your outdoor foot ware, or tend to your guests. This gives the dog a chance to get used to the new presence in the house and hopefully it can help to tone down the excitement level when it comes time for the greeting. Your dog’s intention when coming to greet you( or anyone else) is that he wants attention, so if you withhold the attention for a little while, you are not giving him a payoff for his rude or pushy behaviour. Instead, show your dog that you are ONLY willing to give him attention when he is sitting or lying down quietly.
If the dog insists on jumping or being excited, don’t yell or start pushing the dog. Negative attention is still attention. Instead, stand up straight and look past the dog. Draw your arms up across your chest and turn away from the dog and issue the cue OFF. He will have to get down and put his paws onto the floor in order for him to walk around to face you again. As soon as his paws are on the floor you can give him quiet and subdued attention. If he jumps up again, simple repeat the process. Eventually, your dog will figure out that jumping up does not get him what he wants, which is attention.
It is not enough for you to show the dog what you do NOT want him to do. You must also show the dog what you do want him to do. So when the dog has returned all four feet to the floor, you can further issue the cue to SIT. If the dog complies, praise him and reward him for this new behaviour but do not get him overly excited. If the dog does not comply repeat the process of ignoring and turning away from him.
Oh I Don’t Mind
If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Very often it can be your guests that are sabotaging your best efforts at teaching your dog good manners. If your guests enter your home, start flapping their arms around, squealing with excited glee at your new puppy, and petting the dog when it jumps up on them, exclaiming, “ Oh, I don’t mind if he jumps up”, then they are indeed the problem. Instruct your guests about how you want them to interact with your dog. You many need to have a few stern words about the house rules with well meaning but disruptive Aunt Mildred or sneaky and sabotaging Uncle Fred. If despite your best efforts your guest will not cooperate with you, you may need to put the dog away into his crate for a while. It’s sad that guests in your home would behave so badly but it can happen.
The People Rules
Sometimes people exhibit bad behaviour around dogs because they have never really had someone show them the proper way to interact with a dog. Regardless whether it’s an adult or a child, spend a few minutes talking to them and find out what they know about interacting with dogs. If you feel that they are lacking in this knowledge or they have erroneous information, then take a few minutes explaining and showing them the Do’s and the Don’ts about being around dogs. If the parent’s of a child guest in your home do not seem to be good about supervising their youngsters around your dog, then you may have to step in and do it for them. No one wants to see a situation arise where either a child gets hurt or a child hurts your dog. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
In tomorrow’s article we finish up this series on Husky Greetings by discussing How to Spot the Triggers to Jumping Up and The Keys to Fixing This Problem.
As always, we welcome your questions, comment, and stories. We encourage you to share your stories about how you deal with your Snow Dog that jumps up. We share our stories because when we share we might just be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.