Jumping on guests is a normal behavior that dogs exhibit, but through proper management and training, you can change your dog’s behavior. With inappropriate behaviors, it is important to identify what changes in the environment start the pattern of inappropriate behaviors. If you do not intervene at all when guests arrive, the normal chain of events might look like this:
- Dog hears the doorbell and/or knocking on the door
- Dog gets excited and starts barking
- Guest appears, dog sees guest, dog rushes guest
- Dog jumps on guest The first course of action with inappropriate behaviors is to stop a dog from escalating their behavior during the first sign of anxiety.
If you can stop your dog from rehearsing all of the steps of the behavior, then you can change the behavior pattern. The goal of behavior modification is to stop the inappropriate behavior and redirect it into appropriate behavior. When guests arrive, the first event that usually causes dogs to react is either knocking on the door or hearing the doorbell. If your dog reacts to this event, you should read this post about desensitizing your dog to the doorbell and work on the exercises there.
The next event that can cause dogs to get excited is when the guest appears at the door. There are a number of strategies that can decrease anxiety and change the behavior pattern.
Reward before your dog jumps
- Put your dog on leash to prevent her from rushing the door
- AS SOON as she sees the guest appear, click and treat (if you are using a clicker) or say, “yes” and treat
- I recommend tossing treats on the ground
- Eventually your dog will see your guest and start sniffing the ground because she is anticipating a treat
- Continue this as your guest approaches your dog by clicking and treating each time your dog looks at your guest but before she jumps
- Move her gently away using the leash if she jumps and continue the exercise
- As she calms down, you can drop the leash and have her trail it so you can pick it up, if needed
Tether Your Dog
If you want to greet your guests first you can tether your dog to prevent her from rushing the door. Put her on leash and put the end of the leash under a table leg or over a doorknob or other stationary object. Your dog should be able to comfortable sit or lie down. She should not be uncomfortable in any way.
- Have your guests slowly approach your dog and click and treat before she jumps
- Instruct your guests to back away if she jumps at all
- You can also give treats to your guests and instruct them to give her a treat if she is on the ground and remove the treat if she jumps
- As your dog calms down, you can remove her from the object and keep the leash on her so you can gently grab it if necessary
If your dog likes toys, you can throw a toy for your dog to chase as soon as she sees your guest. This accomplishes the goal of stopping inappropriate behavior and redirecting it into an appropriate behavior.