If your dog gets overly excited when a person arrives at your home and jumps, you’re not alone. The majority of social dogs do this behavior. There are a couple of different ways we can handle this. One way consists of training and the other way consists of management.
Let's start off with training
“Don’t jump” doesn’t work. Trust me, people try it all of the time. What we need to do instead is have our dog do a behavior that is physically impossible to do at the same time as a jump. This is referred to as an incompatible behavior. This is where, “sit” comes in handy. If he is sitting then he isn’t jumping. We also have to make sure that he collects his reward in that position. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be easier said than done.
Firstly, we must teach the behavior that we want instead. Walk up and sit is the behavior we’re looking for. Let’s call it, “Go say hi.” Here is a video on how to teach it.
Secondly, we must practice. Without practicing this, it’s unlikely we’ll ever stop the unwanted behavior with training. In order to practice we can start off by having other people in our household step out and knock on the door. Once he can successfully sit without any jumps when the person steps out and right back in we’re ready to increase the amount of time that the person is outside for. Start off by having the person step outside for 30 seconds. If he can successfully hold his sit without jumping 4 out of 5 times when the person reenters then we’re ready to increase it to 1 minute. If he can successfully hold his sit 4 out of 5 times then we’re ready to increase to 2 minutes. Follow that trend until you’ve successfully reached 20 minutes. If at any point he starts to struggle and is only successful 2 out of 5 times we need to go back to the previous step that he was successful with. For those longer durations it’s a good idea for the person to leave and run a quick errand so they’re not hanging out on the porch for 10 or 20 minutes.
Thirdly, we must start to practice with real guests. Since we’ve put all the work in at home, our dog should be close to getting this. We need to recruit some friends to come over once a week. He may fail the first couple tries but it will eventually click. It's important to reward our friends for coming over with coffee or an adult beverage.
Let's talk about management
Management simply means preventing the unwanted behavior from happening. Whether we’re strictly going with a management approach or we’re doing the training approach mentioned above, we must use a leash. Using the leash allows us to physically control our dog. It allows us to pull him away if he starts to jump.
Another management option that we can use is a gate. Gates aren’t just used to prevent young children from going into unwanted places. We can also use them to prevent our dog from accessing certain areas of the house. Managing with a gate could consist of keeping him behind it until he calms down. Once he calms down he can then be let out. (If he starts to jump we would need to put him right back behind the gate and then repeat a minute or two later.)
It’s also a great idea to give our dog something to work on right after the guest arrives. A frozen stuffed Kong goes a long way. It can take 10-15 minutes and once he is finished there is a great chance that the excitement will be gone.
It’s up to you
There is nothing wrong with taking any of the approaches mentioned. We can’t all find time in our busy schedules to train our dogs to politely sit to greet, and that’s okay. That’s why we have management options. We need to be consistent with whatever approach we take. The most important thing is not allowing our dog to rehearse the unwanted behavior.