Excerpt from How to Raise the Perfect Dog
Jumping up on people
When a puppy comes running up to us and jumps on us, we think, “She loves me, she is so happy to see me!” We feel special and chosen and cherished. And who doesn’t thrill to watch puppies jumping and leaping about in play?
They are so carefree, so full of the joy of life. These are the reasons we want puppies in our lives, to bring us that enthusiasm, that appreciation of the everyday things we take for granted.
But clearly, 51 percent of our newsletter survey respondents have had more than enough of their puppies’ jumping on them. Generally, when jumping up on people is a chronic problem for a puppy, it will continue to be problematic as she grows older and larger. “A German shepherd puppy jumping on you may seem cute,” says Thinschmidt German shepherd breeder Diana Foster, “but a 120-pound German shepherd dog can actually knock you down and injure you.” Puppyhood is the best time to nip this behavior in the bud.
Since puppies’ strongest ability is their sense of smell, and since their primary purpose during the first eight months of life is to investigate and learn about everything in their new world, they will naturally want to check out and smell every human that comes into their environment. As humans, the strongest scents we project comes from our genital areas and from our mouths. We’ve all had the experience of a less-than-well-mannered dog sniffing our crotch areas – though within the dog world, sniffing genitals is good manners! Puppies need to stand up on their hind legs and put their paws on a person in order to get close to those areas. Since we tend to cover our genital areas with clothes, the next strongest scent for a dog to check out is coming from our mouths. Puppies and small dogs will want to jump up to get closer to our faces and find out what’s going on there.
It’s a challenge for humans not to see a puppy jumping on them as an “I love you,” or a “hug.” The truth is, sometimes puppies are just anxious, and they have learned that if they jump up on the human, the human will pick them up and bring them toward them and calm them down. A lot of people say, “Well, as soon as I pick him up, he calms down.”
Unfortunately, this is a Band-Aid solution. The behavior you want to remove–stopping the puppy jumping–is not gone. It’s only put on pause. When you stop a puppy and scoop her up in the middle of an anxious moment, you are never allowing her to develop the vital life skill of learning to calm herself down, on the ground.
As always, I advocate that prevention is the best medicine. You can avert a puppy jumping up problem from day one with your new puppy, by practicing the simplicity of the no touch, no talk, no eye contact rule whenever you first greet your puppy. This sends a calming signal and helps a puppy to stay focused on her nose. Her nose will keep her on the ground, and her eyes and ears will react differently. Chris and Johanna Komives took the prevention route with Eliza their puppy from day one, and the results have paid off. “We don’t give affection if she’s jumping on us. We wait until she’s seated (or better, goes to her place), before acknowledging her when we return from work.”
Learn the important second step, and read all about the next four most common puppy misbehaviors in How to Raise the Perfect Dog through Puppyhood and Beyond.