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Why dogs jump to greet you

Original Publication Date: January 12, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Humans greet each other by making eye contact and shaking hands. Dogs have a similar ritual. They make eye contact and greet nose to nose.

When a dog greets a human, it is natural for it to jump up in an attempt to see its eyes and touch its nose.

It may seem cute when a fluffy little puppy jumps in greeting. Unfortunately, the cuteness wears thin as the dog grows to adulthood and muddy paws damage good clothing or knock poor granny down.

You extend an open invitation to jump up and meet everyone if the behavior is condoned in your young dog. It is best to teach a modified greeting behavior from puppyhood. There are a few simple training tricks that discourage jumping but encourage happy greetings.

Approach your dog calmly. Speak loudly, wave your arms and show great excitement on greeting your dog, and it will respond in kind. Stay a bit reserved, and it will follow suit.

Many experts recommend that you ask your dog to sit when greeting you or others. Reward it with lots of pets and perhaps a treat when it keeps its front feet on the ground. Unfortunately, this method only works if you have already trained your dog to sit.

Others suggest you turn your back and ignore a jumping dog. This may work if the dog walks around to face you. You can then praise him because all feet are on the ground. Of course, turning away may encourage him to jump on your back, which defeats the purpose.

Treats and toys can also be used to discourage jumping. Scatter several small tidbits to the side of your dog as it approaches. When it's done eating them, reach down and hand it another treat so it does not have to reach or move upward to get it. Praise it for keeping all feet on the ground. With practice, you can decrease the number of goodies and go straight to the praise and greeting.

Your dog may be distracted if you offer or toss a favorite toy for it to play with or fetch. Praise the good behavior and not jumping.

You may have heard of negative training methods to discourage jumping, like a knee in the chest, pinching front toes or stepping on back toes. These are very bad human behaviors. The dog is greeting you with affection and is trying to share its love for you. If you respond by hurting it, you will have one very confused and unhappy pup.

A dog jumps up to greet you as a friendly gesture. It is up to you to teach it an alternative greeting behavior that allows it to show its joy for life and affection for you. Respond in kind with your love.


Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at HolisticTouchTherapy.com.