How to stop my dog jumping on people?

One of the most annoying dog behaviours is jumping up when greeting people. Dogs may jump up when you come home, when house guests arrive or on complete strangers at the dog park. Dogs will jump up for different reasons in different circumstances, because each dog is individual and they have their own feelings and personalities.

Here are some general tips to teach your dog to greet people politely.

1. Prevent rehearsals of jumping up

Remember, practise makes perfect. The more the dog is allowed to jump up, the more ingrained the pattern of behaviour becomes. So, while you are teaching your dog how to greet politely, prevent them practising jumping up on people.

At home you could put the dog on a lead when guests arrive to prevent them rushing your guests.

When out walking your dog, stay at a little distance, so your dog can’t reach your neighbour and jump up.

2. Know your dog

To teach your dog to greet people politely, you need to know your dog and the scenarios in which they will greet people.

Some things to consider are:

  • Who will your dog greet – family members, house guests, strangers, children, older people.
  • What are your dog’s preferences – are they OK with people approaching them or would they prefer to approach people on their own terms, does your dog not like being touched and where?
  • What is your dog’s personality or general behavioural tendencies – excitable with a tendency to become hyper-aroused or easily frustrated, sensitive with a tendency to be wary or fearful, laid back, easy going, or neutral.

3. Choose a polite greeting routine

Your polite greeting routine will be the pattern you and your dog follow whenever you greet a person.

You may choose to have multiple routines depending on the scenario. My dog has a “go say hi” routine we use when greeting people outside the house. We also have a routine when people come to our house.

Here are some examples of polite greeting routines you may use or adapt to suit your situation:

  • “Go say hi” routine – Here is our routine for greeting people away from home. When someone asks if they can pat my dog, our routine begins (1) I ask my dog to sit (2) Release him to go say “hi” and allow him to approach the person, if he wants. (3) Count 1 – 2 – 3 (My dog is allowed to interact for three seconds to prevent him getting overly excited and jumping up.) (4) Ask him to come back to me.

This routine suits dogs who do not like people approaching them. It gives the dog the freedom to approach the stranger, if they want. It is also a good routine for dogs who become overly excited and can “lose their brain”.

  • Visitor routine – Here is our routine when people come to the house. (1) Door bell rings (2) I ask my dog to hop on his mat which is a good distance from the front door. (3) I open the door and ask my guests to walk down the hall to the living room. (4) I send my dog to his bed in the living room.

This routine suits a dog who gets overly excited, frustrated or needs structure. It is also an ideal routine if you have young children or people with mobility issues visiting your home. These visitors can get “safely” past the dog and settled in the living room.

  • People approach routine – For dogs who are comfortable being approached, like their food and have no issues with resource guarding, a simple greeting routine is to slow feed your dog (to control their head) while a person gently pets them. The food delivery stops when the petting stops.

This approach positively associates petting by a stranger with food rewards. Remember to give your dog a signal that the petting routine is about to start. For example, put a treat on your dog’s nose and position the dog so they are facing you.

  • Treat scatter routine – For dogs who live alone or if you have multiple dogs with no resource guarding issues, when a guest comes to your house, you or your guest can scatter treats on the floor.

The benefit of this approach is that the dog associates a guest coming to the house with the downward focus of eating tasty treats off the floor. Remember, to say a word or phrase that tells your dog it is OK to eat the food thrown on the floor e.g. “scatter”, “bickies”, “get it”

  • “Shake hands” routine – For anxious or nervous dogs, your guests could ask your dog to perform a trick such as shake hands, paw target (dog’s paw on the guest’s shoe), or nose target (to guest’s hand or shoe). This routine allows your dog to interact with people without the fear of being touched in a way they are not expecting.

4. Train your polite greeting routine

1. Train and reward each step of your routine in a low distraction place like your bedroom, just you and your dog. Remember to be consistent with the signals or words you use to let your dog know you are starting the routine.

2. Repeat your routine, just you and your dog, in different places around your house and yard.

3. Practise your routine with a person that your dog is very familiar with, in a low distraction place. Keep the greeting low key – quiet voices, slow movements, slow delivery of food rewards.

4. Repeat the routine with more familiar people. Keep the greeting low key and reward each step of your routine.

5. Increase the distraction gradually. Remember to always monitor your dog to ensure they can follow the routine and not revert back to jumping up.

Regardless of the specific greeting routine or the number of routines you choose, by being consistent and rewarding your dog for each step in the routine, jumping up will soon be a thing of the past.

Teamwork Dogs’ Foundation course for adolescent and adult dogs teaches dogs to greet people politely. Our trainers will help you decide on a polite greeting routine that will suit you and your dog. For more information about the Foundation course please see

Happy training.