How to stop your dog jumping up at people during greetings?

The answer to this question lies within rephrasing it. It should be….

“How do I stop people over stimulating or overwhelming my puppy?
( which causes them to jump)”.

Undoubtedly, some dogs may jump up at people regardless of what the people are doing, and here a longline should be deployed to prevent approach and practise of the behaviour.

But for puppies who jump during greetings/interactions then the key is to manage how people behave. Sadly, too many people loom over, tickle, stroke the head and go ‘oooooh puppy puppy’ or other similar excitable phrases. Who can blame them, puppies are cute!

But here lies the problem. Your puppy shouldn’t have to learn how to tolerate intense interactions from strangers at first. Strangers (humans, with their far more developed brain and what one would hope is a greater ability to exert some sort of self control!) should be taught to interact with unfamiliar dogs appropriately.

The assumption all puppies want or benefit from strokes and cuddles is wrong. Some find unfamiliar people scary, others may find it over stimulating and respond by jumping.

On our puppy walks, everyone who came near Mohawk was asked to ignore him completely- before Mohawk had even approached them. If they demonstrated compliance I hung around and when Mohawk was calmer around them I’d talk them through how to stroke him. If they weren’t compliant (ignored my requests went to stroke) Mohawk was recalled away and off we went. I asked people to step away if he jumped and explained why. The conversation went something like. ..

‘Hiya, if my puppy comes over please don’t stroke him, just ignore him! Thanks so much, I don’t want him to learn to jump at people. If he jumps please just step away so I can recall him. Thank you, you’re doing a great job of ignoring him. When he calms down I can talk you through how to stroke him so he doesn’t jump.”

“You’ve been so helpful, thank you. Now he’s calmer if you’d like a stroke please can you do it on his chest, below his neck and between his front legs **.
“That’s great, a lot of dogs find on top of the head unpleasant! Thank you for helping me train him, I’m going to recall him away now so do you mind stopping stroking?’.

Note how descriptive/specific I am and how much I reinforce their compliance.

** Alternatively, I would detail them to stroke along his back if this was less invasive based on his position to the person. How people should interact with dogs depends on the dog’s size, their position during interaction and how they respond to being stroked. We don’t want people to put their face too close to an unfamiliar dog’s face so they can stroke them on the chest! Look for absence of avoidance in the dog and where on the body they find stroking the most calming!

When children were involved I ask them ‘Would you like to help me train my puppy?’ which seems to get most instantly on board. I then go into detail more about them standing still , staying calm, no outstretched hands , letting the puppy choose to approach and why these are all important!

Children need to learn how to behave around dogs. This lack of awareness is why statistically the majority of dog bites happen on children’s faces and hands….have a think about why they are being bitten the most on these body parts 🤔

I tend to go super heavy on reinforcing children verbally and explain why what they’re doing is so important.

“Oh my goodness, you’re doing such a good job of being a tree. We don’t want doggies to be scared of children do we? Standing still helps them want to be your friend and you’re doing such a good job of that”.

Never had a child’s parent get grumpy with me, never had a person tell me to ‘eff off’. I may have taken people by surprise with a somewhat instructive start to a conversation- but I swiftly smooth things over with gratitude and explanations (why it benefits them- not being jumped on- and why it helps my dog!). I reinforce heavily and so they remember for next time- I detail exactly what they are doing right! Loads of people love to feel helpful and important!

The result, I have an adolescent dog who greets people on all four paws outside on walks. The exception is my partner and the odd delivery man- who get two paws to the gonads once in a blue moon! Might need to work on that! 😆

Mohawk doesn’t expect tactile stimulation from everybody, even though he’s highly social.

Countless strangers don’t need to manhandle your puppy in order for them to be socialised. In fact, too much attention from people towards nervous dogs can make them escalate distance increasing behaviour. If your dog/puppy shows no signs of wanting to approach- don’t make them!

It was for this reason I never let anyone stroke Mohawk when I was carrying him. He couldn’t communicate how he felt about them whilst being carried- and that outstretched hand to the head is too often aversive to many dogs.

When walked in busy places and being on the receiving end of unsolicited unfamiliar human contact, nervous puppies can stop wanting to walk or even become reactive on their walks – often generalising reactivity to other triggers. They cease to sniff and explore, and are on constant high alert. The world just doesn’t feel safe… they could be ambushed at any time!

If you have a breed that has a high tendency for vocalising (Mini Schnauzer, Miniature Daschund, Chihuahua etc) or a breed with a genetic tendency to be aloof/suspicious such as Mastiffs, Akitas, Shiba Inus or those who have a increased sensitive socialisation phase such as German Shepherds- be extra careful to manage how people interact with them because these guys may be more quick to develop sensitivities and/or reactive behaviour.

That said, it’s better to assume all dogs may be vulnerable to developing sensitivities….because they are!

On the other side of the coin, highly social dogs can become over stimulated by people and come to expect attention. The sight of people soon triggers pulling, barking and other behaviours associated with high arousal, anticipation or frustration.
This often applies to poodle crosses! Everyone wants a stroke because they look like a caramel flavoured teddy bear, but they have springs in their legs instead on bones! The interactions get quite intense, because the dog is jumping and flapping all over the place while people squeal with glee. These guys often become over stimulated by social attention and start to expect it on walks, pulling towards people when on lead or rushing over to people when off lead.

Of course, not all poodle crosses are super social- we see many who are nervous also! The key is to look at your dog as an individual and taylor make their socialisation plan to them and them only! Go at their pace and put them in environments where they can cope and be calm!

Honestly, the best thing strangers can do to help socialise your puppy is ignore them!Don’t fret about upsetting people by politely asking them to ignore your dog. Should your adult dog jump all over people or bark and growl at them I think they’ll be far more upset.