Johnnie’s Jumping: Training the Humans

It’s been three weeks since Johnnie’s come into our home. She has improved on a remarkable amount of behaviors, but still has a ways to go in one category in particular: jumping up on people during greetings.

It is not uncommon for dogs that are easily excitable and/or love people to have a problem with jumping up. Johnnie’s excitement often gets the best of her and she springs her dainty little paws onto your belly in an attempt to show you just how happy she is to see you! While she’s improved significantly over the past three weeks with just management and some redirecting techniques, five months of having the behavior reinforced at the shelter is proving difficult to undo. Our biggest problem? Inconsistent reinforcement.

It’s sort of like those “My dog is friendly!”s you meet out on walks with your reactive dog: when Johnnie meets a new person and before I get a chance to say anything like, “Can you please wait, I’d like to get her to sit first” they’ve ran up to her and she’s already jumped up on them. Her new friend can then be found coo-ing at her, saying, “It’s okay, my dogs do it all the time. She’s sooo cute!” (similar to the below photo, except probably with more bouncing).  This is all fine and dandy, except that now Johnnie has gotten significant attention for jumping up.


There are two issues here, both with one thing in common: it’s the humans who need training. I need to figure out a way to let Johnnie meet new people without practicing her bad behavior of jumping, which means stepping in before she gets the opportunity to jump on them, but without making it seem like she’s not friendly. This is something I will need to get creative with and practice, because I’m not always very direct with people I don’t know – but I need to be an advocate for my dog! The second thing is getting greeters to understand that if she does jump up, don’t reinforce it. This is hard for people to wrap their head around, like I stated above. So many people don’t have a problem with it, especially since she’s so little and adorable, but it leads to an insane amount of inconsistency in her training, making it very difficult to break her of the habit.

So now that J Cash has had three weeks to settle in, it’s time for a four-on-the-floor boot camp to help her with her urge to jump. I am going to try my best to teach her an alternative to bouncing her little front paws off the ground when she meets new people – hopefully finding a way to make it her idea to stay calm during greetings instead of making it something she’s forced into, which might not be as reliable of a long-term solution. I will keep you all updated about how it goes, with the end goal for introductions being something like the below photo.  Stay tuned!


To adopt your very own Johnnie Cash, a dog that you’ll have a lot of fun training together with, email

15 thoughts on “Johnnie’s Jumping: Training the Humans

  1. Rachel @ Skull and Crosstales

    I can’t wait to hear more about this! My dog is also super excited by new people and lives to jump all over them. Because he’s only a little dog, people always let or even encourage his jumping – as you say, it makes consistency a problem. Can’t wait to see how you tackle it so I can steal done ideas!

  2. Wendy H

    I am dealing with the same thing with my temp foster. I am trying so hard to get rid of this bad habit, and it’s so hard when others allow her to jump. Can’t wait to read more about what you do to work on Johnnie’s jumping. She is adorable! :)

  3. You’re completely right about the consistency problem, but here’s my question: How do you want strangers to respond when your dog jumps on them?

    My own dogs have never been jumpers, so it’s not a problem I’ve had to deal with. However, my neighbors have dogs that does this whenever we see her. She is adorable, and I love her to pieces. I know that my neighbor is trying to break her dog of this habit, but I’m not sure what the best response is from ME when she does it. She’s not someone I know well, and I don’t ever want her to get the impression that I am bothered or angered when her enthusiastic love-bug gets a little too excited, or to step on her toes by being firm with her dog, while she is right there, holding the leash.

  4. Michelle

    I too have this jumping bean problem with both of my girls. I look forward to hearing any ideas that we may try. My Ginger girl gets so excited that she bounces like Tigger and will head butt you if you’re not paying attention. Even when she meets other dogs she starts the bouncing which she directs at any human in close proximity. Actually anything and everything can set her off when we are on walks. I can’t tell you how many times she has completely embarrassed me with her Tigger antics.

  5. At home, Gambit goes behind a baby gate when people arrive – or a closed door if they are new people and I need to request that they ignore him until he is quiet and his rear end is glued to the floor. While Rusty wouldn’t approach strangers and was great at considering our arrival to be no big deal, he had happy bouncing feet in the morning. We were able to effectively channel that energy into high fives, high tens, and “say woooo!” We’d run through those tricks when he was excited which let him get out his front paw excitement out when he was thrilled without jumping on anyone.

  6. crystalpegasus1

    We do the same thing as the commenter above. A lot of trainers seem to like to channel the jumping up energy into sitting and/or lying down. I have GSDs, an equally energetic breed, and I have found that my dogs respond better and quicker when I train an incompatible but equally as energy emoting behavior, like a high five or a spin or a fetch. One of my dogs’ rituals now, instead of jumping up on me, is to spin then jump onto the couch and lay down to get her praise and attention. My other dog’s incompatible behavior is to run and fetch a toy for me to throw. Lol, although I totally agree, there is nothing I love more than having a dog jump up and be happy to see me and it is REALLY hard not to reinforce it for me. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I still sometimes find myself talking to the dog jumping up. On home visits I’ve even been told several times to “please don’t talk to them” and I don’t even know that I’m doing it. How embarrassing!

    • Yeah, that is what I’m aiming to do: teach J an incompatible behavior. Right now she’s sooo bouncy so she has a hard time doing anything for more than a second, but I think with LOTS of practice, we can get there. Sounds like you’ve done a great job!

  7. This is a problem we know all too well! Looking forward to learning along with the two of you! I think the hardest part is figuring out how to instruct greeters to introduce themselves properly to our dogs, without sounding like a mean and nasty drill sergeant. ;)

  8. To the commenter wondering what to do when a neighbor’s dog (who you love) jumps up, my suggestion is to immediately cross your arms over your chest and turn your back on the dog. No attention, no pets, nothing until lovely neighbor dog has 4 feet on the ground (or two feet and the butt). Then immediately turn back and and give the attention and loves. Reward for good sits or standing with all 4 on the ground. Your neighbor should not be offended by this especially if they are trying to keep their dog from jumping on people.

  9. You are so right in saying you need to train the humans. Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. Dogs jump for your attention so responding by looking, talking or touching is a reinforcer. Best to step back, turn away and do not look, talk or touch until the dog has “four on the floor”. Of course, first you much teach the behavior you DO want – like sitting. Ask your dog to sit for everything – petting, food, toys, etc. Soon that will become their “default” position. As far as strangers go – just raise your hand like a traffic cop signaling to stop as they approach, then just explain your pup is in training and can only be petted if he (or she) is sitting. Ask your dog to sit and then give several little moist treats in a row so they remain seated for petting. If they get up, ask the person to turn away. Consistency is one of the most important things in training. The more consistent you are, the faster your pup learns. :)

  10. Jumping was definitely one of the toughest things for me to work on with Eko. What’s cute at 15 pounds isn’t so cute at 95. He still half-jumps in greeting on occasion, so the work is never done! The solution that worked for us while out on walks is to first have Eko sit and only afterwards giving the “Say, hi” command is he allowed to go and get some love. For all the reasons you mentioned, you can’t always control the situation outdoors, so I will be interested to see what you come up with.

  11. Good luck! Ed is super excitable and our issue was people risking up too fast too. one thing that helped was a vest that says “in training” our something to that nature. people tend to ask whendogs have vests on.

  12. Oh, I get so tired of people telling me “it’s ok” with whatever I am trying to teach and/or reinforce. But I have to admit I’m starting to let King jump when I visit him in the kennels because I’m so happy that he’s showing a happy emotion. I should probably nip that in the bud.

  13. Pingback: Johnnie the Socialite | Peace, Love, & Fostering

  14. Pingback: Mission No-Jumping: Week 1 | Peace, Love, & Fostering

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s