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Preventing Jumping on Strangers

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Q: Can you give me some pointers for using clicker training to stop my dog from jumping on visitors? I have gotten her to stop jumping on family and frequent visitors, but new people are at her mercy.

A: Clicker training is not for stopping behavior. It's for teaching new behavior. Some new behaviors that interfere with jumping up are: sit on a mat to greet; bow; sit up and beg (not all dogs can do this).

You can build the new behavior with clicker and treats, and then use family members to ring the doorbell, come in, click and treat the dog while it is standing quietly, go out, and repeat, until the dog thinks standing still is a great way to earn clicks at the door. Then borrow a stranger and repeat, with you or the quickest clicker in the family doing the clicking, and the "stranger" doing the treating. Use super treats; fresh food, not kibble or store treats.

Does the dog like toys? A quick fix is to hand the dog a toy before opening the door. Then the dog runs around showing off its toy and the moment of the urge to jump passes.

Sometimes you can solve the problem of jumping by teaching the dog to touch the back of a held-out hand for a click and treat. Then everyone who comes in holds out a hand before the dog jumps, and you sneak in a click and treat for that. (Your cue to the visitor: "Hold out your hand, she wants to kiss your hand.") It's often actually a little bit of fear that makes the dog jump on strangers; it's puppyish appeasement behavior, jumping and licking to say "Don't hurt me, I'm only a baby." Of course, it can be an 80-pound lab that feels he has to do this! Touching the hand, on cue, for a click and a treat, reassures the dog ("Oh, this person is just a 'clicker opportunity'") and that may be an easy shortcut, depending on the dog.

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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

Jumping on strangers on walks

I have a lively 7 month old rhodesian ridgeback boy, who already weighs 43kg (around 80lbs I think...)! He has never had a problem with jumping before, so we have never had to do any preventative work with him. But in the last few weeks he has taken to jumping on strangers when we walk him, if I stop to talk to someone he instantly wants to jump on them. I am trying to teach him to sit when he sees them approach, but he gets so excited that they want to say hello that he forgets what he's meant to do. It seems the attention he gets (even if it's bad attention) is worth much more to him than even the best treats. He just seems to instantly react to the friendly body language with over excitement, and as he's so big it is quite dangerous & embarassing, and I would feel really aweful if he hurt someone just for being excited.

I also find that sometimes when I try to correct his jumping to make him sit, he just gets very bitey, so it makes it very hard to stop him. He is otherwise as good as gold when he's on the lead, he walks beautifully, staying close to my right hand side with a loose lead! He never jumps up at visitors to our house, it is only when on walks.

Is there anything more specific I can do so that he can show people his good side, not his naughty side?


Laurie Luck's picture

Hi Judith,

Thanks for your question about jumping. Teaching -- and heavily reinforcing -- the sit is usually a perfect solution to the jumping problem. I like to use the sit as a "say please" behavior whenever my dogs want something. All they need to do is sit, and they can have access to whatever it is that they are wanting (within reason, of course). The sit then becomes the default behavior and the dogs quickly revert to sit because it's the fastest way to get what they want. 

You say your dog gets bitey when you try to correct him - can you describe how you're correcting? Very often, any attention -- even corrections -- reinforce the dog because it's attention. They're getting attention, which means they'll try jumping again next time because it works so well! 

If your dog can't sit to be petted, simply get him up and keep moving. He can't jump on people if you don't stop to talk to them. I raise service dogs (where jumping is a definite no-no and can get a dog released from the program), so I'm vigilant from the beginning about how people interact with the pups. I tell people from a distance that the pup needs to sit before he can be petted. If they say "Oh, it's ok, I don't care," I tell them that jumping will get the dog kicked out of the program. It works like a charm! They are very willing to cooperate with me once they know the consequences of a jumping dog. You can tell people that it's not *them* that you're worried about, it's about the dog and that sitting is required before petting. 

Good luck with your friendly and exuberant dog, just stick with it, remain consistent, and offer delicious treats when you click and treat! (Think: chicken, steak, salmon, sardines, liver, etc.)

Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

Two jumping poodles

I have two standard poodles both are generally well behaved, sit, stay, wait, come when called walk quietly on the lease ect., they do all of this alone and as a pair.   But when someone comes to the door the bark and charge for the door.  I have taught them to go to their "places" until they calm down, but if the person talks to them sweetly  (like they are two cute  children), or even looks at them  they break their stay, then  charge, jump and paw the person. They know what to do (stay)  but the adoration of a person/ stranger seems to be too much for them. Training two dogs at a time is difficult.  I also have the issue  of jumping and pawing on strangers when I go for walks if I stop to talk.   Again when a person makes sweet noises, tell them they are good dogs, they get all excited and then lunge asking for more postive  attention.  People that completely ignore them  are safe from my enthusiastic  loving poodles. They both know how to sit to be petted, one is just very persistant and throws  her self down infront of a person leaning  and pawing, the other lunges and then jumps.  I could clicker train one at a time, but how do I handle two at a time?  Alone  when on a walk they are great,  as a team they are a handfull at times.  

Any ideas?


Laurie Luck's picture

Two jumping poodles

Hi Edwina,

Recruit a friend or family member to be your "visitor" for training sessions. You want to practice and teach this during a training session, not when a real visitor actually comes to your house. Instruct your helper (your "visitor") to ignore the dogs. Work with your dogs until they're both very skilled at going to their place as soon as the door bell rings. Once this has been accomplished (and it might take weeks, don't worry), you can then have your helper do the same thing, but when she comes in she can just look at the dogs (no talking yet). Click and reinforce the dogs (with a VERY delicious treat!) if they remain on their mats for this distraction. Gradually build the distraction from looking briefly, to looking longer, to speaking to the dogs, to speaking AND looking at the dogs, etc. -- always reinforcing the dogs for appropriate behavior. If the dogs can't get it right a few times in a row, you know you're asking for too much from the dogs. Have your helper "dial it back" and lower the distraction to a level where the dogs can be successful.

On walks, you'll need to carry very reinforcing food treats, and again have a helper be your decoy. You can use the same protocol above to help your dogs when you're out on a walk. Please let me know if you need more information, I'm happy to help!


Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

jumping up and mouthing

We have a nine month old Golden Retriever called Harry. He is very 'bitey', and has started also jumping up when I am out walking him. This has started to get scary! I have tried telling him to sit, with some success, but for several minutes he will hang on to part of my clothing or body and pull at it whilst growling. it is painful, embarrassing and scary. He has been clicker trained, and has recently been neutered too.

Do you have any advice which would help me please?

Laurie Luck's picture

jumping up and mouthing

Carrying your clicker and some treats on your walk may help improve Harry's behavior. Sometimes, though, the solution might be even easier -- is there something Harry could carry in his mouth? Often, just by offering the dog something other than your arm or your clothing, you can solve a problem before it even starts. I work with Labrador retrievers as service dogs and they seem happiest when they have something in their mouths. If they have a toy or a ball in their mouth, they are much less likely to want to carry me around by my arm! It's a win-win -- the dog and I are both happy on the walk.

Does this help answer your question?


Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

Jumping dog around everybody

We have a seven month old chololate labrador and she jumps whenever anybody comes to house.


When I get home a night she jumps and runs madly around - she is very excitable. 

I have trained her to sit but I ask her to do this when she is jumping it has not effect.

Please help   Sue

Trouble with jumping on walks


I have a gorgeous German Shepherd-Lab mix named Dixie. She is about 11 months old and we love to go for walks. However, as she's getting really strong and big, I'm dreading walks. Our neighbor loves to talk to Dixie and always has some sort of treat for her. (Dixie's fav is sweet bologna) But this neighbor is 64 years old and has had a knee replacement that went poorly. Every time we stop to say hi, Dixie goes absolutely nuts! I use a harness and have started clicker training which is amazing. I used to get so frustrated because when i got Dixie into a stay, shed wait until I started walking away, then take off. With the clicker, she waits upto 1 minute now just drooling knowing the click and treat is coming. I want to know if you have any ideas as I cant seem to get her attention once she sees the neighbor. (Dixie associates her with sweet bologna I think. She always gives her a slice.) how do I get her to focus on me if shes all hyped up? i dont want her to hurt the woman. Shes almost 60 lbs now. Any advice would be great!!



walking dogs

With a big dog it is important that when you walk, she follows you or is right at your side.  What are your walking habits like?  A dog that is at your heel walking understands you are controlling the walk and is therefore less likely to charge ahead for the treat your neighbor is offering.  I found with a bigger dog that if I walk with a stick or a staff and the dog tries to push ahead, I put the staff out to block his forward motion -- after a little practice you should be able to do without the stick.  If he tries to pass you, put you leg in front of the dog to make then stay back.  When you approach your neighbor try telling  the dog to sit to so it knows you have control (limiting excitement) and  then proceed forward for the treat.





Laurie Luck's picture


Have you tried the tips Karen offered in the article? Sitting or touching a hand are both really good alternatives to jumping. The dog can't sit and jump at the same time - so asking for a sit before the dog jumps teaches the dog how to get attention in a polite way.

Dogs jump because it works - it gets attention! People will look at, talk to, and/or touch a dog who is jumping. So to teach your dog not to jump we need to first teach him something else to do instead and then we need to make sure that jumping no longer pays.

To teach something else to do:
Let's work with sit - most dogs already do this on cue. Ask your dog to sit, then pet your dog. But only after he's sitting. Say the word once, then just wait. If he's jumping, put a leash on him and have someone hold the leash close enough so he can't jump on you. He may jump for three or four minutes, but you won't look at him, touch him or talk to him. And you'll be far enough away that he can't reach you. How much fun is jumping if it gets no reaction? Absolutely no fun at all. And your dog will eventually put his rump on the ground. The instant that rump hits the floor, you'll move in to pet the dog. If he puts his paws on you, move back far enough that he can't reach you. Don't say anything when he jumps, just move back far enough he can't reach.

Have your dog on a leash when visitors come. If you're out on a walk, tell people they can't pet him unless he's sitting. He may miss out on some pets in the begining, but that's ok: we don't want him to be reinforced for jumping. And he'll learn that sitting is the magic behavior - sitting makes people come in closer.

Happy training!
Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

Preventing Jumping on Strangers

I have an australian shepherd who loves jumping up especially when we come home.  We now ignore her unless she is sitting.  As soon as her bum touches the ground we pet her but if she gets up we automatically stop and turn our back to her.  It took about 4 days for her to clue in.  Now we get the nicest sit from her when we come in the doorway. 


Jumping on strangers

Hi Karen,
I bought your book "Clicking with your dog" and I found it useful, though I have not tried the difficult trick with my dog yet. Thank you!

My dog is a black lab of 7 months old. Because we have been moving to a new country during her 4-5 months old, she lost some opportunities of socialization training. Her behavior with people and dogs are extremely "ethusiastic", scaring off quite some neighbors who have dogs here.

For me the difficult part is that her passion for strangers (people and dogs) are really long-lasting. E.g. a friend of my husband stay at home for dinner. My dog would jump on him while he came in, sit on couch, drinking. It was very embarrasing for us, and we had to isolate her for the 2 hours the friend was in the house.

How can I eliminate her excessive ethusiam?


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