No matter who calls me for training challenges, I would say 80% of my new potential clients have issues with jumping issue when greeting others, whether it be at home, in public on a walk or at a dog-friendly establishment. While that doesn’t really surprise me, what does surprise me is how many DON’T see it as a problem or think that all dogs do it. What’s even worse is the clients that LOVE the dog jumping on them, however, can’t stand it when they jump on other people.

Dogs like clear rules, much like people, when it comes to house rules or boundaries. I’m sure that you have been to someone’s house and if the dog jumps on you, you might judge them and assume the dogs have had little to no training. That is unless you are one of the few people that loves dogs to jump on them to say hi! When meeting other dogs, it is best to not allow them to jump on you, since it teaches that dog that this is okay behavior. Most owners are too embarrassed to tell you to not pet them or encourage it.

One of my favorite training games is the “You Choose Jumping” Game. This gives the dog a very clear choice to make on their own. One choice doesn’t work, i.e. jumping, and one choice does work, i.e. not jumping or even better sitting. Most of the time when you walk up to a happy social dog, the BEST thing you can give them is your attention and most of the time that is even more valuable than treats! Every time someone walks in your home or walks up to your dog, they make a choice. In the past, jumping USUALLY works because they get attention. If you think about it, most people that walk in your door or up to your dog probably still talk to or pet your dog, whether jumping is offensive to them or not, simply because they want to be.

The “You Choose Jumping” Game

You are going to have a handler, someone who just holds the leash and look pretty. They are not to give any instructions to the dog nor talk to the greeter who will be approaching the dog. If you don’t have 2 people, just tether the dog to a heavy couch/table leg or a column in your home.

The second person will act as the greeter. Always start with the least exciting person so that we can set the dog up for success by making it easier for the dog to learn the game and win!

Gradually we will make this harder, but essentially the greeter will continuously approach the dog. Each time the dog jumps up, the greeter walks away. If the dog chooses not to jump, or even better sits, they get a treat and attention. It’s important the attention isn’t too much or too exciting for the dog because most dogs that are learning to control themselves will jump at the first sign of human attention. ;o) Usually just giving a treat is best at first until they develop this self-control.


The first time a greeter approaches the dog, they don’t say anything, and they walk at a casual normal pace without moving their arms or looking at the dog. If the dog’s feet leave the ground, they should turn around and walk away immediately. Repeat this until they either don’t jump or they choose to sit. I’m more lenient at this level.
The next step would be for the greeter to walk up and calmly and casually talk to the handler with the leash (or just talk to an imaginary person if it’s just you – no judgment! ;o)) No hand movements and no excitement just talk about your day or the weather. Do not talk to the dog or look at the dog at this level, even if they do well! If their feet leave the ground, turn around and walk away immediately. Repeat this until they either don’t jump or they choose to sit. I’m more lenient at this level, but they should be offering a sit at this point. Make sure you are letting it be their choice and be patient. Dogs do what works and when they realize jumping isn’t working anymore, they will stop.

At this level the greeter should walk up and talk excitedly to the person in front of them – real or imaginary. This is the step that challenges MOST dogs even if they have done well at level 1 and 2. Be patient and repeat until they succeed.

The greeter walks up and speaks very calmly and quietly to the dog while looking at them. Every dog’s reaction at this level is a bit different. By now they usually have an idea of how this game works, but some still struggle here. If they get excited when using their name, do it a few times without their name. As they get better, add their name in and see if they can succeed with that too. Once the dog has succeeded at a casual pace, you can begin to speed up your pace at this level. You can also move your hands slightly like you would in a normal casual conversation.
Moderate excitement to the dog. I don’t want shrieking excitement sending your dog into overload, but I want you to challenge them once they are successful at all other levels. You can test this at different speeds of walking and different hand movements, but if anything is too much and they fail to choose correctly several times in a row, go back down to a level they were succeeding at well. As with any human, if dogs get too frustrated and continuously fail at something, they will give up. You want to remind them that they are doing great and they can do this by giving them an easier level every now and then for them to excel at!
Take it up to level ten excitement and full-on hand movements. If a dog has been doing great the whole time, hands out to your side like you’re one of those super crazy animal lovers that are SOOOO excited to see your precious dog – that level of excitement and hands will usually set any dog off. You’ll have to work on this level for a bit depending on how high pitch your voice can go and how full-on crazy excited you can get!

You can play this game at the door too, but instead of just walking away, go out the door and shut it behind you. Dogs don’t generalize well, so try this game with different people and in different environments and it will stick better with your dog! It’s a ton of fun and it REALLY makes the dog think!!!

If you have any questions or want to see this in action – let’s schedule a session!! Even better, we can easily train your dogs to sit in a specific spot when people enter your home and wait to be released! Schedule your BARK-TO-SCHOOL session today!