This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
If a dog is stressed or afraid, their demeanor and typical behaviors will change. If you see this in your dog (or really any dog you know) you should step back and check on your dog. Are they hurt? Did a new dog come around they don’t know? Has the weather changed? Is it hot outside? When was the last time they had a chance to go outside to pee or poop?
To a dog, space and balance are very important. If you take a step backwards or lean out of a jumping dog’s way, it will continue to jump. To a dog, it is overtaking your space, which only pack leaders are allowed to do. When a dog jumps, step into the dog. Picture a sphere around you and are not going to allow anyone or anything to come into your space. When the dog jumps, step into it sideways with your body, shoulder towards the dog. Don't face the dog head-on (you may not have time to turn so don’t worry about it if this is the case). You are not trying to knock the dog down, although this may happen. Don’t be alarmed if you do knock the dog over. Although you don’t want to abuse the dog by knocking it around, this may actually go a long way toward breaking it of the jumping habit as it will create a negative experience. Dogs are incredibly physical creatures and can withstand a lot of physicality without any harm. The odds of inflicting any serious injury are miniscule. You are simply calmly filling up your space with your body, and in return, setting the dog off-balance, which is an uncomfortable feeling for a dog. Lean slightly forward, not backward. Never lean backward, as you will be giving the dog that space. Casually and calmly, keep filling your space, not allowing room for the dog to come in. Remember, your goal is not to knock the dog down, it's just to retain your space.
Before you answer the door and welcome guests, clip a leash on your canine, preferably to a front-clip harness or head halter, so that he can be controlled in a manner such that he cannot greet if he jumps. When your dog is calm, with all four paws on the floor — which may take up to a few minutes for more excitable dogs — allow him to approach guests and say hello. If he jumps, gently turn and lead him away; wait for calm behavior before approaching again. For particularly excitable dogs, another option is to remove the dog to a contained area before guests come in. An exercise pen or baby gate is adequate containment for many dogs. If you have an athletic or large dog that can easily scale a gate, use a crate or move him to a room with a closed door. Once your dog calms down, clip on his leash and allow him to come out and greet your guests.