How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on Strangers
Pet Behavioral Problems

How to Stop a Dog from Jumping and Nipping When Excited

A concern for most pet owners is how they can stop their dog from jumping while on walks, or when they walk through the door.

On the one hand, the sheer level of excitement that leads a dog to jump up is cute and endearing – especially when it is an adorable puppy. Naturally, when that tiny pup grows up to be a heavyweight adult dog that can easily knock a human from their feet, that the formerly charming habit can become potentially troublesome.

It’s not just ourselves that we need to worry about, either. A dog that’s prone to lunging on their leash is just as likely to leap, and many pet owners need to quickly learn how to stop a dog jumping up on strangers on walks.

Let’s take a look at how you can coach your canine to remain calm, and keep their feet firmly on the ground.

Table of Contents:

Why Do Dogs Jump When Excited?

There’s a simple reason why dogs jump upon a human when they want to say hello – there’s a serious height discrepancy between humans and canines. When we’re standing upright on both legs and they are on all fours, there’s no way for a hound to get up close and personal without defying gravity.

When a dog sees a favorite human, their tail starts to wag and they’re keen to express their excitement. Many dogs will do this by licking up a storm on somebody’s face. This may seem unsanitary to anybody that isn’t a dog lover, but it’s just a hound expressing their affection. Dogs are licked clean by their mothers as puppies and groom each other as a bonding activity. They’re just attempting to pass this behavior on to their human parents.

There’s more, though – remember that dogs typically gain an understanding of the world through their noses. Next time you’re out for a stroll with your pooch, watch how he or she interacts with fellow hounds in a park or on the street.

In addition to sniffing each other’s bottoms, dogs will typically take a good, strong whiff of their canine companion’s face. Leaping up as a human is their attempt at getting eye-to-eye and doing the same thing. They’ll take in a long, deep breath of your scent, and pick up on any pheromones that help them understand how you’re reacting. Fear, for example, smells different from gentle amusement to a dog.

Is Jumping on a Human a Sign of Aggression in Dogs?

It can be pretty frightening when a strange dog leaps upon you, especially if you’re a child and the bouncing canine is on the larger and heavier side. If we toss in other unwelcome behaviors such as barking at strangers on walks and you have a truly terrifying experience if you’re not aware of your dog’s intentions. Are they displaying the classic signs of aggression, and warning that an attack is incoming?

why does my dog bite me when excited

Happily, the answer is usually no. When a dog jumps up at a human, it is almost exclusively an act of social excitement, albeit an unwelcome one in some cases that may well need to be trained out of your canine’s routine. It’s also clear when a dog has hostile intentions towards a human, as the leap will be preceded by warning signs of a potential attack such as growling, snarling and agitated barking.

Is Jumping on Another Dog a Sign of Aggression in Dogs?

How about when a dog jumps up at another dog? Is this your dog attacking another dog, or is it all part of that rough doggy play style that humans don’t understand?

The honest answer is much the same as when a dog jumps up at a human. Unless the two canines have been snarling and circling each other beforehand, the chances are it’s all part of the game. You can also tell a lot by each hound’s body language; one animal should be playing a more submissive role than the other if they’re playing, and in an ideal world they will trade roles between dominant and subservient play partner. The only real exception to this role is if one dog is much younger, as they will generally be content to be submissive throughout. Puppies are just happy to play!

Once your dog has launched themselves onto their canine playmate, however, keep a firm eye on them. A fun game can quickly turn sour if one dog takes his or her rough-and-tumble a little too far for the other’s comfort. That’s not to say that all physicality is to be discouraged, though. Dogs play games that we could never understand, such as attempting to knock each other off their feet, and sometimes a whine or squeak is canine communication among each other to say, “less of that and go a little easier, please.”

Much like with children, the easiest way to be safe is to watch your dogs play from a safe distance and only intervene when it looks like it may be strictly necessary. No matter how bizarre and unappealing it may seem to us, your dog could be having a whale of a time.

If they keep returning for more, leave them to it – but if they appear to be trying to escape with their tails clamped between their legs, they may not be enjoying themselves any longer and would welcome a rescue from their human parent.

How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on You

If you want to coach your dog out of jumping up at you, it’s going to take some training. Ideally, these lessons should be learned when your dog is a puppy (like human children, dog’s brains are like sponges in their earliest years, and they soon become a little more set in their ways), but it’s still possible to train an adult dog out of jumping up at you on sight.

The most important thing is to not react in any significant way. That means not responding with tickles, kisses, and nose-rubs, as this is precisely what you’re dog wants, and they will assume that you are rewarding them by providing access to your face. Likewise, however, never shout or scold your dog for jumping (and you never inflict a physical punishment on the canine). As far as your dog is concerned, telling them off is still giving them attention.

How to Stop a Dog from Jumping When You Get Home

If your dog leaps upon you the moment, you step through the threshold before you’ve even had time to remove your key from the door, very calmly and slowly turn your back and walk away. This is most effective if you have just walked through the door after a day at work – head out again, wait thirty seconds and walk away again. Trying also issuing a recognizable command, such as, “sit” or, “stay,” when you walk back in.

It might take a few attempts, but sooner than later your dog will realize that staying put and resisting the urge to leap upon your keeps you around – especially if you get down to your dog’s level and offer fuss and a treat.

That’s right, get down on all fours yourself. Remember what we said right at the start of this guide when we pointed out the height discrepancy between yourself and your dog? If you don’t want them to try to make that up, you may want to take matters into your own hands and do so yourself. If you want your dog to be less excitable in general, skip this step and walk away again. Your dog will soon learn that their enthusiasm is unwanted, and they’ll calm down by default and eventually offer a much more muted greeting.

why does my dog mouth my wrist?

In summary, the process is:

  • Arrive through the door.
  • If your dog jumps on you, you should slowly raise your hands out their zone, turn your back and walk away.
  • Wait a moment, then walk back in. Issue a command to your dog to sit or stay.
  • If your dog jumps again, walk away again – rise and repeat. If your dog resists the urge to leap on you, you should give them a little attention and a reward.
  • If you’re comfortable doing so, get down on your knees so that you’re eye-level with your dog. They will quickly realize that you’ll come to them if they don’t try to reach you, and are thus likely to resist the temptation to jump.

Try to cut your poor pooch a break when it comes to their excitement as your arrival, as they’ve been waiting all day for you get home. They’re utterly thrilled to see you, and deserve some reciprocal enthusiasm! You could look into our guide to dealing over over-excitable dogs for more general guidance on ensuring your canine becomes a Zen master.

How to Stop a Dog from Jumping for Food

When a dog gets a whiff of their favorite dinner or sees you heading toward the fabled treat cupboard, the response is likely to be, “oh boy, feeding time – let me at that snack!” This may lead to a dog jumping up to grab your attention, and possibly even snatch the food from your hand – not welcome behavior in any way.

The solution for this will be rigorous training. Follow these steps:

  • Hold a treat above your dog’s standard height, so they can smell it but cannot see or reach it without jumping.
  • Instruct them to sit.
  • If your dog sits still, you should feed them the treat and make a fuss. Repeat the process many times, increasing the amount of time between treats on each occasion.
  • If your dog loses patience and lunges or jumps for the treat, walk away and try again after a minute or two.

Before long, your dog will learn that they won’t be fed until they are calm and stationary.  It will take a little patience, especially with bigger, more food-focused canines, but it will make your life much easier.

How to Stop a Dog from Jumping on Strangers

As we have previously mentioned, dogs leaping on strangers can be a bigger problem than clambering upon their owners. What’s cute to a pet parent can be hugely unwelcome and intimidating to anybody else, and if your pooch is prone to jumping for food, it can become problematic when you have visitors that are attempting to enjoy a snack or meal.

Preventing your dog from jumping on strangers is, once again, a matter of training. In many respects, it’s similar to stop a dog from showing aggression to strangers, even if jumping is usually an excited greeting rather than a demand to leave the dog’s territory.

Socialize your dog from an early age, so they learn how to interact with humans, and ask any visitors to your home to follow the same steps that are outlined earlier. Dogs are quick learners, and their initial bouts of excitement can be calmed. It’s just unfortunate that a handful of people may end up with paw prints on their favorite pair of pants before the process is finalized!

Why Do Dogs Nip When Excited?

Dogs explore the world through their mouths. We have previously discussed that quite sensational sense of smell that defines the average canine, but they also like to taste everything around them to get a feel for it – hence why the average dog will happily spend hours grazing on grass, no matter how odd that may appear to us.

Ordinarily, this isn’t a problem. A dog that nips their human owner to show their love and excitement doesn’t realize that they’re doing anything wrong, but that doesn’t make it any less sore for the finger, toe, earlobe or anything else that gets a nip.

what age do puppies stop mouthing?

Never react negatively to this behavior – your dog just thinks that they are playing, and sending a message that says, “I’m having a lot of fun here!”, and if you shout at them and wag your finger they’ll just grow confused and upset that they have somehow upset you by engaging in their favorite activity.

My Puppy Seems to Nip Constantly

As we have just discussed, nipping is perfectly normal in a puppy. This is because puppies learn the boundaries of interaction through nipping while play fighting with the rest of their litter, and their siblings will have told your dog when they were biting too hard.

Dogs will learn a lot in the first eight weeks or so that they spend with the rest of their litter, but you will need to continue the process of teaching your dog the limits of what is acceptable once you bring them home. Depending on the breed of your dog, the puppy phase may last as long as 18 months.

While that may seem exhausting on paper, it can work in your favor – that gives you a lot longer to engage in training! This is a relief, as it’s considerably more challenging to train an adult dog out of nipping than it is a puppy. If your adult dog never learned that nipping is an unwelcome behavior, it will take a great deal of patience and attention to help them to understand this later in life.

Is Nipping a Precursor to Biting and Other Aggression?

Not usually. As we have explained, nipping is part of a dog’s earliest learning experiences – and much like jumping, the vast majority of the time it stems from excitement rather than aggression. It’s easy to misunderstand and assume that a dog is attempting to display dominance or aggression when the truth is they’re just struggling to contain their enthusiasm.

In the unlikely event that your dog’s playful nips start to turning into genuinely aggressive behaviors, up to and including biting, the first thing that you will have to do is remove yourself from the situation and clean up the bite wound. Once you have done so, and your dog has calmed down, you can make friends again and try to get to the bottom of why this nip turned into a more severe bite.

If you can’t think of a single reason why your dog would have bitten you or another family pet, it may be time to consult a vet and answer some potentially troubling questions. Dogs don’t bite humans or other dogs without good reason, and your pet may be feeling under the weather and is acting out of character for this reason.

How to Stop a Dog from Nipping

As we have established, a puppy will nip a lot. While that’s nothing to worry about, and it’s all a part of a dog’s growing experiences, it’s still no fun to be a canine snack! If your dog is still a puppy though, you should remember that the poor pooch will also be teething for a prolonged period of time in their young lives. That will be very uncomfortable, and your dog will seek comfort by chewing everything in sight – whether that’s a toy, a shoe, a piece of furniture or a tasty human.

puppy pouncing and biting

The jaws of your hound may feel like a series of razor-sharp pinpricks while they’re still milk teeth, but sooner or later you’ll start to find these laying around on the floor and your dog’s adult gnashers will start to come through. Make sure your puppy has plenty of ice to soothe their gums at this point (you could try leaving plastic toys in the freezer, or offering frozen carrots to crunch on as a treat), and keep Fido engaged with chew toys.

Training and Exercises to Stop Your Dog from Nipping

When your dog does sink their teeth into you, the first thing that you should do is emit a high-pitched whine that denotes, “ouch, that hurts!” in doggy speak. It’s important to keep it high-pitched, as that’s what will get your dog’s attention – it’s the same sound they would have heard from a littermate if they nipped a little too hard. Obviously, this means that this technique will be more effective on a puppy than an adult dog, as the association will be considerably fresher in your canine’s mind and comprehension!

If this high-pitched yelp does not do any good, you’ll have to be a little harsher; drop your voice, issue a command (“no more!” or “that’s it!”, for example), and remove yourself from the playtime. Give it a minute or two and then invite your dog to play again – hopefully, they will have learned their lesson about nipping. If not, repeat the process again until they do. As always, it takes patience.

Toys and External Resources to Stop Your Dog from Nipping

Arguably the easiest way to prevent your dog from nipping your skin is to keep your hands away from their mouths in the first place. If you can see that your dog is growing excited during a playtime and is starting to try to reach your hands, always keep a tug-of-war rope or something else close by to substitute for your fingers – perhaps a preferred squeaky toy that will quickly dominate your dog’s attention. This way your canine will be able to continue enjoying himself or herself without you needing to don a pair of chainmail gloves.

Another simple solution would be to ensure that your hands are less tempting or appetizing for your dog to nip. You could try placing something over your hands, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. The aroma of these liquids is not appealing to a pooch, so they will likely not be interested in putting their mouth anywhere near them. The unfortunate upshot is that such things aren’t particularly sweet-smelling to humans either, so maybe make that a last resort.