Why Does My Dog Jump Up On Me (And Not My Husband?)

Why do dogs jump on some people but not others? ¹

As a dog owner I would say that I know my dogs inside and out. 

I see their ups and their downs, the things that they get excited about and the things that scare them.

And in their own way, they know me in as much detail as I know them.

And exactly where my limits and red lines are!

And this level of detail isn’t unique to me but to everyone who lives in my house with my dogs.

Our dogs relate to everyone individually.

And as a family we aren’t robots, we are all different in the way that we interact with our dogs.

And the location of my red lines aren’t the same as my wife’s red lines.

Which is an important thing to bear in mind when we ask questions such as why dogs jump on some people but not others?

As a starter, I want to look at all the reasons that cause our dogs to jump up 

Eight reasons that dogs jump on people

Off the top of my head, I can think of nine different reasons why a dog might jump up on their owners. 

And they are:

  • A dog is excited
  • A dog is nervous, anxious or jealous
  • A dog is bored
  • A dog is trying to dominate
  • A dog is a puppy
  • You are holding something of interest
  • A dog is encouraged to jump up
  • A dog hasn’t been effectively trained not to jump up

I appreciate that there is lots of overlap between items on this list. 

For instance, is there really much difference between a dog that’s excited and one that is nervous? 

Let me explain each of them in more detail in order to tease out some important differences. 

[1] A dog is excited

This is one of the most common reasons that a dog jumps up on people. 

Because it cannot control its excitement. 

And I think we have all been on the receiving end of this when one of our own dogs jumps up on us or when we are walking through a local park (with or without our dogs) only to have a strange dog do it to us. 

This most commonly occurs with my dogs when I come down to the first thing in the morning or after they have been left home alone for a couple of hours- poor things!

[2] A dog is nervous and anxious 

An example of my dogs jumping up when they were nervous or anxious would be when we were out on a walk and we happened to stop and sit down for a few minutes. 

That is all it would take for the dogs to believe that the area where we sat was now owned by them and it needed to be protected. 

Any dog that came near would cause our dogs to bark a lot and for them to jump up at me or my wife. beMy dogs did this particularly when they were young and we were mixing with other dogs and I dared to give the other dogs some attention. 

If my dogs couldn’t barge the other dog out of the way, they would jump up at me as a more desperate attempt to get my attention. 

[3] Jealous dogs jump up

A similar emotion in my dogs has also caused them to jump. 

And that is because they are simply jealous. 

And that is when I give strange or unknown dogs or people attention for too long. 

My dogs aren’t great at tolerating that kind of nonsense! 

[4] Bored dogs jump up

Just as overstimulated dogs jump up, so too do dogs that are bored. 

They know that by jumping up they will get a reaction from you. 

Positive or negative they don’t care as long as they get some attention. 

[5] Aggressive and dominant dogs jump up

I have never seen this behaviour in my dogs- perhaps because they are Golden Retrievers who are one of the least aggressive breeds that can be imagined.

But that doesn’t mean that this sort of behaviour doesn’t exist. 

Anything larger than a medium sized dog that is jumping up can be a bit of a scary proposition because their heads can be quite close to our head. 

If you add into that mix a bit of aggression which probably means that they are making more noise, they may be snapping their mouths open and shut and their claws are probably digging into your skin..

Making this sort of behaviour not just annoying but downright scary. 

[6] Puppies and untrained dogs jump up

In this section, I will state the obvious.

Puppies and young dogs are the main offenders when it comes to this behaviour.

Generally speaking, puppies jump up on people far more than more mature dogs. 

I would put it down to a combination of puppies being much more exuberant than older dogs and puppies having not had the chance to learn that jumping up isn’t appropriate. 

Which also means that dogs who haven’t been effectively trained to not jump up, will also continue to jump up. 

Which leads me neatly onto…

[7] Rewarded dogs 

Dogs that are encouraged to jump up, surprise surprise,  will jump up.

Normally these are dogs that get kisses and strokes and lots of verbal praise when they jump up.

However, just as a dog will jump up if it is being positively reinforced by strokes and kisses so will a dog that is being negatively encouraged to jump up.

This normally takes the form of lots of shouting and arm waving.

Earlier, I mentioned that bored dogs might jump up- desperate for any kind of attention (even shouting) they might resort to jumping up.

It also happens in another worrying and frustrating context.

People of all ages who are scared of dogs tend to raise the tone and the loudness of their voices when a dog approaches them, often waving their arms around at the same time.

The intention is to scare a dog off but it often gets a dog more excited and therefore more likely to jump up. 

[8] You are holding something of interest

A dog who in most situations wouldn’t dream of jumping up, might forget their manners if you are holding in your hand something that they really want.

I’m thinking here of balls or sticks (if your dog loves fetch) or biscuits (if your dog loves is a dog.)

Why does my dog jump on me and not my husband? 3 considerations

Having almost written a book on the many reasons that a dog jumps up, it is time to shift our focus onto why dogs jump up on some people and not others.

The possible combinations here are almost limitless. 

A dog might be jumping up on a wife, husband, son, daughter, mother or stranger.

But let me focus on a married (or unmarried) couple.

Why would a dog jump up on a wife and not a husband.

[1] Dogs are more likely to jump up when they are feeling an extreme emotion

If there is one thing that the previous section made clear, it is that dogs are more likely to jump up when they are experiencing an extreme emotion.

Happiness, excitement, anxiety or aggression are all strong emotions and are more likely to cause a dog to jump up. 

Bearing that in mind, let me move onto another important factor to bear in mind.  

[2] Dogs display strong emotions in how they react to people 

If a dog is more likely to jump up when it is experiencing a strong emotion, we know that dogs display strong emotions in how they react to people.

For most dogs in their relationships with their human family, this is the positive emotion of happiness and excitement.

But, for some dogs with certain people (even in a loving home) their emotions might be negative as they display fear and anxiety.

Moving on let me explain the final part of the puzzle. 

[3] Dogs are more likely to jump up when they are rewarded for jumping up

I explained this logical behaviour in the previous section- a dog is more likely to jump up when they are encouraged or rewarded  to jump up. 

So how does this tie in with consideration [1] and consideration [2]?

Let me explain.

If a dog is more likely to jump up when they are feeling an extreme emotion and they can display a strong emotion in reaction to people..

Then the final part of the puzzle is that they jump up to people who encourage them to jump up.

And as we found out in the previous section, even actions that we might be using in an effort to stop a dog from jumping up, might have the opposite effect. 

Behaviour that we might view as “off putting” is perceived by a dog as an open invitation. 

Behaviour such shouting and waving our arms about.

So why does a dog jump up on you and not your husband?

Because you are doing two things wrong.

You behaving in a way that causes your dog to get very excited (and there is nothing wrong with this) 

but then on top of this 

You are rewarding your dog when it does try to jump up.

On the flip side, your husband isn’t getting your dog so excited (or anxious) and then deliberately or by accident rewarding them for jumping up.

Which leaves us with one important question left to answer. 

How to stop a dog from jumping up? 

The simple answer to this comes in three parts.

Firstly, you ignore the behaviour that you want to stop.

Which for us is to stop the dog from jumping up.

Secondly is to quickly reward your dog when they behave appropriately.

In this situation the target behaviour will be that the dog doesn’t jump up and keeps four feet on the floor. 

Thirdly, all of this is done calmly- without any loud voices or exaggerated gestures.

Although you can get a bit more excited when you are praising the dog!

So how does this look in practice?

A step by step guide to stopping your dog from jumping up

The first part of ignoring a dog that jumps up will involve turning your back on them or raising your knee up to block them. 

In an ideal world, you will not need to speak when you do this. 

However, if turning your back or raising your knee doesn’t work, you can add the word “no”.

But remember, it is the tone of your voice that is far more important than the volume.

Don’t shout it but lower the tone of your voice and say it like you mean it. 

As soon as your dog stops jumping up and has four feet on the floor, praise them and stroke them. Using a gentle voice and calm hands. 

If this praise encourages your dog to jump up, stop immediately and turn your back or raise your knee and then wait for your dog to stop and then praise them and stroke them.

Rinse and repeat if necessary.

You can only do this training as and when the behaviour (jumping up) happens. 

Don’t encourage your dog to jump up so that you can then train them to not jump up: if you know what I mean. 

This will totally confuse your dog who will naturally think that it is a game. 

Three situations where your dog is most likely to likely to jump up

I want to finish this article by quickly listing five situations where your dog is most likely to jump. 

As I wrote in the previous section, if you want to train your dog to not jump up then it needs to be done when the behaviour happens in the real world.

By briefly describing these different circumstances, it will hopefully help you to become more prepared and ready to implement the steps outlined above.

[1] When you arrive home

This is probably the most common situation.

Our dogs love us and when we go out they miss us and it is easy for them to go over the top with their reaction when we return home.

My five year old dog will still do this on the rare occasion that she is left longer than a couple of hours.

Which begs the question, can dogs measure time? Do they know how long you have been gone?

I’m not sure that they do.

I just think that part of the jumping up is that we arrive home around around the time that we feed them.

And my dogs are good at estimating when it is dinner time!.

[2] When we are out walking

I think that I referred to this earlier in my article.

My dogs tend to jump up for two reasons whilst we are out walking.

The first context that it happens in is when they were a lot younger and I would stop and talk to someone.

If I chatted for too long then they would jump up to let me know that they were bored or jealous or both.

And the second context that might cause my dogs to jump up whilst we are out walking is if I am repeatedly throwing a ball for them and they get so excited that between throws they are jumping up to try and get the ball or to prompt me to throw it again. 

[3] When I stretch

A couple of months ago, I put my back out.

I have a problem with a sciatic nerve and every couple of years I manage to really aggravate it.

A combination of stretching and ibuprofen seem to put me back on the straight and narrow.

But have you tried stretching in a house where there is a dog?

Even if I try and do it in a room away from where they are, they seem to sense that I’m up to no good and come and find me.

And what have we here? Dad’s new game with us?!

If I’m standing and stretching then I am hijacked with a couple of faces (and tongues) trying to sniff and lick my face.

And if I’m lying down- forget it as it is impossible to stretch when you have a dog (or two) sitting on you.

Photo credits

¹ Photo by marneejill on Flickr