It happens fairly frequently when I visit the homes of clients. I am greeted by very enthusiastic dogs who jump and jump and paw me to let me know I am welcome.
Whenever that happens, just like with any other behavior issue, it’s a great indicator that that dog has had a very strong reinforcement history with jumping and pawing at visitors.
How do I know? Plain and simple, because that behavior keeps happening. If a behavior causes a positive consequence to the animal, that behavior is going to keep occurring – and even strengthen.
What are some of those positive consequences of jumping on people? For one, jumping on people gets them to pay attention and often times with either petting or excitability. There may be other reinforcers coming into play too like the release of energy used, possible sensory stimulation, etc. A dog may grab for food or other things because grabbing for those items has meant the dog having those items.
This is why I think it is so important to teach young puppies the value in skills of calmness and self control. That doesn’t mean not encouraging play and exploration, those are very important too. It just means, for many of us, we also like to see calm behaviors – calm greetings, the ability to relax when people are engaged in other activities, etc.
Always remember, animals when given a choice will choose the behavior that gets them the greatest value. Where is the value with your pet?