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I enjoy it when my 3 year old dog jumps up on two hind legs to greet me. I also enjoy doing a small dance. However, I don't want my dog to do with to other people.

So far, this has been his behavior. He will jump up on me, but not other people.
Is this problematic? Am I going to have trouble down the road? Are dogs able to know that it's ok to jump on me, but not other people?

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The solution I'm trying to use for this problem is to put the behaviour under stimulus control: adding a cue and training the dog to do the behaviour only when cued to do so.

Unsolicited jumping can be quite annoying or even "unsafe" for you and others (kids, etc.). So the best thing would be to never encourage the dog to jump unless you specifically ask him.

Then you could train the dog to jump, using positive reinforcement. You set up training sessions and you make him jump and reward. Quickly you can add your cue "jump" for example. You reward when he jumps after you said the cue.

It is an easy behaviour to train, quickly he'll be doing it almost every time. Then you stop rewarding when he jump without being asked. You can progressively make it more difficult: you practice in a situation where the dog is likely to jump. If he jumps you ignore him (really ignore him, "no touch no talk no eye contact" as our friend would say) for 15-30 seconds. You can reward when he goes back on the floor and "wait" for your attention. If he doesn't jump you can also reward him for staying on the floor. Then you ask him to jump and you reward him.

So staying on the floor will be reinforced by your "jump" cue, which in turn is reinforced with an real ("primary") reward (playing, social interaction or food).

In the book "Don't shoot the dog", Karen Pryor explains in detail how having a behaviour under stimulus control can prevent that unsolicited behaviour. You could apply the same reasoning to barking, sniffing while on leash, etc.

To answer your first question: yes it is problematic. The dog needs consistency. Even if you say "he can jump on me", it is unlikely that you will want him to jump in every situations.

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  • Interesting, this leads me to the reverse question though. Currently, I use his jumping on me as a cue from him to know that he wants to play. I'll need to figure out how to ask my other question or what my other question actually is... "two way communication with dogs"? – avi Mar 12 '14 at 10:43
  • @avi My experience with my dog is that when he wants to play he'll still come to me or try to attract my attention, even if trained not to jump (that's not perfect so far but we're getting to it). So you can ask him to jump at that point, and based on his level of excitement you can guess if he's in a real play mood. – Cedric H. Mar 12 '14 at 10:59
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    The way things are now, if he comes to me, I pet him. I then calm him down, and pet him while I "do my thing". (read a book, work on the computer, whatever). If he really needs something, he will jump up, or bow. (he bows for my wife, jumps for me.) I like his behavior as it is today. I just want to make sure it doesn't cause a problem in the future. – avi Mar 12 '14 at 11:02
  • Today he jumped on another person. I'm definitely switching methods now. – avi Mar 15 '14 at 20:20
  • @avi don't be worried add some restrictions; the dog won't stop loving you and a happy and balanced dog lives his life perfectly well inside some boundaries (no jumping, no excessive barking, etc). – Cedric H. Mar 15 '14 at 22:26

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