Why might a dog jump up at children but not adults?
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Why might a dog jump up at children but not adults?

Dogs
Pet Psychology

Dogs that jump up at people or that stand on their hind legs and put their paws on people can be a big problem, particularly if they are apt to do this to strangers without invitation. Not only will the dog likely get the other person’s clothes mucky, but they might also be strong enough to push them over or harm them, particularly for someone who is petite or frail and if the dog is very large. Those large, blunt claws can scratch too, which may lead to the target of their affection developing a small injury, or even ripped clothes!

While dogs that jump up tend to do so because they are very friendly, particularly excited or even want to share something the person in question is eating and jumping up is rarely aggressive or poorly intentioned, it is still a trait of a poorly trained or managed dog, and something that the owner should work hard to resolve.

However, if your dog is generally mannerly and well behaved with adults but has a tendency to jump up at children, this can be harder to understand and so, address. In this article, we will look at the common reasons why a dog might jump up at children but not adults, and how you can go about addressing the problem. Read on to learn more.

Children are smaller and less threatening

One of the main reasons why dogs jump up at people is to put themselves on a more even level physically-and smaller dogs like the Chihuahua are more likely to do this than larger dogs. However, adults also have a more commanding presence than children-both in terms of their physical height and size, and usually in terms of their demeanour and how they hold themselves and view dogs too.

Children are of course smaller, and also, do not possess the same level of self-assuredness and poise that adults usually have-which means that unless your dog is specifically nervous of children for other reasons, children appear to be less threatening.

Working with a child that is old enough to follow and learn commands and that is confident with dogs, whilst still being smaller than adults, is a great way to train and condition your dog not to do this, and something that many children will be very proud to help with!

Children are often keen to engage with dogs

While some kids are scared of dogs, many are delighted to make a new canine friend, and many children have to be taught from a young age not to run up to a dog nor to approach or touch a strange dog without checking with the owner.

Because children are often so keen to say hello and engage with dogs, they may be very enthusiastic about encouraging or calling a dog over, or using non-verbal cues that the dog reads as being ready to play or receptive to an approach.

This can cause dogs to jump up when they do get the chance, due to their excitement and matched desire to make a friend-and again, teaching your dog not to jump up in general and where possible, having kids help out with reinforcing this goes a long way.

Children are less likely to know and use commands

If a dog does jump up at an adult or looks as if they are about to, most adults will tell the dog “no” or otherwise move to prevent this happening-even if they are actually fine with it, but know that you are trying to curb this behaviour.

However, children are both less likely to know commands of this type, and know when to use them and be prepared to do so, because many kids won’t actually mind if a dog does jump up at them-even though this is still unacceptable.

If your own child allows your dog to jump up, try to teach them the command and when to use it, or if they are too young for this or not able to do so reliably, monitor their interactions and do this yourself.

Children are less likely to enforce rules for the dog

Even if your child knows that your dog is not allowed to jump up and knows not to let them do this, this does not always mean that they will be willing to! If your child thinks jumping up is funny or a sign of love, it can be very hard to reliably convince them to stop it-and if your dog gets used to jumping up at your own child, they are more likely to do it to others too.

Monitor interactions between dogs and very young children, and for older children, explain to them that allowing jumping up is unfair and will confuse their dog, as well as leading to the dog being told off for something that is not their fault.

Jumping up is reinforced by responses

If a child pats a dog that jumps up, falls over and laughs or even makes a big fuss about it, this is likely to be interesting and in some cases, rewarding for the dog, because they find it entertaining and might have the chance to start a game.

Again, teaching both the child and the dog together that this is not a good thing is the key to resolving the behaviour.

Children with snacks or sweets are lower to the ground!

There are few things that can hold a dog’s attention as firmly as a human eating something, and many dogs realise that kids are an easy mark when it comes to convincing them to share! Whether they know that the child will fall for a mournful expression, are more likely to drop food or even fancy their chances at stealing whatever the child is eating, some dogs will ignore the rules and jump up at a child with a snack or a packet of sweets to plead for-or steal-the bounty!

This behaviour must be corrected very firmly, and you must also ensure that your child does not encourage or reward your dog for doing this. This may mean supervising your dog and child together when the child is eating, or making your child eat everything-even a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate-at the table!

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