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What Command Do You Give When Your Dog Jumps? “Down” or “Off”?

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A short while back I wrote an article about 6 common dog training mistakes.  However, after observing people with their dogs over the past few days I’ve uncovered a few new common mistakes dog handlers often commit.  The first being: what command to give when your dog  jumps up on people.

Just the other day I was at the Veterinarians office for Stetson to check on his skin allergy and for annual vaccinations.  While I was at the Vets office I watched a lady with a large Golden Retriever who jumped up on the counter, on the lady, and on the benches.

After training Apache, working with Reggie and Varrick (all Golden Retrievers) I know first hand that Golden Retrievers will sometimes jump up on people even after extensive training. However, the thing that caught my attention was what this young lady was saying to her dog.

What Command Do You Give When Your Dog Jumps?

When You Dog Jumps Teach The "Off" Command
Stetson needs help teaching Toby the “Off” command

If you’ve been following us on Facebook then you’ve probably seen some pictures of Toby an 8 week old yellow Labrador Retriever who we are puppy sitting for a little while.  He’s a great puppy, but one thing we have noticed is that he likes to jump up on people and things.  While this may be cute when he is a little puppy it will be no fun when he becomes an 80 pound dog so we’d like to nip this one in the bud from the very beginning.

How do we stop a puppy from jumping on people?  Fairly simple we give a small downward correction on his leash while simultaneously saying the command “Off”.  Another simple trick is to just take all the slack out of the leash and stand on it.  When your pup stops jumping give lots of praise.

Back to the story about our visit to the Vets office.  Every time the lady pulled or pushed her dog off she would say “Down”.  I hear lots of people say “Down” to their puppies and dogs in this situation.  However, if you use “Down” as the command to tell your dog to lie down then it is incorrect to also use it when you want your dog to get off of a person or object.  The proper command would be “Off”.

This is a very common mistake I see many people make during puppy training.  I have to admit that I made this mistake in the past and will from time to time inadvertently make the mistake even today.  I can see why we as humans make the mistake.  In our minds we understand that “down” has multiple meanings:

  1. Lie Down
  2. Get Down (Off)

However, our dogs do not know that it has multiple meanings so when we associate the word “down” with to lie down and then try to also associate “down” with get down (off) we are confusing our dogs.  That is why it’s a good idea to use separate commands.  Therefore if you need a little chart:

  • “Down” = Lie Down
  • “Off” = Get Down (Off)

I hope that all makes sense if not just ping me in the comment section below.

So that brings me back to you? Do you have problems at all with your dog  jumping up on people? What command do you give when your dog jumps? “Down” or “Off” or some other command we haven’t heard of yet? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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  1. I realized a couple days ago that I was using “down” for both… so what do I do now that my dogs have already learned both commands (with different hand signals but the same word)? Do I just switch to “off” or should I transition for a while to say “down off” when I want them to not jump on me?

  2. Quit …. be still
    Off …. like off of furniture
    Down ….. like moving toward ground or floor

  3. That works! The confusion comes in when one word/command has multiple meanings. We as humans understand that down can mean multiple things, but for dogs words/commands should only have one meaning. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I have a deaf puppy who is not big enough to actually jump on to the sofa but he rears up on his hind legs to pull pillows and such off. That issue has been resolved but when he is big enough to jump onto furniture or other elevated surfaces and I am across the room I’m looking for a hand signal as such. He is currently on a leash or in his timeout space so he doesn’t get in the habit of jumping up on things or people but I will be teaching him to jump into my vehicle soon.

  5. Hi Garth,

    It’s nice to start training when they’re puppies. We don’t always have the option, but it is a lot easier to train in obedience when your puppy is 10 lbs versus a 70 lb adult.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I think the best time to train a animal is when it’s young,so training a puppy obedince training is better than training dog

  7. Hi Barbara,

    A lot of times you don’t notice your using “down” or “off” until someone tells you. My big mistake is saying the same command more than once.

    Thanks for stopping by,

  8. Good point. I use “off” when my pups jump up on people and object. I use “leave it” when my pup goes for a tasty morsel on the floor.

  9. Some pups learn not to jump very quickly others take a little more time. It sounds like Blueberry is a smart one! 🙂

    Take care,

  10. Hi Monica,

    We use “off” in those instances. You might check at puppy kindergarten to find out what would be the proper GDA command.

    Take care,

  11. Hi Pamela,

    We learned to teach Linus hand signals. Our trainer told us it was important to teach hand and verbal signals just in case your dog ever lost his hearing or sight.


  12. I haven’t tried training a spouse yet. I imagine it can be difficult because they get set in their ways. I’m sure with consistency your puppy will figure it out.

    Take care,

  13. Hi Roberta,

    I taught Linus hand signals. The only hand signal we teach our guide dog pups is stay by putting an open hand in front of their face.

    I hope everything is going well with your puppies. We’ve fostered puppies in the past…a lot of work. I hope you’re getting some sleep.

    Take care,

  14. Hi Jessica,

    It’s not as bad with the smaller dogs like Chester and Gretel, but when Apache who’s 90 lbs and about as tall as me jumps he’s knocking down bodies.

    I totally agree with you as far as using one distinct word during training.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I haven’t really noticed what we use for our dog. Thinking back I guess it’s a mixture of the two which would be extremely confusing for him. Thanks for the advice, it’s a great and helpful article. I’ll be sure to use “off” from now on.

  16. We use “off” as a command to keep snout and paws off any object or person, whether it be a tasty morsel on the floor, jumping on the couch or a person. I’ve often wondered if I should have separate commands…

  17. I use “off” or I’ll just turn my back when a dog jumps. Blueberry really doesn’t have that issue. I only had to turn my back on her a couple of times and she “got” that she is ignored when she exhibits that behavior.

  18. More than 13 years ago, I had private lessons for my previous Golden Retriever. The trainer told me to use “off” for most of instances. I even used “off” when I meant “no”, or “leave it”. Actually, I did not even know “leave it” at the time when I raised my Golden. The “off” worked pretty good on my Golden. I have not used “off” on Sachi, since this command is not on the manual I received from GDA. I see Sachi putting her front legs on the chair more now and think how to correct her. Maybe I should start using “off”.

  19. I always use Off to cut no more jumping and Down for lying down. Or Go to Bed for go to that rug over there and lie down.

    But I’m trying to use fewer words and more body signals too. Words are more important for us than for dogs.

  20. We use the command “off”, but we also use “sit” because we want a certain wild black puppy to learn an appropriate way to get people’s attention. It’s slow going, though, let me tell you! Despite all our best efforts, he’s still a wild man, although I’ve learned that he rarely jumps on strangers. He also rarely jumps on me — unless my husband is holding the leash. And yes, I recognize the problem there, but while training puppies is hard, it’s still much easier than training husbands! 😛

  21. I use “off!” with a down, sideways sweep of my hand; if needed, will spin around, pull my arms up and across my chest, removing my face from the jumping dog. I instruct and demonstrate this scenario to each adopter, too, that “off” means “off me, the couch, the other dog,” etc. but “down” is a command to lay down. I try to use a lot of hand signals and not much voice; my choice.

    And thank you for reminding me about puppies – am bringing in two puppies (of 7; the other 5 starved to death) with their mama tomorrow; mom is Beagle – don’t know if puppies are mixes or not). I so enjoyed my last puppy I couldn’t pass these two by!

  22. Super…something else we need to work on. Ha, ha. Chester and Gretel are horrible jumpers. I am a bad dog Mom because I let them most of the time. I have a cousin who has come over a few times recently and it is clear she is not a dog fan and gets visibly irritated when they jump on her. They are small so most people don’t mind but I guess I mind that it is bad manners. I do tell them to stop sometimes but have a very weak follow through. However, when I do say something it is “Off”. Like you said, “Down” is for lay down. I heard a long time ago that each thing you ask them to do should only be one distinct word. You can’t say “Get down” and “lie down” and expect a dog to be able to tell the difference. It just confuses them.

  23. Good point. I’ll admit that I have expected dogs to know the difference between “lie” and “get” when coupled with “down.”

    My bad.

  24. Hi Jen,

    I instruct everyone to say “off” when they come into my house when I have the little pups like Toby. Luckily Stetson and Linus aren’t jumpers. I’m hoping that had to do with our early puppy training 🙂

    Take care,

  25. I use “Off”, and have instructed everybody who enters our house to use the same. If they don’t, then that’s a choice on their part.

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