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Canine Behavior/Jumping and Fetching


QUESTION: Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days.  I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals.  In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback.

New springer spaniel, male, 13 months old, "Parker."  In the back yard, he chases me and jumps on me repeatedly, even if I keep my back turned.  If I throw a ball, he either ignores it or walks over and touches it, but rarely picks it up despite praise when he does.  How can I get him to stop jumping on me and, instead, retrieve a thrown ball?

ANSWER: Hello Eric,

Thank you for your question and for taking the time to review my bio.

What you've described are two separate issues: one, a dog that jumps on you which I'm understanding is an unwanted behavior.  For that, you want to teach Parker to keep "four on the floor" by not allowing him to continue rehearsing the behavior, and teaching him behaviors which are incompatible with jumping such as standing and sitting, and heavily reinforce those behaviors by rewarding them.  

For sit:  Keep Parker on leash (so you can control his movements if he tries to jump on you) and hold a treat in front of his nose.  Slowly move the treat back, NOT up, towards Parker's tail.  As he tracks the treat, his rump should hit the floor.  When it does, say "yes," and only after saying "yes" give him the treat.  Both the "yes" and the treat become positive reinforcers for @arker which will result in his wanting to do more of the behavior.

For stand:  With Parker in the "sit" position, hold a treat directly in front of his nose.  When he orients toward the treat (notices it and shows interest in it), slowly move the treat forward in a straight line away from his nose, a movement I describe as if you're wiping a table.  The moment Parker stands, say "yes," and then give him the treat.  You may also teach him to stand from a lying down position.

For fetching, a dog needs to have a moderate prey drive and have interest in fetching.  You can create interest, and here are a couple of ways.

First, tie a crumpled piece of paper or a small wooden retrieving dumbbell to a string.  Pull it around and praise Parker if he shows interest in it and goes after it.  That will generate interest in chasing items.

Once you have generated some interest for Parker, take him into a small room, such as a bathroom.  A yard is too large a space to teach most dogs to fetch in, as the dog can go in any direction he wantsn and young dogs, especially, tend to lose interest before they complete the retrieve.  As well, most dogs don't know what's expected of them and simply don't know how to retrieve and need to be taught and the retrieve reinforced.

In a small room, throw the wooden dumbbell, or a ball to the other side of the room. If Parker gets itn it is likely that he will turn and come back in your direction - hence, the small room, as you want to make sure the dog has nowhere else to go but to turn and come to you.  Ask Parker to "go get it" when you toss the ball in an excited voice.  If he does, say "good boy" as he returns to you.

If Parker will only go to the ball and touch itn but not retrieve it, then reward this for a few days.  Gradually wait longer and longer before reinforcing/rewarding Parker for going to the.ball. In the absence of a reward that a dog expects for something he was previously rewarded for, he will try something else in order to earn the reward. In most cases, this will be picking up the ball, even if for a moment.  If he does, highly reward with verbal praise ("yes") followed by a treat.

In this manner, by waiting longer at each step to reward, you can teach a dog to fetch.  As Parker learns, gradually increase the distance, going to a slightly larger room if possible, and so on.

I hope this helps and I would love to hear how it goes.

Best regards,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.
Behavior/Training Expert and Allexperts volunteer

Have some small treats ready, and when Parker reaches you, which should only take a few steps, offer him the treat in exchange for the ball.  Say "yes" when he drops it, and repeat by throwing again.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your response. Your use of YES for "Yes, you did what I wanted" is interesting and new to me. But isn't it desirable to add a command to the hand motion? I have had him sitting fairly consistently using the same action you describe, except that I have added SIT to the hand motion and have been saying "Good sit!, good sit!, sit, sit, sit" before giving him the treat. But I will need to try sitting him as a deterrent to jumping, as you suggest. Also leashing him in the yard, as you suggest, should deter him from jumping since he is very well behaved when leashed. I will let you know.

Hello again, Eric,

Thank you for the follow-up.

If you would like to add a verbal cue to the hand signal, it's best to separate them, so that both remain salient to Parker and one doesn't overshadow or block the other.  Once you're sure that the dog will perform the behavior when lured with the treat, I suggest adding the verbal cue first, followed immediately by the hand signal.  

While Parker is performing the behavior, as in "sit" using your example, it's not necessary to name the behavior and, in fact, it may confuse the dog who's already sitting but hearing the word "sit" while he's already performing the behavior.  Simply providing the verbal "yes" and adding "good boy" for duration is enough.  When you want to communicate to Parker that he can be finished performing the behavior, use the word "okay" or "free" as a release word to tell him that heks finished.  In the beginning, you may need to urge him to move until he understands that he can move as he pleases with whatever release word you decide to use.  With dogs, training needs to be very concise and specific.  It's always a pleasure to hear from folks who are so interested in working with their dogs through training.

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.


I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.


Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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