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Ask the Trainer: Help for a Rambunctious Foster Dog

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Dear Kevin,
I am fostering Bonnie who is a 1-year old Redbone. She is a very sweet dog but my concern is she runs at you and before you can do anything she is in the air slamming into you. She also jumps up clawing at you. I was instructed to ignore which is when she started air flight into me. I tried spray bottle she opens mouth for spray..I’ve done down and placed feet on floor, she then leaps on my back. I am not sure what to do. I have her brother also and he is direct opposite..I want her to have a good home and am afraid she wont….

Hi Shelley,

This definitely sounds like an annoying behavior that could potentially be dangerous. Also like you mentioned if it continues it lowers the chances of her being adopted. What I want you to do is start working on a very strong, “sit” cue. One game I like to play is I grab a very high value treat and walk around the house. The dog knows I have the treat so it follows me around. As I am walking I come to a stop and just stand there. As I am standing there I am waiting for the dog to offer me the behavior I am looking for which is a sit. In the beginning I get jumped on a lot, which in this instance I ignore. Once that butt hits the ground I give a treat and then I continue to walk around the house until I stop again. In the very beginning the dog offers a lot of different behaviors trying to get the treat. These behaviors range from jumping, to barking, to potentially nibbling on your hand etc. Ignore all the unwanted behaviors for this game until she offers the sit. The more you reward the sit the quicker she should start to do it. The idea behind this is it gets her in the habit of walking up to you (or any person) and sitting. This will start to create what is referred to as an, “auto sit.”

Another game to play is called Four on the Floor. This consists tethering her to something sturdy that keeps her in one place with a leash that is roughly 6 feet long. Once she is tethered I want you to walk away from her to create some distance. She will probably want to get to you because she physically can’t now. The next thing I want you to do is walk up to her. As long as she keeps all 4 feet on the ground she is going to receive the attention from you. If she lifts even on paw off the ground I want you to walk back to the starting point. This will teach her that when she jumps, the human goes away. This works by taking away what she enjoys. Do this often. Eventually during this game she will stop jumping on you. I want you to continue to do it even after the jumping has stopped. If you continue to do it after she has stopped jumping, you will be reinforcing the behavior you like which is not jumping.

Ignoring in general probably won’t be all that effective because it sounds like she is getting enjoyment out of jumping regardless of what you do. That is why I am recommending introducing the sit cue. Definitely find a high value reward and start practicing her sits in general and also with the game I mentioned above. When you get into the real life scenario when she is getting ready to fly at you, cue her to sit instead. With repetition of this the jumping should start to decrease in frequency and the behavior of sitting should start to increase in frequency.

Additionally try to increase her physical and mental exercise. Mental exercise consists of basic obedience, teaching tricks, or even playing games that makes her use that nose of hers to find things. The more you can tire her out the less the flying through the air should happen.

Thanks for the question!
Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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  1. Avatar Of Margo



    i am soooooooooo happy to see this post!!!!! my dog,Tebow, when outside on the chain(usually only to do his business or enjoy some fresh air) he is in general a housedog, and good when inside,but when on chain wants to jump on everybody coming and going from the door,including mom(me) and dad. i keep him chained by door for a few reasons…one being i am disabled and he pulls and if he gets loose won’t come back..so i immediately chain him when door is opened. 2nd- i have a dog,partly cuz i live deep in the woods and want a warning if someone comes-therefore a bark,3rd- i feel safer knowing no one can pass him easily if its unwanted company. i by no means have trained him to keep away people or attack at all. and inside the house he will sit and down. but once inside he wants to kiss and lick all of our company which is ok with some but annoying to others. i will try this game when he is outside and hopefully calm him a bit.again thank u for the training tip as i have not seen this problem mentioned in books or on other sites. Kevin ,ur da best!!! i enjoy ur posts. u r informative. and i agree with ur training aspects without torturing the dog.

  2. Avatar Of Jeff



    And “high value treat” doesn’t necessarily have to be food. I was working with a 6 month old German Shorthair Pointer that acted exactly as this case describes. Sure, he would do some obedience to get a treat, but he wasn’t gaga over them. Then we discovered he is gaga over……wiffle balls! Now, he only gets his wiffle ball when has “4 on the floor”. It has helped immensely.

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