Jumpy/Mouthy

Shelter Dogs

manage the environment to prevent the behavior

WHY DO THEY DO IT?

Shelter dogs are deprived of human contact and exercise, and are desperate for both. They are often stressed and frustrated by the noise and activity of people and dogs around them that they can neither access nor escape. 

 

When a person finally does interact with them, they often jump and/or mouth in excitement. Staff and volunteers can accidentally reinforce the behavior by pushing the dog away, saying “no,” etc., if the dog enjoys being touched or interprets this as play. 

 

Ignoring the dog & turning or walking away are often not enough on their own to decrease jumpy/mouthy behavior.

WHY PREVENT JUMPY/MOUTHY BEHAVIOR?

 

Managing the dog’s environment to prevent jumpy/mouthy behaviors is important for safety reasons. Management also helps avoid reinforcement of the unwanted behaviors. Without management, jumpy/mouthy behavior can become much worse.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Jumpy/mouthy behavior can be frustrating and scary for staff and volunteers.  Luckily, there are simple methods of managing jumpy/mouthy dogs that can make handling them less stressful . It is important that everyone interacting with a jumpy/mouthy dog uses these management measures consistently. Otherwise, the dog will learn that the jumpy/mouthy behavior works some of the time, so he is more likely to keep trying. 

BEST MANAGEMENT OPTION: GET THE DOG OUT OF THE PROBLEM CONTEXT

  • Send the dog to a foster home if possible. Often jumpy/mouthy behaviors decrease or disappear in a home environment.

  • If foster is not an option, increase exercise & enrichment, especially time with people.

GETTING THE DOG OUT OF AND INTO THE KENNEL

  • When entering the kennel, deliver treats in a low position by hand, or toss treats onto the floor, to keep the dog from jumping up. 

  • Feed at a high rate, continuously if necessary, while harnessing & leashing & moving jumpy/mouthy dogs, See the videos below for ways to make this easier.

INTERACTING WITH JUMPY/MOUTHY DOGS

  • When working with a dog in an enclosed area, leave the leash on the dog (dragging).

  • Stay calm. Avoid fast movements like running, jumping, etc., if these trigger the problem behavior.

  • Pre-empt jumping by luring/cuing a sit, or by throwing a toy or tossing food away from you. Do this before the dog even thinks about jumping.

  • If the dog jumps, don’t push or talk to him. Quietly step away, then give attention or treats when the dog is not jumping.​​

  • For dogs who bite hard enough to hurt or break skin, use a muzzle during training or when other management measures are not possible.

GETTING OUT OF TROUBLE

If the dog begins grabbing clothing or your body roughly enough to cause injury, or if the dog’s jumping or mouthing escalates if you remove your attention, the following measures can get you out of trouble: 

1. Put space between you and the dog.

  • ​Get something between you and the dog, like a kennel door or karunda bed. Then exit the yard or kennel;

  • If the dog is leashed, loop the leash around a tree, pole, or other sturdy object and keep tension on your end of the leash to hold the dog away from you;

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  • Toss high-value food away from you, then leave the kennel or yard.

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2. Move the dog to a safe, enclosed space if he's not already in one:​

  • If you are safely separated from the dog, give him a few moments to calm down;

  • Call for help if you feel it's needed;

  • Use high value treats to lure the dog to the location you want him to go.  Start feeding continuously BEFORE trying to move him, and continue to feed continuously until he is back in his kennel or other secure location. 
 
 
 
 
 

LEASHING OR HARNESSING

  • ​Use food to lure the dog’s head into a slip lead or harness

  • Use a food scatter or stuffed food toy to occupy the dog while harnessing (See Protocol for Harnessing

WALKING ON LEASH

  • Feed continuously in a low position (by hand or toss treats on the ground) if the dog becomes jumpy on leash walks  

  • For some dogs, holding a toy in their mouth prevents jumpy/mouthy behavior

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