Excitable dog behaviour such as jumping on people and mouthiness are very common behaviours, especially amongst young dogs. While a Chihuahua pup might not cause much damage when it jumps at your visitor, the hurtling missile of fun in the shape of the adolescent Labrador can cause injury. Jumping up, attention barking and even mouthiness are often linked to the pet’s level of excitability.
Times of high arousal lead to excitement and frustration in the pet – so daily greetings, playing, requesting food or meeting someone while out on a walk are all triggers for an explosion of inappropriate behaviours such as jumping up and mouthiness. These behaviours can be given a safer and more appropriate outlet.
If your dog jumps up to greet you, how about teaching a totally different behaviour, such as to retrieve a toy, sit calmly and give it to you. That then gives the excitability an outlet and means that the dog has something in its mouth other than your hand.
A pup’s choice of tool for investigating and interacting with the world is its mouth. They’ll use it to explore everything including grabbing your fingers, hands, arms, clothes etc. If you squeal when they nip you this can be misinterpreted as a game, with you as the squeaky toy. To prevent this, make hand movements around dogs slow. Also, resist the urge to roughhouse play with your dog using your hands — and ALL members of the household need to adhere to this rule.
Provide appropriate chew items for your dog such as raw hides, raw carrots and chew toys.
BARKING FOR ATTENTION
For dogs that bark for attention, immediately withdraw your attention by turning your back on the dog. Saying ‘No’ to the dog in this instance actually rewards the barking as the dog can just as easily interpret the ‘No’ as ‘Hello’. Dogs are masters of body language, so removing your facial contact with the dog is far more effective at diminishing this behaviour. However, remember that you still need to reward the desirable behaviour. When your dog is quiet, reward that with calm, low key praise.
Some dogs seem to understand what is expected more easily than others. At Hall Veterinary Surgery we can help you with these problems through personalised training strategies and behaviour consultations. Our website has a range of help sheets for you to download, or you can have a chat to a trainer or our veterinary behaviourist by calling us on 6230 2223.