Ah, Those Exuberant Dogs!

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You know the dog – he’s the one who will leap excitedly at people, jumping to their waist, their chest, their face, as high as he can get.  With springs for legs, he’s jumping, jumping, jumping!  Sometimes licking, sometimes drooling, sometimes knocking people down.

Sometimes even mouthing them, making contact with their teeth and leaving marks or bruises.  We call this behavior “jumpy/mouthy” and it can be a real problem – frustrating staff, scaring off adopters, even inflicting injury.  Yet, these dogs often have a devoted following amongst the shelter staff, because of their seemingly boundless energy, good spirits, and apparent friendliness.  At the Center for Shelter Dogs, we offer resources for working with jumpy/mouthy dogs which we hope will provide shelter staff tools to manage and reduce this annoying behavior and find the right home for these big personalities.  We chose to develop these resources early on because we knew ourselves how hard it could be to work with and rehome these dogs and we often heard from other shelter personnel the same thing.

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After working with numerous shelters and hearing more about these dogs, we got to wondering how common a problem these behaviors were in shelter dogs.  So we turned to our Match-Up II Online database. Match-Up II Online is a free, multi-part behavioral assessment for shelter dogs.  Shelter partners from all over the country enter information about their shelter dogs including information from the Match-Up II behavior evaluation, the dog’s behavioral history, and information from shelter observations. By entering this comprehensive information into our online database, they automatically calculate scores used to identify potential problem behaviors as well as a dog’s individual personality.

Looking at a sample of almost 5,000 dogs, we found that 37% were identified as “jumpy/mouthy”. That means these dogs showed excessive jumping and/or mouthing behavior and therefore were good candidates for additional exercise, enrichment, and behavior modification training.  In fact, it’s the number one problem behavior identified by Match-Up II Online.  That suggests this behavior isn’t that “unusual” after all.  Now, the program doesn’t identify severity; many of these dogs may need just a little “polishing” to behave better and find a home, but still keep their endearing personality.  As a blog post last year written by Dr. Emily Weiss of ASPCAPro explained, there is research to suggest that contact and interaction with shelter animals drives adoptions.  So we wouldn’t want these dogs to lose all of those friendly, cute, and interactive behaviors that solicit attention – just the more exuberant and annoying ones!

What do you think – are jumpy/mouthy dogs common at your organization?  Do they drive away adopters or draw them in?

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If you would like to know more about how to work with Jumpy/Mouthy Dogs, be sure to catch our free webinar on January 29th, 2014 at 2PM EST. Missed the date? Look for the recording in our Webinar Archive.