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Minding their manners

From Animal Sheltering magazine September/October 2012

Like most dogs, pit bulls don’t kennel well for long periods of time. On average, after two weeks in a kennel environment, a dog’s behavior starts to decline.

Some of the more typical behaviors dogs develop include jumping manically at the cage doors when people approach, jumping up on people, and pulling hard on the leash when walking.

When a potential adoptive family approaches a cage to meet a dog, excessive jumping and manic behavior can often be enough to dissuade them from considering the overeager pooch. But if that same family approaches a cage door and the dog on the other side runs forward and sits while wagging her tail and wiggling her body, those behaviors could easily be that dog’s ticket to her new home!

Impulse control is a tough concept for any dog, and we all know how hard it can be for our little bully-breed buddies. But shelter staff and volunteers can play a big part in helping curb these behaviors by putting simple-yet-effective procedures in place. Give it a try! The goal is to teach the dogs to sit, and remain sitting, until the cage gate opens.

  • Approach the cage in a relaxed, friendly manner.
  • As soon as the dog jumps against the cage door, stop, look away, and wait.
  • As soon as the dog’s feet touch the ground again, continue forward.
  • Repeat this stop-and-start until you reach the cage door.
  • Once at the cage door, apply the same approach. If the dog jumps, stop opening the latch, look away, and wait.

Impulse control exercises are best learned if the dog figures it out through trial and error. Troubleshooting requires large amounts of mental output. Large amounts of mental output can be extremely tiring for a dog, and dogs in shelters need as much mental output as they can get!

It takes only a few days. You will be amazed at how quickly they learn to sit and wait. Try applying this rule each and every time the gate to a dog’s cage is opened.

About the Author

 Professional dog trainer and consultant for The HSUS's Pets for Life Atlanta