Dog Behavior Resources

The Jacksonville Humane Society’s Animal Behavior team is here to help you and your furry family members. We offer a free resource library (below), free help hotline and training classes. Need support? Contact us!

Behavior Hotline: 904-493-4586

Email: behavior@jaxhumane.org 

Training Classes: View Schedule

 

Dog Behavior Help Library

Select a topic for more information

 


Bringing Your New Dog Home 

When you adopt a dog, it is important to set your family, including any other pets in your home, and your new dog up for success. Remember to take things slowly and allow everyone to decompress and adjust by:

  • Provide a “shutdown” period by limiting new visitors or adventures. Give them time to get to know their new home, bond with family and adjust to your environment/schedule.
  • Keep your schedule consistent to help your new dog feel safe and schedule. Scheduled meal times, walks and play time will help your dog feel confident and help with overall health and housetraining.
  • Limit access. A new home can be overwhelming vs. a kennel in the shelter. Baby gates and crates are a great way to ease your dog into a new environment. As dogs adjust, you can increase their space and freedom.
  • Introduce other pets slowly. Use crates and baby gates to allow everyone time to adjust. Keep food, toys and treats separate while pets get to know each other.

Just like getting a new roommate, new pets and families take time to adjust. Remember that JHS is here to help you! Reach out to your adoption counselor or our behavior team with any concerns.

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Crate Training

While many adult dogs have had experience in crating and housetraining, it is best to start from the beginning when bringing a new dog home.  Using crates can help manage your dog’s behaviors and set them up for success. The initial structure will ensure more freedom as your dog adjusts.

Why is crate training beneficial?

  • Provides a safe, calm place to relax.
  • Prevent your dog from destructive behaviors when left unattended.
  • Makes housetraining easier.
  • Reduces anxiety for situations when you need to crate them, such as vet visits or evacuations
  • Helps dogs learn proper greetings when guests arrive
  • Safest way to manage to multi-dog household

There are different crate types, but the most common are airline and wire. The crate should be the proper size. It should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in.

Tips on introducing a crate and making crate time as enjoyable as possible for your dogs:

  • Never force your dog into the crate. Use high-value treats or toys to encourage them to enter.
  • Open the doors to the crate and allow your dog to go in and out on their own.
  • Make the crate as comfortable as possible: place a cover over the top, use crate pad, add a blanket, etc.
  • Always exercise before crating – a tired dog will relax and sleep.
  • Include enrichment items to keep dogs healthy and happy in the crate.
  • Feed all meals in the crate so your dog knows that good things happen inside the crate
  • Build desire to be in the crate by putting your dog’s favorite treat or toy inside and shutting the door. Wait for your dog to paw at the door to get in. (In a multi-dog household, practice this with dogs separated to avoid conflict.)
  • Leave on the radio or TV.
  • Include items of clothing with your scent.
  • Keep your dog’s crate in a room that you use frequently, such as the corner of the living room.
  • Do not only crate when leaving.

If your dog shows signs of moderate to severe separation anxiety when crated or left unattended, it is best to consult with a professional. Symptoms may include causing harm to oneself, destructive behaviors, excessive drooling and more. Click here for more information on separation anxiety. Please contact our behavior department for recommendations.

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Dog Reactivity

Reactivity is overreaction to external stimuli. Dog reactivity is the overreaction to other dogs.

Dogs can show this reactivity by becoming stiff, barking, growling, lunging, or pulling towards other dogs.

Dogs can exhibit reactivity to other dogs for many reasons, like fear or insecurity.

Here’s how you can help your dog:

  • Using a “marker” of your choice, like a clicker or the word “yes,” begin to teach your dog L.A.T. or Look At That.
  • Start by clicking or saying the marker and giving your dog a treat right after, repeat until your dog expects the treat after you mark.
  • With your dog on a leash position yourself near a trigger, when the dog looks at the trigger, mark and give a treat when they turn towards you.
  • Repeat 10-15 times, then expect the dog to turn towards you when the trigger comes into view.
  • Decrease the distance between your dog and the trigger, repeating 10-15 times as you move closer.

Dog reactivity is a common issue with dog owners and JHS is here to help. For more assistance, please contact our team.

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Enrichment for Your Dog

Enrichment is the act of providing both physical and mental activities for your dog. Many common dog behavior problems come from not getting enough enrichment, or not getting the right type. Here are some examples of positive enrichment for dogs:

  • Long walks, complete with time to see and smell new things
  • Playing games like tug or fetch
  • Agility training
  • Chew toys and chew treats
  • Food puzzles, such as Kongs toys and wobblers – great for smart pups
  • Read your favorite book out loud
  • Swimming
  • Dog parks and doggy daycare can be great for dogs who enjoy socializing with other dogs
  • Training classes

Providing enrichment will keep you and your dog happy. Give it a try today!

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Fearful and Shy Dogs

Dogs can be shy for many different reasons, including genetics or trauma, but the most common reason a dog is shy or fearful is that they were not properly socialized as a puppy. You’re in luck – this behavior can definitely improve! With time, patience, you will boost your dog’s confidence by:

  • Be your dog’s spokesperson. Your dog can’t say, “Please don’t touch me right now” but you can say, “We are in training and Banjo isn’t meeting new people at this time.”
  • Watch your dog’s body language – they will tell you when they are uncomfortable.
  • Focus on the most important relationships first. Start with those who live at home and then move to those who visit.
  • When new people come over, allow your dog to stay in a quiet room until ready. New people should just drop treats as they move around the room – like a Pez dispenser. Avoid forced interactions.
  • When comfortable, a new person can hand-feed your dog dinner. Always have a safe space (crate, room, corner) where your dog can retreat when overwhelmed with no humans allowed.
  • Never force your dog to meet new people or other animals.
  • Dogs learn better from each other. Try a doggy daycare or location where your dog can see humans and dogs interacting with positive outcomes.
  • Training in a group class is a big step towards building confidence. Group classes are available at JHS!

Need more support? Please email behavior@jaxhumane.org for advice.

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Guarding Food and Toys

Protecting their resources  – food, toys, treats, beds, humans, etc –   is a normal survival behavior for dogs.  Some dogs may even guard items with special scents, like a dirty shoe. This is a survival skill for dogs but you can help your dog curb this reaction. Here are ways you can help your dog:

  • Never enter space while eating. Consider feeding your dog in a crate or separate room.
  • Never take anything from your dog’s mouth.
  • Offer your dog a “trade” for an object in their mouth, such as a high-value treat. Allow your dog to drop the first item from his mouth, then guide him away and give the traded item. Give praise when your dog gets the new items.
  • Teach your dog “trade”, “drop it” or “leave it” – these are taught in our basic manners classes at JHS.
  • If your dog is guarding against other dogs, remove the item permanently. Feed dogs separately in crates. Don’t leave items like toys, bones, etc. out in your home.
  • If your dog is guarding you or another person, make the person less valuable. If your dog is pushing others (people or dogs) out of the way to get to you, growling or snapping, ignore all dogs and people and leave the room.

Repeat these behaviors and stay consistent to help your dog be the best they can be. Never punish your dog for guarding. Yelling or taking things away from them can actually make this behavior worse. Remember, you are your dog’s advocate and JHS is here to help.

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Housetraining

Housetraining is the act of helping your dog understand to use the bathroom outside. Even adult dogs who were previously housetrained may need time to adjust and learn the schedule in a new home. Support your dog by:

  • When initially coming home, try to offer frequent bathroom break.
  • Limit freedom, especially in the beginning. A dog will full access to a new home is more likely to have accidents.
  • If you need to leave your dog unattended, try using a crate.
  • Reward when your dog goes to the bathroom outside!
  • Be consistent. Keeping the same feeding and bathroom schedule makes for successful results.

What happens if your dog has an accident?

  • If your dog has an accident in front of you, take him outside immediately. Praise him once he goes outside.
  • Do not punish your dog under any circumstances. This can cause your dog to be fearful of eliminating when around you.
  • If your dog has frequent accidents, modify the crating schedule and always eliminate health issues that could contribute.
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean the area with an enzyme-based cleaner. Dogs are attracted to the scent of a soiled area, so the odor must be eliminated.

Stay positive and consistent with your dog for the best results. Reach out to our team if you need help.

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Introducing Dogs and Cats

Dogs and Cats should be monitored while introducing them and should not be left alone while meeting each other. Introduce them slowly over a couple of weeks.

  • Go slow! Never force animals to meet. Your cat may hiss or show that she is upset and that’s okay. Take your time to help everyone adjust.
  • If you have a cat at home, place your cat in a comfy out-of-the-way area with the door closed. Then allow your dog to sniff around. After a few minutes take your dog outside and let the cat back into the home to sniff and explore.
  • After several days of this allow the dog to see the cat through a baby gate or other kind of barrier. Watch their body language and try to sense what the animals are feeling, eventually removing the barrier.
  • Dogs and cats can also be introduced while they are being fed treats. Using the “Look at That” method and with the help of a buddy, feed the cat and the dog really high-value treats while they look at each other. You can always keep it short and build up time together.
  • Keep cat food and litter out of reach for the dog. Some people like to place their cat litter up high for this reason.

Dogs and cats can live in harmony together with planning and patience. Reach out to JHS if you need support.

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Trips to the Veterinarian Made Easy

Trips to the veterinary office can be scary, stressful, and overwhelming for some pets.  How can we change our pets’ minds about going to the vet?

Dogs:

  • Take a trip to the vet just to receive treats and hang out without anything “bad” happening.
  • Use high-value rewards, like pieces of hot dogs or soft cheese, to distract your dog during the exam.
  • Allow your dog to be where he is most comfortable during the exam, for example, the exam table vs. the floor.
  • Bring a soft blanket or bed.
  • When at home, practice touching or holding your dog while rewarding with food. For example, if your dog does not like his feet picked up, touch his paw and then offer a reward. When he becomes comfortable, increase the length of time that you touch the paw.
  • Identify what procedures or tools your dog finds uncomfortable. If your dog does not like the stethoscope, present the stethoscope and offer a high-value reward.
  • Use safety tools to help your dog feel more comfortable and keep everyone safe. Muzzles are great tools for our dogs.

Cats:

  • Cover your cat’s carrier with a blanket or towel when in the waiting room.
  • Set the carrier up high instead of on the floor.
  • Once in the exam room, leave the carrier covered on the sides and open up the door. Place another towel in front of the carrier so your cat can step out on something comfortable.
  • Spray Feliway in the carrier or on the towels.
  • Avoid forcing your cat out of the carrier, instead try taking the top off and allowing her to stay in the bottom of the carrier.
  • Use high value treats, like wet cat food or baby food, to distract during the exam.

Be sure to speak with your vet about your pet’s fears and reactions so you can work together to make coming to the office a better experience for everyone.

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Socializing Your Puppy

We all want our dogs and puppies to be happy and safe member of the family. Socialization happens for puppies between 3 and 20 months. During this time your puppy is learning what is safe and what to avoid.

If you want an adult dog that will be friendly meeting new people and new dogs in new places, you’ll want to complete this checklist. We want our puppy to feel comfortable and happy when encountering these new experiences. Don’t forget the treats!

Use this link for our complete Puppy Socialization Checklist. Here’s a glance of what you’ll find:

  • People of different ages (toddlers, teens, seniors)
  • People using equipment to move (wheelchairs, walkers, strollers)
  • People doing activities (jumping, singing, clapping, riding a bike)
  • Different structures in buildings (automatic doors, stairs)
  • People wearing different things (hats, hoods, sunglasses, uniforms)
  • Other dogs and different animals (cats, horses, pocket pets)
  • New places (restaurant patio, home improvement store, dog park, groomers)
  • New activities (ride in car, go to the beach)
  • Household items (vacuum, television, washer/dryer, doorbell)
  • Children’s items (noisy toys, bikes, skates)

Be sure to watch this body language video before you begin.

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Contact the JHS Behavior Team for more help: 904.493.4586 or behavior@jaxhumane.org