Some dogs will jump up and nip or bite at your clothes, arms, or leash, and it can seem ferocious and quite scary at times.
Most dogs will do this when they are overstimulated and frustrated. Let's talk about how to work through it so that you don't have to resort to punishment to suppress this common behaviour, making it worse later!
Preparation & Management
- Keep track: log which environments are most common - busy streets, rainy days or the day after a rain where the streets are wet and the sounds are amplified, just after they've been denied access to a resource (person or dog), on their way home from the park, on a new route, in the yard after some zoomies, after they've had a spooky experience, etc.
- Avoid those situations or triggers if/when you can - every time they are triggered this way without modification, they are more likely to escalate even more the next time.
- Of course, when you are out walking, it can be quite difficult to manage a dog who is jumping at the leash or up on you. You can certainly tie them to a post (using a rock-climbing carabiner on the handle of the leash) and step away, as long as they're nowhere near traffic (vehicles or foot-traffic).
- If there are two of you, have two leashes attached to their gear and each of you can hold the handle of a leash and step away until your dog settles down - monkey in the middle style.
- If your dog does not have a history of biting during these incidents, you can drop the slack of the leash and step on it to prevent too much flailing, and then work on the elevator game, or scatter some food for them to forage for in the grass; sniffing REALLY helps to calm a dog down.
- Never respond with force or escalation - this will take things to a whole new level and it's not a fun level! Turning your back and ignoring this behaviour does not work either and is not recommended as they will simply bite your backside.
Modification (when not triggered)
- The Elevator Game is a great exercise to practice that builds impulse control or patience.
- Use Find It to help them disengage and put their nose to the ground as needed, but if you need them to really disengage for a few seconds longer, do a food scatter instead - sprinkling multiple pieces of food around so they're busy for a good 5-10 seconds while you gather a plan.
- Watch your dog's "speedometer" so to speak. If they hit 60km/ph, they're fishtailing and likely to jump/bite. If we keep them below 40km/ph, they're much more manageable! This means that you have to watch arousing activities like chase, fetch, tug, roughhousing, etc. These are all generally fine in context, but may have to be reduced to very short sessions with breaks for training and relaxation in between.
- Watch for those tiny cues that they're starting to amp up and that's when we need to stop immediately. When you see the glimmer in their eye or whatever cue tips you off that the behaviour is about to happen, stop and do some relaxation work, sniffing, alone-time, whatever works to get them back "down to earth".
- Reinforce alternate and incompatible behaviours frequently. Polite walking is one! Eye contact is another. Four paws on the ground is another! (Literally where you feed because they're NOT jumping.")
- At home, watching TV or relaxing? Take a moment to start working on Calm on Cue - a great exercise to teach them to settle on a mat while you're half-engaged.
Concerned? Get in touch with us rather than asking friends or social media what to do! There is a lot of dangerous advice out there about this topic and most are unqualified to help!