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Problems and Management

Managing Problem Behavior

The majority of problem behaviors which we identify in shelter dogs are normal canine behaviors- behaviors that are not any different than we see in owned dogs. The difference with shelter dogs is that in many cases no one has shown them alternative, more acceptable behavior.  

In this section, you will find recommendations for training and management of common shelter dog behavior problems. Our goal is to teach every dog a new way of thinking and acting when they are in a situation where they would typically exhibit a problem behavior. For instance, when jumpy mouthy dogs see people, they will learn to sit to get the attention they want, rather than jumping up.  

While saving the lives is our primary goal, it is also important to make sure dogs do not harm other dogs or people. It is recommended that organizations carefully evaluate the risks in each case in order to determine whether or not to start a behavior modification plan.  

Before you implement a behavior modification program, determine whether your shelter has the capacity to manage the issue or not.  Requirements to consider before you decide to manage a behavior problem

  • Provide basic care  (food, water, shelter, cleaning) to every animal
  • Maintain and/or improve physical health
  • Maintain and/or improve behavioral health
  • Evaluate dog behavior
  • Follow and adhere to behavior modification plans
  • Continue to provide care and training until a home is found
  • Find a home for the dog (would people in your community want to take a dog with this problem home?)
  • Provide adoption counseling
  • Provide post- adoption follow-up support

If your organization does NOT have the capacity to meet the dog's needs, it is worthwhile to determine whether other organizations might be in a better position to help.

For a step by step guide to managing a behavioral problem, please click on a problem listed below.

Food Aggression
Jumpy Mouthy
Fear of People

Dogs with problem behaviors are considered to be Special Adoptions, which means special counseling must be given to adopters to smooth the transition into a new home and to prevent future problems.