You are here:

Canine Behavior/Labrador mouthing and jumping up



Once again I would like to pick your brains please. (I asked you for help previously re my one-eyed lurcher 'splitting' up my other lurcher and other dogs and your advice helped greatly). Ps. unfortunately the link you provided to the psychlops page didn't work :-(

I have a client at the vets where I work who has always owned Labradors.  His last one, now aged 1, he rehomed aged 5 months from a family who didn't have time for her with a young family and work (same old, same old ><). He says she has been a lot more difficult to train than all his previous dogs and that she is very willful.  

She has clearly been rewarded as a pup for jumping up and now he says turning around and walking away doesn't work when she jumps up. She also jumps up on his young granddaughter from behind. Also, he said she mouths hands/arms.  Indeed when putting her into her kennel before her spay op she did this to the nurse who was handling her.  Otherwise she has a beautiful temperament.

I am studying to become a behaviourist after many years of owning dogs and working with dogs in rescue shelters and vets in the UK so I think I have a fair knowledge of K9 behaviours and I can help him with general advice to get her to see him as her 'pack leader' so to speak and to avoid dominance behaviours.  However, I would really value, as before, your extensive knowledge and experience with this problem please as the usual behaviour modifications do not appear to be working for this client (I have yet to go to his home to see 1st hand what is the trigger for the mouthing).  I have read up on your reply to another person re their mouthing dog and shall suggest the 'new' sit command etc., as you explained it but would really appreciate any other help you can offer me to forward to the client.

Thank you in advance for your help.

ANSWER: First: please tell me what is the "psychlops" link that didn't work?

Labrador Retrievers are INFAMOUS for the behavior you describe AND the behavior you describe is WHY THE DOG GOT DUMPED (people lie!)

Mouthing is the result of too many puppies in a litter; overbred dam who can't manage litter; backyard or puppy mill breeding; loss or lack of bite inhibition based upon the above; over excitement and "drive you crazy" stuff that is part of many sporting breeds in the first two years of life.  It is not dangerous behavior nor is it dominance.  It's immature and the result of anxiety, confusion, fear and tremendous insecurity, combined with total lack of any sort of humane training and handling by former owners who should have bought a stuffed animal instead.
Whew!  (sigh)

Unfortunately, she should not have been spayed until after first estrus as progesterone has a calming effect.  Often a bitch is spayed without estrogen titer so estrogen is high and what you're stuck with is the effect of that on behavior: too late now.

Also: dog is immediately rewarded by jumping up (especially on children) since there's a lot of squealing and a great deal of attention is paid immediately and even negative attention is better than no attention!  She doesn't need a "pack leader", she needs a calm, consistent, patient counter conditioning program along with some really challenging positive reinforcement training.  Beginning with basics, moving up to "tricks", a dog like this needs intellectual exercise AND physical exercise (providing her HIPS and KNEES are up to the task, big problem in this breed).

Go see the dog.  Ask them to put a house tab on her (lightweight leash).  Bring high value food reward (Labs are a slave for food LOL, ONE good thing).  Observe the dog's behavior when you enter the home and keep an eye on the owners: KEEP THEM OUT OF IT COMPLETELY, no words, no corrections, nothing.  When the dog attempts to jump up on you, step on the house tab.  This won't hurt her, it will prevent her from giving the greeting that was "SO CUTE" (you're absolutely correct on this) once and isn't SO CUTE now!  The moment she stops, the very moment, hold the treat over her head and take one step toward her so she looks up and as she does so her body will go down on her rear haunches (close to a "sit").  POINTEDLY pop the treat into her mouth (the physical POINT will quickly be acquired as a cue to the dog to "sit", give it about three to five consecutive trials in a row).  Take a few steps away.  Now dog will really be interested so she may launch a FULL OUT JUMP UP "attack" (because she doesn't know any better!) and YOU will step on the house tab, POINT with treat, dog will back up and go down on rear haunches (may even fully SIT), eat treat.  Repeat.  Owners must stay out of it.  Children (if any) must be out of the room.  Do this until the dog NO LONGER attempts to jump up but rather EAGERLY "sits" (will probably happen in a hurry too) for treat.  Jackpot (several bits of high value treat), walk away, ignore the dog, engage the owners.

Introduce the children into the room one by one after having a calm interview of about ten minutes with the adults during which time the DOG IS TOTALLY IGNORED.  If she bullies you (pushes into you, noses you, bumps you), get up, walk away; if she persists, take house tab and put her behind locked door for ten seconds.  Within about half an hour you should have a very good idea of what's going wrong here: dog is perfectly bidable, she has been poorly mismanaged, these people are without a clue, the children are making it worse (not their fault) by becoming squeaky toys.  At this point, teach ADULTS to enforce the cue for "sit" with high value food reward (no words, just pointed index finger at dog with treat in other fingers) to keep dog's eyes on HUMAN BODY LANGUAGE (because it's more than likely WORDS have acquired very different meanings to this dog than were intended: a "command" has become totally scrambled).  From that point on, every adult must POINT (and be ready to offer reward) when approached by dog and dog must wear house tab (so long as she is not alone in the house and handle must be cut off).  Follow up with second visit in about four days: if they're working with this dog as instructed, you will see an enormous change.

Use followup feature to report on your first visit.  Remember: in this breed this is very common and Labrador Retrievers are NOT candidates for "dominance" (very few dog breeds are, actually) and this is not aggression it is simply hysterical adolescence.  Fear no injury.

PS: We will TRAIN jump up on command, followed by "off", eventually and set this dog straight.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you so much for your advice.  I'll let you know how I get on.
p.s. the bitch in question was spayed last week age 1 year which is when we detected the mouthing.

The link that wouldn't open which you sent me in your reply re my lurchers is:

Thank you again!

Yep estrogen driven behavior combined with confusion, etc.  I think you can easily manage this once you have your experienced eye on the problem and will be more than happy to consult.  I do test links now and again and I think I have deleted that one.  You know how the Internet is!

You're more than up to this task, you'll face much more serious problems down the road.  I suggest you talk to the veterinarian regarding a short course of progesterone treatment, might help during behavior modification.  

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

©2017 All rights reserved.