Dog Aggression and the Jack Russell Terrier

Colleen´s Jack Russell Terrier, ¨Fargo¨ is growling and biting… and showing generalized dog aggression… predominantly because she´s not providing her dog with sufficient leadership.  Here´s what we recommend:

[Colleen writes:]

Dear Adam:

I have loved your book mostly because it has corrected many of the problems I was having with my Jack Russell Terrier. My biggest problem still exists…growling and biting. My Jack Russell “Fargo” 3 1/2 years old and is trained fairly well, but she still seems to think she is “Alpha” and I am “Beta”.

The growling and snapping (biting) happens when she has a bone or chew toy, if she is sleeping on your lap and you disturb her. She has never broken skin and with the bones if I tell her to “drop it” in a stern voice usually a few times she will eventually drop it, but I would never just take it or reach into her space.

[Adam replies:] You’re not acting like an “Alpha” by letting her on your furniture… and especially by letting her lay on top of you. (It’s always the “Alpha dog” that’s on top.

When she has a bone or a chew toy, you need to already have had the pinch collar and tab or leash on her. In fact, this should be on the dog anytime you are with her.

As for letting this dog growl at you while she’s sitting in your lap… NO WAY! You’re spoiling her. This is the behavior of a little brat-dog… and I think you know this. If she did this to me, I’d spread my legs and knock her off the couch, on to the floor… where she can THINK about the result of her action.

[Colleen continues:] If she is on your lap while watching TV and you try to get her to move she will growl and about a week ago she reached around to bite.

[Adam:] My question to you is: Why do you continue to let her on the couch. And secondly, what happens to the dog AS A RESULT of this behavior?

If it were my dog, I’d have to make sure that the dog received something SO undesirable (or negative) that she would think twice before pulling this nonsense on me again.

[Colleen continues:] She also has other times that she will growl and she puts our other dog in her place a lot (a 1 1/2 year old min. schnauzer). Both dogs are spayed.

[Adam:] This is normal. She is communicating to the other dog that she is the pack leader, just as she is to you. Simply put, she displays the aggression and it is a challenge to the other dog. The other dog in turn will either respond to the challenge by issuing his own challenge or he will submit.

[Colleen:] One night I tried to follow your book when I was trying to take chew toy away and she almost won. At one points she was almost hanging by the pinch collar.

[Adam:] Two things:

First, there is NOTHING in my book which suggests that you should hang the dog by the pinch collar. I think you may be confusing something that you read in my book with something you may have picked up from your trainer or from one of the old Koehler books. The pinch collar, used properly, should be administered with a quick tug and release.

Second, I will venture that there are a number of other things you are doing within the course of your life with your dog that communicate to her that she is the “Alpha” dog, not you. The techniques in my book work together to teach you a whole new way of working/viewing your dog. And especially when it comes to dominance aggression, you must incorporate all of the dominance-building exercises in conjunction with correcting your dog. (The main point I’m getting at here is that you’re letting the dog up on the couch which communicates ONE THING to your dog, but then trying to correct her, which communicates SOMETHING CONTRARY to your dog.) Make sense?

[Colleen:] I have been working the Jack Russell in training since she was 12 weeks old. I had a trainer (New England Dog Training) on Cape Cod until 2 years ago when I moved to Richmond VA. We discovered early that Fargo would not respond except with a pinch collarand for any off-leach work the trainer suggested a Tri-Tronics collar.

[Adam:] Yes, this is pretty common with the Jack Russell Terrier. There are an extremely dominant breed and are very pain insensitive.

[Colleen:] What do I do to stop this so I feel I can trust my otherwise wonderful companion? I will do whatever it takes. I have been tempted to use the most severe level of the electronic collar but I am afraid to. Out of 6 levels the highest we have gone is #4 orange.

[Adam:] Stop babying her. Begin treating her like a dog, not a child. Re-read the sections on dominance building and correcting your dog… especially the parts on not making her “collar smart.”

If you are finding that your corrections with the e-collar are not motivational, then you MUST increase the setting level. Make sure you say, “NO!” before you stimulate her, so that she understands that the correction is coming from you. I would jump right to level 6. You can always later move down to a lower setting, once she takes you serious.

What’s that worst that can happen? She decides to never bite you again?

Please keep me posted as to your progress.

– Adam.

Old Fashioned Dog Aggression: Dogs, Pit Bulls and Dog Bite Prevention In General!

(This is taken from a message board post I wrote on an internet jiu-jitsu Bulletin Board.  The discussion turned off-topic and– being the resident dog trainer in the community– I had to step into the thread and refute some earlier posts that were misguided or misinformed.  I thought you might find the following interesting as it dispels several dog training myths.)


*** WARNING:  Not for the sensitive.  This is a No-Holds-Barred response addressing several issues that I don’t necessarily agree with, but that still needed to be answered by a professional nonetheless.   Skip this article and go onto the next one if reading about extreme handling techniques makes you queasy.  It’s definitely not in reference to the everyday issues that we encounter as professional dog trainers. ***

There’s so much misinformation in this thread, I don’t know where to start?

Perhaps by explaining my take on dogs, and who I am.  My name is Adam Katz.  I am the owner of, as well as several other gateway/feeder dog training web sites.

I owned a company in Southern California for 6+ years called South Bay K-9 Academy.  I’ve done training for almost every type of dog activity.  Film, obedience, behavior modification, police work, protection, etc… (You can read more about my bio at

And I am an expert on behavior modification and the “Pit Bull.”  I am also the author of the book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer: An Insider’s Guide To The Most Jealously Guarded Dog Training Secrets In History!”

Here’s the scoop on dogs, Pit Bulls and dog training in general:

1.)  To Fulano (Another member of the discussion board): Koehler was great in his time.  He was revolutionary.  But he’s like Freud: A catalyst.  His techniques work, but they’re outdated and old fashioned.  Kind of like riding around in a Model T.

[Editor’s note: Reference is to William Koehler, a former military trainer and head of the Disney dog training program in the 50’s and 60’s.  He wrote several dog training books that you can still purchase in pretty much any book store.]

And they generally cause a loss in attitude, hand shyness and insecurity.  For example, you don’t need to “hang” a dog (by the leash) that is super-handler aggressive because we now have more effective ways to communicate to the dog that are less dangerous if used by amateurs.  Like working with muzzles.  And the remote collar, which if used properly is very safe and endorsed by hundreds of veterinarians.  For behavior modification purposes, be sure to work under the supervision of a qualified and experienced professional trainer.

[Editor’s note:  Koehler recommended–in very rare cases–that the handler should lift a highly aggressive dog up by the leash until the dog went unconscious.  I do not recommend that you do this.  Especially if the dog weighs more than you!!!]

As for the table techniques: I trained with Tom Rose, who was the same guy that taught the guys at Alderhurst the table.  (although I could be mistaken and be confusing them with someone else.)  It too is old fashioned.  The top guys in Europe (Germany, Holland and Belgium) have long ago abandoned the table work.  And these are the guys that are turning out the top bloodlines and winning the top IPO trials (police dog competitions.)

[Editor’s note:  An old fashioned technique would be to work with a dog on a raised table in order to decrease dominance issues. ]

2.)  Regarding the Pit Bull:  There’s nothing specific (in regard to human aggression) that is really any different about this breed than any other.  They are the “bogie” breed of the 80’s.  In the 50’s, it was the German Shepherd dog.  The 60’s and 70’s brought in the Doberman.  In the 80’s, it was the Pit Bull.  The 90’s saw the Rottweiler.  And now in the new millenium, it looks to be the Rare Breeds, ala the Presa Canario, American Bulldog, Akita, etc…

These dogs (Pit Bulls) do not have locking jaws.  This is a myth.  And they are no more likely to be human aggressive than any other breed that happens to have a strong chase drive (what we call prey) and is bred by amateur/back yard breeders.

3.)  Your best defense against an untrained dog that is running loose and has confronted you:  Stand still, don’t look in his eyes and don’t move.  Fight the urge to run.

4.)  If the dog is sizing up an attack and you feel you are imminent to get bit, pull off your belt or your shirt (if you’re a man) and twist it into a rope.  Move it from side to side and get the dog to bite it.  Keep movement in the rope, and pull the dog over to a car or something you can jump on top of to get away.  (Hey, it’s a long shot, but at this point you’re pretty much screwed.)

5.)  If the dog has clamped onto your dog… again… you’re pretty much screwed.

6.)  If the dog has clamped onto and bit a child, here’s what you should do.  Again, the situation and odds that you won’t get bit aren’t very good, but it’s your own darn fault for not taking precautions (see below):

Lift the dog up by his two back legs.  If he doesn’t immediately turn to try and bite you, then jam your thumb up his anus.  As the dog releases and turns to bite, throw him over a wall or through the window of a car.  (Again… good luck… like I already said, you’re in a “No-winner” situation.)

7.)  Dogs– even pit bulls– can be trained to be around other dogs.  Or at least tolerate them, if not interact.  Please see the dog in the picture at (url deleted of Pit Bull Rhodesian mix) was so dog aggressive that if he saw another dog through the back window of my truck, he’d get so violent that the whole truck would start to shake.  After a couple weeks of applying the right techniques he now plays nicely with my parent’s Rottweiler.  (The other dog in the picture).

8.)  Money Talks and B.S. Walks in the dog world.  That’s why I issued my “$10,000 Dog Trainer Challenge!”

Everyone likes to think that “Their special breed can’t be trained to do X.”  When it comes to obedience training… it’s usually bunk.

9.)   Statistically, Cocker Spaniels bite more children each year than any other breed.

10.)  More Veterinarians and Vet. Technicians hate Chows more than any other breed.  Far more than “Pit Bulls”… which are considered relatively placid.

11.)  If I understood Bond correctly (another board member) I don’t know what planet he’s on.  Husky’s are not used for protection work.  It’d be like trying to win the Kentucky Derby with a Mule.  Ain’t gonna happen.

12.)  The World’s top police dog breed now in use is the Belgian Malinois.  This breed far surpasses the German Shepherd dog for police work in practically every area except tracking.

If you have any further questions (or something I missed– Gee… this could be another book!) please ask.

13.)  Oh, yes… the precaution for dog attacks that you should take:

Buy a stun gun. The kind with the two probes that shoot the electrical charge between them. (Not the taser, which shoots a projectile attached to two cords).

If you see a stray or unleashed dog approaching you, press the button a couple of times. We’ve found that the electrical charge hits ultra high frequency sound waves that only the dog can hear. About 50% of the dogs would IMMEDIATELY turn tail and run away.

And if the dog gets any closer, you can lay him out with the shock.
(Common sense warning: Only do this if you feel you are in imminent danger!)

You can find stun guns on the internet pretty cheap… try to get one that makes a loud crackling noise.  Pepper Spray works on a lot of dogs… but surprisingly, not all.  Aim for the nose.  I don’t like OC (pepper spray) as much as the stun gun because stupid dog owners who let their dogs run off leash and yell out, ‘My dog is okay,’ simply don’t understand that their dog may only be okay if:

– My dog is more dominant.

– Their dog is submissive and does not try to dominate.

If the mix of temperaments is such that both dogs are super-dominant… guess what? You’ve got a dog fight.

We used to sell the really loud-sounding stun guns, repackaged as an “Electronic Dog Fight Stopper”.   But people in both Canada and Ireland were buying them to smuggle into the country as weapons. The Canadian and Irish customs got privy to it and started confiscating the products, so I stopped selling them.

There is another product, called a “Dazer” that I’m thinking about carrying… it’s just a sound deterrent device.

But if I were you, I’d buy a stun gun.

Dog Aggression — Prevention And Correction If Your Dogs Are Fighting

Dog aggression between canine members of a household usually involves dogs of the same sex, often littermates.

Trigger people in the family [Editor: Trigger people?] often stimulate such fights, though sometimes food or another dog may also stimulate fighting.

To avoid such dog fights, it is best not to obtain littermates of the same sex, particularly those that appear competitive within the litter. Also, when a new dog is adopted into the family, it is a good idea to pay more “jolly-type” attention to the resident dog(s) than was shown before the newcomer’s arrival.

Make the additional pet fun for the resident pet. Allow the new animal to fit in and adjust with less attention than is shown the older members. This will cause resident dogs to have pleasant associations with the new animal. If a fight should erupt, never induce more hostility into the situation by shouting, screaming, scolding, hitting, kicking the heads or bodies of the fighters or pulling them apart by the heads or necks.

Most serious canine quibbling seen involves owners who induce hysteria into the original battle, which, if allowed to reach its conclusion naturally (if the owners had left the scene or remained passive), more than likely would have concluded bloodlessly and with one permanently dominant and one submissive dog. The most effective method for stopping a fight requires that someone pick up the more aggressive of the warring pair by the tail, just high enough so its hind feet cannot touch the ground. If both dogs are aggressors, then both must be elevated.

Lack of hindquarter traction often quickly short circuits hostility. If either dog has a docked tail, the hind legs may be picked up to equal advantage. A common underlying cause of persistent fighting is owner hysteria when such fights break out. Most owners of multiple dogs who do not have such problems did not become hysterical when fights or hostilities initially erupted. In more than 95% of sibling-type fighting, the dogs never fought unless the owners were present. A good percentage of them were boarded together in the same run without hostile signs.

This brings us to one type of remedial program that is often successful: boarding the dogs together on neutral territory, there to be visited by the family under controlled conditions after a week or so. If no fight ensues, a daily series of visits, followed by rides in the family car to other neutral areas, will often help if the plan spans 3-6 weeks. After this, a daily trip home can be included. Dogs fighting for any reason must be taught to respond to simple commands to Come, Sit and Stay when the owner directs. All fondling, coddling or solicitous behavior toward the pet must be avoided. This helps the owner assume dominance over the dogs involved and is prerequisite to all procedures recommended.

[Editor’s note: I don’t agree with everything in this article. Parts of it are a bit remedial in suggesting that it is the owner that creates dog on dog aggression, as I’ve seen enough scenarios where one dog gets defensive while being corrected by another dog, and then the fight escalates. This is irrelevent to whether the owner is home or not. In such cases, the dogs should be kenneled separately when the owner is not there to supervise.  Also– kenneling at a “neutral territory” is not going to fix dog-on-dog aggression, which is relationship-based at it’s core.  What needs to happen is for the pack leader (you) to be present and to correct and instruct both dogs that dog aggression will not be tolerated.]

Dog Aggression: Stop Your Dog From Nipping and Play Biting

Nipping isn’t what I consider biting— to which we’ll define here as more serious dog aggression.  Nipping is more “play-biting” or a quick ‘correction’ one dog will give another (or you) when that dog is either excited or wants to be left alone.  Dogs do this because play is actually the primary way they assert dominance.  And when your dog nips you, he’s testing to see how you react.

To their credit, most puppies give hints before they haul off and nip someone. During play, they’ll get progressively mouthier up until the point when they actually clamp down. More often, nips  occur when dogs are tired of playing. They’ll show their reticence by pointedly looking away from whoever is trying to engage them. Or they’ll turn their backs or lie down and try to ignore what’s going on. Anyone who ignores these hints is likely to get nailed.

Puppies also nip when they don’t like the way someone is playing. For example, people have an inclination to pull dogs’ ears or to roll them over and pin them down when they’re wrestling. Some puppies will put up with this all day, but others won’t stand for it. Puppies are smart enough to figure out that nipping is a quick and easy way to stop games that aren’t fun. And once they find a strategy that works, they stick with it.

After considering the knowledge of why your puppy may bite, please try the following tips:

1. Talk like Mom: Since puppies tend to nip when they’re acting childish (Editor: childish? Not a bad article, but I’d highly recommend that both the author and the reader consult the Secrets book.) you can often stop them by acting “motherish”, which means giving a low, authoritative Grrrrrrrrrr. [Editor/Adam inserts: I don’t do this. I just use the ‘No!’ command]. Dogs hear this sound a lot when they’re puppies, especially when they’re nursing and their teeth start coming in. They take Mom’s threats seriously, and memories of her warnings stay with them. Growls get their attention and make them think twice about what they’re doing.

2. Use an extension: Rather than letting dogs mouth your hands, it’s better to use toys, towels, or ropes as intermediaries. Anything that puts distance between your hands and their mouths will work better than hand-to-hand or hand-to-mouth games.

3. Play at your level: Dogs love it when people get down on all fours and wrestle, head butt, and generally roughhouse with them. Physical games are fun, but some dogs have a natural tendency to be dominant. Seeing a person on all fours makes them think they’re dealing with a dog-like equal, one whom it’s perfectly acceptable to bite. Dogs have a natural respect for height, however. Keeping your head and shoulders higher than your dog’s will help him understand that you’re the one he needs to respect, not the one he’s allowed to play-bite or nip

Dog Aggression and How To Correct Your Dog Safely And Humanely

Want to know the one non-negotiable thing you’ll need to correct dog aggression?

It’s you.

That’s right. You. And your relationship with your dog.

dog aggression

And you might be surprised to learn that it’s as simple as Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug mantra: “Just say no.”

“But wait… I’ve told my dog, ‘No!’ before… and it didn’t stop his dog aggression…”

And as a professional dog trainer and editor of the dog training web site, — I hear that all the time.

Dog Aggression From
A Professional Trainer’s Perspective

What does it tell me? It’s an immediate red flag that the owner does not have a proper relationship with their dog.

See, once you’ve established a proper relationship between you and your dog– meaning that he:

A. Views you as his “pack leader.”


B. Understands your commands — (in this case, the “No!” command)

… then you’ve just eliminated 99% of the different types of dog aggression behaviors you may be experiencing.

Granted, aggression from a dog trainer’s perspective (from someone who works with aggressive dogs, everyday) is a little different from the pet owner who only experiences aggression from their own dog.

But regardless, once you learn the right techniques, aggressive behavior can be stopped almost immediately. Other times, fixing aggression problems will require consistent work and constant supervision.

I’ve put together a collection of articles that include the following:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Dealing with other aggressive dogs
  • Aggressive puppies.  (Yes– dog aggression can be a genetic factor, and present itself through aggressive puppy behavior, too).
  • Aggressive dog behavior, such as nipping and biting, puppy biting, dog fighting and more.

It’s important to remember that there are four main types of dog aggression:

  1. Dog to handler aggression (when the dog shows aggression toward the owner)
  2. Dog to dog aggression (when the dog shows aggression toward other dogs, but not to humans)
  3. Dog to other animal aggression (such as killing chickens).
  4. Pain-reactive aggression.

Within these four categories of dog aggression, there are several sub-categories, such as:

  1. Dominance aggression
  2. Defensive aggression
  3. Fear aggression
  4. Territorial aggression
  5. Protective aggression
  6. Maternal aggression (protecting her puppies)

… and also several combinations of these sub-categories which can make diagnosing the type of aggression your dog is showing, difficult.

Three Things That Stop Dog Aggression

Regardless of the type of aggression– your dog’s aggression problems will be primarily fixed by:

1. Understanding the type of aggression you’re dealing with.

2. Establishing yourself as the dog’s pack leader, so that your dog will listen to your commands, respect those commands, want to please you, and bond with you more.

3. Correcting the aggressive dog behavior— which is fundamentally a way of communicating your displeasure with the display of dog aggression, and teaching the dog that the said dog aggression is not an acceptable response to the stimuli.