Categorized | Dog Aggression

Dog Aggression and the Jack Russell Terrier

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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.


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