by Myra Miller
Reader Question: How to modify my canine’s behavior
My husband and I have a Jack Russell/Terrier Mix (Charlie) - not a purebred. I was the one who took him to obedience class, and ever since then he is very protective of me. Also, I work from home so we are together nearly all the time.
The problem is, my husband lives in our home, too! He cannot come NEAR me without Charlie nipping at his toes, circling him, and growling. Others can't come near me either - sons, friends, etc. He does not listen to me when I reprimand him, and giving him time out helps in that situation, but not overall.
We are all tired of his overprotective behavior. I now have a baby grandson and am very concerned about how Charlie will treat him when he begins to toddle around near me.
We don't want to get rid of Charlie, but we are getting to that point. Can we modify his behavior, or will his territorial, protective instincts always win?
Myra Vet recommendations for an over-protective canine
It is possible to change your dog’s behavior
, but it does take dedication and consistency. There are no quick fixes, but the results of behavioral modification therapy can be truly remarkable.
You mentioned in your description that you have been reprimanding Charlie. I’ll warn you that in the vast majority of cases this actually makes the behavior worse rather than better. Until you know exactly what type of aggression Charlie has, your best option is to ignore his bad behavior, praise the good (e.g., the times that he remains relaxed when your husband is nearby), and to avoid the situations that incite his aggression – even going so far as to crate him when your husband is around.
Your situation is serious enough, particularly with the possibility of your grandson becoming involved, that I strongly recommend you see a veterinary behaviorist with Charlie. This type of specialist is in the best position to quickly diagnose what type of aggression Charlie has (territorial, protective, fear, etc. – they are all treated differently), come up with the best behavioral modification protocol, and even prescribe medications to make the training more effective.
Best of luck,
Jennifer Coates, DVM