My Jack Russell Growling at and Biting my Daughter

by Meredith
(Louisville, Ky)

We adopted a Jack Russell/chi mix about 3 months ago from a shelter and don't know alot about her background.She is 2 years old. She has started growling and snapping at my 11 year old daughter and growls at me sometimes when we try to pick her up to move her or hold her. She doesn't do this with my husband or my sons.

She has snapped at my daughter 3 times in the past two days, it is getting progressively worse. My daughter is very hesitant with her and I think the dog senses this. The dog is supposed to be my daughter's but it is getting to the point where she wants nothing to do with her because she is so discouraged with the growling and aggression. The dog has plenty of exercise and companionship; she rarely has to go in the kennel.

When we first got her the main problem was barking when anyone came into the house besides us but now it's the biting and growling at my daughter. She has a kennel that is rarely used - she sleeps with us at night.

Do we need to try obedience classes? We are at the end of our rope - any suggestions?

Vet Suggestion For Dog Biting and Growling at Family Members

Hello Meredith,

I’m sorry to hear about the problems you are having with your dog’s behavior. In the short term, you need to do whatever is necessary to keep you and especially your daughter safe. Avoid any situations, such as picking the dog up, that tends to lead to aggression. Whenever she acts in an aggressive manner, the behavior is reinforced and she is more likely to continue. If your dog does act aggressively, ignore the behavior. Do not yell, hit, or otherwise punish her.

In many cases, a dog’s aggression is based in fear or anxiety, and punishment only increases those emotions.
Your dog’s behavior problem sounds severe enough that the best way to address it is to make an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist (a doctor who specializes in treating problem behaviors in pets). I’m afraid that obedience training alone won’t be sufficient, and if the trainer handles the situation in the wrong way, the problem may get worse rather than better.

A veterinary behaviorist should be able to diagnose the cause of your dog’s aggression and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include medication in addition to a behavioral modification plan. I’m afraid anything less than this is unlikely to be successful and may result in someone being seriously hurt and/or your dog losing a good home.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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