Over Protective Dog Aggressive Behavior Training

by Claudine

My Jack Russell Terrier is a big fan of my 3 year old son. He is his buddy and a food source and it has gotten to the point where you can't run to my son even to save him without the dog barking and biting you. Recently it caused a trip to the hospital and stitches for a family member. And he does not back down. Not only is he his way about my son but also my bird. He got out of his cage recently and when I ran to catch him before the dog did he attacked me and started biting my feet.

He spends most of his day barking at everything outside literally running from window to window throughout the house. It seems to just be getting worse and he bit my finger yesterday when I was locking his crate door. I just don't know what to do. My husband is at wits end and afraid that it's going to be our son next. Any ideas?

Editor Suggestion regarding an Over Protective Dog and Dog Aggressive Behavior Training

The aggressive, over protective behaviors appear to the result of some confusion in the household in terms of who is in charge. When your son provides food at the command of your Jack, or provides affection when your Jack wants it, it confuses the hierarchy of things in the household.

Jacks are also natural hunting dogs, and have lots of pent up energy. If allowed to exercise these instincts without redirection to more positive behaviors, then situations such as yours are the result.

The good news is that these behaviors are correctable, but in a Jack it will be a test of wills for a while, yours vs. dog, since these are highly intelligent dogs. The good news, is that since they are so intelligent, you'll be able to train your Jack back to being the good dog that he or she was.

The control or over protection of your son and bird are natural instincts of a dog that believes that he is in charge of the household. It can almost be thought of as a jealous girl friend who seeks to cling to the boyfriend not matter what and will chase others away. The goal is to break the bond, but showing your do who is in charge.

I'm not a big fan of choke collars or punishment. Instead I'd prefer to teach your Jack more acceptable behaviors through the controlling of rewards, praise, freedom outdoors, diet, use of toys, etc.

This type of training requires a change in mindset, where from here on in your Jack will need to earn everything. The dog needs to learn how to rely on you, your husband and your son for everything pleasurable.

The goal is to get the dog used to obeying commands, including the practicing of this every day.

To start this kind of program, you should try and avoid the circumstances that lead to confrontations with your dog. This can mean keeping the bird away from your Jack and possibly your son. Said another way, if you dog bites when with your son, then he doesn't get to see your son any more. Fighting with a dog or confronting it is a no win situation.

The best time to show your Jack who is in charge is during feeding time. From now on, have your Jack follow a command before eating. The "sit" command works. If your Jack is not used to following commands, this may take some time, but it demonstrates and clearly communicates that the price for food is obedience. Do not feed your jack until he sits. Then do not feed unless he sits in a shorter period of time. The goal here is to indicate that if you give a command you expect an immediate response. It may take some time for your Jack to understand, but when hungry, he will quickly get the message that obedience is the price of food.

If your dog tends to graze, eat, walk away, eat again, do not allow this behavior to continue. When your Jack is out of the room, remove all food after 15 minutes. This further reinforces that when you say sit, and then provide food, you expect a disciplined response when eating.

Try not to give in to your Jack on his schedule, For example, if you Jack wants to be petted, do not do it. Provide petting as a reward for good behavior on your schedule. Try not to pet during meal time as this may confuse the situation. Also, if you want to pet your Jack, provide a command such as sit, before providing pleasure. The same goes for providing treats.

Another technique is to remove all objects and toys that your dog likes to play with. Only provide toys when your Jack responds to a command such as "sit." When it does, provide the toy, but then remove it and place it back into a designated toy drawer when your Jack is finished with the toy. Again the goal is to say that you are the one that provides rewards, and that rewards are earned after following your commands.

Even when playing games, do not let your jack determine when to play. For example, when a dog picks up a ball, do not play. Only play when you pick up the ball and suggest your Jacks favorite game. Do not let your Jack pull you into obedience by not bringing back the ball. You only throw it again when the ball is brought back all the way to you.

One other tip is not to confuse commands. For example, don't use your Jacks name when correcting behavior, Instead use words like "no." Only use your dog's name when providing praise. This will clearly associate the name with reward.

In terms of the barking at objects outside, this is also a form of disobedience. Do not let your Jack set the terms for going outside. This is also a reward. Also, if you let your Jack run free in the yard, do not, and take him out on a lead if your commands are not obeyed.

Since this is an older dog, it can't hurt to seek the help of a trainer that shares the same philosophy to training as you do. Older dogs may develop bad habits that good take longer to break. Remember this is a test of wills, so be strong and be confident in applying the principles outlined above.

I also recommend the book Dogs Behaving Badly by Dr. Nicholas Dodman. It's the best $10 you'll ever spend to understand how to train dogs and how to understand the motivations for different dog behaviors.

Readers, any suggestions on Jack Russell Terrier over protectiveness, dog aggressiveness training and barking?

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Oct 10, 2011
Another bite
by: Claudine

So I had a great day with my dog. I followed your directions and although I know it's not going to change over night I could certainly see a difference. And then, I am making dinner going through the freezer for something with my dog at my side when my son screams out because he has hurt himself. He is no where near me and I have not even moved yet to go see what has happened and my dog freaks, barks at me and bites my foot breaking the skin. I actually thought he was going to do it again but I somehow managed to stop him. I told him to get in his crate and he went without argument. How am I going to fix that? I love my dog so much but I am starting to worry. I was talking to my babysitter and she said that when my son goes to bed and she is watching him that the dog will not let her in the room.

Editor Comment

I'd suggest the help of a professional trainer. Your Jack definitely has some dominance aggression issues that obviously need to be addressed. It is common in cases of dominance aggression for a dog to be contrite after the aggressive episode such as nipping at your foot, as if the bite didn't occur. My bet is that you are the biggest threat to the dog's dominance, thus the reaction to you.

I'd suggest consulting with a trainer or your veterinarian, particularly given the risk to yourself, your family and visitors. If this isn't an option, it's time to remove even more freedom from your Jack, such as restriction to one room, and when you bring your dog outdoors, it is when you want, after the Jack follows a command, and only on a lead. Pleasures such as going outside also need to be earned.

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