Snappy, growling, biting Jack Russell, advice please

(42 Posts)
Errand Thu 20-Feb-20 10:26:24

I'd really appreciate advice with what to do in this situation.

My newish partner has a Jack Russell Terrier. Before I met the dog he told me it could be a bit 'off' and had bitten people in the past. But it was very situational ie people had put their hands down to stroke the dog and the dog had snapped at them.

The first time he brought the dog over he told me to just ignore him and let him have a sniff and not to put my hands down. The dog was absolutely fine and after a few times coming over accepted me stroking him.

However. I have kids in the house. I told my partner I wasn't happy with having a snappy dog around them and he assured me the dog wouldn't bite unless provoked. The kids were all told not to touch the dog and just to ignore him and leave him alone. The dog stays with us in the room we are in so is never alone with the kids at all, not for a second.

This went fine initially. But the dog is bloody mental. He goes mad barking and growling when ever they come in through the front or back door and 'chases them'. He growls when they walk past him (proper curled lip growling), not all of them but one child in particular.

If you try to pick him up he snaps and growls. He never does it with my partner but does to me. He was on my bed the other morning when I was in bed and I moved my foot and he growled and bit me through the quilt.

DD was sat on the floor next to me the other day and he came up and nudged her hand and curled up in her lap. His tail was wagging and he looked happy. I told her to just leave him and not stroke him. He was fine for a minute and then started nudging her hand to stroke him. She stroked him a few times on his back and he was happy enough but then suddenly started growling and barking at her. Obviously I removed him straight away.

He's just a mental dog and I don't want him around my kids. I've spoken to partner about this and he understands why so at the moment he won't be coming over as he can't leave the dog overnight on his own. Moving forward, this is never going to be a dog I would be happy being in the house with my children. Is this something that could be fixed in the dog or just the nature of the breed?

OP’s posts: |
bunnygeek Thu 20-Feb-20 10:32:49

Terriers can be feisty. Has the dog had a thorough vet check to make sure there aren't any health reasons for his erratic behaviour? Has your partner ever had a behaviourist work with the dog? I agree to be wary about this dog and children, some dogs are just not child-friendly.

IndigoGusset Thu 20-Feb-20 10:39:39

It's something that can often be fixed to the extent that you would still expect to always keep dog and children apart unless being actively supervised and would always need to be proactively managing the environment not to put the dog in a situation he is uncomfortable etc.

However, fixing it requires an owner that is willing to spend the time and money to:

- get a vet health check
- bring a suitably qualified behaviourist in (cost around £250+ depending on where you live etc)
- follow what they recommend to the letter for several months to bring about some imrovement and follow a sensible risk-reduction management plan for the rest of the dog's life

In all honesty, if your partner has allowed this dog to carry on the way it has (stressed and therefore dangerous) then he does not exactly sound like he fits the criteria above, to me.

You obviously know him better.

Littlewelshridinghood Thu 20-Feb-20 10:41:41

Its hit and miss with jack russles.
My friend has one that's wonderful with children but saying that she's never known life without kids so she's completely used to them.
On the other hand we adopted a jack Russel from my grandparents and we ended up having to rehome him cause, as you put it, he was bloody mental and would regularly go for me and and my sister.
You've done the right thing by not allowing the dog into your home knowing he's dangerous. Best thing to do is for your DP to contact his vet and explain the situation, they may be able to give him advise, check the dog for any health conditions and maybe point him in the direction of a behaviourist.

HowlsMovingBungalow Thu 20-Feb-20 10:41:53

Sounds like he hasn't been socialised with people.

Errand Thu 20-Feb-20 10:45:27

The dog is fine physically. Partner says he's always been like this to an extent. He's 7 years old now.

Stressed is exactly what this dog is. He shakes and trembles all the time. Apparently Jack Russells do this but it is quite constant.

For the time being when the children aren't here he will bring the dog over but I've banned him from upstairs. With regards to the growling he gets a short sharp 'no' and is then ignored. Any other tips for the immediate future would be appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
Errand Thu 20-Feb-20 10:46:55

Partner has two children so the dog has been around kids his whole life. Dog is fine with them although has bit one of them years ago. Child dropped some food which the dog went for and bit him on the hand as he went to pick it up.

OP’s posts: |


villainousbroodmare Thu 20-Feb-20 10:49:42

Yes to vet check, yes to behaviourist but speaking as a vet with an interest in dog behaviour, as a dog owner and as a parent of small children, this dog is unlikely to change in such a way as to be a trustworthy family member.

Hoppinggreen Thu 20-Feb-20 10:50:40

Luckily it’s just a small dog so cant do as much damage as a large one BUT it can still hurt your kids (and you)
You can’t have this dog around your children, I wouldn’t want it near me and I’m a dog lover but at least you have a choice.
You need to find a way to make your relationship work with your partner which doesn’t involve the dog coming to your house. It’s not fair on your children OR the dog. If there’s no way of doing that you need to rethink your relationship before someone gets hurt and the dog gets euthanised.

IndigoGusset Thu 20-Feb-20 11:04:33

Jack Russells do not shake and tremble all the time. They are terriers and so have some breed traits that earn them a reputation as a bit snappy but that should not stop you are or your partner looking at the specific dog you have and assessing him independently of what you think the breed should be like, if that makes sense.

With regards to the growling he gets a short sharp 'no' and is then ignored. This may be contributing to the problem, not helping it.

It can only help IF the dog links the repremand to his own actions. This is really unlikely. Instead he is more likely to link the repremand to whatever upset him in the first place. e.g. child comes into the room, dog gets the repremand, dog links the child's presence to the unpleasant experience of being told no, dog thinks he should give a louder warning to the child next time to keep away.

This is why tips for the immediate future will not work (other than keeping everyone physically seperate). You need a qualified behaviourist. If, as everyday owners, you just guess at what might help then you risk making the problem much worse.

I agree with vilainous that 'fixing' is possible only to a point - which is what I meant by only fixing to a certain extent, but you always needing to follow sensible management protocols for the rest of the dog's life.

IndigoGusset Thu 20-Feb-20 11:05:21

Just a correction for clarity...

e.g. child comes into the room, dog growls and gets the repremand, dog links the child's presence to the unpleasant experience of being told no, dog thinks he should give a louder warning to the child next time to keep away.

iWantToBreakBrie Thu 20-Feb-20 11:17:08

The immediate things you can do are:

- stop trying to pick him up
- stop telling him off/"no"
- keep him away from your bed so you don't have the foot issue again
- make sure no one tries to pick dropped food back up when the dog is around
- keep the dog and children apart, even if it looks like the dog might want petting or is calm

But this dog also really does need a professional.

Booboostwo Thu 20-Feb-20 11:31:18

The big, massive, huge problem here is your DP. Let me re-write your post: My DP has a dog who has for the last 7 years bitten numerous people including children and he keeps it with his children and wants to bring it to my home with my children, what should I do?

Put this way it is quite clear that you would be insane to allow this dog into your home and frankly you have been irresponsible letting him bring the dog up until now. I am glad you have seen sense on this.

As for what can be done: the dog could have had a better owner. One who recognized the first signs of problems and immediately sought expert help (first thorough vet check to rule out a physical cause and then a behaviourist who would assess the dog, assess the level of threat it poses and offer behaviour modification advice). In general, dogs who display this kind of very problematic behaviour MAY be managed by a really dedicated and contentious owner who spends a lot of time on their training and keeps them completely and entirely separate from their triggers which in this case seem to include children. Faced with a waste of space owner who doesn't bother to address the dog's issues these dogs don't have a chance - they are just surviving until they bite someone badly enough to be put to sleep.

Practically, do not take advice off the internet about an aggressive dog, it's not responsible and do not be in the same space as the dog at all. He can potentially bite adults quite badly do not be deceived by his size, JRTs have powerful jaws and can inflict considerable damage.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 20-Feb-20 11:32:41

I second the advice to get a vet check to make sure DDog isn't in pain (it makes humans and dogs alike very grumpy!). While you're there, ask for a referral to a local APBC or CCAB accredited behaviourist (lists are on the APBC and CCAB websites - it's good to state who you want to be referred to). The qualifications are very important as literally any charlatan can legally call themselves a behaviourist.

A couple of questions
- how old is the dog? How long has DP had him?
- how old are the children?
- how much exercise does the dog get each day, and in what form does that take (eg off lead, lots of sniffing, lots of ball throwing etc).
- is DDog happy to accept affection from your DP? If so, it could be an issue of familiarity and bonding - based on the lodgers I've had my own JRT x (not bitey, just doesn't seek affection from strangers) can easily take 4-6 months to warm to someone new properly. If not, it points more towards a dog who experiences pain when being stroked, or who just doesn't like being touched.

My JRT x went through a phase of acting like a proper guard dog with visitors - I was genuinely scared he would bite someone. I got an APBC behaviourist in who gave me some advice and, following that religiously, we were able to teach him that visitors are here to play fetch with him (and as far as he's concerned, fetch is the best thing EVER!). He does now nag visitors to play fetch with him, but it's a vast improvement.

With regards to the growling he gets a short sharp 'no' and is then ignored. Any other tips for the immediate future would be appreciated.

Please don't tell him off for growling. Growling is an important form of communication, and invariably the last ditch attempt at making the scary thing gl away, before resorting to a bite. Telling a dog off for growling is likely to make them skip that stage and just go straight for the bite. Telling a dog off for growling is like taking the batteries out of a smoke alarm...

I think it's possible you're all missing some of the more subtle signs of a dog being uncomfortable. If these signs are picked up on, recognised and acted upon, the dog is much less likely to resort to biting. The canine ladder of aggression is a good starting point.

akkakk Thu 20-Feb-20 11:39:40

I have owned and been around many dogs and dog types...

- do not accept this as normal - it is territorial and possessive. You are letting a dog dictate how you can live your lives.
- there is a reason that surgeons deal with many dog bites from certain types of dogs - terriers being high on that list (labradors being very low!)
- these are dogs designed to kill rats - they have strong jaws and lock on

the only options are:
- dog is rehomed
- dog is put down
- dog is separated from children (kept in a dog room / cage - only out when an adult controls behaviour)
- you get a behaviourist in (be aware though that at age 7 change is very unlikely).

pelirocco123 Thu 20-Feb-20 11:46:20

Years ago jacks used to be known as snappy ( probably because they were bred for working ) I had been told that this trait had been bred out of them .My jack Russell is over 16 yrs old and he is the loveliest dog ever
I realise this post isnt any help

Booboostwo Thu 20-Feb-20 11:51:24

akkakk WTF? Could you come up with more mistakes in one thread?
JRTs do not have locking jaws, no breed of dog has a mechanism which allows them to lock their jaws. JRTs are not high on bite lists, neither are labs low, bite lists by breed fluctuate by popularity of the breed, basically as a breed becomes popular more idiots own this type of dog and more dogs of this type end up biting. You have no clue if the behaviour is territorial or possessive (quite different in themselves) or because offear or resource guarding or past bad association with children or pain related - which is why no one should diagnose a dog's behaviour on the internet.

KundaliniRising Thu 20-Feb-20 12:05:46

His dog is a dangerous liability and owners like him give other dog owners bad press.

His dog should be muzzled at all times around children and other people.

Your dp should have sought professional help a long time ago.

It is only a matter of time before something serious happens.

As for dp, well he can get bitten as many times as he likes, but other people will not be ok with being bitten. He should never have had a dog if he cant keep people safe from it.

No way would i have a dog such as that around my dc. You need to step up and safeguard your dc.

Errand Thu 20-Feb-20 14:23:26

The dog is 7. He’s had him since a puppy. Dog will accept affection from people he knows. DP, me, DPs kids and other “regulars”.

The last instance it bit someone went like this. DP in a pub with Ddog on a short lead. Dog sat under the table. A woman came over and went to pet the dog, DP said please don’t put your hand down he’s snappy. She said oh I’ve had JRTs for years and he again said don’t put your hand down. She left them alone. As they were leaving the pub DP walked past her table and she reached out and stroked the dog. Dog turned around and bit her.

Dog is here with me now as DP at work and kids at their dads. He’s been fine with me and is sat on my lap. I won’t pick him up anymore at all.

OP’s posts: |
HowlsMovingBungalow Thu 20-Feb-20 14:30:06

He should be muzzled when out if you can't trust him not to bite.

Booboostwo Thu 20-Feb-20 14:40:47

Your DP is being massively irresponsible. As he should have realized by now people do not listen. The dog should be muzzled at all times when in public.

You might not pick him up but he might still bite you. You should be very careful around this dog until he is properly assessed. You mention nothing about getting professional help.

Motorina Thu 20-Feb-20 20:18:18

It's partly the breed and partly the individual dog.

The behaviour is unlikely to be fixed to the point where he is safe around your children, and it would take many months and a lot of work to see an improvement.

I'm dog obsessed, but this would be a deal breaker for me.

Wifeofbikerviking Thu 20-Feb-20 20:35:49

Oh no jacks can be quite bad around children. My grans bit me on the face as a small child and my mums tries to 'eat' children. So my son and nieces and nephews dont go to her house at all.

They're just naturally possessive of their owner items beds home food bowls etc. And bred to attack small animals. I'd keep your kids away.

adaline Thu 20-Feb-20 21:59:24

Jack Russell's are feisty dogs - they're terriers and are naturally pretty vocal and mouthy.

I've only ever met one that didn't have any of the characteristics you describe. They may be small dogs but they require a huge amount of work to get them adequately socialised with both animals and people. They also need a good amount of exercise and stimulation. A lot more than other small breeds need in my experience.

I wouldn't have a dog that bites around my
children. I think both of you are being incredibly irresponsible here.

Avocadohips Thu 20-Feb-20 22:11:35

I am an owner of a reactive JRT (rescue) although he is reactive towards dogs not people. We have weekly dog training classes and every dog walk is a training walk. It takes deliberate, sustained effort to manage and to try to improve a reactive dog.

This dog and the children should not be in the same building. It is an absolute liability waiting to happen, and whilst yes they are small dogs I definitely wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of an attack!

It's not fair to expect children to not make a mistake around a dog who is so unpredictable.especially one where there is no management or coping plan in place.

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