Why is my Jack Russel terrier biting me?
I received a phone call over the weekend which was a difficult phone call to take as it involved an owner who is terrified of her Jack Russel terrier because he is biting her. This has been brewing for a couple of months but has really peaked in the past few days, hence the phone call.
When I get a phone call where an owner is in such obvious distress, it worries me that the behaviour has reached this level, if the owner is scared and confused, how is the dog feeling? Probably completely the same so with two confused and stressed parties, it can be very difficult to deal with the issue, let alone find a way out of it.
In desperation, the owners have resorted to the worst place for information, the internet where so much conflicting and however well meant, misleading information exists. The owners told me what they had discovered online, what they had tried and what results they had achieved.
The fact I was stood in their kitchen tells you how much progress they had made. So why did they call me? They told me it was because my approach was so different to everything else they had read and tried it might work because nothing else had.
As our session progressed and we dealt with the unwanted behaviour in a nice calm, controlled and completely psychological way, the dogs were changing their behaviour.
I only ever change three things, there are many variations and situational differences but the fundamentals are the same. I change eye contact, timing of attention and body language.
Both the owners are wary of their male dog because of his behaviour yet if we remove the build up and the triggers, the rest of the behaviour cannot follow. That is an undeniable fact and it is a fact I prove over and over again through the consistent implementation of the three principles you remove the control the dog has over your attention which creates a completely new and previously unavailable pathway that you are in complete control of.
This does require self control and persistence to achieve lasting results and my own dogs are living examples of this by how well behaved they are, plus the 25 years of experience. Through experience you learn and I am continually learning and adapting my approach so what you saw five years ago will be completely different to what you see today because there is always more to learn.
When we started the session, the owners were focusing on what the dog was doing wrong and trying to correct that behaviour so the dog did nothing.
I got them to focus on what the dog is doing right and it was quite a surprise just how often the dog was very well behaved yet this received no recognition which meant there was no point in being well behaved.
This picture is of a Jack Russel terrier, not the dog I was working with this morning as they are still a work in prpgress and there wasn’t time to take a photograph, there was just so much to do.
What does it all boil down to? What is the root cause of this dogs behaviour?
The owners asked me this question and were very surprised and confused by my answer yet towards the end of today’s session, they were understanding it much more clearly.
The root cause of their dogs behaviour is too much attention. Give a dog too much attention, in this case the dog filled the gap caused by the sudden loss of a previous dog and the new dog can then believe he has a right to the high level of attention he receives and he can then make sure that level is maintained, very often through behaviours they know we react to the most.
Attention can be like a drug to some dogs as they can get very dependent on it and will do anything to get it, even though they may not like what they have to do to get their fix and that seems to be the case with this dog.
It takes time for him to realise he now gets his fix in another way, a less intense way and with much less effort and therefore stress. This allows the dog to be less demanding, less stressed and much more relaxed, this then allows the whole house hold to be more relaxed and much less stressed and that is good for everyone’s health and well being.
Dogs can present us with very difficult behaviours to fathom, there is usually a root cause in there that has been created by a human at some point in their lives. This is not always the case and if I have any concerns about about a dogs behaviour that are different or are varying from what is expected, I will ask you to get your dog checked by your vet to rule out any physical or mental conditions.