Jack Russell aggression can either be a positive or a negative trait depending on the situation in which the aggressive behaviour is manifested. On one hand, if the aggression is directed at against an unwanted intruder in the house or against a red fox during fox hunts, then it is a positive behaviour. Keep in mind that Jack Russells are breed for fox hunts and, thus, aggression is a key to their success.
On the other hand, if the aggression is directed at other dog or humans, especially any member of the household, then the behaviour is considered negative. This aggression can be destructive on things, on dog interactions and, most disturbingly, on human health, as is the case with digging, barking and biting. This is the kind of aggression that demands immediate action of the pet owner lest more damage is done.
Identifying the Problem
In many instances, the actions associated with negative Jack Russell aggression will not manifest themselves until the dog is about one year of age. Before this age, the Jack Russell puppy will only show signs of developing aggressive behaviour, which can include fear, anxiety and nervousness around dogs and humans and even in the presence of unfamiliar objects. The cowering Jack Russell puppy can turn into an aggressive jumping, barking and biting adult dog a few months down the road without proper intervention.
It may also be that the seeds of aggression manifest themselves in actual hostility toward the object or subject of the behaviour. Thus, puppies can tackle, wrestle, chase, nip and paw the dog, the object or the human under attack, often to the puppies’ detriment. Take note that attacked dogs or humans will respond negatively to the aggressive behaviour through biting or hitting, respectively.
Of course, Jack Russell aggression in adult dogs is also possible. Again, it is imperative to determine if the aggression is of the negative or the positive kind so as to take the proper action, be it obedience training or taking the necessary measure for the protection of the household, respectively.
Identifying the Cause
There are many causes for negative aggression in Jack Russells. It is of vital importance to identify the exact causes of the aggressive behaviour in each Jack Russell for the simple reason that the type of treatment chosen fits the cause of behaviour. For example, if the cause of the aggressive behaviour is assertion of dominance, then the right type of treatment will be obedience training to establish the human as the alpha dog in the pack, not increased amounts of physical exercise.
It is often up to the owner to closely observe the circumstances, times and incidents when the signs of Jack Russell aggression manifest themselves. Keeping a log will help in the determination of the causes by the owner in cooperation with the veterinarian or the trainer.
- Lack of exercise. Take note that Jack Russells are one of the most energetic dog breeds in an almost constant level of movement.
- Lack of confidence. Jack Russells can be sociable animals so much so that when socialization opportunities are taken away, aggressive behaviour to compensate for the loss becomes common.
- Lack of discipline. Jack Russells are naturally dominant dogs requiring the stronger leadership of their human owners to control their innate aggressive quality. Jack Russell aggression is often a sign of the absence of a strong pack leader.
- Lack of space in both the physical and psychological sense. Thus, experts will advise against owning a Jack Russell if there are other Jack Russells or small children in the house as well as when one lives in a small apartment with very little to no yard space.
- Lack of resources. Dogs can fight amongst themselves for food, water and space.
- Lack of positive experiences. Many dogs have been exposed to traumatic experiences that aggravate the aggressive tendencies present in puppies.
- Lack of veterinary care. The Jack Russell may be suffering from a thyroid malfunction and other diseases with symptoms like pain, which can lead to aggression.
Identifying the Treatment
When you have identified the causes, you can then proceed to the proper treatment. The treatment may be in the form of obedience training; increased time for physical exercises, mental stimulation and socialization opportunities; improved environment; and veterinary care for the treatment of underlying medical causes.
Indeed, negative Jack Russell aggression can be properly treated in time. The trick is in taking the right action at the right time so that the symptoms can be prevented from worsening.