First off, we have to emphasize that Jack Russell biting is a natural instinct of the breed. This is because these dogs are working terriers bred specifically to chase, flush out and bite the prey, which just so happens to be foxes in the case of the Jack Russell. Thus, biting for a Jack Russell is not so much an expression of its aggression for the victim but a manifestation of its innate nature as a Jack Russell in particular and a dog in general.
Also, before punishing the Jack Russell for biting into anything, be it a human leg or a table leg, remember that physical force only reinforces the aggressive behaviour. Instead of stopping the Jack Russell from biting, the aggression will only increase to the detriment of the human or the dog or both. Many canine experts, in fact, recommend not having a Jack Russell for a household pet when school children are around because of its inherent aggression and propensity to attack when abused, even when the abuse was unintentional.
What Are the Reasons?
The reasons for Jack Russell biting vary from one dog to the next, which is also true for other breeds. Nonetheless, these reasons can be classified into five basic categories:
- Chasing Instinct – Jack Russells, as previously mentioned, were specifically bred to chase and bite on foxes. But with urban living, the chasing instincts are transferred from foxes to just about anything that moves from squirrels to postmen. Since the biting cannot often be indulged in, the Jack Russell becomes frustrated and, thus, become nippy at other times with the humans and objects in the house.
- Bites – Puppies play by biting each other as a sign of affection as well as preparation for the leadership tussles that come with adulthood. Add in the excitable quality of the breed and we have Jack Russells biting and often biting hard on the skin of the humans playing with them. This is the reason why small children should never be allowed to play with a Jack Russell no matter its canine age.
- Boredom – Too little physical exercise and mental stimulation makes for a Jack Russell biting out of boredom. Think of it as self-entertainment where biting can probably get the person’s attention and then play will begin.
- Fear – Jack Russells, as fearless as the breed might appear, do feel fear, too. Biting is its defense mechanism especially when a larger dog or human is heaping even the slightest and most unintentional abuse on it, say, a too-hard tug on the ears.
- Aggression – This is the most bothersome reason for misbehaviour in a Jack Russell. Although aggression is good on the field, it is not so in the home.
It is the responsibility of the owner to determine the cause behind the destructive biting behaviour of the Jack Russell. Often, it is not just one reason but an interconnection between two or more causes. For example, a Jack Russell fearful for its life may bite, thus, transforming the fear-biting into aggression-biting.
What Can Be Done?
Fortunately, there are many ways with which the destructive behaviour of Jack Russell biting can be prevented or stopped. Keep in mind the following tips in this regard:
- Install an opaque fence in the yard so that passerby will not present the temptation to give in to the chasing instinct. The emphasis is on opaque fencing because if the Jack Russell can still see movement through the yard, the chasing instinct will still be predominant. The fenced yard is also a good place for physical exercise without too close supervision on your part. In this way, boredom can also be averted and so the unnecessary barking can stop.
- Avoid playing rough games with a Jack Russell because it stimulates the aggression instincts. These include games like wrestling and tug of war where biting and nipping are involved just to let the dog win over the human. Instead, go for games like fetch using a tennis ball or a Frisbee to develop agility.
- Provide more attention but only when the Jack Russell biting behavior is absent. If it is present, command the dog “No”, turn your back and then ignore it. Soon, the message should be understood considering that the breed is highly intelligent.
When all else fails, we suggest seeing a professional trainer to stop the Jack Russell biting behavior before it goes out of hand.