Today’s blog is all about Jack Russell Biting. Generally, Jack Russell’s are good-natured, friendly dogs with a few exceptions. They are also a breed that tends to be protective of their home. Jack Russell’s are also known to be highly protective of their family.
Why Dogs Bite
Dogs explore and communicate with their mouths. A lot of what we view as biting is exploration and would be a normal behaviour if they were still part of a pack in the wild. But our pet terriers are not part of a wild pack and so, even the exploratory and communicative mouthing and biting is not acceptable.
Those dogs who are carefully socialised as puppies will know not to bite and will not do so without good reason. However, dogs who have not had the best upbringing or have been mistreated somehow are more likely to mouth and bite in unacceptable ways.
There are adult dogs in rescue who did not receive the correct training as puppies who still mouth and play-bite at people. They are not aware that it is an unallowed behaviour.
Another example is the terrier who is loose in the garden when an unexpected visitor arrives and kicks or lashes out at the dog through no fault of the dog. The terrier, having been kicked, retaliates by grabbing the offending leg and holding on as only a terrier can. This actually happened to someone I know with a Parson Russell Terrier. Fortunately, she witnessed the whole scenario from an upstairs window. Thereafter, from that bad experience and unless remedial training is successful, any previous well behaved and well-socialised terrier can no longer be trusted around strangers. Jack Russells and Parson Russell terriers have long memories, and it is a very fortunate owner who manages to completely eradicate such a bad memory through retraining their dog.
Training Puppies and Dogs
Eliminating biting at the puppy stage is a case of communication and consistency. Your puppy is not aware that biting and chewing you is not acceptable. The biting and chewing stage is a way of learning and exploration and puppies also need to chew when they are growing and changing their teeth.
Engage the puppy with a toy that they are allowed to chew on and encourage them when they are biting the toy. Play tug with them and when you want them to let go, stop pulling and moving the toy and use the word you want to use for them to let go. When they let go, reinforce the word and praise them. High value treats work well to reward even the smallest good behaviour.
By letting them know what they can chew and the word for stopping, you are on the way to training your Jack Russell terrier puppy to stop biting you or things that they shouldn’t.
The training takes time, and it can take a few weeks. Consistency pays off and sometimes the progress is slow, but the thing is to be consistent and train frequently for short bursts of time.
The plan is to redirect their energy and biting into play or to distract them into not biting. Reward them when they don’t bite and when they let go of the toy when asked.
If you have a bitey dog or puppy, put them on a lead when you have visitors so that they don’t get into the habit of charging up to people and biting at shoelaces or trousers.
When they lick you when before they would have bitten you, that is a good thing, so reward. Be prepared to distract them from your hand, arm, shoe or trouser leg with a toy.
Adult Rescue Dogs
Because the habit is more set, it can take longer to eradicate undesirable biting and mouthing in adult dogs. In some cases, it’s as though they realise they missed out on training and they are desperate to please you.
Frequently, adult rescue dogs that have not been trained and socialised have leftover puppy behaviour.
Whichever type your adult rescue Jack Russell is, the method of redirecting as described above works. You are encouraging the good behaviour and removing some of the opportunities for them to practice the not so good, so they start to lose the habit.
Using high value treats is a tool that works well with older dogs. A food orientated dog is less likely to bite when there are tasty treats about. Use the treats with praise so that, at times, praise is enough.
Training in short bursts is even more important with an older dog. You don’t want them to become disheartened or bored. So plan the training in short bursts over several weeks and be prepared for consistent training to take longer.
If you enjoyed this article on Jack Russell Biting you might also like to read about Jack Russell Teeth and Dental Care.