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DrRalston, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2207
Experience:  Over twelve years of internal medicine, surgery, and preventive care.
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have a twelve year old XXXXX XXXXX who is very protective

Customer Question

have a twelve year old XXXXX XXXXX who is very protective to me but is aggressive to others I can not trust him around my two young grandchildren ages 16 month and 3 anda half halve two house cats I adopted when snoopy was nine and he is fine with them except if they go near him while asleep or near his food he sleeps on my bed and have now had to lock him in living room as would go for me if I accidently moved in the nite very scarey if people come to the house I put him in my bedroom with baby gate up he reacently had some teeth out and vet said he is in great condition for his age so its not medical I am moving house from a large house with a garden to a large apartment and I can get away with having a small quiet dog but he can be very loud barking I want to have my grandchildren to stay but can not trust my dog I love him so much but his behaviour is breaking my heart and I never relax having to make sure every one gives notice to visit none of my family will take him and rehousing would be hard I don't know what I can do  I don't know if you can train an old dog and would anyone be allowed near him to train him  my last resort would be to have him put down as under pressure to put my grandkids first  I know this is all my fault and as I said its all getting to much for me  thank you

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  DrRalston replied 4 years ago.
Snoopy certainly does seem to have some serious problems.

First, I must tell you, although there are some things you may have done different when Snoopy was a puppy, do not feel that this is all your fault.


Some dogs just like people can be aggressive and weary of strangers, children, etc. Also, it sounds like your dog has territorial issues. He is protective of his sleeping space, his food, and it sounds like he protects you.

This is all very natural behavior for dogs, especially terriers, and VERY ESPECIALLY Jack Russel Terriers. We call them Jack Russel Terrorists in the hospital. It's mostly because they often tend to be a little high strung and wired.

JRT's need a ton of socialization when they are puppies. They need to be around all kinds of people - wheelchairs, color different, women and men, people with hats, glasses, coats, wigs, clowns... whatever! The more people they are around with good intereactions the easier they deal with people in the future.

Sometimes when I tell people that they will say ,"Well he's always been around people. And he isn't always aggressive towards people". And I say, "It doesn't matter".

Just like people, some dogs are unpredictable in their response. However, let's be clear on this one - your dog has behavior problems. It growls at you when you move at night, it's protective of it's food, it growls when sleeping and somebody comes near, it has to be kept behind baby gates, you can't trust it around your grandchildren. Yep, that is NOT normal.

To be clear - protective instincts are natural. Minor aggression common in Jack Russel Terriers. Attacking, biting, growling at people and children - not normal an unacceptable.

It is true to some extent that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Your dog might be a little too old to benefit from training.

And you are right, you would need to have somebody come in and work with your dog in person. There are behaviorists that do just that. They might be a little expensive. But, you don't have any other options at this point.

Some medications may help your pet. The herbal stuff will likely not do it. If you have a person that is violent towards other people, screams at them when they come near him while sleeping, yells at children when they visit his house, or growls at waitresses in the restaurant, chamomille tea is not going to help this fellow.

You need something stronger.

Now, the herbal stuff might be mildly calming, and I do recommend it for my patients that have some slight anxiety towards thunderstorms, or new environments for example. But, that is not your dog's problem. Your dog has territorial aggression issues.

So, I would like to give you advice on what to do at home. Your dog is past this.

You need a trainer.
You need medications - ask your Vet.
OR, you need to consider rehoming your pet or not having it around the grandchildren.

I know it is hard, but these are the only choices you have left. It is not your fault, but now the choices have to be made to make a change. Something has to change.

The current situation will no longer be acceptable. If you want it to change, you have to make a change.

I would recommend talking to your Vet about using clomipramine (clomicalm). I have used this often on JRT's for very similar problems. At the same time, consult with a trainer to work with you and your dog. Look for one that specializes in aggressive behaviour. Most of us do NOT like working with these types of dogs. It is hard work, and rarely pays off. BUT, for those of us that do take the chance to help a dog and his owner, we thrive on it. THAT is the person you need in this case.

It might not be possible - but you won't know until you try.

I think it's worth a try, don't you?