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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20218
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Our 18 month old Parson Russell Terrier barks and nips

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Our 18 month old Parson Russell Terrier bitch barks and nips my husband when he gets up from his chair or the sofa. Sometimes she actually bites. She does this whether I am in the room or not so I don't think it's to do with me. She will go from calm or asleep to full on excitement if he even makes to move. Is she trying to control him? Is she scared of him? Is she worried it's a prelude to him going upstairs to his office? Please help!
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response and I do have an appointment that I need to take care as well, so it may take me a couple of hours as I don't want to rush my response to you.. I hope you can be patient.
Is she allowed on furniture?
Is she spayed?
What obedience training has she had?
what effect did the bark collar have?
Are you present when this happens?
Does it happen when you are gone or just when you are there?
Has anything had any reaction from her?
Is your husband willing to work with her? I'm assuming he is but sometimes husbands get irritated and do not want to deal with the dog anymore.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Jane,
Thanks for hopefully being able to help today. I can be patient :)
Betsy has been spayed, but only recently.
She is allowed on the furniture and sleeps in the bed with us.
She went to training classes (indoor) from 12 weeks and progressed to an outdoor training group thereafter. She was very good at her training and is 100% good when out on her walk. She doesn't run away, chase cyclists or jiggers and is very good with other dogs as she has been socialised from a puppy. She is very focused on her ball which keeps her close. She is a joy to walk. The problems we have with Betsy are all in the home.
It is as if she is constantly on edge, patrolling or should I say policing us, particularly my husband. She keeps a watchful eye on him and is ready to pounce if he dares get up, poor man.
The citronella dog collar successful at first but it was an automatic one, and would go off if she yawned or belched! Regardless, after a few days she would just bark through it. We stopped using it but are considering buying one which we activate when she barks.
My husband is willing to work with Betsy but is at his wits end.
We have been working with a dog trainer, who has all but admitted defeat!
In addition she is our 4th dog so we are not novices. We have also read Cesar Milan, John fisher etc and tried to educate ourselves.
We have also had this breed before and know them well.
She is super intelligent and very sweet 90% of the time.
She has lots of off lead exercise every day.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Betsy also exhibits neurotic behaviour, licking doors. If we have a visitor and exclude her from the room she licks the door even if one of us is in the room with her.


Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. There are some medical conditions that can cause sudden aggression and those may be a factor but it sounds more behavioral to me. Unfortunately, medical causes can not be ruled out without testing.


It sounds like your dog may be having issues with dominance aggression when in the house. Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you or other household members. Now there can be a dominant male and a dominant female, so he may not feel the same need to reprimand you as he does your husband. Your husband would be a "threat" to him being boss, so he would be more inclined to reprimand your husband since he is male.

Dogs that are allowed on tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. Keeping them on the floor can help lower them mentally back to a submissive position in the pack. So the first thing is to not allow him higher that the humans or even on the same level. In addition, humans shouldn't be on the floor with him either. Attach a leash and use it to remove him from the furniture. Give a correction in the form of a quick tug and firm "NO" when he attempts to get on and a treat when he starts not trying to get on the furniture. Thus you are providing negative reinforcement for the getting on the furniture and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior (not attempting to get on the furniture). Now this doesn't have to be permanent but at least for 2 weeks after he stops trying to get up. After that, IF he performs a command, he can earn the privilege of getting on the couch but must get down on command. I would not allow him back in your bed, though. So get him his own bed that is lower than yours.

There are other ways to regain the dominant position in the house as well. The best way is to start obedience training. While a formal training class is great, you can start obedience training without a formal class. Before you can get into classes, I am including links to a site that teaches some good methods of training. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.


Now you can train with him, but the bulk of training should be done by your husband. Have him use tasty paper thin hot dog slices as treats since dogs like to obey for that treat. Each time he obeys (even if for treats) it makes them a little more submissive to the person giving the command.

You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if he should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.


You can also do the following specialized training with him. Each time your dog barks at your husband, give him a short tug for a correction and tell him “NO” in a low firm tone. Dog’s growl when they are commanding other dogs which is why you used a low firm tone. Do this each time. I realize it may be an ongoing battle. You may do training where your husband is sitting and then stands ups in the room, you make the correction and your husband sits back down. Make the correction as soon as he starts to bark or fixates on your husband. Have small tasty treats like the hotdog slices ready. If your dog does not bark or go after your husband, praise him and give him a small treat. Practice this often. Each time he doesn’t bark, give him a treat. Before you know it, he’ll be associating you husband and not barking with getting treats and praise. At this point you will want to cut back on the treats and make them a sometime reward with the praise being the reward. Remember, the correction should not be hard, or choking, just a quick short tug, to break his concentration while you tell him “NO”.


You should try all these techniques in conjunction with one another. It usually takes more than one technique to solve a problem. I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .


Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Sorry for the delay.
I read your comments with interest.
We tried my husband getting up and me controlling Betsy and telling her no when she barked and giving her a treat when she didn't bark, and it worked pretty well, so that was useful thank you.
Re the not on the furniture or in the bed thing, I get that but at the same time I believe Betsy is intelligent enough to know she is allowed on the furniture and the bed at our discretion and she does get off if we tell her. I know the thing about top dog dominance etc, but I think her behaviour is more neurotic than dominance ie the door licking. For example she used to go for me when I picked her up. Even now she will sometimes offer a murmur of displeasure ie a growl but I ignore her and then she licks my nose and flops on my shoulder like a tamed pet.
She is a conundrum for sure!



I agree she is a smart dog and is training you and your husband well. If she sleeps in your bed every night and is allowed on the furniture without you specifically telling her she can get up, then she isn't earning the right. She may get down when you tell her, but does she wait until you ask her up to jump on the couch? She should wait and not EXPECT to be allowed up.


Her growling at you is her attempt to control you and get you not to do certain things, but you ignore her, so she tries the fawning tactic on you and you show her attention. I see this behavior all the time. You have tried a lot of things, isn't it worth giving this a good month to see if indeed it does the trick.


Now I did not address the licking of the door. That behavior can indicate a few things including nausea or a problem with anemia, a liver issue, or even a seizure problem. I suspect that she doesn't like being separated from you and that may be a touch of separation anxiety leading to a bit of nausea and thus the licking. You might try a DAP collar for that issue. They are known to help with anxiety. They use pheromones similar to the ones that nursing mom's use to calm their pups.


However, her attacking and barking at your husband is not anxiety based behavior or seizure behavior. It is definitely an attempt by your dog to control him. When doing the training to stop her reacting, be sure to use special treats as store bought treats are seldom seen as "worth" stopping the behavior. Combine that training with your husband working with her on her obedience training.

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