The Jack Russell growls at the boy. It’s a sad situation and I feel so sorry for Eddie (not his real name). He is thirteen years old and their rescue Jack Russell, Ted, ‘doesn’t like’ him.
What makes it even more sad is that Eddie was the one family member not particularly interested in getting a dog until Ted chose him at the rescue. He settled on his lap. For Eddie it was love.
In a week or two everything had changed.
Ted kind of plays Eddie. The otherwise friendly little Jack Russell growls when he approaches him, particularly when the boy is coming through a door. He growls when the lad approaches his mother.
Eddie tries very hard with Ted – too hard.
Ted guards the mother – from the boy
If Eddie ignores him, Ted nudges him for attention, but when the boy then touches him, he growls.
If Eddie is last into the sitting room in the evening, the Jack Russell growls at him from the sofa where he’s happily lying being cuddled by other family members. He guards the mother from him.
The other son, age twelve, will pet and fuss Ted while Eddie watches. Poor Eddie.
Ted may also simply stare at Eddie with an unbroken gaze. When Eddie moves or puts his hand out, the Jack Russell growls at him.
Erratic, unpredictable and over-excitable
I’m pretty sure that early on, when they first got him a year ago, something in Eddie’s own behaviour had troubled Ted and triggered the behaviour.
Eddie is quite a hyper boy at times – more so than his brother. I would guess his own erratic, unpredictable and over-excitable behaviour is to blame along with too vigorous handling and chase games.
This results in the three-year-old Ted trying to control him. I’ve seen dogs do this. One dog is over-excitable and the other doesn’t like this so tries to keep it under control in much the same way.
Very likely in his previous life Ted hadn’t had much to do with adolescent or over-excited humans. Either that, or too much of it.
We reap what we sow
Dogs do tend to mirror their humans.
Exactly why Ted is like this with Eddie, why the Jack Russell growls mostly at him, is less important now than dealing with the behaviour itself. Whatever the original cause, it is what it is.
They must cut down on anything associated with arousal – Eddie in particular. This will be very hard for the boy and we have worked out a reward system to encourage him. He will now do his best to starve the dog of being touched and try not to wind him up. The two boys should avoid rough and tumble themselves when in Ted’s presence.
His brother will cut down on petting also, particularly in front of Eddie, as it just rubs it in.
The Jack Russell growls when approached through a door
Eddie, and sometimes his dad also, coming through a door and directly towards Ted worries him, particularly if he’s sitting near the mother.
Now they will put pots of food up high by each doorway. Eddie will use liver cake – Ted’s favourite. Ted will get liver cake from nobody else.
As Eddie approaches the door he will call Ted to him. He will then drop a few bits of food on the floor and walk through the door either with him or ahead of him.
They will no longer scold the growling. They will learn from it.
Eddie will now be the ‘liver-treat boy’! He must keep his hands in his pockets, even if Ted nudges him. He can talk to him – but not touch him – yet. He will initiate brain games and hunting games. He will give him his food in ways that make him work for it – calmly.
I will go back and show Eddie how to teach the dog to come and touch his hand upon request, using a clicker. We will slowly get Ted to welcome Eddie’s hands.
Meanwhile, no chase games or getting him excited. Instead, Eddie will use Ted’s brain and his nose for activity and play.