- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Training an older JRT w/ beh problems - possible?

July 16th, 2005, 06:06 PM
Hello all, I'm new, and will probably come by fairly often because ...

I inherited my JRT from my brother, who got her when he was 18 because he thought she was cute, etc., without researching the breed. He thought she matched his temperament - which she could, theoretically, both are really active by nature. The problem is that he rarely included the dog in his activities, and it seems like she didn't get her due in terms of training and exercise. He moved out of the country, and gave her to me, partly because I have a special relationship with the dog (when I'd visit, it was just a love-fest).

Until now, I haven't had a chance to be a part of her training. Is it possible to improve a 10-yr old dog's behaviour?

What needs work:

- She can be hostile to other dogs when I walk her. I don't know if this is territorial aggression, fear-based aggression, or breed disposition.

- Sometimes, she growls and even shows teeth when people walk near her food bowl.

- She is used to sleeping in beds. If I move while she's sleeping, she growls and has even snapped (but hasn't bitten). (This is all the time.) She goes from bed to bed at night.

- Sometimes she "protects" areas even larger than these (beds, bowl, under my bed (which is her "safe" place).

- She has taken a real dislike to my other brother, who I live with, and who used to live with Brother #1. Brother #2 is a disciplinarian -- he was the only person to try to impose restrictions on the dog; Brother #1 let her get away with a lot. She hates Brother #2 -- growls and barks at him, and has nipped him three times. (All three times, she's inhibited the bite, i.e., she doesn't go full force, but it still doesn't make me comfortable.)

- Though she's thrilled to be around most guests, there are a few individuals she has taken a dislike to (I'm not sure what the reasons are), and she growls at them.

- She barks at other dogs, who she sees/smells/senses from the window. Territorial?

- She is very afraid of busy streets (she was grazed by a car as a puppy), unfamiliar areas (when we walk beyond a known area, her tail goes down, and she strains against her collar to escape back to "her" area), the vet, and she is terrified of thunderstorms. (I remember that when she was a puppy, she was afraid of a lot of things, and it took her a while to get used to being at my brothers'.)

In my favour:

- She obeys sit/stay commands

- She is sociable with most humans (loves it when MOST people come over, other than the few I mentioned earlier).

- Now that she's more involved in "pack life" and gets more exercise (3 walks a day, spends time with me while I'm gardening, comes along on short car trips and visits to people she loves) she exhibits fewer behavioural problems, and seems to be happier.

- When she does growl, and I discipline her, she obeys (while growling, but still)

- She seems to want to please

- I believe she is a good-natured dog who's had inconsistent training (albeit a dog with certain breed characteristics that make it harder)

- I am very attached to her, and am committed to training her

I know there is quite a lot of bad behaviour here, and a lot of work is required. I've picked up a few books, but most of the information on training pertains to puppies. Are operant techniques (Nothing in Life is Free training; clicker training) likely to work with her, to any degree?

Thanks very much in advance

July 16th, 2005, 07:44 PM
Sounds like some resource guarding issues and a dog that was left to rule the roost.

Personally, crate training would be at the top of my list. Crate at bedtime and feed her in the crate.

A basic obedience class wouldn't be out of line either.

And yes, NILIF should help.

But remember, everyone you live with has to be on board or else you are working hard at nothing.

July 16th, 2005, 07:56 PM
A complicated combination of behavior issues. Clearly a very poorly socialized dog. Don't take them lightly. Do some reading on all the different manifestations of aggression. The dog needs very clear boundaries and obedience work. YOu may see the dog get better, then as it increases confidence/gets more comfortable with its new world you may see it start going backwards. Be careful to avoid the situations where the aggression comes out. Every time it happens, it reinforces more of it.

You will be able to make improvements, but you should always be careful. If you want to make a real difference in this dog you will need a pro bahaviourist.

July 17th, 2005, 06:25 PM
Thanks for the insight, and for the hope! I'm glad to have found such a wonderful resource, fuelled by people who obviously care very much for their animals, and who are willing to share their knowledge.

I also appreciate your responding (and attending!) to a very long post...


July 17th, 2005, 08:18 PM
One more thing. As you are re-defining this dogs place in the world do not back down. It's been in charge for a long time and won't take sub-ordination without a protest. It will be a struggle. One of you will eventually give in and capitulate. Make sure it's the dog.