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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sudden agression problem

Dear Dogs Today Think Tank,

My five-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier bitch has always been a kind-hearted dog who has never show any aggression to any other dog.

But, every time she sees this small Jack Russell, she goes into a very scathing growling teeth showing aggressiveness.

The only different thing about the Jack Russell is that it has big lumps on the side of it’s belly, the owners say they are tumours but are benign.

My question is why has my usually placid bitch who has never shown aggression to any other dog suddenly has developed a hate for this poor little dog?

P.S. Her son, who I also have, is fine with the dog when we have met.

Kind regards,

Simon John Gibbons, by email


  1. If it's only one dog she's taken against, ask yourself - do you like everyone you meet? There may be some odour we aren't aware of from the tumours, or it may be the appearance of the JRT which is worrying her.
    If she were mine, I would work on socialising her with this dog at a distance if the owner will help. If not, try and minimise the opportunities she has to 'practise' this behaviour and make sure she is rewarded/praised for appropriate behaviour with other dogs, especially those which may be perceived as potentially similar to the dog she finds offensive.

  2. I wouldn't take it to heart personally if it's just the one dog, my own dog a malamute will attack sickly and weak dogs. She was fine with this one toy poodle for years but recently kept trying to go for her, the woman explained that the dog had recently collapsed and almost died from heart problems. My dog will no longer walk with the other dog without trying to go for her first. What I do is keep a muzzle incase we see dogs we know are weaker and put it for saftey while keeping her on lead because she too will dive for them.

  3. Jackie Grimmett - Facebook - Instinct is a funny thing in dogs, and one we as humans can't get our heads around as it seems cruel.
    Some dogs if their breeding is an old line, still have their "instincts" turned on and working fully, especially in bitches, when it comes to health issues. A bit like us Humans, us women can tell when someones ill way before they get ill, and some aren't even mothers yet!
    The same goes for dogs too.
    In the wild any pup found to have issues that would affect its life, are humainly killed by the bitch. And in a pack, in most cases, if their is a health issue one member isn't going to get over with nursing, the pack make the desision to put the god out of its misery, quicker, or quickly, by either driving it away, or by killing it.
    That said, dogs have an ability to know when there is something wrong with us, when we don't know it, and they have a fare earlier warning system than we do, sometimes years before than medical condition affects us. Our little dog for over 6 years constantly jumped up at my Hubby, ( in a very delicate place) when ever he came in, then, but pure fluke he was diognosed with cancer, had the treatment, and survived, since then, our dog has NEVER jumped up at him, but he did take to jumping onto the lap of a client of mine and hitting rather hard on her left "brst" I joking told her to get it checked out, she did, and yep she had cancer, survived and Fred no-longer takes an interest in her. there have been more which I won't bore you with, but will say, your girl thinks this dog is a threat, maybe from the condition the dog is suffering from, or it could just simply be that in her past as a pup, this breed upset her, and now faced with one thats "not right" she's doing what comes naturally and deffending her family, There is no pijnt in making her get more upset by facing upto the dog, her instints tell her you are lying, and she knows best. If you know of a nutral area that niether of you have ever been before you could just go there together, letting then walk side by side "securely" and on leads, and see if she settles, once she has gained enough info from the other dog. Then again, there maybe health issues going on with the other dog, that the owner isn't aware off, maybe on of those fatty cysts has evolved and contains new cancer cells, and maybe your dog is warning you all, but you just don;t see it. Maybe suggest a Vet trip for full blood works, just incase?

  4. Thankyou for your reply, I often see the owners when they are not walking the Jack Russel, I shall advise them to take the Jack Russel to the vet again.

    I do believe she is sensing something bad and is possibly warning the dog to stay away.

    Kind Regards,

    Simon John Gibbons

  5. It is also possible that although the lumps are benign, the JRT isn't as comfortable as its owner thinks and may be sending out signals to this effect which are too subtle for us mere humans to pick up on but which your dog picks up on. I would also be careful about trying to work through the problem until it has been established without a doubt that the JRT is not in any pain or discomfort - otherwise your efforts could seriously backfire and a bad situation be made much worse. If your dog is still fine with other dogs, I don't think you have too much to worry about.

  6. If it is just one dog I wouldn't worry too much. I think it is worth suggesting another vet trip for the little Jack Russell, however if your dog feels uncomfortable around that dog I would calmly and positively move your dog away from the Jack Russell, by all means give praise and treats to your dog at a distance where your dog has spotted the Jack Russell but is not reacting badly to it thus creating a more positive association, but I wouldn't force interaction with any person or dog that my dog is not comfortable around.

  7. Simon, I would take a guess that this isn't actually a problem with your dog, but is instead the JRT. Perhaps he/she is uncomfortable, or in pain, or has (recently) had a negative experience with a similar looking dog.

    If, because of one of the above reasons, the JRT is perhaps giving your girly "the eye" or being rude in another canine way that perhaps you or the other owners haven't (or perhaps even wouldn't without in-depth body-language knowledge) picked up, then your girl is well within her rights to snarl and growl back at the JRT - that is communication, not aggression in the dog world. The thing to watch out for, should it happen, is if one of the dogs becomes quiet and still - that is when the real aggression is about to happen.

    To make sure it doesn't happen, can you walk your staffy at a different time of day, or perhaps in/around a different location?

  8. Hello, I am a dog trainer at Mind Your Dog in Kent. I have witnessed before dogs reacting agressively towards a dog with health issues. It can be that the health problems change the attitude or the smell of the dog. Other dogs may not know how to react to that and as a result display agression.
    Whatever the exact reason why your staffie has this reaction is, it would be less stressful for all involved if her behaviour around this JRT could be modified.
    If the JRT owners are happy to spend a little time with you on the problem, you could arrange some meet up in open space (so none of the dogs feel trapped) and on neutral territory. Keep the dogs at a distance where your staffie is aware of the presence of the JRT but has no or minimal reaction. Play with your dog or feed her favourite treats. Keep the sessions short and fun. Repeat this regularly so she gets used to the presence of the JRT and associate it with a pleasant activity. Over time, you should be able to reduce the distance.
    This may not make them become friend but should take the edge off the agressive behaviour so that incidents are avoided.
    If this does not work, then consider contacting a local trainer or behaviourist who can fully assess the situation and give you a solution adapted to your dog and specific situation.
    Good luck!

  9. Hi, I am a dog trainer in Leeds. You say your dog growls. What is important is that the JRT is safe. If your dog is likely to actually attack it, your dog needs to be kept under control. This can be done either by being onlead or by training. How much work you need to do really depends on how aggressive your dog is likely to be, and none of us have seen her. Since you may not always spot the JRT before your dog to put her onlead in time, it would be a good idea to seek out a good trainer/behaviourist to help train her to be reliable with even dogs she doesn't like. Like others have said, she isn't obliged to like every dog, and it sounds like she is a friendly dog most of the time. The thing you need to ensure is that she behaves acceptably even if she dislikes a dog. A good place to look for a trainer/behaviourist is

    Hope this helps.

    Dr Isabel Towers

  10. I would suggest that it is not 'hate' that your dog is showing. Not an emotion like hate but perhaps an insecurity around this particular Jack Russell Terrier.
    It maybe that because the JRT has a medical issue and it behaves slightly irrationally or different to most dogs. It may also have an unusual smell that your dog is picking up on.

    You could live with the issue and accept that your dog will never be comfortable with that particular dog and keep her safely away.
    Or you could spend time working on it. Treat your dog as if she is a puppy and was reacting to a wheely bin or something else unfamiliar.
    At a sufficient distance, where she is not reacting, give a yummy treat every time she looks at the JRT. On the next session go a little closer than before but again make sure she is not reacting. Repeat regarding the treat. Over time she will realise that the JRT is not strange and scary but every time it appears, really nice treats also appear! When the JRT goes the treats stop. It won't happen instantly as I said. Perhaps get a qualified trainer or behaviourist to help.