Ask the Vet: Question/Answer for February 2008

Question: Hello, my mother in law has a jack russell terrier and he is about 7 years old. Majority of his life he has been aggressive and a biter. He has bitten everyone in the family. It is at the point where the only person who can go near him is my mother in law. No one else in the family can, therfore he is basically restricted to the kitchen and no where else in the house. He even bites her at times, for no reason. It is getting worse. We have a 4 and 2 year old and we are afraid if he ever jumps over the gates in the kitchen he will attack the kids. My mother in law is so attached, and loves this dog and feels like she couldn't put him to sleep, but no one will take him because of his behavior. Is this common in jack russell males? Do you have any suggestions? It's like this animal has two personalities and you never know when he will turn on us. Thanks for you time and help. Jennifer.

Answer: Dear Jennifer,

Your mother in law's dog is a cause for concern for the entire family. My first recommedation would be to seek the advice of a board certified animal behaviorist or trainer. The Ohio State has one on staff and you can call Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital (937-866-5949) for suggested trainers in the Dayton area. They will be able to evaluate and diagnose the cause or type of aggression the dog is having. At that point they will suggest behavior modification, training tips, and/or medical treatment that may be needed to change the dog's behavior. There is a medication similar to Prozac on the market now that may be helpful depending on the type of aggression he has. My second recommendation would be to teach the children how to avoid or not handle the dog until he can be trusted. This dog may never be able to be trusted. Some dogs can be rehabilitated from aggression with training and strict behavior modification. I hope this helps. If you have any more questions about trainers please call the office.

Sara Wells, DVM

Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital