In the canine world your JRT has a very limited means to express when they are not comfortable or pleased with a situation, unlike in the human world. It is because of this gap in communication that from time to time you may misread or misunderstand your JRT’s actual meaning or intentions. Many times in fact when a JRT shows displeasure or discomfort in a situation they are mistaken as being aggressive, when really that is not the case at all.
The one thing to keep in mind is that your JRT can snap and growl and still be a good companion. This behavior does not point to aggressive tendencies, and should not be treated in that manner. The underlying cause of the behavior is what needs to be scrutinized, not the automatic jump to a conclusion of aggression.
With a normal, what we will call a good JRT from here on out, there are steps, or warnings, that are issued in a sequence. With an aggressive JRT, there are no warnings, just the head long leap into the aggressive behavior.
The warnings may be basic, such as low growling, pulling away, raised hackles, or even a snip here and there. These are your JRT’s way of letting you know in the best manner they know how, that they are unpleased or uncomfortable about a situation or action.
Now, by no means think that these are the only warnings, or that they will end there. It may very well end up that your JRT is in a situation that makes them so uncomfortable or uneasy that they will become more forthright in their objection. It is usually when they are pushed to this point that they are seen as aggressive in nature, even though they tried to give you adequate warning of their feelings.
When your JRT does issue these warnings, and others that may be more specific to your companion themselves, it is best not to confront or push the issue. It is by pushing your JRT, and confronting them, that the situation can escalate into aggression. Keep in mind that most aggression is caused by stress. If you stress your JRT, there is a good chance that the will present with aggression tendencies or responses. Responses that could have been prevented had you headed the warning signs.
Snapping and growling are two different types of warning. As such we will need to look at how to deal with them separately. First, lets take a look at how to deal with your JRT growling.
-First and foremost, it is essential to figure out WHAT is causing your JRT to growl. Is the growl one of warning, or is it sign of something else? Is your JRT is stressed? Uncomfortable? Or maybe even in a fearful situation? You need to know WHY your JRT is growling, in order to better understand them.
-Under no circumstances do you punish your JRT for growling. In their world, growling is a form of both warning and expressing their feelings. If you punish them for growling, then there is no precursor to the next warning, snapping. And in some cases punishing for growling will move your JRT into full blown aggression, since they no longer feel comfortable with their warning system.
-When your JRT begins to growl stop what you are doing immediately. If there is usually a very short span of time between their growl and their snap, step back a safe distance. If there is usually a decent span between one warning and another, just stand by your JRT until they are calmed down and more relaxed. It is then that you may move away, showing this action as a reward for relaxing rather than one for growling.
-After your JRT has calmed down take a moment to analyze the situation. What act or action might have elicited the growl? Were you grooming them? Did you take a toy or such away from them? If you know what caused the growl, you will be better served to deal with if not prevent the same response in the future.
-Plan out a method to accomplish the same action you were attempting before without initiating a growl again. This will undoubtedly take some planning, and might involve the help of another individual, but make sure that, unless you can convince your JRT that the action is a good thing, that you do not repeat it because you will only serve to achieve the same end results.
-Here is the most important of them all…identify those things in your JRT’s environment that are causing them stress, and triggering their warnings, and eliminate them if at all possible. If you cannot eliminate them all, eliminate as many as possible. The less stressed your JRT is, the less the chance they will feel the need to issue warnings.
Now that we have looked at why your JRT might be growling at you, lets look at possible reasons why they may be snapping as well.
-The number one reason your JRT might snap at you is out of fear. Keep in mind that any situation that is deemed uncomfortable or unpleasant may trigger a sense of fear in your JRT, that then in turn may trigger a response of snapping. Also, the snapping may or may not be preceded by a warning growl.
-The next most common reason a JRT might snap is over possessiveness. In the canine world, the need to protect what they feel is theirs can cause a JRT to snap. This possessiveness may involve a beloved toy, treats, food and in some cases their human companion. It is your JRT’s way of indicating what is theirs will remain theirs…period.
-If your JRT is experiencing pain that is worse than usual, this may provoke them to snap at you. It is important to either determine what is causing your companion pain, or take them to a veterinarian and have them evaluated. Anytime pain is the cause of the snapping, there is cause for concern.
-If your JRT is female, she may be experiencing maternal feelings and believe it or not this can lead to snapping. When you are around her puppies, handle them with care, and in full sight of your JRT. Also, try to keep young children away from both mother and babies, and make sure they have a place where they can be together at any and all times that gives them a feeling of safety and security.
If you look at the warnings signs, and the possible reasons that might trigger your JRT to growl and snap at you, then you will be better prepared with how to treat the underlying causes. Do not automatically jump to the conclusion of aggressive tendencies, and make the mistake of handling each situation in this manner. If you do it will only aid in straining your relationship with your JRT and possibly cause long term irreparable damage as well.