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How To Stop A Jack Russell Biting

Jack Russells are smart, independent, fearless little dogs. Despite - or perhaps because of - some of these characteristics, they are still terriers: small hunting dogs bred to chase anything that runs away. Jack Russells can get overexcited during play - especially with small or young children, whose high voices can remind them of squeaking vermin or other prey.

Why Bite At All?

Jack Russells are excitable dogs. With a tendency towards excessive self-defense and aggression towards other dogs, their reputation for nipping and snarling is not altogether undeserved.

Aside from an aggressive nature - which must be dealt with by a professional and stems from complex causes relating to dominance - the two most common instances in which a Jack Russell will administer a bite are during chase and during play.


Most dogs like to chase things that move; this is especially true of terriers, and especially true of Jack Russells, who have a high prey-drive (strong instinct to catch and kill small, fleeing creatures).

Chasing runners, cyclists, cars, and pedestrians happens because your Jack Russell spots the movement and is instinctively compelled to chase it. He's been bred to chase and bite things that run away; it can be difficult to suppress this instinct reliably.

Even if he can chase but not bite - for example, if he rushes the fence and "chases" alongside it until the pedestrian is out of sight - it's still keeping the bite instinct foremost in his mind throughout the day. The only difference is that he can't indulge his instinct, which can be frustrating and encourage nippy behavior at other times.


It's easier than you might think for a dog to become over-stimulated during play sessions. Tug of war, wrestling, and any type of rough and tumble are all danger zones for any dog. He may nip you out of sheer temptation (it's just too hard to remember that you're not a fellow dog when his blood is up) or because you've accidentally hurt him.

Children are especially prone to accidentally hurting the Jack Russell during play: this breed is not recommended for young children, as a too-strong poke in the ribs, tug on the ears, or squashed paw occasionally result in a "warning" bite (which is more painful than it sounds!).

What Should I Do?

If you have a Jack Russell, you probably already know that your property needs to be fenced. This will stop him from actually chasing people down the street; but if you have chain-link or a slatted fence that he can see movement through, he's still going to rush the garden and follow that movement through the fence until he can't see it any more.

- If your garden's not fenced, fence it now. This will allow your Jack Russell to burn off some energy on his own in the yard without needing you there to supervise his every move (which is a drag for both of you) and will keep him safe from possible harm. The opportunity to let off steam will also reduce his tendency to nip during play sessions, as he'll be much less tense.

- If you have a chain-link fence or one that permits movement to be seen, consider re-fencing in a material which he can't see through. It's kinder to your dog, as it stops him from having bad behavior reinforced (passersby will continue to pass by when he barks and rushes at them, which makes him think that he's responsible for their leaving the immediate premises), and will result in a calmer, quieter, less keyed-up Jack Russell.

How to Play With Your Jack Russell

No more rough games. Games that encourage your Jack Russell to "win" over you - tug of war, wrestling, etc - are teaching him to attempt to best you. You can't really blame him for nipping during these circumstances, as he's just trying to win the game.

A good energetic game that doesn't encourage nipping and biting would be fetch (try using a tennis-ball thrower to really get some mileage in). This teaches him to obey you, at the same time as having fun and burning off some of that legendary terrier steam. Fetch is a great training reinforcer and a good way to bond.

Try using a Frisbee (a special soft one from a pet shop to avoid hurting his teeth): Jack Russells can jump, and you'll be surprised at how agile he is. A 12-inch Jack Russell can easily jump five feet to catch a Frisbee, and will welcome the opportunity to show off.

Continuing Issues

If he keeps nipping, despite all your best efforts, you will probably need to see a trainer about it. The trainer will need to evaluate the way in which you interact, and can highlight any trouble areas or causes for the nipping. She or he will then "train" both of you to interact in a way that doesn't call for nipping and biting, as well as giving you some helpful tips for dealing with the issue should it recur. Before spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on a trainer however, check out the sections of Secrets to Dog Training dedicated to training your dog to stop biting and nipping. This comprehensive training guide has already helped thousands of frustrated dog owners get to the bottom of their dog's biting, nipping, dominance, chewing, aggression and other training problems.

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Put an end to your Jack Russell's biting today...... Warning: although your Russell's nipping and biting may be cute today, left unaddressed this behavior can lead to a range of biting, aggression and dominance issues....
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