You are here:

Canine Behavior/Dog Aggression


QUESTION: Hi Jennifer
Could you please help me with advice on steps to take to try and re-train a rescue dog who has shown signs of aggression. I pulled a Jack Russell cross Kelpie from a pound, male, age 11 months. He was a hand in from a young family with 2 children, because he had bitten- (Not sure who). As far as I know they had him since a pup and he lived with another Jack Russell (female). The pound held on to him in kennels for 2 months and in that time he bit a pound helper who went close to his food bowl whilst he was eating.   I rescue dogs and assess them, as generally we have very little history, re-train and hopefully place them in Forever Homes, but this little man is proving to be quite a challenge and not re-home able at the moment until I can try to understand why he has these issues and work with him. The aggression appears to be at humans and not dogs. He lives alongside 6 other dogs and has never bitten but constantly shows dominance towards all of them, whenever he approaches them he shows a firm stance & tries to jump on their back. Most of the time he completely ignores them, never plays with them and demands human contact. When I or hubby enters the room all the dogs come to greet, he growls,snarls and chases them away so he can have the attention. He then rubs against my leg for affection and if I stroke it has to be on his terms, once he's had enough he growls & snarls and if you don't stop he turns to bite. Another occasion he was growling at one of the dogs so I firmly told him to go to his bed ( An open crate). He stood, stared and refused to accept the command, so I led him by his collar at which point he turned to bite, baring his teeth. So I could give the other dog my attention I closed the door of his crate. When he saw me fussing the other dog he snarled bearing his teeth and was extremely stressed. Similar situations have occurred which I am dealing with the only way I know how, that is to ignore him and walk away. After we are out of the room he is fine with the other dogs and calms down, but again just goes to his bed and ignores them. This happens with any human showing affection to the other dogs. I've had him here over 2 months now and up to now he hasn't actually bitten but we are having to be on our guard with him at all times. One more point to mention, he loves his own company and is very quiet, calm and happy if left on his own, without anyone or any dog near him. Any advice you could give me to help understand why he is like this and how I could work with him to try & re-train would be very much appreciated.
Thanking you in anticipation

ANSWER: Hi Margaret -

It sounds like your pup has some resource guarding and dominance issues.  Resource guarding can manifest as growling, biting, snarling etc of things valuable to the dog such as food, toys, the spot on the sofa, or affection of a human.  I would contact a local dog trainer to help you assess and rehabilitate the dog safely.  I would be cautious because this is a situation in which you could get bit, especially since this dog has bitten inthe past.  If you do an internet search for resource guarding in dogs you should find a huge source of information that may help you in dealing with this behavior.  Here is a link to get you started.  Good luck with your pup.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jennifer
Thank you so much for guiding me towards the necessary links for re-training of the pup with regards to resource guarding.  I have often come across dogs being over protective but wasnt aware of 'Resource Guarding' which having read I'm amazed how much alike to the pup some of the scenarios are. So much so I would say the pup is at stage 5) part 111 where Dog A will not defer :-(  this happens when the pup is resource guarding me whenever I enter the room. So after reading this link which has confirmed my concerns for Dog A, who is being forced to protect himself, I have taken him away from the situation before it causes him any major behavioural issues. The pup I will keep separated and begin training whilst tethered, which I hadn't thought of and sounds a good place to start. In the meantime I will look into discussing his problems with a local dog trainer as you suggested. One thing I would be very interested in trying to understand is Why? the pup at 15 months of age is showing this behaviour. As mentioned the pup has had numerous homes within his short life and ended up in a council pound. Would all these moves cause this behaviour or is it more deep rooted and what are the chances of me being able to turn this pup around, so he can be accepted into our society as a loving four legged companion who will eventually be able to settle in to a loving family home.
Best regards

Hi Margaret -

I am so glad that you found the link helpful.  Since your pup is 15 months old and has had many homes, we don't know what has happened to him in the past.  Was he neglected and did he have to compete for attention from the owner?  Did he have to compete for toys and food?  I have a trainer colleague with a client whose dog is so "guardy" of his owner, no one can approach him if his mom is in the room.  You will get bit.  We have learned to respect and deal with the behavior, although, not a great situation, he has many other positive attributes and we hope to work through the guarding behavior in time.  The most important thing is to know, respect the dog, and BE SAFE in the meantime..  A dog can develop resource guarding behavior at any age.  Depending on environmental situations and the dog's temperament it can be manageable to different degrees.  It is best to remember that even though dogs are considered adults at 1 yr, they are actually juveniles until the age of 3yrs (much like human teens are adults at 18 yrs but don't really mature until their 20's)  So a younger dog like your pup, coming from multiple broken homes, is more likely to develop this behavior.  I think with the help of a professional trainer (or ask your veterinarian for a referral to a behaviorist if the trainer's suggestions are not helping) that with time, patience, and commitment, your pup will come through this once he has a stable environment and learns to trust.  Good-luck!

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jennifer Ganser, LMT, ABCDT


For canines I can answer questions related to behavior, obedience training, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) For equines I can answer questions related to behavior, barn management, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) I am not a veterinarian and it is not within my scope of practice as a licensed massage therapist or certified dog trainer to diagnose health conditions. Please contact your pet's veterinarian for illness related questions and emergencies.


I am a licensed massage therapist for people, horses, and dogs and a certified dog trainer. I teach group obedience classes as well as private lessons. I also work with horses and help barns establish good management practices.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Certification Board of Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

2009 - graduate of Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy 2010 - certified in canine/feline first aid + CPR by Red Cross 2012 - graduate of Post University equine program 2012 - graduate of Animal Behavior College Obedience program

©2016 All rights reserved.