I adopted a gorgeous little foxy cross jack russell about 7 months ago. Harley is about 18 months old now and for the most part has been the perfect dog up until recently. Hardly barked, completed 8 weeks of basic obedience with flying colours, about 95% house trained and generally a very submissive dog, very cuddly and most happy when curled up on my lap. But over the last few weeks I have noticed Harley's confidence growing, he's been barking more in the night, showing aggression at random dogs when we have been walking (most of the time one's that show no threat to him) but most concerning and what has lead to my email is there has been three times now where he has started showing aggression towards me, last night being the most serious. These are the three incidents:
1. A few weeks ago, he became fixated on a corner in the backyard, I assume that neighbour must have a cat or something. It's very secure and no way for him to dig out, but he was obsessively scratching the fence one day in that spot so I told him firmly a couple of times the commands he knows, 'no' and 'leave it', no luck so I tapped him on the lower back (a very very light tap) and he swung round with a snap and a growl at me.
2. A couple of nights ago there was a thunder storm, each bit of thunder sent him into a barking frenzy. I went through several stages over a few hours to try and calm him, first I shut off his outside access so he couldn’t run outside, he sleeps in a dog bed in the hallway corner but eventually I moved it into my room, then finally I let him sleep on my bed (that is a very rare occurrence but I was getting desperate). Then when the thunder started again he started chasing his tail manically (he does that occasionally), so I said 'no, leave it' and tapped his bottom and got the same snap and growl reaction as above at me, his lip was very curled up also with teeth showing.
3. Last night he was on the couch asleep while we were watching TV. I went to brush my teeth and called him to go to bed (he usually follows me and takes himself to bed, normally I take him outside first but he'd been out not long before). He didn't come so after I finished I went into the living room and called again, he didn't get up off the couch. It was fairly dark in the living room as I had turned most of the lights off. I went to pick him up as I've done before when he's too sleepy to get up and go to bed, he instantly growled spun his head and nipped me on the hand (did not latch on at all, it didn't break the skin and I wouldn't call it a bite at all but it did startle me). I was shocked but assumed he was just surprised as he was dozing and it was dark. I turned the big light on straight away and gave him a very firm 'no' and waited for him to settle, then I tried to tap his bottom to get him up but this time he became very aggressive, his hair stood up and his shoulders moved, his lip was very up with teeth barred and he was growling at me for a few seconds. I was very shocked, the first time I can sort of understand but he was well aware it was me by the second time.
Do you have any advice you could please give me to try and combat this? I dread the thought of being scared of him every time I want to pick him up, or of him becoming one of those little aggressive dogs you hear about. He is usually so placid and attention loving, I love him to bits and will do anything to fix this. I have done some reading and started employing some methods, making sure I only feed him after me and not letting him eat until I say ok, not going through doors before me etc. But is there anything else I can do? And if/when he is aggressive like that with me what should I do? I thought of shutting him outside but the problem is I'm too fearful to pick him up when he's behaving like that.
Some further info, I'm 30, single and live alone. Up until a couple of months ago my ex boyfriend used to live here a fair bit, he was wonderful with Harley. I wonder if the disappearance of that male presence could have anything to do with the change? They adored each other.
Also Harley's weekly routine - I work full-time however I have a fairly decent sized backyard and Harley has full access to that and the house while I am at work. He also goes to doggy daycare at least once a week, is walked at least once a day in the morning and/or evening, and I have also just employed a dog walker/nanny who comes once or twice a week to spend time with him and walk him while I'm at work to break up his day. It's rare that Harley has more than one day at a time totally on his own at home and he’s always well exercised. I'm wondering also if while I am at work I should restrict his house access so he can't get into the front (living room, kitchen/diner, front house windows), maybe he thinks it's his domain?? I can close that off so he just has the hall (where his bed is), laundry and backyard so he won't hear/see any activity through the front windows.