May issue

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

How can I get my Jack Russell back on her best behaviour?

Dear Think Tank

Could I have some help please with my four-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell Terrier?

We’ve had Mabel since she was six weeks old and our vet, and also our dog trainer, quickly identified a problem with her insofar as they realised that she was a puppy farm dog. Unfortunately I bought her on impulse from an advert in the paper and it soon became apparent that she had not been socialised. Well, I made the mistake so I have to live with it and, to be fair to her she has made a great improvement since then. We’ve had JRs before but these have always been rescue dogs so we are used to our share of little problems until they settle in.

Generally, Mabel is a nice-natured dog, quite neurotic, certainly the most neurotic JR we have ever known but she’s good-natured with our four young grandchildren and also with our eight-month-old Labrador puppy.

When we got the Lab puppy last autumn, we thought we might experience problems with Mabel but actually the opposite happened and she settled down to mothering the seven-week-old puppy and was very kind and gentle towards her. She also calmed down a lot in herself and eased-off on some of her neurotic behaviour and there have been no problems whatsoever up until recently.

For the past month or so she has taken to needing to be between my feet wherever I go, whether I am in the kitchen cooking, or just generally walking about the house or garden. She always needs to be between my feet and, if I stand still, she sits on my feet. She also has to walk in front of me wherever I go. I am finding this quite tiresome and am concerned that it is quite dangerous as I don’t always see her and have stumbled over her on several occasions. She has also taken to trying to escape from our pretty secure garden and, today, managed to do so and ran off down the road. A very kind lady slammed on her brakes to avoid running her over and I am now quite stressed about my dog.

I have tried being extra calm and kind around her and towards her, thinking that this would calm her down but it doesn’t seem to have made any difference. I’ve tried giving her extra attention and treats and also walking her on her own in case she is jealous of the Labrador. I’ve taken to putting her in the Labrador’s crate whilst I’m in the kitchen as I really can’t have her under my feet (as well as the young grandchildren) when I’m cooking etc but I’m worried that this is just isolating her and not really dealing with the problem. This is a very busy household, with young grandchildren coming to stay every week and a busy social life as well, but we have always managed both our dogs pretty well up until now. Her behaviour towards my husband hasn’t really changed, she likes to sit quietly at his feet when he is around in the evening but she seems quite content with him. It’s her behaviour towards me that has deteriorated and I am perplexed as to why this is happening. We haven’t had any major changes in our lifestyle recently. I am retired so am at home for most of the day, on and off. She doesn’t appear bothered when I go out and settles down easily and quietly. She is happy with the Labrador pup and doesn’t show any signs of jealousy or resentment. We take them both away with us on holidays. She’s in good health and has good energy levels but I get the feeling that she is a bit miserable and that I am probably the cause of it - although I really can’t understand what the problem is.

She is on a waiting list to attend an agility course run by our dog trainer in the summer but, at the moment, I don’t think I could take her as she won’t even obey simple commands like ‘sit’ any more. Currently, she is demanding - and receiving, more attention that our rather laid-back puppy and I’m beginning to feel as thought she’s a rather spoilt teenager.

Any help would be much appreciated. Many thanks and best wishes,

Sherida Burgess, by email

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sherida

    I think you need some expert advice from a good behaviourist who is able to come to the house and assess the situation so they could see if anything is exacerbating her behaviour - something you may not have spotted (make sure they only use kind, positive techniques - CAPBT is an excellent organisation:

    If she were my dog, I would also do the following:

    1) Absolute priority - dog-proof the garden so she cannot escape again
    2) Get lots of chews, or toys you can stuff with food (like Kongs, or Busy Buddy toys) and give her some time in the crate (for safety of grandchildren and your puppy) with one of those, so she is having an enjoyable and rewarding time away from you.
    3) Try some Tellington Touch - can have amazing results, and after a few sessions with a qualified practitioner you can continue to do this yourself:
    4) Check out The Trust Technique by James French: - some amazing video footage of how James has helped many rescue (and non-rescue) animals with problems
    5) Consider giving her some Scullcap and Valerian tablets from Dorwest Herbs to help with any anxiety/neurosis - they can be used long-term and calm without sedating:

    Very best of luck.