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They Were Kicked Out of Puppy School... - Jack Russell Crazy, Issue #05
March 18, 2010
Dear fellow Jack Russell Lover,

Why a JRT Owner is Never "Just a Dog Owner"

I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day - I certainly did. In this issue of the newsletter, I want to share with you an emotional email I received recently from a woman last week, as well as some thoughts it provoked in me about why being a JRT owner is such a special experiene. After that we have the usual Q&A section.

New Content

Unfortunately I don't have much to report as far as articles added to the site in the last week or two as I have been swamped with other duties, but it's great to see more and more people participating in the forum and added their photos and stories to the site. I hope to get back to adding some fresh pages to the site in the coming week. If you have any ideas for articles you'd like to see, please feel free to email me with suggestions. In the meantime, you can check out some other Jacks on the Visitor Photos page and add your JRT for others to see.

Letter From a JRT Owner

Last week I received the following email from a woman who bought my ebook (thank you to all of you who have - it helps keep the site alive):

Tom, I don't know how to start this. I have a Jack I love beyond reason. He is everything you have described on your site and in your book. I got him at almost 4mnths old, so there wasn't a lot of basic early training, plus he came with some character quirks that had/have me at a loss on how to cope with on a daily basis. I had everyone AND their brother telling me to give him up, giving me names of trainers, giving 'How To... books. NOTHING worked. I kept saying there has to be a way, I can tell you I wanted to take 'Caesar' and whisper something up his nose. LOL.

We were thrown out of puppy class. I kid you not. I had a trainer come to the house, all general instructions, nothing specific to the Jack. I was sure he did not fall into the general taining format. So I persisted and by touching on some of the things you mention (not knowing I was on the right track) and with lots of tolerance and persistence we got through the terrible 2's. But still 'issues'. He went through 3 couches!! I have pictures to prove it.

Let me start at the beginning. When I went to the airport to pick him up (his name is Spencer) I could hear screaming all the way across the airport tarmac. He was in fact SCREAMING. Not barking or howling or yipping, but this high-pitched scream. This proved to be his signature for anything and everything he feared or wanted to go after. When I got outside the terminal I opened the cage to let him pee and stretch his little legs. He was running around on the end of his leash screaming and very frantic. I felt so sorry for him. He had literally exploded into my life. He was also exhausted from the trip. He cuddled on my lap as we drove home.

We tried puppy school. As I said we were 'asked to leave.' He would not stop screaming. No one could hear the instructor and when they tried to show me how to stop him, they failed. :-) Everyone I know kept telling me to crate him or worse, get rid of him. I did try the crate but he would not go into the same room as the crate and if I put him in the room and prevented him from leaving he would not go anywhere near the side of the room where the cage sat. Nothing would convince him to go near it, nothing would entice him even close to it. After months of having this thing sit empty and his stressing over it, I gave it away.

He did not take more than a few days to house break. He is very smart and very very funny. Not to mention he is so damn cute. He gives me much joy. But he still has the screaming issue. I think I read every training book out there, like you, nothing touched what I was dealing with... then I read your opening words on the web link I had followed. I stumbled onto your site by accident through a link from another page (can't remember which one) before I had finished reading that first page I knew I had found the source that was going to help me make my boy the dog 'I know is living inside him...'

You confirmed my belief, Jacks are a whole different ball of was such a relief to read your words. We have started and believe it or not in a day we have a very different relationship and he has 'calmed down'. (Still screams though, we haven't addressed that yet) I 'get' what I knew somewhere in the depths of my being but could not tap into. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to put what you learned and your love of the breed out there for the rest of us. I will keep you posted on how we make out over the next few months.

Spencer is 4 and half now, we are attached at the hip and I cannot remember what life was like without him. He is a rough coat Jack. I don't pull his hair, so unless you know the breed, at first sight you would not realize he is a Jack, but once you spend time around him, there is no mistaking his Jackness. LOL. Attached are a couple of pictures so that you can see the character I am speaking about. I haven't listed all his issues but I'm sure you have seen them all and at some point in the book touch on them. (except of course the screaming!!!)

Thanks again. We will be in touch.

Elizabeth & Spencer

Now, I have to admit, after I read that email I was glowing. It really hit home for me what a mixed emotional experience being a Jack Russell owner is for so many people. We have these little dogs that we love to death - "beyond reason," as Elizabeth puts it, which I think is an excellent way to sum it up. There's no real reason for the way we feel about our dogs - it's an emotional reaction. There's nothing we can do about it.

But on the flipside, we're often faced with frustrating behavior problems and very little available help that actually works for JRTs. People tell us, as people tried to tell Elizabeth, that we should "just get rid of it" - as if it were that simple! We might as well try to "just get rid of" our legs or our eyes. Our Jacks become a part of us very quickly. People who don't own one, or don't have a dog at all, can never understand that bond. That's why they make silly suggestions like "get rid of it" - as if the JRT were an old lamp rather than a living thing with a unique character.

Just reading this email alone was enough to confirm to me that all the work that has gone into the Jack Russell Lover site and my ebook was worth it.

If you'd like to join the growing number of JRT owners who are creating a more peaceful life with their dogs by reading and using the information in my book, you can order it here: The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training.

7 Day Crash Course

I mentioned this in the last newsletter - a free course I've created for JRT owners. It's very basic and specifically more useful for puppies or JRTs that have never had any training, although any owner with any level of training experience will benefit from some of the ideas here. The challenge is to improve the overall behavior of your dog in the space of two weeks (although it's a 7-part course, you receive the next part every two days so you have more time to put the lessons into practice). Here is the page to sign up for the course: Jack Russell Training Course.

Questions and Answers

Question: I have a 4 year old Jack Russell, female and she absolutely hates it when I try to touch her teeth. I want to get to the point one day where she will let me brush her teeth.

I go really slowly with my finger on either side of her mouth but she growls at me and bares her teeth. I keep telling her she is a good girl and pat her to try to keep her calm so she won't be too frightened. Honestly I feel like smacking her for being so stupid but I'm not that kind of owner.

Should I just persist with this for a few minutes every day or is she always going to be like this? When I stop, she is fine again, like nothing ever happened.

My Answer: There's a principle that I like to use whenever I give any advice about training JRTs, and I think it applies here: Just because you can train your dog to do something, doesn't mean you should.

Think about it this way: what is the ultimate purpose of training your dog? It's to create a more harmonious life for the two of you, to make sure the dog knows how to behave well in the human world. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

So while you could, in theory, desensitize the dog to having her teeth touched by a slow process that doesn't encroach too much on her comfort zone, it probably isn't worth it considering that brushing her teeth is largely unnecessary as long as you provide plenty of sturdy chews for her. Chewing does most of the work of cleaning a dog's teeth.

If you really want to get her comfortable with it, you can continue doing what you're doing, talking to the dog in a calming way and offering treats for any improvements in her reactions. But if it was me, I'd just avoid the situation that's making the dog uncomfortable, as it isn't necessary in the first place. Remember, it's always easier to change your own behavior or the environment than it is to change the dog's behavior.

Hope that helps, Tom

Question: Why does my 4 yr old jr terrier growl so much?We have had him since he was a puppy. He has always been mellow for a Jack Russell Terrier and loves playing with other dogs(male or female). About a year ago my dad got really mad at him for growling at him and yelled at him really bad and kept him outside away from the family for almost 2 days. He seemed ok for a while and we got another JRT puppy(male) he loved the puppy and still gets along great with him. The problem is with people. Whenever he is in a situation and you try to remove him from it he growls and snaps. I can tell he is really scared. We talk very soft to him to get him to calm down but not until we leave the room will he stop growling. He never used to be like this. Help!

My Answer: I'm going to go ahead and take a guess that the growling happens in a situation where there's something around that of value to the dog - food, toys, sleeping spot, etc. I'm guessing that was the reason why he was growling at your dad, and the very severe punishment that was dished out in response only justified his fear that people were trying to "steal his things." Now he feels defensive any time someone approaches his sleeping spot, toys, etc., because he sees people as a threat to the security of these things.

This is why I recommended positive training methods - it can be very hard to undo the effects of ill-understood attempts to use punishment. You can probably help the dog to get more comfortable, but it will take some time to change this behavior. Practice teaching the "Give" command with toys and food. For example, when you see the dog with a toy, offer a treat and say "Give," then try to take the toy and offer the treat in exchange. Always give the toy straight back afterwards. If he complies, praise him. If he growls, slow down the process and offer treats before you try to take the toy to build up a positive association first. Keep building as he becomes more comfortable. Never try to take anything from him by force - he has to be comfortable giving it up.

'Til Next Time...

Any comments on this issue, or ideas for upcoming issues of the E-Zine? Don't hesitate to contact me. Simply reply to this email. Your question may even be featured in an upcoming issue of the newsletter!

Know of a friend who might be interested in this newsletter? Go ahead and forward it to them and encourage them to sign up. Let's continue to grow the Jack Russell Lover community together.

Thanks for reading and best wishes,

Tom McSherry

Click here to order a copy of The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training

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