Jack Russell and New Baby

Jack Russell Becky is easily stressedThis is Becky, a four-year-old Jack Russell. She is a superb little dog – very biddable – perhaps a little spoilt!

Becky is, however, easily stressed. This was evident by her excessive nose-licking. Her family hadn’t realised that this was a sign of anxiety – of Becky trying to calm herself.  She can be thrown into a hyper state very easily. In the past this has unwittingly been encouraged. For instance, she will go over the top when she sees a bird or squirrel out of the window and start running from door to door, barking frantically. They let her out. Once outside she has to redirect this overwhelming stress onto something else so she attacks a toy instead. Rather than dealing with this so that Becky can calm down which would be a lot kinder, they believe that doing what Becky is demanding is kind – letting her out to deal with it herself.

As a dog she is naturally on look-out duty, but she shouldn’t then feel it’s her responsibility to deal with the problem. Imagine you have a child and you tell him – ‘keep an eye open for the lion that has escaped from the zoo’. Then, at the window, he starts yelling, “The lion! The lion! It’s in the garden”. What do you do? Let your child out to deal with it? Or do you tell him to shut up? No – I think not!

However, this is not the reason I was called – but amongst other things contributes to how she’s reacting to a new baby in the family. The have a tiny grandchild now, weighing less than Becky. Becky is fixated. In the same room as the baby Becky is very anxious as one can tell from the nose-licking and paw-lifting. She whines. She had tried to grab the baby’s foot. She’s not being aggressive, but here is something that smells fascinating and that makes noises she simply doesn’t understand which she can’t control. And Becky is accustomed to controlling the people around her!

While I was there we worked at stress relief around the baby and associating Becky being relaxed around her with nice things. We watched out for and respected Becky’s stress signals.

I happened to call later in the day and they had been making such good progress that they pushed ahead too fast, letting their guard down and putting Becky into a situation she was not ready to cope with. This was a warning that these things take time. Becky needs to be well within her comfort zone, on lead around the baby whilst out of actual reach before getting near enough to sniff her, and then only when she’s asleep and quiet  – long before removing the lead. This will take days, maybe weeks, not just a couple of hours. One thing at a time!

The whole process needs to be against a background of general de-stressing and Becky learning that she doesn’t actually need to be in control of the humans in her life. What a relief that will be to her.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

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