Jack Russell separation anxiety
Disorder or learned behaviour?
Separation anxiety in Jack Russells is tricky business. While many pets suffer from a genuine disorder, sometimes the symptoms and behaviour reveal that it is only a temporary problem that can be tackled simply and easily.
The issues are usually more common for families that are tight-knit, and the symptoms can increase when a significant event happens in the family, like a death, or a new person moving in.
When that happens, depending on the event's severity and the dog's attachment to a particular individual, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months for the pet to fully recover and revert back to normal behaviour.
The genuine disorder of separation anxiety revolves around separation from a single individual in the family unit, and can involve symptoms such as:
- Constant fearfulness
- Growling at other family members
- Destructive behaviour
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Decreased appetite
In extreme cases where the Jack Russell terrier's health is at risk, owners should visit a vet as soon as possible. The more extreme the family event, e.g. a family member's death, usually the more extreme the symptoms are.
However, most cases of separation anxiety in Jack Russells only show the first three of these symptoms to varying degrees. Like many other negative behaviours, their owners inadvertently cause the situation and make it worse.
The learned aspect of these issues begin in puppyhood, often when a puppy is smothered with affection. Dogs are family members to be loved and cherished but sometimes owners can go overboard, showering them with petting and talking all day long.
Also, it is common for puppies to develop separation anxiety if they are sold to another family and taken away from their mother and the rest of their litter. They will inevitably develop an attachment, and this behaviour will continue with their new family.
If the puppy is mothered too much in the new family, and given too much affection and attention when crying or whining, they will once again latch onto a member of the new family and the issue repeats itself.
How to solve the problem
Just as separation anxiety behaviour can be learned, it can be corrected so that your Jack Russell becomes more independent and mature, treating your home and other family members with respect.
I am a huge proponent of the three step approach popularised by celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan, and it works just as well in this particular situation. It is a truly universal method to correct negative dog behaviour in the family.
The three step approach involves two weeks of not touching your dog, not talking directly to him, and not giving him any eye contact. This emulates the behaviour of the canine mother with respect to her litter of puppies.
Many are uncomfortable with this approach, as they are used to showering their pet with affection all day long. While I understand and appreciate your love for your pet - it is not the right thing to do - in fact it is partly the cause for his bad behaviour.
When you go about your day, if in the house, do things without fanfare and don't give your dog too many cues about what you're about to do. Most people find the 'no eye contact' part of the three step approach the hardest by far.
Let me stress something very strongly here: I find that 95% of owners who are the object of their pet's separation anxiety are not consistent enough with the three step method and often forget about it or give up within a few days. That is exactly the attitude that is indirectly leading to not being the best dog owner you can be! If that offends you then please leave my website!
No touch, no talk, no eye contact for two weeks. No exceptions! Strive to be the best Jack Russell owner you can possibly be! I know you can do it!
I also recommend taking your dog to a dog trainer, or a dog training group. This means you will get to talk to a trained and experienced individual who will give you the best possible advice on your Jack Russell.
It is a good idea if going to a dog training group to get a member of your family who is not the object of his separation anxiety, so they can develop a leadership role with the Jack Russell, responding better to their commands.
Exercise is another fantastic way to decrease your Jack Russell's separation anxiety issues. We find that Poppy is much happier, more engaged, and more stimulated after a really long walk. She literally runs around the house when she gets home!
Another good idea is to get him some toys that are likely to occupy him and stimulate his mind.
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