Do you leave your Jack Russell at home, only to return hours later to a general disaster? Is the little one terrified during holidays? Are groups of people just too much to handle? Are you able to recognize Jack Russell Anxiety before it becomes a problem?
Signs of Jack Russell Anxiety
How exactly do you recognize Jack Russell anxiety? How can you tell if something is wrong?
Your little one probably won’t be feeling too secure. He will likely act differently than normal! Some behaviours can be very obvious, like household destruction with separation anxiety. Others might be less clear, requiring an experienced eye to recognize (ex. Yawning, lip licking).
- Frequent yawning
- Urinating or defecating in the home
- Excessive panting
- Destructive behaviour
- Excessive barking
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviours
Different types of Jack Russell Anxiety
Fear Related Anxiety
This is probably the first thing we think of when the phrase Jack Russell anxiety comes to mind! Fear is a normal and healthy response to unfamiliar or unknown things in a dog’s environment. Fear is what helps ensure your little Jack stays alive and uninjured!
You might say fear is an evolutionary adaptation! While the Jack Russell breed isn’t much more than a century and a half old, scientists believe his wolf ancestors appeared between 1-2 million years ago!
Even then, wolves weren’t even close to the largest predator around. A fearless wolf probably wouldn’t have lasted long.
Examples of fear-related anxiety include:
- Fear of loud noises (ex. fireworks, thunder)
- Fear of unfamiliar people or animals (ex. fear of groups or crowds)
- Fear of travel (ex. fear of cars)
A dog that has suffered a negative, traumatic confrontation with another dog might have a fear of other animals.
You can avoid most cases of fear-related anxiety by socializing your dog with the instigator ahead of time. Strong, continuous socialization beginning at that third and fourth month is highly recommended!
Separation anxiety means exactly what the word implies. Many dogs become anxious when separated from their human or animal companions. This is especially common if the dog hasn’t been desensitized (isn’t used to; see explanation below) to solitude!
Imagine a young puppy adopted during the 2020 Covid quarantines. The owner worked from home for several months, so companionship is all this puppy has ever known!
The owner is called back to his regular 9-5 job, leaving the now older puppy to his solitude for 8-9 hours at a time. This could seem terrifying to the dog! That young Jack Russell has no idea what happened to his human parent, where he went, or if he’ll come back again.
Many handlers will return home to torn pillows, shredded blanketing, and various other types of damage! You might see scratch marks near the front door, where your Jack tried to ‘escape’ his prison and find you.
Seperation anxiety is extremely common in dogs! Your pup isn’t angry with you or trying to punish you for leaving, but rather distressed. Separation anxiety can become severe in rare cases and might require veterinarian prescribed calming medication.
This type of anxiety could affect your older Jack Russell, just like it does with many other ageing dogs. Your pup might become easily startled, and his awareness might start to go.
Age-related anxiety can be linked to Cognitive Dysfunction in dogs. This is a disorder very similar to the early stages of human Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Basically, your older dog may experience increased levels of anxiety or become startled easier.
How to Help Your Anxious Jack Russell
We’ll cover all three types below, along with general care tips to make management easier!
How do you treat fear-related Jack Russell Anxiety? You counter condition your dog to the disliked stimulus by desensitizing him to it.
Let’s start with Counterconditioning, meaning your dog is trained to give the opposite response he was originally conditioned, or learned, to give. When you are finished, your terrier should at least tolerate, if not enjoy the thing he once feared!
- You will accomplish this by slowly desensitizing your pup to the feared stimuli. You’ll gradually be introducing him to first very small then larger increments of it over time.
- Add something your dog enjoys more than the feared thing!
Let’s say water gave your pet fear anxiety. He absolutely refuses to step foot in the pond nearby!
Step One: You’re going to find a high-value treat reward. Begin by asking your jack to only get close to the water, but not yet get wet. You could throw a stick to the edge of the pond for him to retrieve. Reward your Jack with enthusiastic praise and the tasty treat!
Repeat this several times over a few days, slowly inching your way closer to the water.
Step Two: Now you’re going to toss the stick right at the edge of the water! Your dog will have to just barely get his footpads wet. Reward with cheer and treats once the stick has been retrieved. This is the most impressive thing you’ve seen all week!
Gradually repeat this several times until your dog doesn’t even notice the water on his paws.
Step Three: Now this is all about gradually increasing the exposure. Slowly toss the stick further and further out. Your Jack will be swimming before long!
Note: Always supervise your terrier closely around water, and make sure every interaction is positive.
How do you prevent separation anxiety in Jack Russells? You’re going to have to allow your terrier to slowly adjust to solitude over time! Never suddenly immerse your pet in long durations of solitude, as this is one of the leading causes of separation anxiety in the first place.
Begin by isolating your dog for only a few minutes. Every time you leave over the course of the next several days, add a few minutes to your absence. Eventually, you’ll be at a half-hour, then an hour, etc.
This reassures your pet that you’ll always return! The method is almost identical to crate training for dogs.
This type of anxiety is caused by mental degeneration, and there really isn’t any cure for it. That being said, you can treat it by making accommodations for your older dog! You can also consider discussing anxiety-relieving medication with your veterinarian.
Try to limit loud noises and changes in your pet’s environment. Do your best to keep everything the same, familiar way it was. Maintain a constant aura of peaceful calm!
Positive, Reward-Based Reinforcement
Always focus on rewards and positive reinforcement! You’ll want to avoid using any kind of punishment when treating Jack Russell anxiety.
Feeling upset when returning home to a trashed house is natural, and we completely understand! Your dog has cost you money, stress, and needless effort. Before responding, imagine how your little one is feeling.
Your dog is frightened and nervous! In many cases, he doesn’t understand why you’ve left. Punishing him for destruction or damage he’s caused while he was frightened and nervous might only make him feel more anxious!