Cocky, confident, full of himself -- that's the Jack Russell terrier stereotype. While it's true to some degree, Jacks are also prone to suffer from severe separation anxiety. Never underestimate the destructive ability of this relatively small dog in the throes of an anxiety attack.
Jack Russell Terriers
Those who refer to these canines as "Jack Russell terrorists" may not understand the nature of the breed. JRTs are working dogs, bred to hunt vermin. They possess a strong prey drive -- cats and JRTs are not a good mix -- and are practically tireless. Because they think of themselves as big dogs, JRTs instigate scraps with canines many times their size. They make good dogs for the right person and situation, bonding very tightly with their owners -- but they are not for everyone. That intense bonding can lead to trouble.
As the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America points out, signs of separation anxiety in your JRT occur only when you're not around. His anxiety boils down to desperately wanting to be with you when you're not available. Not only are JRTS high-energy dogs with strong need for outlets, but the tension their anxiety creates further fuels that energy. Chewing and digging relieve tension, so you might come home to destroyed furniture and carpeting. Anxious dogs might also pee and poop indoors, not to "get back" at you but because the dog works himself into a state.
Solving the Problem
Don't expect to solve the issue of separation anxiety overnight. It takes time and patience. Punishment won't work. Leave your Jack toys to play with while you're away. The JRTCA recommends drilling holes in a nylon bone and filling them with cheese to keep a dog occupied. Keep the radio or TV on so your Jack hears human voices. Before leaving the house, ignore the dog for about 15 minutes, doing the same when you return home. That means no greeting, no pats, no feeding. That behavior helps reduce your dog's extreme dependence on you, according to the JRTCA.
Sufficient exercise can head off JRT anxiety issues. Before you go to work, take your dog for a long walk. If that's not possible, let him run around in your fenced yard while you get ready to start your day. In the evening, he needs another long walk, along with an obedience or agility training session. In fact, a Jack Russell will benefit greatly from a midday run, as well. You'll otherwise need to extend your other walks to get the energy out. Try to find Earthdog classes or competitions for your Jack to facilitate what come naturally to the breed -- digging and hunting. Keeping your Jack busy is essential. Although this axiom might not have been coined for the JRT, it certainly applies to the breed: A tired dog is a good dog.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.