Putting a paw down

I am no dog behaviourist, but I think my once straight-laced, best in class, best in show little Jack Russell is staging a protest for she has become a rebel.

I don’t tolerate bad behaviour in dogs. I confess I frown at people who think it is ok for a dog to snatch food out of children’s hands, jump on furniture and loo on the path. As much as I enjoyed the film Marley and me, I believe Marley could have been better behaved if his owners had been firmer with him.

Our JR is now in her 10th year, but when she was a puppy, I recall turning up for the first training class in our local village hall and being told by the teacher, ‘you can’t teach a Jack Russell to be obedient, they are too free-spirited and strong-willed’. In saying this she had thrown down the gauntlet and I was determined to prove that my JR could be obedient and even be the most obedient. I had tough competition, particularly from the collie who had herself so firmly wrapped around her owners left leg in heel work that she looked like some kind of trouser accessory. In the command for ‘down stay’ a spaniel laid so flat and remained down for so long that she became the dog to beat. The majority of the owners could traipse around the perimeter of the hall with their backs nice and straight as their hounds bobbed up and down in unison against their legs. Meanwhile I was almost bent double trying to ensure the treat used for bribery was close enough to my JR’s nose to keep her motivated. There are cats that are bigger than my JR so I did develop back pain.

She was a tease. In down-stay, she would remain down until you had reached the other side of the hall and then she would decide to lift her bottom up, for no apparent reason. But in sit stay she was the quickest to get her bum down,mainly because she was closer to the ground than the rest of the dogs. It was this skill that secured her bonio prize at the Christmas party during a ‘sit stay’ version of musical statues.

The titbits to motivate her had to be pure meat, dog food versions just wouldn’t cut the mustard, they would be sniffed at and then ignored. But this method did work and she managed to come third in the class at the end of term (of course the collie won).

But no sooner had the ink dried on her certificate, she started to develop selective hearing, almost as if she would weigh up the pros and cons of obeying each command and only chose o obey when it suited her. For example, she will only obey the ‘sit stay’ command if she is in the village hall where we did the training. She certainly won’t do it if the ground is too wet or muddy.

She has tolerated the arrival of children and has had to increase her tolerance levels since baby boy arrived, as he has a tendency to cuddle her a little too vigorously. So I think this recent lapse in behaviour is something to do with demanding attention in a crowded house. Today was particularly bad. This morning I found her surrounded by chocolate wrappers that she had extracted from my handbag. This was chocolate leftover from a girly night at the cinema yesterday and she polished off the lot. As she sat looking at me on the dog bed she was wearing an expression that mixed sheepish with satisfaction. Later on in the dog walk she rolled in fox mess and then found baby boy’s sultana box in my bag (which was deep in the recesses so she must have really rooted around for it) and guzzled the whole lot. Even though I had reprimanded her in the morning she looked at me defiantly. If she was human she would be a teenage girl with a hoodie chewing gum and lighting up a fag while telling me what her next ‘tat’ was going to look like.

To add to the day of doggy issues, both her and her daughter became fascinated with the engine compartment of my husband’s transit van suspecting some rodent had nested there. They were so keen to flush it out that they jumped into the engine from underneath. My husband popped the hood to see what was going on and found two jack Russells staring at him near the dipstick. He ill-advisedly encouraged them to do some further investigation resulting in the daughter JR getting stuck. In order to release her he had to undo some of the engine parts.

My vet once said that JR’s are a magnet for trouble and that is true, it is also what makes them so endearing (although sometimes I say this through gritted teeth).

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – read more about the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.



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