Below is an article we wrote because of the numerous times we get a call from the parents of a new baby that the JRT is not behaving himself around the baby.
BABIES AND JACK RUSSELLS
You had contacted me at Jack Russell Rescue of Scottsdale about finding a new home for your JRT. In our conversation, you give as your reason for relinquishing your beloved JRT that you have a new baby and your JRT is not behaving himself around the baby.. Many, many people who own Jacks also have children. As I tell anyone who calls me about giving up their beloved pet because of a new arrival, there are all kinds of ways to handle having both a dog and a baby or babies in your home. Having a new baby is no reason to give up your JRT if you are willing to "manage" both the JRT and the baby in a wise manner. Most often the comment I get is "my dog tends to be aggressive with the new baby or the toddler." And my response to that one is: no child of any age should be left where any pet can have direct contact with the child. A dog is a dog - once a wild animal that has been domesticated and now lives in our homes. But we must never forget that a dog is still an animal, however tame he/she may appear.
A new baby or a toddler is a strange creature to a pet: new smells, new noises, new ways of moving. And when you add to this equation the fact that the pet is now usually getting less attention than the baby, you have a potential problem here - unless you address the problem before it becomes a problem. Again, no child of any age should be left unattended with a pet of any kind, no matter how quiet or well behaved the pet is. That's asking for problems that you don't need.
I'd like to share with you an email that I received from a woman who adopted a JRT from me. At the time of the adoption, they had a female JRT and no kids. About 7 months after adopting their male JRT from me (his name is Odie), Kathy called me very distraught and said the following: "I am having a horrible time with Odie. My cousin is visiting with her 5 month old baby, and we have the baby on the floor with the dogs and Odie is being aggressive toward the baby." My response was "What in the Hell is any baby doing on the floor with ANY animal?" Then after I had gotten her attention, we talked about the sensible way to handle pets and kids. So when their first child was born, I got the email below from Kathy:
"Sue - It's been a long time but I was just sitting watching Odie and our daughter who will be 2 in a few weeks play together. Odie is truly a success story. It really took him a good six months to feel comfortable with us when we first got him, and then we started our family and were not sure how the dogs would adjust. When we brought Kendall home from the hospital, Odie was very curious. In just weeks he was very protective of her. When people other than Mike and I would come around Kendall, he would growl. As Kendall grew up, Odie was always at her side. Now she can just do anything to him. She points out eyes, nose, ears, feet on Odie and pokes him in the eye most of the time, she hugs him, lays on him and he just sits there. I tell him to walk away, but he just sits there and lets her do anything to him. Kendall also likes to sit down next to Odie and read books to him. She just started sleeping in a twin bed and guess who makes many visits during the night. He is truly the sweetest dog and he is loving his home. He is my little shadow. And the best cuddler ever. We got your Christmas card and I would adopt 5 more if I could. They are the best dogs. I just thought I would let you know that you placed Odie with a family that really loves him a lot. And we are on Child #2 who is to join us early August. Thank you for your Christmas email."
So while I understand your concern about your JRT and your baby, I would suggest that there are many other ways to handle your concern other than giving the JRT up. He has been a devoted companion to you all her life. He is no longer a puppy and and I can assure you that it is very difficult to find a home for an adult dog in rescue because there are so many out there who are looking for homes. I have been doing this for a long time now, and what I am saying is true.
I would like to encourage you to give your JRT a chance. I know exactly what you are going through as my husband and I were married for 11 years before our son was born. There are many of us out there who thought we would never have a child - but we did (we also had a daughter 3 years later). Our lives change with the advent of the new baby, but we can't completely abandon our old lives.
And while I hate to see any dog euthanized, nothing could be worse than a dog finding itself without the safety of its beloved owners and in a shelter. Placing an adult dog is even harder for a shelter because of the trauma of abandonment and the dog's inability to grasp what has happened to him - but also because when the "waiting" period is up, the dog is killed. Rescue was originally set up to help those dogs who have no one and no home. And there are more of those pets than you can even imagine. Your JRT has a home and he has both of you. Rescue is not here for the purpose of taking a dog that has been your beloved pet all its life simply because that pet has become an inconvenience or may cause you to rethink how you handle your pet. Behavior modification is not directed toward the pet - behavior modification is geared toward changing how YOU handle your pet. Millions of people manage new babies and their pets every day. Both of you are obviously intelligent people who can make this work for yourselves, your child, and your JRT. Let's face it, two years from now your JRT will be the dog you will be looking for as a companion for your child - and he will be long gone!
A final suggestion, however hard it is for me to write is this: if you are unable to find a shelter or rescue that will take your dog and if you are not willing or able to manage your new baby and your JRT, then you owe it to your JRT to take him to your vet and hold him in your arms while he is euthanized. He has the right to be with those he loves when he dies, not with some stranger in some cold shelter.
I would like to mention in parting that we have sadly become a disposable society. This is especially true with our elderly and our pets. If they don’t work out, we “get rid of them.” However, we should be concerned about the kind of message we are sending out to our children and those around us: “If you don’t work out, we’ll find you a new home.” And that is NOT the message you want to convey to your children. We want our kids to stick with it and work hard to make things happen. Often when we become elderly and no one wants to deal with us, we ourselves could be put out to pasture because that is the message that we tend to convey. And I know this is not want you want to convey to anyone.
I sincerely hope you will reconsider your future plans for your JRT. He deserves far more than being abandoned by those he loves. And with the right training and handling, he will be your child’s greatest protector and companion when your child is a little older. Good luck with your expanding family. If you think raising a dog is tough, just wait until you find yourselves with a teenager! Ha!
My phone number 480-391-9837 and you are most welcome to call me any time. Remember that what I am saying to you is this: giving up your JRT is not the answer. Rethinking the way you handle him and the baby is the answer. And you can do this! While you may feel very overwhelmed right now with this new responsibility of a baby, there is a daddy involved in this scenario and he seems to be willing to come forward to offer some help in this situation. Let Daddy take the JRT for a walk or take him outside for some special attention and time while you are dealing with the baby. OR let Daddy handle the baby while you and your beloved JRT find some time together. Getting rid of your JRT is NOT what you want to do - I can tell from your email. I manage 16 Jack Russells of my own that I show, handle, and hunt with. And at the same time, I run two family businesses, have a home and family, and still find time to do what I love best - rescue work! So I know that if you dig deep into your resources you will find that you can manage your JRT and the baby.
In closing, no dog should ever be allowed to bite another animal or a human. He should have never been allowed to get close enough to the baby to bite her. That is something for which you and your husband hold the responsibility....not the dog. For example, while the baby is out in the house, the JRT goes into his crate for some down time. This is not cruelty - it's managing your dog. While the baby is down for a nap, her door is closed and you can spend time with the JRT. And when you think about why he is "intolerant" of the baby's behavior, think about it this way: suppose your husband brought home a new wife and he said to you "Annette, this is Mary. Mary is going to be sleeping in my bed and getting all my attention from now on. You can continue to clean and cook and take care of the house and I'll try to find a few minutes each day for you." Do you think that you would sit idly by and let this happen? Hardly - probably biting Mary would be the least of what you would do to her. Your JRT doesn’t growl at the baby because he doesn't like her - he simply doesn't understand what the baby actually is - and that's your job: to be sure that he does understand what behavior is acceptable. And growling at anyone is not to be tolerated. Hang in there! You can handle this one. Call me if you need to talk.