NLDA Forum for Working Lacy Dogs

A tale of caution from the JRT world - look before you leap
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Author:  Julie N [ Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:01 pm ]
Post subject:  A tale of caution from the JRT world - look before you leap

What happens when working dogs become fashionable? Read this tale from a family who was smitten with the energy and charm of a Jack Russell Terrier. Originally published in The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada), May 10, 1997. Republished on Terrierman at ... stake.html. Emphasis added.

Remember, before you bring any breed of working dog home, do your research!

Bad Dog:
Jack Russells are good actors. Then people bring one home and 'find the cat dead.
by Philip Lee

Every family makes mistakes. Our mistake is named Richie. Richie is a Jack Russell Terrier we purchased a year and a half ago as a gift for my wife on her birthday. He is a short-haired dog, white with brown spots and worry wrinkles on his brown and black forehead. He is about a foot and a half long and weighs 17 pounds.

When I say this little creature has taken over our lives, I'm not exaggerating, not a bit.

We decided to buy Richie after we met a lively Jack Russell named Robbie and concluded that it would be fun to have a personable little dog like him around the house. When told about our plan, one of my relatives who has had a female Jack Russell for many years said simply: "Tell them their lives will never be the same." While we thought this was a strange comment at the time, we don't think so any more.

Mistakes often result from a lack of information and poor preparation, and I admit we are at fault here. We didn't do our homework, and paid the price.

Richie was an only pup, a fat little ball of fur, four weeks old and stumbling along behind his mother on the day we visited him and decided that we wanted him. When he was seven weeks old, we returned to pick him up. As we walked through the yard outside the farmhouse where he was born, his breeder warned: "You'll have to be careful, he's awfully rough."

The little dog we saw romping through the yard was harmless, no larger than a small kitten. Rough? Please. We already had horses, dogs and cats at home. We were animal lovers. We knew what we were doing. We smiled the confident smile of the blissfully ignorant.

Then Richie reappeared, dangling in mid-air with his teeth closed on the throat of the breeder's long-suffering German Shepherd. The two dogs disappeared around the corner of the barn. Richie returned alone, choking on a mouthful of fur.

We laughed, nervously, picked him up and took him home.

Since Richie has become part of our lives, I've discovered that these little dogs are quite fashionable. A Jack Russell named Wishbone, who wears cute outfits, acts like a human and tells classic tales, has his own television show for children. Plastic Wishbones, complete with a variety of stage outfits, have been featured as toy of the week at Wendy's restaurants.

A long-haired Jack Russell named Eddie stars in the popular television comedy Frasier. A Jack Russell named Milo played a prominent role in Jim Carrey's movie The Mask. These dogs are regularly featured in television commercials; lately they have been helping to sell Nissans. These little dogs are everywhere.

All I can say to the person who is thinking about how nice it would be to have one of Wishbone's cousins at home, or have a dog like Eddie or Milo in your apartment: Look before you leap. Since Richie took over our household, I've done the research that might have prevented our mistake.

A recent issue of Audubon magazine featured a photo essay about the reclusive, wily fox. The spread of marvelous photographs showed a beautiful, athletic red fox at play. The fox was completely self-absorbed, standing up on his hind legs, leaping high into the air, twisting, whirling and almost flying over the tall grasses as he ran. When I saw those photographs, I was looking at Richie.

Jack Russells are working dogs, bred to hunt foxes. Their name comes from Rev. John Russell, "The Sporting Parson," who bred a fine strain of terriers in Devonshire, England, in the mid-1800s. The legend goes something like this: One day, when the Parson was attending Exeter College at Oxford, he spotted a sturdy white terrier riding confidently on top of a wagon. He was so taken with this feisty little dog that he purchased her on the spot and named her Trump. She is the founder of the breed. The Parson bred these dogs throughout his life. The Sporting Parson's tradition has continued in Jack Russell clubs in England and North America for more than 100 years.

Jack Russell terriers are fox-hunting machines, possessing superior intelligence and gifted with great speed. They have athletic, muscular, compact bodies that run low to the ground, perfectly balanced. They have small chests that allow them to run down fox holes, or in any other small space you can imagine. Some of them can climb trees and fences.

In short, these are remarkable little dogs.

Members of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America have posted a warning on the Internet about the dogs they love. The web site is called "The Bad Dog Talk" and it asks the one important question we failed to ask ourselves before we brought Richie home: "Is a Jack Russell Terrier the right dog for you?"

Many dog owners are overwhelmed by these small, high-maintenance pets and they abandon them. I consider myself an experienced dog owner, yet I understand the sheer panic these poor people feel when they realize what a problem they have on their hands. The statistics are tragic. Jack Russells are the most commonly abandoned dogs in North America.

The Bad Dog website points out that the little terriers are bred to hunt, and if they are not hunting, they will "invent new and fun jobs for themselves," which includes their favorite job, "guardian of the world," when they become fierce protectors of their possessions and family. They also like to chase cars, hunt birds and dig holes both outside and inside the house.

I can tell you that all of this is absolutely true. If anything, The Bad Dog Talk is understated.

Richie, I am proud to say, has lived up to his breed's reputation.

In the past year and a half, he has been run over by vehicles twice. The first time slowed him down for a couple of weeks. The second slowed him down for a couple of days. We now know he doesn't learn lessons.

He likes to jump up onto our kitchen table to snatch food or lick the plates after a meal. (He comsumed an entire apple tart at Christmas.)

He fights with every dog that comes near our property. The only dog he has any respect for is our eight-year-old Doberman, who put him in his place at an early age, although he still harasses her and encourages her to play rough. She loves him.

He enjoys sitting on the couch and protecting his perch. He has to sleep on our bed at night, with his little body touching ours. I haven't slept soundly in months.

When he was a puppy and we left him alone in the house, we locked him in the kitchen, where we figured he couldn't do much damage. He started digging a hole through the kitchen door. After he made it halfway through the door and we got tired of coming home to a pile of wood chips, we stopped locking him in there.

He's virtually untrainable and often won't come when called. (This may be the result of our shortcomings as trainers, but we did manage to turn our Doberman into one of the most obedient dogs on the planet.)

Fourteen years ago, Catherine Romaine Brown of Mt. Holly, N.Y., received two Jack Russells as a gift, and her life immediately became a shambles. Today she has 10 of the little dogs and is a Jack Russell breeder. Six years ago, she realized that there were dogs out there who needed her help, so through the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America she pioneered a rescue service that places unwanted or abandoned terriers in good homes. Since 1991, her rescue service has placed more than 600 abandoned Jack Russells.

A Canadian version of the rescue service is run by Marla Robinson in Guelph, in conjunction with the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Canada.

Brown says the problems often begin when a family realizes their terrier is the most intelligent member of the household. "You soon realize you're their pets," she says.

People buy these dogs because they're small and cute, then they move the dogs into the city, where both the owners and the dogs have nervous breakdowns. "They can't take the stress of a city," she says. Even if the dogs are being walked in city parks, they'll challenge every dog they encounter and often have disastrous battles with German Shepherds, Rotweilers and other large dogs.

"They think they can conquer the planet," she says. "I call them loaded guns."

She says the television exposure given to Jack Russells has created grave misconceptions about the breed. She has met Wishbone's trainer and now knows that the canine television star is a typical Jack Russell -- "a very difficult dog." Television Jack Russells are bad, but they're good actors. Then people bring one home and "find the cat dead."

She has heard stories about Jack Russells who have dug through the outside walls of a house and escaped, another who dug down through the kitchen floor and spent the day roaming in the subflooring of the home.

They need exercise and lots of it, far away from roadways because cars are the leading killer of Jack Russells. "They're little heartbreakers," she says.

Meanwhile, the members of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America are waging a campaign to keep their dogs from being "recognized" by kennel clubs. If these dogs were bred for the show ring instead of the woods, they would lose what makes them special -- their great intelligence and strong bodies. The club wants Jack Russells to remain what they are -- feisty, bad little dogs, which is a courageous and admirable stand.

We're learning to cope with our mistake, for when we couldn't train him, he trained us.

We take him for a long walk every day through the woods in back of our house. He tears out the back door, heads for the trail with his nose to the ground and does what he was born to do. He's a pleasure to watch. These walks offer a pause in our busy lives.

When we leave him alone in the house, we put him in a large, well-built, steel-mesh kennel with a rawhide bone to chew. He doesn't seem to mind as long as he's had his run first. His runs keep his mind right.

As for all of his other bad habits, we've simply admitted defeat.

Through it all, I've grown fond of this bizarre little creature. He amuses me and I admire his blind courage and absolute devotion to our family.

We're stuck with a bad dog, and as penance for our mistake, we'll spend the next 15 years trying to keep Richie alive.

I don't mind so much. In our digital, plastic, conformist world, I figure it's a fine thing to love a creature who has to be protected from his own reckless spirit.

Author:  Jim Browning [ Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A tale of caution from the JRT world - look before you leap

I once knew a woman who adopted a JRT. It sliced clean through her nose. She wasn't amused. ;)

Author:  Betty L. [ Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A tale of caution from the JRT world - look before you leap

I thought I wanted one when the show Frazier was on. Cute dog, I thought. Luckily, I didnt need another dog and I eventually found out their personalities, etc.

I can definitely see the relationship between the Lacy and the Jack Russell. Its a scary thing!


Author:  TedH71 [ Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A tale of caution from the JRT world - look before you leap

JRTs make excellent hog hunting dogs...have seen them in the bay pen. Their only fault is they don't do recalls easily and will escape and go hunting at every opporunity.

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