Jack Russells and Children

Q: Are Jack Russell Terriers good with children?

A: Jack Russell Terriers are not good with small children, and are not recommended for families with children under the age of eight. Young children are not mature enough to differentiate between a stuffed toy and a living, breathing animal. They are not capable of controlling their impulses, and can be overly rough with a dog who will feel he needs to protect himself, usually by biting the child. Small children also move quickly, squeak, squeal, and to a dog....smell funny. All of these things can be overwhelming and frightening to an energetic terrier who is easily excited.

Q: Our Jack Russell Terrier plays rough with our children, and has even bitten them. What can we do?

A: Please read the FAQ on Aggression. Children under the age of eight should NEVER be left alone with a dog. Don't allow the children to handle or pet the dog around the face, muzzle, or head. No grabbing the tail or legs and feet either. Teach your children the proper way to handle and pet a dog. Make sure that your dog has a safe place to go where the children are not permitted. It's a good idea to get your children more involved in the care and training of the dog. This will give them a better understanding and respect for the dog.

Never punish the dog for biting a child. First, separate the child and dog in different areas so you can attend to the child without distractions. Do not send another child to move the dog to another room as they too may get bit. Children have a tendency to want to "get even" with the dog. Make sure that they know this will only confuse the dog, and make him bite again. Talk with the child who was bitten, and find the cause of the sudden aggression. Discuss with the child what they could've done differently.

Q: We are expecting a baby soon. What should we do to prepare?

A: If you are going to change you or your dogs routines, now is the time to do it, not after the baby arrives. For the best results try to make this as gradual as possible. If your dog is not obedience trained, don't waste any time getting him enrolled, do it now! This will also be good exercise for you while you are pregnant. Get your dog used to baby smells by using baby lotion and powder on your hands and body. Get a tape of babies crying from the Hospital where you will be delivering. A few weeks before delivering start by playing the tape softly at intervals during the day and night. Increase the volume slightly every day. Reward him for behaving. Purchase a realistic babydoll to cuddle and attend to after you have played the tape for a week. Use the baby lotion and powder on the babydoll. Make sure to give the dog attention while you are playing with the babydoll, praise him for being good. Do not let him do more than sniff the babydoll. This is a good time to use what you have learned earlier in obedience class. When you are done attending to the babydoll, place it in the crib and ignore the dog. Only give him attention while you are giving the babydoll attention, this will help him make a positive association with the babydoll and soon the baby.

When the baby comes you should remember this above all... if the baby cries, give attention to the dog first, but only if he is behaving. Same thing for the many guests that will be visiting you, the dog gets attention first.

Suggested Books:

Your New Baby and Bowser, by Stephen Rafe

Dogs and Kids: Parenting Tips, by Bardi McLennan

Childproofing Your Dog; A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children In Your Life, by Brian Kilcommons