HELPING YOUR JRT COPE WITH STRESS
As you recall, in our last article we looked at the more common stress triggers for your JRT. We are all guilty of them, whether we want to admit it or not. Admitting the guilt, but not doing anything to alleviate your JRT's discomfort, now that is another thing all together.
Your JRT relies and depends on you to provide for them, in their physical and mental health. To not do so, is not being the best companion to your JRT that you can be.
So, lets look at some methods to help relieve both stress, and anxiety, for your JRT.
The first thing to remember, is do NOT punish or yell at your JRT for expressing that they are stressed. This may occur by means of howling, barking, pacing, or just generally acting out in ways that are not their norm. When this is happening, do not yell or raise your voice to your JRT. Do not crate them, or isolate them by themselves. All this will achieve will be to ramp up their stress levels, and making an already bad situation even worse.
As with young children, the power of touch can not be overrated when it comes to your JRT. Every creature on the planet, at one time or another, has experienced touch. It is ingrained in many life forms as a form of comfort, and protection. The same is with your JRT. When your companion is stressed, gently rub or massage them. This will help to lower their stress levels, while at the same time maybe lowering yours as well.
Desensitization is another proven way to help your JRT with specifically stressful situations. Once example would be a JRT that has a stress filled fear of thunderstorms. Desensitization can be achieved over time, and in small sessions. One might use a machine that reproduces thunder, on a very low volume, at short intervals. Increasing the intervals, and then the volume, will help your JRT realize that the real thunder will not harm them, and in time will pass.
Another means of relieving your JRT's stress would be making sure they get plenty of exercise. A good long walk, a playful game of tug o'war, or even a romp in the park are all great methods of releasing pent up energy, and stress. When a JRT releases pent up energy, they release endorphins, which are hormones that have a calming effect, and in turn helps to relieve stress. Win-win situation.
Helping your JRT get back into a familiar "zone" can do wonders in helping them relieve their stress. If there was a particular activity that your JRT loved, or maybe a favorite toy, then encourage your JRT to engage in that activity, or play with that toy. If your JRT takes great joy in a game of fetch with you, then play a game of fetch. Engage your JRT's mind in an activity they are fond of, so that the feelings of stress are no longer on their mind.
Some JRT's will use the method of self soothing. When they are feeling stress or anxiety, they may choose to lick a paw, or chew on a favorite toy. This simple action can help them to calm their own nerves, and focus their attention on an activity, and away from their stress or a stressful situation.
Also to be considered are the "Five Freedoms" created by the Brambell Commission in 1965. These "freedoms" include the following:
1. Ensure your JRT is free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.
These three are pretty self explanatory. Make sure your JRT has plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. Also, make sure you provide your JRT with a regular, well balance, nutritious meals. Meals that are suitable and meets their dietary needs. Something as simple as not providing the suitable type of food for your JRT can cause their system distress, which in turn can cause undue stress and anxiety.
2. Ensure your JRT is free from discomfort.
When the term discomfort is used here it encompasses many things. Make sure your JRT is not too hot nor too cold. Make sure they have a dry place to sleep. Your JRT also needs a place that is quiet, and undisturbed, so that they may feel safe and comfortable enough to get adequate rest. And, do not isolate your JRT for extended periods of time. Dogs are social creatures, and they need the frequent interaction with their humans, as well as others of their kind.
3. Ensure your JRT is free from pain, injury and disease.
This step included making sure that your JRT is adequately vaccinated, to protect them against all possible types of diseases. Also, regular check ups with your veterinarian, as well as weekly body checks for anything unusual at home are included in this freedom. Being free from pain goes hand in hand with being free from discomfort. So keep that in mind. JRT's are hardwired by nature to not show pain or weakness, so often times they may be experiencing pain or discomfort and trying not to show it. Be aware of any changes in your JRT's normal routine, actions, and overall appearance.
4. Ensure your JRT is free to express normal behaviors.
Keep in my that your JRT is a dog, and that as a dog there are certain behaviors that, although me way think otherwise of, they see as natural. Top of the list here is "butt sniffing". I know that it may seem like a trivial action to us, but for your JRT it is common place. Your JRT needs to be able to interact with others of its kind...other dogs. You are their favorite individual, but the interaction with other dogs is need for them to have a normal psyche, and to help keep stress down in their lives. When a JRT is not allowed to interact with other dogs, then when they do meet a stranger, their stress is amped up and this is not of benefit to them. So, proper socialization is key in this freedom.
5. Ensure your JRT is free from fear and distress.
This is one of the more crucial freedoms, and for some reason the hardest for some owners to understand. Although I am a believer that no owner would intentionally harm or cause their JRT undue fear, there are times when that very thing happens. No properly socializing your JRT causes stress. No providing them with proper and frequent play time and exercise causes stress. And getting mad when they do not understand what you are telling them to do or not do causes them stress. We, as owners, can cause our JRT's more stress than most any other situation out there. That is why we need to be aware of our actions, not just that of our companion.
These are just a few methods to aid in helping to relieve your JRT of unwanted stress. Keep in mind, not all JRT's react the same way, to the same situation. What works for one, may not work for another, or may even make the situation worse. Try several methods until you find the one that works best for you and your JRT.