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Laundry Day Dog

Dear John:
I have a 4-year-old, female Jack Russell named Asta. She has a major issue with laundry, which drives her absolutely ballistic. Asta is a fairly hyper dog, even for a Jack Russell, but she goes out of control on laundry days. It begins when I gather up the hand and dish towels from the kitchen to add to the laundry basket. She begins to bark in a near-hysterical fashion and runs around in circles. When I gather up the rest of the laundry, she attacks and tries to bite the laundry basket. When I head down to the laundry room, she zooms ahead of me with her paws seemingly touching every third step on the way down. She also attacks the door to the laundry room.
This has been going on for most of her life. When she was very young and I still thought it was cute, she put bite holes in the laundry basket and was chewing off the corner of the laundry room door. I don’t let her do either of those things anymore. I have tried everything I can think of to break her of this habit, but nothing works. Asta is a strong-willed dog, but she does listen to me and obeys me on virtually every other occasion, but not when laundry is concerned.  – B.C. – Pickering

Dear B.C.


I can sympathize. Not with you, with Asta, I hate laundry day too. Lots of dogs get themselves in a state in only certain situations. Seems Asta is off the scale but you did say Jack Russell didn’t you? Polite people describe them as “busy” dogs.” Not so polite describe them as dog’s on crack. Personally, I just think they set the bar higher then most breeds as to who they’re going to listen to.

I’ve encountered lots of Jacks when put in a constant and consistent position where they have a very positive or very negative association with something have done similar things. One kept watch all day at a window on the top of the back of the couch and every time a dog went by grabbed a piece of the couch or a cushion and shook it to pieces. They had the furniture store on speed dial. Nice dog otherwise. My Jack Russell, Elmo loses his mind when there’s a ball around. We can’t say or spell the word even. We have to say, “Does anyone know where Elmo’s ‘object with a constant width and girth is’?” Nice dog otherwise.

Some dogs it’s the leash, other’s the door bell etc. Pavlov’s dogs responded to bells with salivation, For whatever reason, Asta’s responding to laundry with an adrenalin rush and what now it’s a conditioned pattern of behaviour. If you want to change the way a dog reacts in certain situations you have to teach the dog to do something else or accept that it’s going to react in the way that it’s wired. For instance, Golden and Labrador Retriever labs often run for the nearest object they can retrieve when they’re excited.

Getting on top of it is easier said then done for some people with certain dogs of course, particularly if the dog has been doing the canine equivalent of smoking for 20 years. Old habits are hard to break. If you want to change her behaviour, try teaching her to go to a mat and not get off no matter what. Eventually introduce a laundry basket as a distraction, fold laundry, move towards the laundry room. Say, “Boy are my whites white and my colors bright.” Leave her leash on in the house too. If she can’t be caught, she can’t be taught.

Personally I pick my battles. If she was biting people I’d be on this. Laundry baskets, I’d personally be content to let her have her fun.

– John Wade the Dog Trainer 

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