When you bring home a new Jack Russell pup, it's usually tempting to spend all your time playing and adoring the little creature without much thought to training. Indeed, lots of play early in life if very important for a Jack Russell Terrier puppy in order to develop into a happy healthy dog.
Any training done early on should be disguised as a game. However, you should take a few steps to ensure the pup has a few important experiences early on in life.
Why The First Weeks Are So Important
If all goes well, you should pick up a new Jack Russell puppy when she is around 8 weeks old. The first four weeks or so after you bring her home are a crucial learning stage. This is the stage where the pup will form her identity and decide most importantly what kind of animal she relates to most - other dogs, or people. Your job is to make sure she has plenty of positive "people" experiences, as well as experiences with other animals. But make sure she spends at least twice as much time playing with humans than she does with other dogs.
Introducing the puppy to children at this stage is vitally important, because positive experiences with children now mean that it is less likely the dog will experience fear issues in the presence of kids later in life. Try to introduce the pup to children of a range of different ages, as children of different ages appear as quite different creatures to a new pup.
Preventing Jack Russell Biting
Another important element of training in the early weeks is bite inhibition. This is something dogs naturally learn from play-fighting in the wild - learning not to bite their mother or littermates too hard. With a pet, you have to teach this yourself. Playbiting is a natural part of a puppy's development and shouldn't be punished harshly.
You simply need to let the puppy know when it bites too hard. You can do this with the muzzle hold technique - holding the pup's mouth shut gently for several seconds - or by simply saying "Ouch!" and breaking off contact or play with the pup. Be sure to reward the Jack Russell puppy with little treats when you can see she understands that she can't bite anymore.
Socializing with Lots of People
"Begin training your Jack Russell Puppies as soon as possible... It will save you a lot of trouble later!"
Introducing your pup to a variety of people and training bite inhibition are the two biggest factors to focus on in the first few weeks, because there is a "window of opportunity" while the dog's brain is developing when these aspects of the dog's psychology are easy to change. If bad habits develop in these areas, it's very hard to change them later in life.
The Sleeping Area
Other important things to teach your pup is where her sleeping area is - especially if she will be an outside dog, or sleeping alone. A Jack Russell Terrier pup will take time to adjust to sleeping alone after being taken away from her litter, but you can make the process easy by putting a hot water bottle in her bed (to simulate a mother's body) and a ticking clock nearby (to simulate a heartbeat).
Play Is Essential
But as I said before, focus on play early on. Don't try to make your Jack Russell puppy jump through hoops at 2 months of age. Just like human children, play is important for brain development in a puppy - especially play with humans, which teaches the pup that she is part of a human family.
Jack Russell Training Guide
These tips will be enough to get you started, but raising and training a Jack Russell puppy can be a real challenge. Part of the battle is finding the right, breed-specific information. Take a look at my complete guide to Jack Russell training for all the essentials of training this highly active breed.