"Jack Russell Training can seem almost impossible... Unless you have expert advice"
Jack Russell training can be fun for both you and the dog - if you know what you're doing. If you don't, it could be a drawn out and frustrating experience. If you try to train a JRT without proven techniques and knowledge, you may very well end up wasting hours trying to teach a dog that is not only just as disobedient as when you started - he also picks up bad habits from incorrect training, and you're worse off than if you had done nothing.
Jack Russell training is notoriously difficult. JRTs have a bad reputation as being untrainable, largely because of their built-in hunting instinct. Training Jack Russells can seem almost impossible...unless you have expert advice on the subject. Despite this, Jack Russell Terrier training is very simple with the right techniques. Jack Russells are highly intelligent dogs. They can learn quickly, but because of their strong-willed nature, Jack Russell training is an undertaking that requires patience. The bad rap JRTs get is more due to uneducated and impatient trainers than a flaw in the dogs. This resource provides you with the knowledge to put together a Jack Russell training program and get your dog up to a high standard of obedience.
Because JRTs are unique, it helps to have Jack Russell-specific training techniques and information. This will help you to understand and avoid the common pitfalls involved in training JRTs. Training shouldn't be a chore - it should be another way for you and your dog to grow closer together.
For a general overview of goals you should be setting for training your dog and what you can expect at different ages, from puppies through to old Jack Russells, check out this article on training Jack Russells at different stages of growth.
Top Jack Russell Training Tips
One of the most important aspects of Jack Russell training is socialization. This means getting the dog used to being around people, cars, household appliances, other dogs, and other animals. You don't want your Jack Russell going crazy every time you turn on the dishwasher. Socialization should begin as early as possible. Early socializing will mean fewer problems when the puppy grows up. Any other pets, especially rats, hamsters, or other small furry things, should be introduced to your Jack Russell slowly and under close supervision. Successful Jack Russell training begins with socialization.
Remember - when training a Jack Russell, food is your friend. Always reward good behavior with food and encouragement - your attention and praise are as important as a reward as the food is. Also, use the dog's toys are rewards.
Never punish your dog for behaviors that are caused by anxiety. Read more about
separation anxiety in Jack Russell Terriers here
This is one of the big pitfalls of Jack Russell training, and dog training in general. Studies have proven that rewarding good behavior is much more effective as a teaching tool than punishing bad behavior. If time has passed between the bad deed and the punishment, the dog will have no idea what it's being punished for anyway. It will just think it has a crazy owner. Correction of the behavior and a firm no, or taking away a treat or toy, is generally the most punishment you should ever need to train the dog. If your dog wets itself from fear every time it sees a stranger, rubbing its nose in its urine will not only fail to correct the behavior - it will be counter-productive. When you catch the dog doing something wrong, use a firm "No," correct the behavior, then reward the good behavior.
For Jack Russell training to be successful, there needs to be mutual respect between dog and trainer. If you are harsh with you Jack Russell, training is unlikely to work out well. On the flipside, if you're afraid of your Jack Russell, training it will be difficult as it will assume a dominant role and will not be willing to obey commands. Never show signs of anger to your dog. JRTs in particular are good at reading facial expressions and body language.
Don't try to slap a collar and lead on a Jack Russell and expect to begin the training session ten seconds later. Allow the dog time to walk around with the lead trailing behind it, until it gets used to the feeling.
Mental exercise is just as important for a Jack Russell as physical exercise, so after your dog has mastered the basic commands listed here, try teaching it some more advanced tricks to keep its brain sharp.
Most abnormal problems are a result of not enough exercise or not enough owner attention. Much so-called "problem behavior" is really just a Jack Russell doing what Jack Russells do.
Common Issues in Jack Russell Training - Behavior Problems
Jumping up. This is very common in JRTs. They get so excited to see you coming home, or to meet a new stranger, that they can't keep all four paws on the ground for more than a split second. This can be amusing at first, but it quickly becomes tiresome. For some people it can be frightening, and even dangerous for some - there is a lot of power in those four little legs, and even though JRTs are small they can still knock someone down. To control this problem, teach your dog the Down command. It also helps to kneel down to be on the dog's level.
Barking too much. Jack Russells are well known to be serial barkers. They can be set off by the slightest noise, a stranger arriving, spotting another animal - or just about anything else. You need to consider what is causing the barking in the first place. It's hard to get rid of normal, instinctual barking, but excessive barking that is really a problem is usually a learned behavior. Barking can be handy if there happens to be a burglar breaking into your house, but often it just causes a headache. If your dog is barking too much, teaching it the Speak command can give you more control over when it barks. Also try experimenting with the dog's living conditions. For example, let the dog sleep inside instead of outside, or vice versa. There may be a simple cause for the barking in the dogs environment. Alternating, whenever the dog barks, use it as a cue to start the next training session, get its attention and work on one of the commands listed below. If all else fails, there are special ultrasonic and electric collars available which can eliminate barking. Find out more about the various causes of excessive barking and what you can do to stop dogs barking, and learn an effective technique for dealing with Jack Russell barking problems.
Begging for food. It's not a good idea to give your dog scraps from the dinner table unless he's done something to earn it. He will start to think there's food on offer every time you sit down to eat. If you want to give your dog a scrap, get him to perform a basic command such as Sit or Stay first, and use the scrap as a reward.
Destroying property. If your Jack Russell has a habit of chewing your favorite shoes or the sofa, it may be a sign that the dog isn't getting enough exercise. Increase the number of walks and the length of time you walk the dog for. Destruction can also be a sign that the dog is getting bored during long periods when there's no one at home. Destroying things is actually a sign of affection - it means your dog misses you. If you think this is the case, there are a few solutions. You can train the dog to become used to being alone by slowly expanding its comfort zone and leaving it alone for longer and longer periods. If this isn't an option, you'll need to re-arrange your schedule so your dog can see more of you, or consider hiring a dog sitter. Counter-intuitive though it may seem, getting another JRT to keep your dog company may reduce the destruction problem. You could rescue a JRT from a shelter and save its life - and your shoes.
Growling and aggression. This may be a sign that your dog hasn't been socialized enough. For the energetic Jack Russell, training begins with meeting other dogs. The solution to socialization problems is to slowly introduce your dog to other dogs and new people. (I recommend getting a muzzle for this.) Be aware though - it may also be a sign of ill health and require a trip to the vet, especially if the aggression comes with other symptoms. The dog may be in pain. It can also be the result of an imbalance in the dominant-submissive roles between you and the dog. Here are some more tips on how to deal with an
aggressive Jack Russell Terrier.
Going to the toilet inside. This is completely natural with puppies and you will have to house-train a new pup. If an older dog is soiling inside, it may be a sign of illness. Watch for signs of blood in the urine or unusually frequent urination. It can also be the result of submissiveness on the part of the dog, in which case punishment will only make the problem worse. As with destroying property it may also be the result of anxiety caused by your absence or a lack of attention and it should be treated with the same training as I recommend for destructive behavior. Try housebreaking the dog again and if the problem continues, see the vet.
Biting. Play-biting in puppies is completely normal and can eventually be trained out with a light tap on the nose and a firm "no" when the biting hurts. Holding the pup's muzzle shut for a few seconds can also help - this is a technique based on natural parental dog habits. Aggressive snapping and biting in older dogs is a problem that needs serious attention, as a court may order your dog to be put down if it bites another dog or a person (depending where you live).
Running away. As an escape-artist, the average Jack Russell puts Houdini to shame. There's not a lot you can do to train your dog out of this. Spaying and neutering can curb the tendency, as most escape attempts are for made so that the dog can go roaming to look for a mate. Apart from that, Jack Russell-proof your back yard and make sure visitors always shut the gate. You can also keep the dog inside when you're not around and provide it a newspapered toilet area.
JRTs are born to dig. Being a keen gardener and being a Jack Russell owner do not go well together. If your JRT digs up everything in sight, more exercise may be the solution. Fence off your garden and lay chicken wire or mesh under the dirt at the bottom of any fences, so your dog can't dig its way out.
Being hyperactive. Most Jack Russells qualify as hyperactive by nature, so this is not abnormal. Generally speaking if hyperactivity in a dog bothers you - choose a different breed. Excessive hyperactivity can be cured with an increase in exercise.
It makes training a lot easier when you know what some of the little canine body language signals mean. Learning some of these will give you a much better understanding of what's going on inside your dog's head. Read all about dog body language.
Jack Russell training can be made simpler by the use of a clicker device. I discuss the role of the clicker in training in my full-length training ebook.
Thank you for reading this page on Jack Russell Training and being a responsible JRT owner. Many dog owners never bother to train their pets properly - a contributing factor to the number of JRTs killed by cars or put down at shelters every year.
To take the next step in your Jack Russell training efforts, go ahead and sign up for the free special report on the Top Ten Training Mistakes. Avoiding these mistakes will mean a lot less time spent banging your head against the wall over your dog's behavior.