How to train a Jack Russell Terrier – Plus the 5 best tricks

If you want to know how to train a Jack Russell Terrier, you’re in the right place. This Jack Russell blog is dedicated to these little dogs that are full of character. Are Jack Russell Terriers easy to train? Well yes and no. The good news is that they are very smart little dogs that are eager to please. Plus they will do literally anything for a treat!

Training a Jack Russell can be challenging though, they are strong-willed and it can sometimes seem like they are ignoring you on purpose. They have to know who’s boss, spoiler alert, it’s not them! Jack Russells are plucky little dogs that are known to take on the Alpha role if given the half chance. This can lead to bad behaviour like growling or being snappy, it’s something that can’t be tolerated and needs a firm nip in the bud.

How to train a Jack Russell dog

Training any dog starts with you being in charge. Dogs have evolved with a pack mentality, with the strongest member of the family leading the others. That’s you! You already provide the food and shelter, it just needs to be clear that you are in charge in other areas, dogs naturally accept this but need clear cues from you.

A huge factor in bad behaviour is often just boredom. Jack Russells need a lot of attention, socialisation and exercise. Destructive behaviour or excessive barking is a sure sign that a JR is bored.

Top 5 Jack Russell Terrier training tips

1. Remain calm and in control. Getting annoyed will just escalate the situation. Avoid negative punishment.

2. Consistency is the key. They don’t understand if they are allowed on the sofa one day but not the next.

3. Change behaviour through distraction. When someone comes to the door offer them a treat in return for calm behaviour to distract their attention.

4. Make sure the dog has its own space. Have a bed in a quiet corner where the dog can be left alone if it needs time alone.

5. Use a clicker or treats if voice commands don’t seem to work alone.

How to stop a Jack Russell barking

Top clear commands for a well trained Jack Russell

Jack Russells are intelligent dogs that can learn a wide variety of commands, shown by their use in competitions such as Crufts as well as on film and TV. These are the main commands that Jack Russells need to know before anything else.

  • Sit

  • Stay

  • Down

  • Drop it

  • Come

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How to train a Jack Russell to listen

The very first thing to make sure that your dog understands is to look to you for direction. Using a voice command or clicker followed by praise, is a great way to get their attention. Make sure they respond to their name by using it clearly before mealtimes, walks and other enjoyable activities. Use clear commands in a playful tone that they will want to do to make you happy. Shouting doesn’t work, it will just make your dog fearful.

Number one Jack Russell training tip

Measure out your JR’s food for the day and use it for training. Sometimes if you have a single dog on it’s own it may not be very food dominated. But by removing structured mealtimes (a human thing) your dog will focus a lot more on food as a goal. Only giving food as a reward or activity based distraction, like stuffed in a Kong when you leave the house etc. makes it a really great training tool. You can mix it up with healthy training treats to give your pooch extra motivation for the training sessions that might be a little bit harder.

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How to train a Jack Russell to sit, stay & lie down

This one’s fairly easy and should take up 10 mins a day for between two to ten days depending on the dog’s age/ attention span. Treats are the easiest reward to start with. Say the command “sit” followed by a tap on the back legs. Try against a wall to avoid the dog backing up if necessary. As soon as the dog makes a move resembling a sit give the treat, working on the duration of the sit as you go. As you go on try just using verbal rewards instead of actual treats to instil the good behaviour.

Keep using the command when out walking and crossing roads etc. Dogs, like us, can forget things if they aren’t reminded now and then. Be firm and only give praise or treats when the dog is doing what you ask. If it’s not working stop and try again another day. Learning how to train a Jack Russell Terrier doesn’t happen overnight.

Jack Russell Puppy Sit Command

When you’ve mastered the sit, use the stay command to keep your dog still. Don’t use praise until you are finished with the stay, otherwise they will think they’ve done a good job and it’s time to move on!

If your dog moves from the sit position before you have released them from the stay, simply start again with the sit. Make sure to reward them when the stay is over, and practise moving further away when you feel confident.

Lying down is the next step, and easy to do once you have mastered the sit… Depending on your JR’s mood of course! Use the same techniques as before tapping the front legs this time, applying light pressure to the shoulders if needed. Give praise every time you get near the right movement. And repeat, repeat, repeat!

How to teach a Jack Russell to drop it

This one is super important and often overlooked. Dogs, especially JR’s, love to pick things up in their mouth; dead animals, garbage, poop (yes dogs are gross). But it can be really dangerous to eat things they shouldn’t, like dropped medication or toxic food like chocolate. You need an easy command like “Drop” ready in a JR’s brain. Chasing them will just turn in to a fun new game (who doesn’t love chase?) and a losing battle for you! At the very worst the dog will quickly swallow to make sure you don’t “steal” their treasure!

There are two ways to teach this essential Jack Russell trick. Trading or patience. Trading involves playing with a toy (not the favourite toy but a less important one), say “Drop”, then offer a treat in return. Offer the toy again and repeat the process until you can use “Drop” without a treat.

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Option two involves a lot of patience. Play with a toy like a tug rope then simply go limp but keep hold of the toy. Eventually the dog will lose interest then you praise them when they let go. After a few repetitions you can add the command “Drop” just after going limp, to associate the word with the action of the game being over. It’s really important to keep using this in all kinds of different situations, to work even when your JR really wants something.

If you haven’t yet mastered these techniques and your dog is about to swallow something dangerous, simply cover their eyes with your hand while holding them near. But this only works in close proximity, and your dog will eventually learn to ignore it!

Weird dog behaviours

How to train a Jack Russell Terrier to come

This one can be tricky and needs to be started as soon as possible. You can start inside, go into a different room and call your dogs name followed by “come”. Reward the dog with praise and even treats when they come, making sure to to touch their collar first. Continue this outside, using the same instructions and touching the collar before giving a reward. If the dog is hesitant, start to run the opposite way inviting a ‘chase’ that they can’t resist, reward them again once you touch the collar.

Never shout at your dog or scold them when they come back. Even if it’s for a different reason they will not comprehend this and be put off returning. Calmly put on the lead and move on.

Proofing” is testing this out with other distractions like other dogs or people. The dog needs to focus on you no matter the distraction. A long lead can be used to ensure they aren’t in danger if things don’t go to plan. If you need a bit more practice without distractions, work on it somewhere quiet, then go back and try again in a busier environment. Usually the more socialisation the dog gets the better it will behave.

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In short

The most important thing to know how to train a Jack Russell Terrier is to be consistent. They don’t understand if we tell them one thing is OK one minute and punish them the next. They are constantly taking cues from you, if you act like bath-time is a chore they will hate it. If you are scared to cut their nails they will fear it. If you laugh when they chase the cat they will think it’s good behaviour. It takes no time to create a bad habit but it’s a lot of hard work to change it. Take note of how you are acting around your dog and take the time to learn how to train a Jack Russell Terrier.

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