In theory, a Jack Russell should be easy to train. They are certainly intelligent and learn quickly. However, the Jack Russell Terrier can be strong-willed and independent. There is a big difference between learning quickly and being obedient.
Jack Russell Terrier training secret
The key to success with training a Jack Russell is to manage their focus, be consistent with the rules and boundaries, and provide effective leadership. If your Jack Russell thinks they are in charge you have very little hope of being able to manage them.
To be able to have a calm and well behaved Jack Russell it is crucial to understand their temperament, instinctive drive, and personality.
Jack Russell intelligence
The Jack Russell is ranked about 49th on lists of dog breed intelligence. However, this is not a true representation of how smart a Jack Russell actually is.
The test they use to compile this list is two-fold. Firstly, the count the number of repetitions it takes for a dog to learn a new command. Secondly, they measure what percentage of the time the dog obeys the command. This is known as obedience and working intelligence. With a breed that is as independently minded as a Jack Russell, it is not a true indication of how smart they are.
There are other types of canine intelligence such as adaptive intelligence. This type of intelligence shows how well a dog solves problems. In addition, there is instinctive intelligence. This is how natural a dog is at doing what it was breed for with little or no training. Jack Russells were bred to hunt rats and vermin.
Both these types of canine intelligence are a little more subjective and more difficult to measure and quantify.
For more on how smart Jack Russells are see here.
Jack Russell Temperament and Instinctive behavior
Success with training a Jack Russell requires an understanding of their personality and nature. The Jack Russell Terrier is a small dog with a big attitude. They can be willful and independent. Trying to physically dominate a Jack Russell is a bad idea. They will fight back and they will not back down.
Jack Russells have were bred to hunt rodents and vermin. As a result, they have a very high prey drive. Much of a Jack Russells behavior and motivation come from their natural instinctive intelligence.
They are highly active and energetic. They require a large amount of exercise on a daily basis. Trying to train a dog that has pent up energy is difficult to focus their attention on the task at hand. For a guide to exercise for a Jack Russell see here.
In addition to physical exercise, Jack Russells require plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge their minds. Mental exercise can help to tire a dog just as much as physical activity. For a guide to mental stimulation and enrichment for a puppy see here.
Jack Russell can also be very loving, affectionate, and loyal and will respect you if they see you as a calm leader.
Jack Russell Terrier training tips
It is often said that Jack Russells have “small dog syndrome” meaning they try to make up for their small size with their big personality. It is important when training a Jack Russell to establish yourself as the alpha.
This does not mean using intimidation to submit your dog. This will not work with a breed like the Jack Russell as they will battle you and not back down. Being the alpha is more about being the calm and stable energy that makes a dog want to follow you and respect you. If you fail to establish yourself as the alpha, a Jack Russell will take this role.
Other important training tips to keep in mind are;
Give affection and reward good behavior
The Jack Russell is a loving and affectionate dog with the people they trust. Give them plenty of attention and affection for doing the right thing. This will not only reinforce the behavior but will also help bond a strong bond. For more on how to reward a dog see here.
Socialization is crucial
Jack Russells are confident around other dogs. However, they will not tolerate being dominated. Good socialization is vital for Jack Russells, to teach them about appropriate interactions with other dogs, and how to play nicely with others.
Consistency with rules and boundaries
Being consistent is key to having a Jack Russell that doesn’t cross boundaries. Set the rules from the outset and stick to them. If they are allowed on the furniture that is ok. If you don’t want them on the furniture and you allow it once it will become an issue. Give them an inch and they will take a mile.
Jack Russell behavior problems
If you are consistent with your training and establish yourself a calm and stable leader you will have a well mannered and behaved Jack Russell.
If your Jack Russell does develop some behavior issues it is most likely due to two main causes.
Boredom and pent up energy – being high energy and highly intelligent means your Jack Russell will require plenty of exercise and activities, enrichment, and mental stimulation.
Rules and boundaries – a lack of consistency with the rules and boundaries can result in a Jack Russell thinking they are in charge.
We will look at some common behavior issues with dogs and how to go about fixing the problem.
Jack Russell can be mouthy and noisy. There are many reasons dogs bark including being overexcited, warning somebody is there, anxiety, boredom, and attention-seeking behavior.
Yelling at your Jack Russell to stop usually doesn’t work and often makes them bark more. To a dog you yelling is like barking. They think you are barking so they think they should bark some more.
With excessive barking, a dog will often get into a more aroused state the more they bark. The trick is to stop this state before it gets too high. Teach them a “quiet command” and provide redirection. This can be as simple as getting their attention from the first bark with a treat or toy they like.
Digging is an instinctive behavior in dogs. Many Jack Russells are diggers due to their origins as ratting dogs that included digging up the burrows of prey. You can’t completely train instinctive behavior out of a dog, but you can redirect it.
Often a bored Jack Russell can resort to digging either to escape to find adventure or to occupy themselves. If your Jack Russell has dug holes in your yard put something in the hole to stop them digging there again. Examples include:
- Their own poo – dogs won’t dig in areas that they have toileted.
- Citrus peels, cayenne, or vinegar – these will irritate their nose discouraging digging
- Rocks – bury rocks, particularly large flat ones to stop them from being able to dig.
- Plastic netting – bury plastic netting just below the surface of known digging spots. Avoid wire as this may cut their paws.
Alternatively, redirect the behavior so they dig in an area set aside for them or provide activities that cater to the natural digging instinct. See dog toys for diggers for ways to redirect digging behavior.
Destructive behavior usually involves chewing and destroying your property. This can include furniture, clothing, and items around the house. In puppies, a certain amount of destructive chewing is expected as they are exploring the world and around 5 to 6 months will also be teething.
The most common reason for destructive chewing is boredom. Ensure your Jack Russell is not only getting plenty of physical activity but plenty of other forms of enrichment to challenge their minds also.
Another way to tackle this problem is to remove items they may chew if possible or use a deterrent such as a bitter-tasting spray. See chew deterrents on Amazon here.
Redirect the behavior by providing your Jack Russell with plenty of chew toys. Chewing itself is not a bad thing for your dog to do unless it is your stuff. Chewing is good for dental health, to occupy your dog, and for stress relief. When a dog chews they release endorphins to the brain making them feel calm and happy.
For the best chew toys for dogs see here.
There are many reasons a dog will pull on the leash. They may be in a hurry to get where they are going, to meet another dog, or chase something. Ultimately, all these things have the same cause. The dog is getting into an excited state. It is not about stopping the dog pulling. Rather about keeping the dog calm and relaxed on the leash.
Summary – Are Jack Russell Terrier easy to train
A Jack Russell should be easy to train. They are certainly intelligent and learn quickly. However, the Jack Russell Terrier can be strong-willed and independent. There is a big difference between learning quickly and being obedient.
The key to success with training a Jack Russell is to manage their focus, be consistent with the rules and boundaries, and establish yourself as a calm and stable leader. If your Jack Russell thinks they are in charge you have very little hope of being able to manage them.
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