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Jack Russell Terrier Too Old to Train

Is My Jack Russell Terrier Too Old to Train?

You’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Quite often, the subject is very far from the dog itself, making you all wonder for a moment or two: “Wait, can you teach an old dog new tricks?” It makes sense.

Maybe you bring home your Jack Russell Terrier from a shelter when he is several years old, or you inherit him from a loved one who can no longer take care of him due to lifestyle changes, or you just realized you want to retrain you terrier who was with you since the puppy time.

So, you need to know if you can fix those habits and teach him some new tricks to best fit with your lifestyle. The answer is “Yes, you can.” Huzzah!

The best time to start training

If you adopted an adult dog, immediately set the boundaries and award good behavior, but wait for some time with learning new stuff to know each other better. Use this time to create bond and trust. Just like you would with a puppy, give him some time to adjust to his new home and you. Let him trust you and love you before you try to train him.

See if he has any previous training, like “sit” or “stay”. This may help you understand how to best take care of him when it comes to training. Each dog is different so there is no universal time which will work for all dogs.

How to start training

When the time comes to train your Jack Russell Terrier, set aside plenty of treats/kibble for rewards and make sure you give him a treat after every positive attempt. Remember that choice of treat has an impact on success. Higher value treat (extra jummy treats like chicken meat, cheese and hot dogs) will make him look forward training more and therefore he’ll learn faster than with lower value treats like his regular kibble.

If your dog is highly motivated by toys, use them in training. Start in a quiet and controlled environment to minimize distractions and bad results. Ideally, familiar room without other people or unfamiliar sound (radio, TV…) so he can focus solely on you.

With progress, introduce distractions to your training time – get someone to be in the room with you, switch rooms, go outside in some quite area. Make sure to keep the sessions short, less than twenty minutes ideally. Your dog won’t have a long attention span at first, because he’ll be confused. Watch him closely, his body language will tell you a lot about how he feels. Do not force him, make that time pleasurable for both of you.

Be positive no matter how things are going and work in small steps. Since Jack Russell Terriers tend to be excitable, this is especially important. Work within his limitations or you won’t get anywhere. End each training session in positive manner, for example with a trick or small movement he knows.

What to learn your Jack

When it comes to the actual training, start with easy commands, like “sit” and “lie down”. Teach them in controlled settings until he understands the command. This could take days or weeks depending on your dog’s personality and motivation level.

Before each training session let him run in the backyard or have a good play session or a walk with you before hand, so he’s not quite so antsy and restless. It can also help bring your strong bond to the forefront and help him listen to you more.

When he’s mastered the trick (say, “sit”, for example), test it out in public. Make sure he is totally confident in the controlled environment, first, though. Keep in mind that his first time out in public with you trying to tell him to “sit” every couple of minutes may not go so well.

Remember, Jack Russell Terriers are excitable and love to be moving in the public eye, so he’ll have a hard time focusing. Stay calm, try to get him to sit once (and reward him), and he’ll start to get the idea. He is not a robot, so give him time to get used to the idea of listening for the cue word out in the real world.

Whether in public or private, remember to never yell or hit your dog if he doesn’t listen or does the wrong command. Where he is an adult, this can cause all sorts of irreparable damage that will forever damage the relationship and he’ll never trust you the same way again. Be kind and considerate, just like you would with a child that is learning how to say “please” and “thank you”.

Where he is an adult dog, don’t try to teach him any complex tricks in the beginning unless you are sure he can handle it, or looks forward to the sessions. Simply stick with the basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, “lie down”, etc. Some dogs will thrive with commands like these, whereas other ones won’t.

You will have to train your dog to be trained. Or, more simply, you’ll have to re-train your dog’s bad learned habits. Training will help build the bond between you and your pooch too, and soon you’ll feel as though he’s always been yours.

A positive training experience between dog and owner will make both of you happy. Make sure you work at his pace and remember the fact that he will progress much slower than that of a puppy.

Be realistic in your time line and stick with the basic commands that you feel are crucial to having a happy life together. Train for practicality first, then you can try fun commands like “sit pretty”, if he does well. Your dog, your decision!

Do you have any advice you would add which you learned training your adult Jack Russell? Please tell us below in the comments.


  1. My jack russell tends to act out after loss of dog she was with so long and she has some separation anxiety and acts out she dont get her way and then uses bathroom in house refuses to go oout before i leave she has,a attitude but she a good girl I need to know how to train break her from bad habits

    • Hi Peggy, as I understood your girl developed separation anxiety and has some attitude when you want to leave the house, and started peeing in the house? Treating separation anxiety is possible but it can have so much different triggers (when does it start, does your routine while leaving makes her anxious, is it immediately when you close the door or it’s between a few minutes from your departure….) so it’s really hard for me to recommend what to do only on the information you provided. It would be the best to hire a professional trainer, but I would only look for somebody who uses positive reinforcement. Even if you don’t hire a professional trainer, please focus only on positive reinforcements methods. What do you mean by her attitude? Regarding peeing in the house, don’t punish it, just say calmly No and take her out immediately and when she does her business praise her and give her some extra yummy treats like she did something wonderful. Also, it would be the best to take her out when you think she would want to pee and also praise her like crazy when she does it outside. Remain calm, getting angry will not bring anything good. Repeat until her bad habit is forgotten. Cheers, Ana

  2. Hi Ana

    Great website, love it. Thank you so much for it.

    I have myself a 9 months jack russel terrier (first time owner!) and I might have spoiled him with… too much affection and less training. He can sit, stay, lay down and jump, when and if he wants, and in his own terms (beside me not in front of me).

    I have though 2 serious problems that I want to train… away.
    1. When we are outside, he will not come when calling him if there are other dogs, cats, people or anything moving. It’s like I don’t exist. Few times I had trouble putting him on leash again; he runs.
    2. When he is bored and wants attention, he will jump, bark and bite a little, mostly my cloths (my T-shirt’s arm is his favourite) or shoes and it does not help with “No”, a word he otherwise understands. So I usually end up by giving him a time-out in another room, which I hate doing it.
    Any good advice on these two issues? It will be much appreciated. Thanks.

    Jon from Denmark

    • Hi Jon, nice to meet you and congrats on your new addition. As I see it, you’re dealing with classic JRT – strong minded and smart enough to know how to get things his way. Even though by now you gave your pup more affection and less training, it’s not late to turn thing around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first one for cuddles, but when you have a JRT, not enough training usually means lots of trouble.
      Regarding your first problem – it’s normal that everything is more interesting than you when you’re outside, but you can change that. Buy 5-8m long leash (or a rope form a hardware store) and use it for off-leash playing. Start training Come – with that long leash and start with really small distances. Use high value treats (extremely important) and lots of praising (when you’ll feel like a clown, you’re probably on a right way). Start learning in well known environment in few short sessions a day (10 repeats each time) and end with a game. Each time he comes, treat him and pet around the neck and touch a collar – he should get used to be touched when comes. Repeat in different environments. You should make yourself the best thing ever – lots of treats, affection, play and clear messages.
      Regarding your second problem – I’m don’t thing time-outs really work. Maybe you can start with treats and praises when he does someting you like – example – he’s calm in his bed/crate – in low voice say “good boy” and give him a treat. When he does something you don’t like, tell him No and revert his attention and let him engage in something you like. Have Kongs filled with peanut butter in a freezer ready for times when he’s bored, that’ll give you some time in peace. Learn him to go in place (bed for example, but never make it as a punishment).

      You have to understand that you’re dealing with high energy puppy who is trying your limits. Be firm but fair, be positive (you can do more damage with punishments), think of the games you could play with your pup, learn new things and use toys that need thinking (puzzles and so on). And remember it’s never late.

      Good luck
      Ana and Kala

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