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.