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Do you want to train your Jack Russel Terrier to come when called? Professional trainers call this “recall” and teaching it is not difficult. However, it does take a little know-how, practice, and patience.
In this guide, we will show you how to train your Jack Russel Terrier the basics of a great recall, how to turn your training sessions into a fun game, and how to “proof” your dog’s recall so that it will work under even the most distracting circumstances.
A special note about Jack Russel Terriers:
It is important to keep in mind that Jack Russel Terriers have been bred to hunt vermin and they have an extremely strong urge to run after small game such as rabbits or squirrels when scented or spotted visually. It may be unrealistic to ever expect that he is going to choose any reward in your arsenal over the reward of the chase. This means that if you do not feel that it is safe for him to roam about on an adventure, then letting him off the leash, no matter how strong his recall, is taking a risk.
The basics of training your Jack Russel Terrier to have great recall are not difficult, but they do require some consistency and practice. Here are some tips to make sure your recall training is backed up with good practices:
- Never call your Jack Russel Terrier to you, and then punish her or take away something she enjoys such as a toy, without trading it for something better. It should never “cost” your dog to come when called.
- Always practice touching his collar as part of his recall training. Getting “close” won’t be enough for these quick little guys! You will want him to expect you to touch his collar before he earns a reward so you can catch him in an emergency.
- Practice often, and add distractions gradually. Use a long line to make sure your Jack Russel Terrier will come to you past distractions such as other dogs or cats.
- If you need to call your dog in an emergency and he is not responding, run away from him in a very excited way, screaming loudly like a crazy person. This often triggers an instinctive response to chase. If you try to chase him when you are upset, he is more likely to run away from you, potentially towards the danger.
You do not need fancy equipment to train your Jack Russel Terrier to come when called. Make sure you bring plenty of patience and excitement to your training sessions to make sure he stays engaged. In addition, keep your sessions short and fun so that he will look forward to learning with you and associate recall with a fun game.
Get a long line, either a leash or a sturdy rope that is 25’ or longer, before you start to work outdoors in a non-fenced area. This will allow you to safely be away from your dog without her being able to bolt after some prey. It will also let you enforce the recall by reeling her in if she gets distracted while outdoors.
Make sure you are using rewards that are really motivating for your JRT. Although treats can be great, make sure to use other rewards like tossing a ball, pats, and praise, or a quick game of tug. If your JRT does not know what she will get when she comes to you, it can add to the excitement and fun, making her recall stronger in the long run.
The Basic Recall Method
Start with this method to give your Jack Russel Terrier the basic understanding of how to come when called. Make sure you start your training inside so that she won’t be distracted by smells, other pets or people.
Start to run away from your dog, then say his name followed by “Come!” Your tone should be exciting and inviting for best results. Most dogs will instinctively go after someone running away, and when he catches up with you, touch his collar before rewarding. Repeat 10-20 times.
Add some distance to your indoor recall drills. You can even try calling from another room to add a challenge to the drills. Make sure that you always touch the collar before rewarding and keep your sessions fun and short. At this point, ignore failures. Repeat several times daily, and when your Jack Russel least expects to be able to earn a recall reward!
Attach the long line and move the training sessions outdoors. This will add some distraction to your training. If your Jack Russel ignores your recall, tug her to you using the long line, but do not scold her. Just try again and reward success.
Over time, you will continue to add distance to your recall drills. At some point, once you are sure he understands what is expected, you will have to add some consequences for failures. One way to do this is to reel him in and put him in a 3 minute “Time Out” in his crate, or in a safe room where he can be left alone. Make sure that you are vigilant about using this consequence as you move forward with your training.
Be sure to check out our 'Proofing' method to teach your Jack Russel to come when called, even in highly distracting environments.
The Fun Recall Game Method
This fun way to teach recall uses the format of a game to make sure that your Jack Russel Terrier gets to enjoy being the star of the show and enjoys learning this vital skill. It will require that you enlist the help of a few friends, or have the kids get involved. Make sure everyone playing has a small bag of treats.
Have the group make a circle on the floor. They will alternate calling your pup with her name and your recall command. It is okay if they have to bribe her by offering a treat the first few rounds. In no time these bribes will no longer be necessary.
Have one person call your dog in an excited and playful tone. Be sure they touch the collar or harness before dispensing a reward and lots of praise. Have them hold your dog while the next person calls so he will be extra excited about running off to the next person.
Add some distance to make this game more challenging. With some practice, you can even play this game calling your dog from different rooms in your home.
Using the long line for safety, take this game outdoors to add even more of a challenge for your Jack Russel Terrier. Keep the tone exciting and make sure to end the game before your dog gets bored.
The Advanced Proofing Method
Why you need to proof
After your Jack Russel understands to come when called and has plenty of practice in lower distraction environments, it is time to add some challenges to their recall drills. Professional trainers call this “proofing” and it is a critical step if you want her to come when called, every time.
Take your JRT to some new places to do some recall drills. This will teach him that coming when called is always expected, no matter where he is. Make sure to use very high value rewards to make coming back to you better than whatever is interesting in each new place.
What is most distracting for your JRT? Think through how you can add specific distractions in a controlled way to help him learn that he needs to ignore that distraction when he has been called. For example, if cats drive your Jack Russel nuts, then try having a cat in a carrier, calling your JRT past them with a long line on so you can enforce the recall. Make sure the reward is really big when challenging your dog in these ways.
If you want anyone to be able to call your dog, be sure to get some help asking others to do some recall drills with you. This will teach her that no matter who is calling her, running to them is a great idea and a chance at a very nice reward.
Start getting serious about choosing only the best recalls to reward. Decrease the reward rate over time, giving huge rewards for very snappy and enthusiastic returns. Never call your dog to you and then punish him.
When NOT to recall
Stop using the recall unless you know you will either get it, or you are willing and able to enforce it. At some point, the recall needs to be a mandatory command that if it is not followed, will be met with a consequence. If you are not sure if your JRT will come when you call her, you can try a different recall such as a whistle or the squeak of a toy to get her to come. This way, if she ignores you, then you are not breaking your all-important recall command.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021