How to Train a Jack Russell Terrier to Come when Called

Medium
2-6 Months
General

Introduction

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. 

Defining Tasks

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. 

Getting Started

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

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Step
1
Set up
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.
Step
2
Run away
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.
Step
3
Add distance
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!
Step
4
Go outside
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.
Step
5
Add consequences
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.
Step
6
Next steps
Be sure to check out our 'Proofing' method to teach your Jack Russel to come when called, even in highly distracting environments.
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The Fun Recall Game Method

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Step
1
Set up
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.
Step
2
Take turns
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.
Step
3
Reward
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.
Step
4
Add distance
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.
Step
5
Go outside
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.
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The Advanced Proofing Method

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Step
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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.
Step
2
New places
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.
Step
3
Add distraction
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.
Step
4
Other people
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.
Step
5
Refine
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.
Step
6
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Merlin
JRT
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Merlin
JRT
7 Years

He only occasionally comes when I call him ☹️. Will this method work on a 7 year old?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
614 Dog owners recommended

Hello Isabel, I suggest following the Reel In method from the article I linked below. You can pair it with the fun recall games like round robin also, but you will need to practice with the long leash around distractions also to gain reliability. Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Monty
Jack Chi
4 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Monty
Jack Chi
4 Years

Hiya, I adopted a dog who was apparently walked off leash before being rehomed. However, he sometimes runs away without warning out the front door or in a field, when we catch him he’s always wagging his tail. How would we train him to walk off leash and not run away? thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
614 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amelia, Check out the articles linked below on teaching an off-leash recall - which starts with a long leash and for you specifically will involve going places with distractions to practice recalls around the things pup tends to run off around. If dogs are a distraction for him for example, then you can get together with friends' and their dogs and practice the PreMack principle - allowing pup to go up to another dog only after he has come first - then greeting the other dog becomes the reward itself after checking in with you. Come and the PreMack Principle: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall An off-leash heel is generally started just like a normal leashed heel, then as pup improves you practice the heel on a long leash so that pup is following because they are paying attention to you and not dependent on the leash - but you can use the leash to guide back when needed and prevent pup from disobeying and having inconsistent training. Once pup can heel in places like your neighborhood on the long leash, then also go places where other dogs, squirrels, and other types of distractions and practice the long leash heel around more distractions - with pup learning to ignore distractions like other dogs unless told to "Say Hi". I personally prefer starting with a normal weight long training leash - like what you see online and in most pet stores, then going to an extremely light weight but strong one when pup is almost ready for complete off-leash work. The light weight helps the training transfer to off-leash better since pup is less aware of a leash being on them prior to taking it off completely. Whenever pup starts not coming or heeling again well, snap the leash back on for a month and do a refresher training course to deal with any issues - the refresher shouldn't take nearly as long as the initial training but at some point most dogs will test ignoring you again and need the refresher. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel I also suggest teaching pup to automatically check in with you while off-leash. To do this, go to an open area - even a yard. Have small treats hidden in a treat pouch or pocket and pup on the long leash. Don't say anything to pup but slowly walk around, changing directions occasionally, even if pup isn't watching. If pup acknowledges you and comes toward you, praise and toss a treat to them. If pup doesn't catch up, let the leash give their collar a tug as the leash tightens, then reward if they come up to you to catch up after that. After pup has been rewarded with a few treats being tossed for turning toward you, then practice the same thing, praising pup following, but only giving a treat if pup comes all the way to you to take it from your hand without being told to. I like to practice this exercise periodically between practicing come and a more formal heel. All three serve different purposes and an off-leash dog needs all of them. The official heel will help pup stay close when pup needs to be right by your side - like around other dogs and in tight or more public spaces. The automatic following teaches pup to pay better attention while off-leash, and the come allow you to call pup back to you as needed - which can save pup's life. James Penrith from Take the Lead Dog Training also has a lot of great videos on Off-leash training. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxuNKpmUs390K7x_rvgjcg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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