How to Train a Jack Russell Terrier to Hunt

Hard
2-4 Months
Work

Introduction

Jack Russell Terriers are notorious for their boundless energy, barking, and digging. What many people fail to grasp is that Jack Russell Terriers (JRTs) are hunting dogs, specifically bred for hunting small animal pests like rats, moles, squirrels and other critters. The skills which make him a great hunter can make your JRT a challenging house companion. Training your JRT to do what comes naturally provides an appropriate outlet for his energy, instincts, and natural talents.  This may make him less likely to dig up your yard or tear open your sofa!

If you live rurally, a JRT can be a very useful method of pest control as they are skilled hunters and their small size allows them to follow quarry down burrows or into tight places. In spite of their small size, JRTs are successful hunters, due to their tenacious, aggressive hunting instinct. They will even go after larger after prey you would not expect them to tackle. Just be careful that his eyes aren't bigger than his bark and bite!

Defining Tasks

Training your JRT to hunt is more a matter of guiding his natural instinct and providing him with the means to take direction that allow you to control your dog while hunting.  You will want to train your dog so he listens to you and can be recalled so he does not get lost. You will also want your dog to check in with you for direction and use his nose to locate prey or pests. 

JRTs can go after small prey on the ground or may follow quarry down a burrow, confront the critter underground, and hold it there until you can dig out the pest. Many farmers and rural property owners find JRTs useful to control pests such as rats, gophers, groundhogs or other pests that damage crops. If you are competing, judges at trails will award natural hunting certificates or a below ground certificate, depending on what skills your Jack Russell demonstrates.

Getting Started

Have a good leash that you can easily slip on and off so you can keep control of your dog. Remember to pack water for you and your dog on outings and a flashlight in case hunts go longer than expected or you need to find your tenacious terrier in the dark. Also, having a dog that is in good physical shape for hunting and has a good grasp on obedience commands will make training for hunting much more successful. A ferret finder collar can be put on your dog for locating. This will accurately pinpoint your dogs location, even when he is a few feet under the ground, so you don't injure your dog with a shovel or crowbar while excavating game.

The General Skills Method

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Step
1
Learn obedience commands
Teach your JRT commands such as 'sit', 'stay', 'leave it', 'down', and 'come'. Recall is especially important, but so is the ability to call your JRT off if he is trespassing on private property or inadvertently after someone's pet. Practice on and off leash.
Step
2
Get used to hunting tools
Get your dog used to the sights and sounds of the hunt. This may mean guns, other dogs, transportation kennels and ATVs. This may take some time, so practice often.
Step
3
Conditon
Exercise and condition your JRT so he can navigate long distances and rough terrain without becoming overtired. You will need to start with shorter distances and work your way up.
Step
4
Practice wearing tracking collars
Get your JRT acclimatized to tracking collars or ferret finder collars. Your dog needs to be used to wearing this equipment so he is not distracted by wearing them when hunting. Practice at home, out on walks, and when hunting so your dog is comfortable with wearing the collar.
Step
5
Introduce prey
Get your JRT excited about quarry. Most dogs are prey driven and don't take much encouragement, but getting your dog used to the smell of prey animals and focused on specific animals you will be hunting such as rabbits or gophers will help him focus on locating and hunting intended quarry.
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The Hunt in a Group Method

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Step
1
Introduce dogs
JRTs usually hunt in pairs or small groups. Mature dogs teach inexperienced dogs the skills they need to hunt. Introduce and socialize your JRT with a hunting partner. Allows dogs to become comfortable with each other in a neutral location.
Step
2
Control your dog
Take your JRT out with another, experienced dog. Make sure you either use long leads to control your inexperienced dog or a tracking collar.
Step
3
Practice commands
Practice recall and direction while hunting with the other dog. Ensure that you remain consistent with commands and keep an eye on your dog to make sure he is safe.
Step
4
Pick up skills
Let your JRT learn to scent game and follow trails with the other dog. You will want to vary the prey animals you use for this step to get as much practice as possible.
Step
5
Learn underground work
Allow your JRT to experience flushing, chasing, and going underground to bay game with his JRT partner. The other dog will teach him skills he needs in order to confront, hold and even drag prey out of a burrow.
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The Focus on Prey Method

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Step
1
Create scent trails
Obtain the scent of the animal you want your JRT to track and hunt. For example, rabbit scent, gopher, or rat, and apply the scent to a drag. Create a scent trail.
Step
2
Locate the trail
Take your dog to the area where the planted trail is located and allow him to “discover” the scent. If he cannot seem to find it, you may need to lure him towards the trail.
Step
3
Follow the trail
Encourage your dog along the trail. Keep trails short and simple at first. Reward location of scented items with play.
Step
4
Add complexity
Gradually make trails more complex and add distractions. Introduce your dog to actual scent trails in the wild.
Step
5
Introude prey animals
Take your dog out and expose him to the quarry you want him to focus on or obtain a tame or caged prey animal. Introduce your dog to the caged animal. Keep tame animals safe, but encourage your dog to get excited about the quarry. If encountering prey animals in the wild, encourage your dog to get excited about locating the animal and chasing it.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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