What can I say, only that Jack and Bernie are my inspiration to becoming a dog trainer. Well, Jack truly got me started! He’s the little (only in stature) Jack Russell Terrier on the left in the picture. My husband and I were living in Germany when a dear friend of mine needed to rehome him for personal reasons. We were a bit hesitant since we would be newbie pet parents, but also because we did our research on JRTs and discovered Jack would be a handful to say the least. If you don’t know much about Jack Russells, they are tenacious, hard working, territorial, intelligent, confident and proudly devoted pups who are anything but little. They were originally bred to hunt foxes, so they are awesome longer distance running companions since they would follow along their owners out on hunts. We at least were prepared to know and begin to understand Jack is a working dog and obedience cues were our first priority. We weren’t prepared for what was next….
Jack most definitely possesses all of these qualities, but at the time of having him enter into our home without proper training or boundary setting in his prior home, he was a highly anxious, destructive basket case at 1 1/2years old. He chewed through purses, leather shoes, carpets, dryer vents, oh yes and that memorable moment when I walked into the house and found he pulled the 750ml plastic bottle of olive oil from the grocery bag (my mistake of leaving it in his reach); dragging it to the carpeted living room, chewing off the top and having its contents drain onto the floor. When I returned home to find this all I could do was walk back out the door for a few minutes in total disbelief.
We were now living in the reality of a dog with severe separation anxiety and we were at a loss for dealing with it and didn’t know where to begin. Separation anxiety in dogs prevents them living to their potential and especially with Jack’s stubborn and alert nature, it was necessary for him to learn boundaries, who the leader was in the home, so he didn’t feel he had to be and obedience as a way to redirect the anxiety on to other beneficial behaviors.
Where to begin……..I became a certified dog trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement techniques
The first thing we focused on with Jack was running. Since the Jack Russell Terrier breed was used for hunting and running long distances to catch prey, and he was in good physical health and was given the go ahead by our veternarian, we take him out for 4-6 mile runs daily. This at least chilled him out when we were home and could set us up for a successful training session.
Secondly, I positively reinforced his sit, and taught him to lay, stay, focus, heel, find it, roll over, play dead, recall all to engage his brain and make him mentally tired, so he not only learned obedience cues to do on command, but also wore him out so he was calmer inside the home. This was beneficial when we were to leave home, he was worn out from all of the positive learning!
Thirdly, I would give him toys like KONGs which could be stuffed with treats and he had to work on getting them out. This would keep his energy focused on his ‘job’ rather than being vigilant about what’s going outside and for him to not be focused on our departure.
Lastly, but there is no end to his training since training will be a life long commitment to him, I positively reinforce quiet behaviors in the home. I randomly treat him while he’s lying down, when he quietly looks out the window, when he patiently waits to go outside.
I’m proud to say with the hard work on both of our ends, he’s a calmer and more reliable dog.