How to Socialize a Jack Russell Puppy

Socialize a jack russell puppy
Image via Flickr: Michael Button

Socializing a Jack Russell puppy isn’t much different than socializing most other breeds. Puppies are like sponges, eagerly soaking up as many new experiences as they can! Once you have an idea of basic principles to follow, dog socialization isn’t that complicated at all.

Why Socialize a Jack Russell Puppy?

Socializing a Jack Russell puppy is as important as socializing any dog, and possibly some of the absolute best training they will ever receive!

Safe with Children – It is extremely important you socialize your Jack Russell puppy with children! Often, children want to cuddle with this adorable dog and tend to ignore visual signals the dog wants to be left alone. If a dog has never encountered children before and doesn’t know how to handle herself, there is a chance that the child could be bitten.

Lower Anxiety & Stress – Well socialized dogs are able to freely play with other dogs and people. They aren’t constantly on guard, watching out for some perceived threat. They are often able to get better exercise, and not constantly anxious.

Easier to Catch – Jack Russell Terriers are highly energetic dogs, bred to chase small game. Unfortunately, this means they can be prone to bolt out that door you left open. If your dog does run off, you’ll have a better chance of finding her again if she is willing to approach other people.


Jack Russell Social Skills Timeline

Let’s take a look at the timeline for socialising Jack Russell puppies, focusing on the early weeks and months.

3-7 Weeks

These first few weeks of a puppy’s life are absolutely critical to his social development! In fact, this early period will either build solid foundations for the rest of his life or ensure psychological harm if introduced to poor experiences.

Your Jack Russell puppy has begun to experience the joy of playing with littermates! Because her nervous system is still developing, she needs this interaction for healthy psychological growth. These first months will shape the effectiveness of any future Jack Russell socialization training.

Bite Inhibition: Your Jack Russell puppy is first learning how to control his bite pressure during these early weeks. Play is very motivating for puppies, and they never want it to stop. When one puppy happens to bite down a little too hard on another, the victim yelps and jerks away; play stops.

– See ‘Bite Inhibition’ (Soft Mouth) Training below.

N.B – Never separate a puppy from her litter and mother prior to 7-8 weeks!


7-12 Weeks

This is where you come in, and your own training can begin. Your puppies’ mental capacity has grown, and now you can bring him home. Just like a sponge, he’ll soak up as many new experiences and encounters as he can!

Your Jack Russell puppy now has gained the ability to form mental connections between himself and other animals or humans. As long as you ensure the experiences are positive and fun, she will relate that enjoyment to whatever situation she’s in.


12-18 Weeks

Your puppy has begun developing some caution around strange experience. If you haven’t begun socializing him by this time, training might be a little bit more difficult. In other words, you’ve missed the ideal ‘sweet spot’ window.

You can still socialize your Jack Russell puppy, but it might take longer. Your Jack Russell won’t automatically approach something with enjoyment he was wary of before (for example, the irritable cat).


Desensitize through Counter-Conditioning

This principle suggests pairing something your dog is nervous around with something he loves, like treats, praise, or toys. Through careful, gradual counter-conditioning, you can teach your dog to enjoy being around that same cat (for example) because it means tasty rewards!

Desensitize = Made less sensitive to something, or more comfortable around something

Conditioning = Training a dog to behave or react a certain way more often or repeatedly


Build Confidence with Positive Interactions

Do your best to promote a very happy, fun environment. Always use a cheerful, enthusiastic voice, and reward your puppy with tasty treats, toys, or even more praise! The more she happily encounters other people, objects, and animals, the more confident she will be.

Reward-Based Positive Reinforcement

In dog training terms, positive reinforcement simply means you are adding something to reinforce your dog’s behaviors or encourage them to happen again. Positive means addition in this case.

Positive= Addition

Reinforcement= Encourage behaviors to happen again

The exact definition of reinforcement is ‘strengthen or reinforce’. Unlike ‘positive’ (in dog training terms), reinforcement is exactly what it sounds like! This is the bread and butter of dog training or teaching in general. Imagine a student learning to spell words, reinforcing the correct spelling each time it is repeated in his head.


Be Optimistic!

Both optimism and enthusiasm are vital to a smooth socialization process for any puppy. You want to always ensure your Jack Russell puppy is enjoying himself, eager to encounter new things!

Make your socialization into a game, or just encourage play with plenty of enthusiastic praise. Reward your Jack Russell puppy with the same praise, toys, and treats she loves in order to ensure the process is as enjoyable as possible!


Socialize a Jack Russell Puppy with Other Animals

You can begin socializing your Jack Russell puppy as soon as you bring him home, at 7-8 weeks old! This is actually ideal because he will welcome new encounters and experiences with other animals. Not only will your puppy realize other dogs are fun but become accustomed to meeting other people!

As long as you provide constant supervision around other animals, you can begin introducing your puppy to the family pets. Remember to always be enthusiastic and cheerful! Do your best to make this experience as pleasant as possible.

You want to make sure your puppy doesn’t experience anything negative or frightening during this time. For example, meeting the family cat would be fantastic, but be extremely careful if that cat might react poorly to the new animal in his environment.


Obedience Classes

Most obedience classes teach you how to teach your dog basic obedience skills, but that isn’t their true value. Immersing your puppy among other young puppies and other people is great socialization! The socialization experience your puppy will get in most obedience classes is well worth the cost.

Obedience training absolutely should focus on reward-based positive reinforcement dog training. You never want to use any punishment driven techniques on your puppy, for fear of frightening her. Your Jack Rusell puppy will enjoy the food rewards she’s given during training, and associate that fun with the other animals around her!


Introduce Your Puppy to New People

You should start carefully socializing your Jack Russell puppy with other people, family members, visitors, and even strangers. Small children provide great interactions too, but be sure they aren’t too rough with your pup and make sure to always supervise this carefully..

Ask them to join in the games you play! You can even ask strangers you pass to offer your puppy a treat you hand them.


Bite Inhibition (soft mouth) Training

Begin a game of ‘tug’ with your rope toy. This hits on her natural hunting instincts, and she will love it! You’ll have a hard time meeting a puppy who doesn’t enjoy ‘tug’.

If and when she clamps down on your hand, quickly snatch your hand back. Act injured with a ‘yelp’, even if she barely touched your skin at all. Immediately stop playing the game, and walk away.

This imitates the puppy play-biting behavior mentioned earlier perfectly. Your puppy didn’t mean to harm you and absolutely doesn’t want the game to stop! It won’t take long for your Jack Russell puppy to learn that the game stops whenever she touches your skin with her mouth. Since she doesn’t want the fun to stop, she will soon learn to avoid your skin.

Conclusion: Socializing a Jack Russell Puppy

Not only is socializing your pet great training, but it is also fun and offers several health benefits for both pet and owner! Socializing a dog even offers a wonderful chance to bond with your pet. After all of these wonderful reasons, why wouldn’t you socialize a Jack Russell Terrier?