Because of the breed’s innate mental intelligence, physical stamina and unbridled enthusiasm, Jack Russell agility is well-known in the dog community. In fact, impressive natural agility can be expected from Jack Russells as these dogs are working terriers requiring this specific physical characteristic to perform its job, which was traditionally to flush out foxes during hunts.
Still, it cannot be overemphasized that Jack Russells must be trained in order to achieve the level of agility for which the breed is known for. Most Jack Russell terriers undergo formal agility and obedience training before being able to competently compete in agility trials.
As the name implies, agility trials are competitions where Jack Russells and other types of terriers prove their agility in terms of speed, accuracy and other criteria set by an association. The dogs must traverse a maze of obstacles filled with tires, tunnels, A-frames, dog walks, see-saws, poles and other hurdles with their masters calling the directions. Each run through the maze is a measurement of the hours poured into attaining the level of Jack Russell agility exhibited during the trials.
These competitions are very popular for many reasons. The fast pace through the challenging obstacle course, the teamwork demonstrated by human and dog as well as the contagious enthusiasm of the terriers all combine to make the sport as popular today as it was many years ago.
Also, Jack Russell agility trials are distinguished by on-lead agility, which is not present in other agility competitions. It is designed so as to introduce both human and dog to the sport particularly the competitors who have had little to no opportunity to practice on the appropriate agility equipment. Competitors can choose to enter either the novice or the advanced levels, the scores of which are partly based on leash pulls and tight leads made by the owner.
Agility Training Tips
Before even considering competing in a Jack Russell agility competition, we strongly suggest training the dog for at least a few months. In this way, there is a greater chance of success, which will boost the confidence of man and animal in subsequent competitions. Keep in mind that these agility events are very competitive because of the degree of difficulty involved from the training to the actual contest.
Here then, are a few tips that can help a new owner train the Jack Russell for agility competitions:
- Flat buckle collars, not choke and slip collars, are suitable for agility training.
- Keep the training sessions as short as practicable under the circumstances. Despite the breed’s hyperactive nature, too long training sessions can quickly bore them. It also helps to end each training session on a high note of success so as to encourage the dog to continue tomorrow.
- Play and training is a great combination for both man and dog. It will not seem like work for the terrier at all and, thus, provide more motivation.
- Consistent commands for each part of the obstacle must be used.
Most important, you should never ever push for the completion of the Jack Russell agility course. If your dog wants to stop, then stop instead of pulling on the leash. This way, the development of aggressive behaviour can be avoided especially as Jack Russells will not tolerate any abusive behaviour and, thus, will fight back.
We also strongly suggest training the Jack Russell on a local agility centre. It will then be possible to practice on updated equipment with the added benefit of other dogs and people gathered. Take note that the terrier must be able to perform well even when there are distractions around.
Agility Training Commands
When starting on the Jack Russell agility training, the most basic commands to master for both man and animal are the following:
- Sit – To sit down
- Stay – To stay on the spot until released from the command
- Wait – To wait beside the owner and to adopt a relaxed posture
- Close or Heel – To remain by the alpha dog’s side
- This way – To follow the master in changing directions
- Steady – To slow down on the pace
Without obedience of these commands, Jack Russell agility training cannot successfully proceed. Advanced commands like “Over” and “Though” build on these basic commands.
The great thing about agility in Jack Russells is in its threefold purpose. It provides for physical exercise, offers opportunities for socialization and builds on the mental intelligence of the dog.