How To Teach Your Jack Russell Terrier To Sit & Stay

Jack Russell Terriers are intelligent dogs that are more than capable of learning a sit and stay. Of course, their intelligence also means you may have to negotiate with them to get them do what you want done – versus just doing what they feel like. When it comes to a sit and stay, it’s worth the effort as it can save your dog’s life – for example preventing him from bolting out the front door. It also helps teach self-control, which can then make behaviors like “leave it” easier to teach. The following is a great way to teach stay that makes it easier on your Jack Russell and results in a solid behavior.

Image Source: Les Chatfield Via Flickr

Duration & Distance

To make stay training easier for your Jack Russell Terrier you are going to break it up into the following three parts – Duration, Distance, and Distractions. First, you are going to work on just Duration and then just Distance. Finally, you will add Distractions once a solid stay has been taught.

At this point, do not use the cue Stay. You don’t want to use your cue until your Jack Russell knows what you want.

Start by building up duration – how long your Jack Russell Terrier can sit in one position. Do this in small increments by asking your dog to sit, counting to 1 second, and then rewarding. Then count to two seconds and reward. At this point, release your dog by saying your release cue (common ones are Okay, Free, Break, Release, but you can use anything) and tossing a treat for your dog to get. Then you can start over, gradually building up duration.

Ideally, your Jack Russell Terrier will never break his stay using this method. If he does, just put him back in a sit, count a second or two depending on where you are in your training and then reward.

In the beginning, do short training sessions in a quiet room with little to no distractions.

Next is distance. Do the same thing with distance by taking steps away from your Jack Russell (instead of counting) and returning to reward. Again, no cue for stay. Don’t forget to use your release cue every time you end the stay.

Adding the Cue

Once you can count to around 10-15 seconds and take at least 5 steps away from your Jack Russell without him getting up, you can start adding the cue. To do this, say Stay (or whatever cue you wish) while your dog is in the middle of an exercise, then return and reward.
Don’t forget to use your release cue every time you end the stay.


Once the cue has been added, it’s time to start adding in distractions that your Jack Russell Terrier will have to ignore while continuing to stay. The younger your Jack Russell is, the more slowly you will probably have to add distractions. What is a hard distraction for one dog may be easy for another, so think about what gets your dog excited. Anything that excites your Jack Russell will make him want to break his stay. Start with something he doesn’t find that interesting. Maybe another family member walking by, the TV on, or a toy (not being thrown, just holding it). Basically, anything that is a bit of a distraction, but not your dog’s favorite thing, as that will be too hard.

Image Source: Les Chatfield Via Flickr

Build up slowly to:

  • Tossing a toy.
  • Tossing a treat.
  • Kids – walking, laughing, running etc.
  • Other dogs – walking by, doing stays next to them, etc.
  • Other animals – cats, squirrels, etc.
  • People – greeting, walking by, etc.
  • New places – pet stores, parks, etc. Long lines are great for practicing stays in public places.
  • Cars – this can be hard for dogs that like to chase, for some dogs it’s no big deal.

If your dog breaks his stay 3 times in a row when you add a new distraction, he is not ready for that one. Remove it and try something that’s in-between his last successful distraction and the one he failed. So, for example let’s say your Jack Russell was fine with you holding a ball but when you threw it, he failed. Next time you might try dropping or placing it on the ground, rolling it slowly, or tossing it gently so it goes a foot or two. The goal is to make your Jack Russell Terrier successful every time. Follow these simple steps, and you will have a rock-solid stay.

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