The Jack Russell terrier is a small, feisty breed popular as pets and working companions. The breed’s intelligence and high prey drive makes them excellent hunters. Jack Russell terriers can be taught to hunt a variety of small game including squirrel, helping to keep your property free of pests.
English Rev. John Russell originally bred the Jack Russell terrier in the mid-1800s. The reverend was an enthusiastic fox hunter and developed the Jack Russell terrier, a compact hunting dog capable of following small game underground. Jack Russell terrier owners discovered the breed not only liked to chase game on the ground, but eagerly ran after squirrels as well.
Training a Jack Russell terrier to hunt squirrels satisfies the breed’s natural instinct to chase game, as well as removing squirrels from your property. Jack Russells are a high-drive breed, and can become destructive if not given a job to channel that energy. Squirrels raid bird and pet feeders and carry pests that can infest your home. Training your Jack Russell terrier to hunt satisfies both his urge to hunt and the need to remove squirrels from your property.
Begin squirrel training in puppyhood. Young Jack Russell terriers are impressionable and retain skills learned as young as 8 weeks of age. Offer your Jack Russell a squirrel pelt, encouraging it to chase the pelt and bark when it picks up the squirrel scent. Drag the pelt on the ground to lay a scent trail and hide the pelt in a tree, telling the puppy to get the squirrel. Once the puppy locates the pelt on its own during every training session, turn the puppy loose in your yard to hone its skills on live squirrels.
Jack Russell terrier owners offer organized hunting trials to display their dogs’ skills. These events, held in areas with high squirrel populations, often draw in dozens of squirrel-hunting enthusiasts. The dogs are fitted with tracking collars and released to locate squirrels. They are judged on the number of squirrels they locate and how quickly they find them, with prizes awarded to the most accurate dogs.
Most Jack Russell terriers have the hunting instincts necessary to chase squirrel, but some have higher drive than others. Train dogs with low drive slowly and praise often during training to build the urge to hunt squirrels. Hunting dogs should always be up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent contracting illnesses from squirrels while in the field.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.