The Old Trainer: Jack Russell thinks he’s the top dog

D ear Old Trainer: I rescued Stormy, a Jack Russell terrier, a few months ago when he was 14 months old. You sent me instructions on teaching him to sit and stay, and that really worked, but lately he just ignores me when he feels like it. He barks at me or runs at me, and bumps into me and then takes off again. He is a loving dog most of the time, but when he acts up I can’t control him. What should I do?

– DeeAnn


Dear DeeAnn: You have to deal with two problems. First, all Jack Russells are rambunctious and hard to train. Second, all young males challenge their human for leadership of the pack.

Both are easy to resolve because you only have to do one thing – understand canine psychology and put it to work for you. Stormy is compelled by canine psychology to accept orders from you if he views you as pack leader, but he is happy to be the leader himself if he thinks he can get away with it.

So the first thing to learn is how to be leader of the pack. The best way to learn that is to watch “Wolves At Our Door,” a documentary available on YouTube at

The film shows life in a wolf pack and how Kamatz, the leader, runs the pack. Watch it and see if you think Stormy would disobey one of his orders.

Stormy, like all dogs, has a simple view of life – if he can run the pack, he will. Most training problems arise because people don’t grasp this fact. Humans think if they love their dog, he will behave, but that is not the way a dog thinks. Love and rank in the pack are two different things to him. A dog who loves you with all his heart will ignore your orders if you do not show him you are the leader.

You have to show Stormy you run the pack. Stand erect and be resolute in giving your orders. If you are determined, he will sense it. If not, he will know it.

Stormy knows “sit,” so start there. Put a leash on him and have a rolled up newspaper in your hand. Give him the command and force him to sit. If he hesitates, whack your leg with the paper, making as much noise as you can, then touch him with the paper and give the order again. Be relentless. Let him know he has no choice but to obey.

Order him to sit before he goes in or out of the house, gets in or out of the car, eats or any other activity. No matter what he does, he must sit first. He can proceed only when you – the leader – allow him to. This conditions him to the fact you are now running the pack.

The minute he acts up say “no” in a firm voice. Order him to sit, whack your leg with the paper, touch him with the paper and give him a lecture.

Anytime you are unsure about how to be a leader, go back and watch how Kamatz the wolf does it.