Toilet Training Your Jack Russell Terrier [5 tips for success]

Learning how to toilet train your Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most important things you can do for a long, happy life together. It takes time, patience and consistency to toilet train a Jack Russell Terrier, but it is a great opportunity to bond with your pooch.

To ensure toilet training is as effective as possible, it is important to use reward-based positive reinforcement to ensure the process is pleasant and fun for you and your terrier.

When to start toilet training your Jack Russell Terrier?

Toilet training should start as soon you bring your Jack Russell Terrier puppy home. This will make it easier in the long run as your terrier will know what you expect from them.

Puppies who are toilet trained between the ages of 8 and 17 weeks pick up the concept fairly easily due to their natural programming. When puppies are born their mother will lick up their urine and feces in the den. Because there is never a scent of urine or faeces in the ‘den’ environment, as the pups grow older, they will copy their mother by going to toilet away from the den.

It is important to note that an orphaned puppy may take a little more time to toilet train as they grew up without this guidance from their mother and litter mates.

While it is best to toilet train your terrier when they are a puppy, you can still teach an adult dog to do their business outside, but just like an orphaned pup, it may take a little longer. So be patient! Also be aware a senior terrier (over the age of seven) may not be able to hold their bladder or bowels for as long as a younger dog.

How long does toilet training take?

Each Jack Russell Terrier is different, so when it comes to any kind of training, they will learn at their own pace.

Typically, it takes 4 – 6 months for a puppy to be fully toilet trained, however, there are several factors that may also influence how long it takes. These include:


Consistency is the key and how consistent are you at teaching your Jack Russell Terrier to do their business outside is usually reflected in how quickly they will pick up the concept.

Regularly training your terrier helps them to understand that there are certain times and places for toileting. This helps them to develop the ability to “hold it” and understand that they need to eliminate outside.

Your terrier’s prior experiences

This mostly applies to older adult Jack Russell Terriers or adopted rescue terriers. Their prior experiences can influence the success of toilet training. For instance, a terrier who was shamed or punished for doing their business inside may have learned a different lesson: not to get caught! Therefore, instead of letting you know they need to go outside, they might be sneaky and to do their business somewhere inside where they think you won’t find it.

Furthermore, terriers were raised in outdoor kennels may never have received housetraining so they will most likely need patience and repetition to learn what you expect from them.

How to toilet train your Jack Russell Terrier

Toilet training a Jack Russell Terrier takes time and patience! Consistency is key to ensuring this is a relatively simple and smooth process.

Here are some tips for how to successfully toilet train your Jack Russell Terrier.

#1 Establish a designated toilet spot

Teaching your Jack Russell Terrier to do their business in the one spot has many benefits. It is not hygienic to have children playing in the same yard where your terrier regularly urinates and defecates. Children often put their hands in their mouths or rub their eyes and unfortunately, can become ill if there are some remnants dog faeces on their hands. Furthermore, the acid in your terrier’s urine can discolour and burn your beautiful lawn and there is nothing worse than searching for poop to pick up in a large yard.

Where you establish this area is important. No one wants to be grilling or eating near where your terrier has just relieved himself. While the area shouldn’t be right next to the house, it should still be convenient for your terrier to use and you to clean.

Ensure there is enough room for your terrier to circle around when deciding where to poop. This area should be easy to clean, have good drainage and not be hard on your dog’s feet. If you want you can section this area off, but it is not necessary.

Make sure while toilet training your terrier that you take them to this spot when its toilet time, so that they relate this place to doing the toilet.

#2 Take your Jack Russell Terrier outside first thing in the morning

Take your Jack Russell outside first thing in the morning – try and beat their morning pee. Put them on a lead to avoid distraction and use a cue word like “Go Pee” to encourage them to do their business.  

Ensure you keep your voice monotone and your demeaner low key as you don’t give your terrier the idea this is play time – this is toilet time. 

When your terrier goes to the toilet make sure you use positive reinforcement with praise and treats. When you show your terrier that you are happy with their behavior they will be more likely to repeat it. Make sure you don’t leave your terrier outside by themselves to do their business during this step otherwise you may miss the chance to praise them.

To establish that this is toilet time be consistent with this morning routine, and make sure it’s at the same time and at the same place each morning. 

#3 Take your Jack Russell Terrier outside every hour

How long can a Jack Russell Terrier hold it? The Humane Society advises it is one hour for every month of age. For instance, a four-month-old puppy should be able to go four hours.

However, since puppies have low bladder control and un-toilet-trained adult terriers can be unpredictable, it is best to take them out every hour. Follow the information above – same place, same treatment. 

It is important to remember that small breed dogs, like the Jack Russell Terrier, have smaller bladders and digestive tracts than large breeds. This means they can’t hold their bodily functions as well as larger breed dogs and will need more regular trips outside.

#4 Watch for signs

Watch your Jack Russell Terrier, they have a lot of behaviours and signs which can tell you that they need to go outside.

Common signs are sniffing (trying to find the right spot), heading to a place in the house they have gone before, walking in circles, suddenly stopping doing something, or starting to squat. In addition, Jack Russell Terriers usually need to go to the toilet after eating, drinking a lot of water or after a sleep.

When you notice any of these it is important to take your terrier outside to the designated toilet area immediately.

#5 Confine your Jack Russell Terrier while inside

It’s almost impossible to watch your Jack Russell Terrier every minute of the day whilst they are inside. Using a crate or pen is another way to toilet train.

Once trained to use the crate or pen, a Jack Russell Terrier with view them as their ‘den’. Confining your terrier is an effective method of toilet training because terriers are naturally programmed from puppies not to eliminate in their dens. However, it is important to remember that leaving your terrier for long periods of time without being let outside may mean he has no choice but to eliminate in his den.

Confinement can be as easy as blocking off your laundry or other designated area of the house – baby gates are a great way to block off specific areas. Alternatively, you can humanely use a crate. It is important that the crate is large enough so that your terrier can stretch and turn around.

It is important when using confinement to toilet train that you stick to a schedule and are consistent. Good rule of thumb is to ensure you take your terrier outside every two hours to the designated toilet area. Reward them when they do their business outside.

It is important to remember that even though crates and pens are very effective training tools, it’s inhuman to confine your terrier in them all day. They should only ever be used for training and for short periods of time.

Do potty pads work?

Potty pads are large, absorbent pads designed to signal to your Jack Russell Terrier to “do your business here.” They can be put on the floor where you want your terrier to eliminate or in your terrier’s pen.

There are different opinions about potty pads. Personally, I believe that while they might seem like a convenient solution, they’ll only end up sabotaging your toilet-training efforts. Here’s why:

  • They teach your terrier to eliminate in your house.
  • They can confuse your terrier by telling them that it’s ok to eliminate in the house at the same time you’re trying to teach them not to
  • They’re not sanitary and are expensive
  • Puppies like to chew and shred most things in sight, including potty pads! So quite often they will destroy them without ever actually peeing on them.

Dealing with accidents

Regardless of how consistent you are with toilet training; accidents are bound to happen.

Getting those smells out of your flooring can be challenging, but not impossible. Commercial odour-removing products are widely available, however, if you are looking for a more natural alternative, here are two different, all-natural, non-toxic recipes.

Vinegar and baking soda solution

Combine two cups white vinegar, two cups warm water and four tablespoons of baking soda in a jar. Apply to the area using a spray bottle or spot with a damp cloth.

Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution

Combine one cup of baking soda, half a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide, and one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid (NOT dishwasher soap). This, too, can be applied with a spray bottle or a cloth.

Effectively cleaning up accidents from areas where you don’t want your terrier to do their business will go a long way toward teaching your terrier where they should do it.

Note: Always make sure to spot-test any solution to ensure it’s safe for your carpet or flooring.

Avoid punishing your Jack Russell Terrier for accidents!

Punishment and shame don’t work when toilet training a Jack Russell Terrier. If you shout or hit your terrier for urinating or defecating inside, they will only fear you and fear toilet training.

They will associate peeing in front of you with having negative consequence and it may simply teach them to do their business in secret – and often in places where you can’t get to it easily.

The best thing to do is simply clean up the mess and continue being consistent with your training.

Remember to always be patient and kind. Toilet training requires time and commitment and although at times it may seem like an uphill battle, ultimately your terrier just wants to please you. You just have to show them how.

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