Monday, September 30, 2013

Interview with Heather and Just Jesse the Jack

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse does the laundry (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
This week SAT scored an interview with Heather Brook, companion to the dog known on the interwebs as Just Jesse the Jack. I first learned about Jesse when I spotted him on You Tube, which lead to a You Tube spiral - you know, the viewing vortex you can't pry yourself out of for at least an hour. Jesse can do just about ANYTHING, and Heather and Jesse make a fantastic team. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Heather Brook and I am blessed to share my life with my best friend; a multi-talented little Jack Russell Terrier named Jesse. I am a huge dog lover, but have a soft spot for Jack Russell Terriers; they are my favourite breed.

I am currently 24 years old and am a Studio Dog Trainer for dogs in print, commercial, and film work. I also make videos starring Jesse's life and many talents as well on his YouTube Channel, JustJesse197. Some of my hobbies include drawing (dogs are usually my main subject), agility, canine freestyle, disc dog, canine acting/modelling, and anything dog related. Jesse has been the inspiration to become who I am today.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse jumps (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
How did Jesse come into your life?

Jesse came into my life as a Birthday present for my 16th Birthday. I met Jesse the day he turned three weeks old; when his eyes and ears first opened. I have always loved dogs since I was little, and fell in love with the Jack Russell Terrier breed when I lived in England; five years before meeting Jesse.

The little dog that started it all was named Fraiser. I watched over him for 1 month before having to give him back. Ever since, I asked for a little Jack Russell of my very own. Five years passed, and I asked for a pup for my 16th Birthday. I knew that having your own dog is a huge responsibility, and was prepared for all of the wonderful challenges that came along with raising a puppy. I saved up all of my allowances to pay for all of his care; including his vet bills, food, and toys.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Heather and Jesse (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
When I met Jesse at three weeks old, it was love at first sight! I couldn't believe that in just five weeks I would be bringing him home. I visited him every week until the day I could finally bring him home at eight weeks old. From the day I brought him home we have been inseparable, and he has taught me so much in the years we have been together.

When did you realise Jesse would respond so well to training? What did you start with?

When Jesse was 9 weeks old, he taught himself how to sit up and beg like a meerkat. He would come up and sit in front of me for what seemed like eternity, and ask to be picked up or for a bite of what I was eating; he was so cute I couldn't resist.

We started working on the basic tricks (such as rollover, play dead, and shake), and he kept picking them up really quickly; all the while with a big happy smile across his face, and a spark in his eye. We then started working on more advanced tricks (such as walking through my legs, jumping into my arms, and walking backwards), and Jesse was always ready for a new challenge. The speed and intensity with how Jesse learned each trick always had me in awe. He is also very creative in his techniques; thinking up many of the tricks he knows, all by himself.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse performs a handstand. (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
You mention that you use positive reinforcement. Can you elaborate on your approach?

Jesse and I train using positive reinforcement and relationship-based training. With this method, the relationship and bond between dog and person is put first and foremost, and is the foundation of our training method. Jesse is rewarded for offering and performing behaviours with treats, toys, and praise. To teach new behaviours, we use shaping and a clicker to mark the exact moment Jesse is doing something right. Shaping is where approximations towards a desired goal are rewarded all the way up to the finished behaviour. With this type of training, Jesse is encouraged to be creative and express himself.

I focus on what I would like to teach Jesse; and give him positive feedback. We don't use corrections in training because they don't give Jesse any information on what I would like him to do. Instead, in the face an unwanted behaviour, an appropriate behaviour would be taught instead.

I like to make sure that Jesse is having fun in all that we do. Doing tricks is always Jesse's choice and we would stop, no questions asked, if he did decide one day he no longer wanted to do them.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse can also perform the usual tricks like retrieving balls (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).

Jesse’s talents are known worldwide. What kind of projects have you been involved in with Jessie and what have been some of the highlights?

Jesse and I have had the opportunity to be involved in print ads, commercial, television, film, live shows/performances, and parades. All of these experiences have been so much fun for us both, and we have shared many wonderful memories from our adventures together.
Jesse and I have been able to travel to various places to film several of the projects he has been involved in.

Some of our project highlights include travelling to Los Angeles to appear in the Disney movie "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2", North Carolina to appear in the TNT movie "Hornet's Nest", and have a professional film crew come to our house to film Jesse for "Mighty Dog Nation: The Movie".

We have also had the opportunity to be flown out to appear on National Television shows including the "Late Show with David Letterman" for the Stupid Pet Tricks segment twice (performing the suitcase trick and somersaults), "The Rachael Ray Show" (performing the jump rope trick), and "Good Morning America" to perform the walking hand stand. Jesse has also had his tricks featured on Japanese television multiple times, and we have even had a Korean film crew come to our house to film our story for SBS Korea TV. This was an awesome experience, and we have met some wonderful people along our journey.

Knowing many tricks and having a happy demeanor, Jesse has also appeared in lots of commercials. He has been in commercials for Circle K (2), WOW! Cable, VA Lottery, GAF Roofing (3), Disney, Purina, Mighty Dog, Fulton Homes (3), and SanMar. Jesse has also appeared on numerous news shows, and in newspapers and magazines around the world.

The best part of all of this is that I get to enjoy it all with my best friend, Jesse. The enhanced communication and bond that comes from spending time together is priceless.

How would you describe your relationship with Jesse?

My relationship with Jesse is one of a best friend, teacher, and guide. The secret to our success is that we have a wonderful relationship and bond. Jesse is a member of the family and we put our relationship first and foremost. When you have a wonderful relationship with your best friend the sky is the limit with where you can go. By being best friends first, and enjoying the time spent together through fun activities that we both enjoy, training just came naturally. We enjoy each other's company and I think that is the most important thing; to have a best friend you can take anywhere with you.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse unstacks the dishwasher (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
Jesse has taught me so many lessons in the years we have been together. He has changed my life so much for the better, and has made me a better person. He has taught me unconditional love and how to be a kinder person. I am much more empathetic and able to see things more from another's point of view thanks to Jesse.

Jesse has also encouraged me to learn as much as I possibly can about dogs, including health care, training, sports, and tricks; so that I can be the best guardian as I possibly can be for him.

What is it like living with a famous dog? Do you get constant phone calls? Do people stop you on your walks? Do you guys travel around the world first class???

Image courtesy Heather Brook
Jesse (Image courtesy of Heather Brook, (c) Sunshine Portraits).
I don't really consider Jesse a famous dog because I treat him as a family member, and he gets to enjoy life doing things dogs normally do; he just also gets to travel and film commercials, movies, and TV shows on top of being a normal dog. He doesn't let it go to his head, that's for sure =o).

We do get a lot of calls, e-mails, and messages about Jesse's talents and either wanting him for performances, TV shows, appearances, commercials, or films. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but I put Jesse's happiness and well-being first and foremost.

I have turned down jobs and offers because I didn't want to over work Jesse, or put him in a situation where I believed it wouldn't be comfortable or safe for him.

When we go to events, or to the local pet store, Jesse gets recognized a lot. He is most widely recognized for his Useful Dog Tricks videos, but we also get people who recognize him from a commercial he has done. Jesse receives a lot of wonderful e-mails from people all over the world. We've received e-mails and comments from people, about Jesse, from many different places including Japan, Canada, England, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, and all around the USA (to name a few). Many have had a Jack Russell of their own for many years, and have lost their best friend. They have written to us and told us how much happiness watching Jesse's videos has them when they are feeling sad, and that he has brought back many memories of life with their dogs. I also receive messages from people who say they love Jesse as if he was one of their own. I can't believe how many lives this little guy has touched by just being himself and enjoying each and every day to the fullest.

Have you ever taken Jesse to the vet? Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Jesse goes to the vet to make sure he is healthy and happy. I usually take him in more often than is necessary because I want to catch any illness he has before it gets advanced. If he is a little under the weather, I will take him in just to be on the safe side. Jesse does wonderful at the vet. He is a social butterfly, and will greet everyone at the vets with his ears back and a wiggly body. We have a regular vet we go to and everyone is always happy to see Jesse when he comes in for an appointment. He knows how to weigh himself on the scale, and will jump onto it and lay down to get a reading. Once in the room, he will sit on the table for an examination. Before we leave, we usually get asked by the staff to show off some of Jesse's tricks in the waiting room. Jesse and I make going to the vet a fun outing because when we are done, I always get him his own cup of cream at Starbucks for being such a good boy.

Image courtesy of Heather Brook
Jesse cleans the windows (Image courtesy of Heather Brook).
Have you got any advice for future or current veterinarians? 

My advice would be to listen to your dog and learn as much as you can about dog body language. I have been to a few different vets where a little more knowledge on canine body language could have changed the experience for the dog from a bad one to a positive one. I think the best way to make an experience at the vet's office easy and care free is if the dog's parent teaches the dog that handling exercises are fun, so that when they go in for a check-up, the dog won't stress out because they know what is expected from them.

Any favourite pet related websites?

I am a big fan of the website Clean Run ( They specialize in equipment for dogs who do agility. They have a wide variety of toys, treats, books, and sporting goods for dogs and humans.

Thank you Heather and Jesse. And if you haven't seen it already, here are some of Jesse's "Useful Dog Tricks". You can read more about Heather and Jesse, and see a lot more footage, at