show your support

Jack Russell Terriers

How To Select, Raise & Train Your Jack Russell Terrier

If you're looking for a quiet dog to relax with, or to take for a gentle afternoon stroll, the Jack Russell Terrier may not be the dog for you.

These happy, active little dogs are a working breed, and have very high energy levels. They need plenty of exercise to burn up that energy and to prevent them from becoming bored. We all know that a bored dog can make quite a mess of your home and garden!

Jack Russell Terriers are primarily hunting dogs. Normal hunting behaviors such as digging, barking, and a degree of aggression can cause problems for their owners, and may lead to them being re-homed.

Jack Russell Terriers are definitely not a breed for everyone. Jump straight down to Jack Russell training information.

Jack Russell Puppies

History of the Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier was developed by a gentleman named John "Jack" Russell in England in the 1800's. Mr Russell was a fox hunter, and needed a dog to go to ground and chase the fox out of its den. He specifically bred dogs for the characteristics that would be most useful during the hunt - a compact build, stamina, courage and a degree of aggression.

Over the years, Jack Russell Terriers have been carefully bred to retain the ability to work. Whether or not a dog looked exactly like a breed standard was not as important to breeders as a dog's working ability. Because of this, there can be variation in the size and appearance of Jack Russell Terriers.

This has caused some controversy amongst breeders in the United States. Some Jack Russell Terrier fanciers were keen to have the breed recognized by the American Kennel Council, and be able to enter their dogs in conformation shows. Other breeders were against this. Their concern was that breeding to a specific standard for appearance has led to health problems in other breeds. They didn't want this to happen to the Jack Russell Terrier, in case it affected their working ability.

The solution was found in April 2003. The breeders who wanted to show their dogs changed the name of the breed to Parson Russell Terrier, so you will now not find the Jack Russell Terrier listed in an AKC conformation show schedule. Those who weren't so concerned with breed standards and wanted to breed to maintain working ability kept the name Jack Russell Terrier. Unlike other breed registries, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America doesn't automatically register entire litters from registered parents. Instead, they only allow registration of individual dogs if they meet their standards. In this way, they hope to control any genetic faults in the breed, and keep the Jack Russell Terrier as a healthy working breed of dog.

Jack Russell Size & Appearance

The Jack Russell Terrier is a bright alert little dog, standing just 10 to 15 inches tall at the withers. His body is lean and muscular, and he weighs in at around 16lbs.

His chest is narrow and flexible, to allow him to get into holes in the ground, and his hindquarters are strong. His tail is docked to a length of 4 inches, which allows enough of a hand hold for his handler to pull him out of a foxhole.

Jack Russell Terriers are predominantly white, and can have tan, black or brown patches. Whether you choose a smooth or a rough coat depends on your own preference. The smooth coat is very low maintenance, only needing a regular brush to remove loose hair. Rough coats have harsh wiry guard hairs, and a brush often isn't enough to remove them when they're dead. This means you'll need to strip the hairs out by hand once or twice a year. This isn't difficult, and any dog groomer or terrier breeder can show you how to do it. Alternatively, you can pay the groomer to do it for you.

There is an intermediate coat type called a broken coat, which has some rough hairs on the head and body. It needs the same attention as a rough coat, but on a much lesser scale.

Jack Russell Temperament & Characteristics

The temperament of the Jack Russell Terrier should be the most important characteristic that influences whether or not you choose this breed for your family. He is a very loving and affectionate dog, and likes nothing more than to play games with his owner. He is loyal and devoted to his family, and is a good little watchdog. He loves being with people, and he can be a great companion for older children.

However, there are some features of the breed that you really must take into consideration:

These dogs are very confident, and like most terriers, they can be quite independent and stubborn. This means that from a very young age, you need to be firm with your dog, and train him to accept his place in your household. Give him an inch and he will take a mile!


Jack Russell Terriers can be quite aggressive to other dogs. They think they're bigger than they actually are and will challenge a much larger dog to an argument. Because of this, think carefully before adding this breed to a household with a resident dog. You can help to avoid this dog to dog aggression if you carefully socialize your Jack Russell Terrier when he's young (thorough socialization is essential for all Jack Russells).

They can be very protective of things they think are theirs. Whether it's their owner, their ball or their slipper, they may become aggressive if they think their property is being threatened. Again, early socialization and training will help prevent this.

These dogs need more than just a walk once or twice a week. They need lots of exercise, and space to be able to run. With their intelligence and need to burn off excess energy, Jack Russell Terriers are very well suited to dog sports such as flyball and dog agility. If they don't get the exercise they need, you can expect them to be quite destructive around the home.

Jack Russell Terriers have a tendency to wander, and need a secure fence to keep them in. They can climb fences, and can easily jump 5 feet high. As they love to dig, they may also find an escape route under your fence. For his own safety, make sure there is no way he can get out of your yard.


Jack Russell Health Care & concerns

There are several hereditary health problems in Jack Russell Terriers. By getting your dog from a reputable Jack Russell breeder, you can reduce the risk of buying a dog that has any of these conditions.

Jack Russell Terriers can have a hereditary brain disorder called cerebellar ataxia. Affected pups usually show signs from 2 to 9 months of age - they start to walk abnormally, and develop a stagger. Some pups are so badly affected they can't walk at all, and some dogs also develop seizures. This condition is incurable, and often worsens with time. Make sure your Jack Russell Terrier pup comes from parents who don't have cerebellar ataxia.

They can also have hereditary cataracts which may need surgery to remove them. Another hereditary eye problem is lens luxation, which can lead to glaucoma and blindness.

You may have seen a dog running along, then suddenly carry his hind leg for a few paces, then put it down again and carry on as if nothing had happened. This often happens with patella luxation. The patella, or kneecap, rides in a groove in the thigh bone, and it may pop in and out of the groove and cause lameness. This can cause arthritis in the knee joint and may need surgery to correct it. Again, this is a hereditary problem in the Jack Russell Terrier.

Jack Russell Terriers can also have congenital deafness, and many breeders are having their dogs' hearing tested, as well has having eye examinations before breeding them.

Other than these hereditary problems, Jack Russell Terriers can have the same health issues as any other breed. In particular, they may develop skin allergies, and are prone to becoming overweight. It's also important to take care of their teeth by feeding them occasional raw meaty bones. A healthy, nutritious and well balanced dog food diet will help to prevent many common health problems in your JRT.

You can expect your Jack Russell Terrier to live for up to 15 lively years.

Jack Russell Training

Training A Jack Russell Terrier

As already mentioned, Jack Russell Terriers are very intelligent, and because of their strong will, they need to be trained in order to fit into your family and lifestyle. They learn quickly, and with their outgoing nature, are ideal dogs for show business. You may have seen Eddie, the Jack Russell Terrier from the television show "Frasier" - he is a perfect example of how extroverted and trainable these little dogs are.

These dogs respond very well to positive training methods, such as clicker training. They're not a breed that you can force to obey. In fact, their prey drive is so ingrained that even well trained dogs may be tempted to chase something that looks interesting.

Because these dogs tend to be aggressive and dominant, it's important that you get on top of any behavior problems as soon as you notice them. Don't wait to see if things settle down - they won't. If you don't work out why your dog is biting you, and take steps to stop it, he'll continue to bite you, and it will get worse. You may need to find a trainer or veterinarian who specializes in behavioral problems, but it will be well worth it.

It's very handy to train your Jack Russell Terrier to use a crate. Having his own "den" will make him feel secure, and give him a safe place to escape from any unwanted attention. It also makes it easy to take him on holiday - you can pack up his crate, and you know he won't damage anything in your accommodation.

Socializing and training your Jack Russell Terrier is not negotiable, it simply must be done. It's up to you whether you get along to a good dog training school or choose to train your dog at home.

Summing Up The JRT

The Jack Russell Terrier is a wonderful breed of dog - for the right family.

They are not a dog for apartment living, or for people who are out at work all day. They will get bored, and they will destroy your house. Boredom can also lead to behavioral problems such as separation anxiety and barking.

They are also not a dog for a household with young children, because they're quite boisterous, and can be aggressive.

Many breeders also feel that because of their assertiveness and stubbornness, the Jack Russell Terrier isn't a breed for an inexperienced dog owner.

However, if you have a moderately sized fenced yard, you're an active person, you know how to handle dogs, and you have time to train and exercise a dog, they are ideal. You'll enjoy the company of a smart, loyal and outgoing companion who loves to spend time with you.

Check out this article regarding how to choose your ideal dog breed.

Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.