Jack Russell Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Parson Jack Russell Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
If any dog can top the high energy level of a Fox Terrier, it is a Jack Russell. If any dog can top the hard-as-nails working ability of a Border Terrier, it is a Jack Russell. And if any dog can top the strong prey drive, bold tenacity, determination, and intensity of a Jack Russell Terrier – well, that could only be another Jack Russell.
This bright, clever, athletic breed is on top of everything that's going on in his environment. Nothing gets by him.
A solitary or sedate lifestyle is not suited to a Jack Russell Terrier. He requires full participation in the family and vigorous daily play sessions, especially ball chasing, which he tends to be passionate about – even obsessive. Too little exercise, too little companionship, and too little mental stimulation will quickly lead to boredom, which will in turn lead to destructive behaviors. JRTs are not apartment dogs!
Most Jack Russell Terriers are happy-go-lucky and friendly with strangers, but in the presence of strange dogs, keep them close and under control. If the other dog minds its own manners, the Jack Russell will usually adhere to a "live and let live" philosphy, but some Jack Russells are so brash and fearless they will take on a Rottweiler if it looks cross-eyed at them.
Two Jack Russell Terriers (regardless of sex or age) should never be left alone together. All may appear to go well for a while – even a long while – but with this breed, a seemingly amiable relationship can suddenly flare into deadly combat over something as innocuous as possession of a chew toy. If you keep two Jack Russells, it is safest to separate them when you leave the house.
As you've probably guessed by now, small pets that run, squeak, or flutter probably won't last an hour.
The exploratory and hunting instincts of Jack Russell Terriers are legendary. These dogs will "go to ground" after anything that moves and they will stay in or by the hole for hours, even days. Obviously, JRTs are enthusiastic diggers and barkers.
The Jack Russell Terrier is highly intelligent and responds exceptionally well to obedience training (and especially "trick" training) that utilizes food. This breed can learn almost anything – very, very quickly. The hardest part of training a Jack Russell is convincing this cheerful but assertive guy that he actually has to DO what he has learned, when you say so, even when he's not in the mood. Fortunately, if you are offering the correct mix of exercise, mental stimulation, companionship, and confident leadership, the Jack Russell is usually willing to oblige.
If you want a dog who...
- Is conveniently-sized, natural-looking, and sturdy
- Is one of the most energetic, athletic, determined, and intense of all breeds
- Is extremely alert and makes a keen watchdog, yet is still sociable with strangers
- When handled properly, is the brightest and most trainable of all the terriers, loves learning tricks, and EXCELS in competitive activities such as agility and flyball
A Parson Jack Russell Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
- Providing plenty of exercise and interesting things to do
- Rowdiness and destructiveness when NOT given enough exercise or interesting things to do!
- Very strong chasing instincts
- Digging holes
- Constant shedding (lots of white hairs everywhere)
- Mouthiness -- chewing on things, carrying things around, mouthing your hands in play
- Potential aggression toward other animals
A Parson Jack Russell Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of Jack Russell Terriers
If I was considering a Jack Russell Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense. Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash -- they are too likely to "take off", oblivious to your frantic shouts, after anything that runs.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Jack Russell Terriers are incredibly active go-getters. They MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. These dogs are so intelligent and capable that I hate to see them chosen by owners who just want a dog to hang around the house and yard. Parson Jack Russell Terriers thrive when you find interesting things for them to do that challenge their minds, such as agility training (canine obstacle course), advanced obedience training, flyball, or "earthdog" training (where terriers dig and tunnel after small critters who are secured in a sturdy cage so they can't be harmed). See my book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words (below) for a dynamic training program that will keep your Jack Russell on his toes!
Jack Russells were never intended to be simply household pets. Their strong hunting and chasing instincts are inappropriate in a household setting. Trying to suppress these "hardwired" drives, without providing alternate outlets for their high energy level, results in a frustrated, bored Jack Russell -- and frustrated, bored Jack Russells can make a shambles of your house and yard.
- Animal aggression. Many Jack Russell Terriers are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs. Two Jack Russells should not be left alone together – one may kill the other over possession of a toy. Most Jack Russells also have incredibly strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures.
- Fence security. Many Jack Russell Terriers are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their small size. They can climb chain link. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks, as some of these dogs can open flimsy latches.
- Barking. Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. To make matters worse, some terriers have high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
- Mind of their own. Though much more amenable to training than other terriers, Jack Russells must be taught at an early age that they are not the rulers of the world. The toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when you try to teach them anything. Jack Russell Terriers can be stubborn and dominant (bossy) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
You must teach your Jack Russell to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No."
My book Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, gives you a unique vocabulary to use with your dog AND teaches my Respect Training Program. Your dog will look at you when you speak and do what you say. Not just when he's hungry for a treat or feels like it. But all the time. Because he respects you.
- Constant shedding. Jack Russell Terriers shed only once a year – for 365 days. The shorthaired coat sheds MORE than the broken/rough (wiry-type) coat. You'll find little white hairs all over your clothing, furniture, and carpeting. Make sure you're really prepared for this. Many Jack Russell Terriers are put up for adoption once their owner discovers just how much these dogs shed.
- Finding a healthy one and keeping him healthy. Jack Russell Terriers can suffer from eye diseases such as lens luxation and cataracts, joint diseases such as luxating patella and Legg-Calve-Perthes, heart disease, epilepsy, and more. To avoid these problems, you need to buy your Jack Russell from a person who can pass the "14 Family Companion Guidelines" in my book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams. If they're not following these guidelines, it's a big risk to buy a puppy from them.
Once you have your puppy home, you need to keep him healthy by following the 11-Step Health Care Program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
If you want your dog to live a long, healthy life and seldom need to visit the vet, this is the book for you. How to prepare healthy meals, getting only the right vaccinations (not the ones that are either useless or risky), preventing fleas, ticks, and heartworm safely, getting dangerous (to dogs) products out of your home, healing or improving current health issues, and much more. This is my best book, and bargain priced, too!
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