Think of the relentless and fast-paced ticking of a stopwatch. That’s what the Jack Russell Terrier is like—a body that never stops moving and a mind that never stops thinking. They’re always on the go, looking for things to do and critters to hunt. Until their energy reserves are exhausted—and that can take a good long while—they’re not done for the day. Jacks love adventure, so you’d better get a new pair of hiking boots and make sure your running shoes are in good order. And you may need a backup pair of both. With the Jack Russell Terrier, you’ll be constantly on the go, but this little energetic pup makes all the activity worth it.
The Jack Russell Terrier is best for very active people who have the time to train this feisty pup. Jacks and cats do not get along, and if you live in an apartment, you might not get along with your neighbors, either—these pups can bark!
Jack Russell Terrier Traits
Jack Russell Terrier Temperament
For a small dog, the Jack Russell Terrier’s characteristics are most definitely larger than life. When you first encounter this breed’s exuberant bark and tenacious drive, you might actually do a double-take. Their personality thrives on stimulation, so pet parents need to work hard to satisfy this pup’s need for speed.
Jack Russells do well with kids and babies, as long as they are properly socialized and training is a priority. Mixing a Jack Russell with other dogs is usually successful if properly socialized and introduced, but the answer is a hard no when it comes to felines. The reason? This breed displays a well-known high prey drive, which means there’s a great tendency to give chase.
In addition to bounding after kitties, their qualities also extend into excavation. That’s right—a very strong desire to hunt often leads this breed to dig like there’s no tomorrow, literally tunneling underground to try and capture vermin (think mice, rats and weasels). So if you consider your rose bushes to be a prized possession, sharing the garden with a Jack Russell may give you pause.
Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fun-loving, charming family dog than the Jack Russell. The breed’s independent streak and innate determination come from their long history of fox hunting, though today’s Jacks have traded this tough physical job for the more plush life of a Hollywood star. Watch for Jack Russell cameos in both feature films and on the small screen.
How to Care for a Jack Russell Terrier
Fortunately, not a lot of time needs to be spent on a Jack Russell Terrier’s short fur. But the time you save on coat care will be spent on training and in the great outdoors, running, trotting and playing to meet your Jack’s energy levels.
Jack Russell Terrier Health
The Jack Russell Terrier dog has a lifespan of 13 to 15 years, and health issues you might encounter are similar to those found in many other breeds. In general, this small dog is rather hale and hearty. Still, it’s important to be aware of these health concerns, so you can help your pup live the healthiest life possible.
- Patellar Luxation: This health condition occurs when the knee cap “floats” in the joint and slips out of the normal groove that largely holds it in place. It may be caused by an abnormal curve in the hind limb or a shallower-than-normal femur bone. If your Jack develops this problem, you’ll notice they’ll skip or hold up the affected limb when walking. Treatment is usually medication, but in some dogs, surgery is needed to correct the malformation.
- Legg-Calves-Perthes Disease: A hip condition that can show up in one or both joints, this disease causes the head of the femur to deteriorate. While the cause is unknown, a Jack Russell Terrier may limp or indicate they’re having hip pain as a result. If it lingers, the disease could cause the joint to collapse. Pain medication is given in mild cases, and surgery is the go-to fix in more severe ones.
- Compulsive Behaviors: Barking, licking, chewing and tail-chasing! These are some of the compulsive activities you might witness in your Jack Russell Terrier. Jacks are very smart and need a lot of social interaction and structure. If this isn’t in place, boredom, anxiety and compulsions can be the result. The best way to address these behaviors is to stick to a regular exercise schedule and provide plenty of activity during the day (doggy daycare counts!), stimulating toys and food puzzles. If that doesn’t take care of the compulsive behavior, have your vet check for any underlying health issues. If your dog gets a clean bill of health, sometimes anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.
- Eye Problems: Among the vision problems seen in this breed is lens luxation, when the lens is displaced within the eyeball (surgery may be needed). It may also lead to glaucoma, secondarily, which is an increase in eye pressure that causes pain, redness and vision loss.
Jack Russell Terrier History
As you might imagine, the Jack Russell Terrier’s origin is closely connected to a man with nearly the same name: John Russell. (Jack is a nickname for John.) This British gentleman was both a reverend and a fox hunting enthusiast, and his goal in the mid-1800s was to breed an almost all-white dog so that it could be differentiated from the fox it was born to pursue.
The Jack was developed to venture everywhere a fox could, so their small chests and sturdy bodies served them well as they bored below ground. These working terriers also put their burrowing instincts to good use by stalking and digging out other small animals including groundhogs, raccoons and squirrels.
After World War II, the Jack Russell’s hunting skills were less needed, and the breed transitioned to become more of a family pet. Jack Russells have also made a name for themselves on the silver screen and in television, including prominent canine roles in the movie “The Artist” and the sitcom “Fraiser.”
The Jack Russell Terrier breed isn’t registered with the American Kennel Club, but two similar types are recognized—the Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier. But the Jack isn’t without stewardship or its champions. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) was formed in 1976 and is dedicated to advancing this working and hunting dog.
Thinking about making a Jack Russell your next furry companion? You can find reputable breeders through the JRTCA. The price for Jack Russell puppies generally ranges from about $900 to $1500. But for that price, you’re getting a pup who’s been screened for health issues. If you’re game to adopt an older dog, check out your local shelter or animal rescue organization for worthy Jack Russells who are looking for a forever home.
Are Jack Russell Terriers aggressive or dangerous?
Jack Russell Terriers can be aggressive with other dogs (or that mouse they’re trying to dig out of the flower bed). But with early socialization and proper training, these pups can be loving family members and welcome other canine guests into their home.
Are Jack Russell Terriers hypoallergenic?
No, Jack Russell Terriers are not hypoallergenic. They shed, though not as much as other breeds, and dander does cling to their fur, which means allergy sufferers may not breathe easy with this pup around.
What are the most common Jack Russell Terrier mixes?
- Jack Russell Terrier-Chihuahua mix (Jack Chi)
- Jack Russell Terrier-Beagle mix (Jackabee)
- Jack Russell Terrier-Yorkie mix (Jorkie or Yorkie Russell)
- Jack Russell Terrier-Dachshund mix (Jackshund)
- Jack Russell Terrier-Pitbull mix (Jack Pit)
- Jack Russell Terrier-Labrador mix (Jackador)
A Jack Russell Terrier is a delightful addition to families who are ready to run and play hard. Yes, this breed loves to bark—and then bark some more—but their adorable small size and sprightly gait outweighs the noise factor, making them a winning and lovable family pet.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Stephanie Liff, DVM, Pure Paws Veterinary Care, Russell Harstein, certified dog behavior consultant and trainer in Los Angeles and founder of Fun Paw Care, Terri Batzer, Jack Russell terrier breeder and administrative director of The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and Joan Crouse, Jack Russell terrier breeder.
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