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How to Raise a Jack Russell Terrier (10 Critical Owner Mistakes)

Owning a Jack Russell can be one of the best joys of your life. Well, at least if you know what you’re doing. In fact, many owners often make critical mistakes that could potentially lead to an unhappy, aggressive, confused, or even unpredictable Jack Russell.

And before you bring one home, let’s just get this out of the way: raising a Jack Russell Terrier is not an easy task. That said, here are the 10 biggest mistakes you might be making with your JRT, according to real JRT owners.

1. Never assume your Jack Russell is trying to be dominant.

We’ve all heard the age-old advice on never letting your dog become dominant and assume the alpha. But let’s be clear about one thing. Assertiveness and dominance are two different things. One of the most confusing traits of the Jack Russell Terrier is their assertiveness.

Many owners, and even experienced dog trainers, think Jack Russells want to be the alpha of the pack, but that’s not quite right.  If you really understand these dogs, it’s more about being really sure of what they want.

Think of it this way. It’s like when you really, really want something but you won’t give up until you get it. However, in the world of dog behavior, “dominance” refers to being the leader of the family. Some dogs are naturally dominant and will attempt to act like the boss.

Now one of the worst things you can do is to assume your terrier is dominant and proceed by enforcing dominant-based training techniques. Treating an assertive dog as a dominant dog may damage the relationship between you and the dog. 

It can lead to mistrust and confusion, making it that much harder to establish a positive and cooperative relationship between the two. Instead, you’ll need to appreciate the unique traits of the assertive JRT and tailor training methods accordingly. 

2. Don’t let your Jack Russell be lazy (and have no job).

As you may already know, these dogs are highly energetic and active. So the worst thing you can be, is that lazy owner who lets their Jack Russell become couch potatoes. Instead, what you want to do is to give them a “job.”

After all, most Jack Russells of the past were bred to have a job in hunting. But okay, I know what you’re thinking. You don’t go hunting or anything like that, so what kind of jobs can you give your dog? Well, the modern-day jobs for domesticated dogs are more like a routine exercise or activity. 

For example, if your JRT loves to play catch, make it an effort for them to consistently play 20 minutes of catch every day. They’ll think of this as their job. And in time, your JRT will be the one reminding you that it’s time to play catch.

However, it’s worth noting that if you’re not careful, your Jack Russell can even view chasing squirrels as their “job.” Things can go south very quickly. So you’ll need to be extremely clear on what “activities” your dog should and shouldn’t be doing.

3. Don’t feed your Jack Russell food off the table.

It doesn’t matter how cute your Jack Russell is, don’t give in to those puppy eyes and feed them your table scraps. All it takes is one time, and your quiet, undisturbed meals at home are out the window.

They’ll whine, cry and beg you for the delicious food on the table. And if they realize they can get what they want from this type of behavior, they’ll continue to do it over and over again. After all, Jack Russell Terriers are highly intelligent dogs and they’ll make the connection fairly quick.

Sure, these dogs have high metabolism and may need a little more food than your average small dog. But giving them human food isn’t the way to go. Our food just doesn’t have the right balance of nutrients that a dog needs.

Human foods may be high in calories, fats, or sugars, which can lead to obesity, upset stomachs, and other health issues in your JRT.

4. Don’t allow your Jack Russell Terrier to jump up and down too much.

If you didn’t already know, Jack Russells have an insane vertical leap. According to owners, some can leap as high as five times its own height. That means a 12-inch tall JRT can easily jump 5 feet into the air!

And trust me, these dogs will take any opportunity to show off their incredible hops because they’re just crazy athletic, and they know it. If you could dunk the ball with ease, why wouldn’t you try to show off every time you’re on the court?

Now this may seem impressive when they’re young pups, but you’re potentially setting up your dog for some serious pain and uncomfort down the line. Typical dog jumping as they play with other dogs is perfectly fine.

But it’s really the constant jumping up and down couches or beds that’ll take a huge toll on your Jack’s hips and joints. They may even jump when they’re excited to see you, or if they’re trying to reach for something high up.

The important thing is to immediately stop this behavior. Hip dysplasia and arthritis can develop in your JRT if they continue to do this.

5. Don’t show inconsistent behavior with your Jack Russell.

Imagine this every-day scenario. You’re on a walk with your Jack Russell Terrier and you run into your dog’s neighborhood friend strolling by. Of course, you make the exception to let your dog sniff around and say hello to his friend.

They play for a minute, exchange licks, sniff each other’s butts, and finally say their goodbyes. Now the next day rolls around. But this time, you’re rushing home to catch that new episode of your favorite show.

So when you run into the same neighborhood dog, you drag them away so you can quickly finish your walk. This type of inconsistent behavior will cause confusion and stress in your Jack Russell. And they’ll hate that.

Nearly all dogs love a good routine and consistency. And the Jack Russell is no exception. If you feed them at roughly 10 AM every morning and walk them at 7 PM in the afternoon, it’s best that you try to stay on schedule.

And if you allow certain behaviors, remain consistent with what you do and don’t allow. There’s a reason why they’re called “creatures of habit.”

6. Don’t let them get too comfortable on your furniture.

Well, this is entirely up to you. However, I would always recommend not letting your Jack Russell get too comfortable with being on the furniture at will.

Not only will this protect the hips and joints of your dog, but it’ll also limit the visible fur on the couch or bed. And trust me, it’ll be very noticeable if you have dark furniture. 

Instead, I suggest you train your JRT to learn that you, and only you, determine when it’s okay for them to be on the bed, sofa, or even the dining table. And no, that last one’s not a joke.

These dogs will somehow make their way to the table, whether through their incredible leap or by using chairs as stairs. Can anyone relate?

7. Never give your JRT praise right after discipline.

When you tell your Jack Russell Terrier “no,” don’t immediately follow the discipline with love, affection or positive praises. And trust me, you’ll most likely be telling your Jack Russell “no” plenty of times.

Disciplining your Jack Russell may be the hardest thing to do, but the last thing you’ll want to do is to confuse your dog with mixed emotions. Do you want them to do this behavior or not?

Especially with how strong-willed and stubborn the JRT is, they need to know clear boundaries on certain behaviors. If you give them any mixed signals, they’ll most likely ignore it and continue the behavior the next time around. 

Any future commands or corrections will simply be treated as “suggestions” to your Jack Russell Terrier. So, learning the difference between praise and discipline is essential for your dog. Without it, a JRT may become one of the worst dogs to own for many people.

8. Never let your Jack Russell sleep outside.

With how much these dogs shed, I can understand why some owners may want to turn their companions into outdoor dogs. However, you really shouldn’t do this for multiple reasons. These dogs tend to thrive on relationships and are happiest when they’re with family.

Although they’re just a doorway away, letting them sleep outside can hurt your bond with the dog and ultimately lead to separation anxiety. But what may physically hurt your Jack Russell is the fact these dogs have short coats.

This means they’re not efficient at regulating their body temperature and will be susceptible to drastic temperature changes. When it’s too cold, your JRT will be shivering. Similarly, when it’s too hot, the dog will have a hard time adjusting.

Plus, Jack Russells are notorious escape artists. You may think your backyard is secure, but they’re small dogs that can easily fit through any cracks or holes in your enclosed yard. And depending on where you live, there can be many potential predators lurking around at night.

For example, if you live in a community with coyotes, they won’t play nice if they run into your 15 pound Jack Russell. This may be one of the scariest situation you can put your dog in.

9. Try your hardest not to spoil your Jack Russell Terrier.

With how adorable and charming these dogs are, it’s easy to spoil them with attention, treats, toys and lifestyle choices. But this could, in fact, lead to problems down the line. You see…Jack Russells are crazy intelligent dogs. 

If they know that something is possible for them to obtain, they’ll be super persistent until they get it. And because they’re master manipulators, they know how to push you to your limit to get what they want.

One JRT owner says,

“Never spoil your Jack. If you give them a treat when they whine, they’ll know that it works. And the next time, it’ll be even harder to get them to give up. You’ll need to set clear limits and boundaries with your dog.

But it’s not just with treats. It’s possible to spoil them with attention too. If they cry for your attention and you instantly give it to them, the next time around, they won’t stop until they have your attention. Even a lack of socialization and obedience training would count as spoiling them too.

Basic training and socialization is like the essential homework that all dogs need and deserve. But it’s especially important for a Jack Russell. However just like with kids, you need to be firm on what they can and cannot have.

10. Don’t get overly excited when you see your Jack Russell after a period of absence.

It’s easy to be filled with joy when you see your dog after a period of absence. When being reunited with you, your hyperactive Jack Russell may go crazy, run around, and jump even jump on you. However, this creates a problem.

By doing this, you’re reinforcing the idea that it’s a “good thing” when you come back, and a “bad thing” when you leave. Sounds fine, right? Not exactly. This tends to lead to major separation anxiety in your Jack Russell Terrier.

Because they understand that you leaving is “bad,” they’ll whine, bark and cry whenever you leave the house. What you want to do instead, is to ignore your Jack Russell when you first reunite. Wait for them to calm down a bit before going over to say hi and give them praises or kisses.

It may be the hardest thing ever to do, but it’ll be better for your terrier in the long run.

Do you own a Jack Russell Terrier? If so, do you have any critical tips for new owners that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below.

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