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10 Things Owners Need to Know About Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers are perfect dogs that seamlessly fit into any household…right? Not exactly. I mean – there’s a reason why they’re infamously nicknamed the “Jack Russell Terrorist” or the “Jack Russell Terrorizer.”

It’s always better to be prepared as much as possible for these dogs. So before you bring one home, you will need to know these 10 things about the JRT that no one tells you.

RECOMMENDED: 10 Most Interesting JRT Facts

1. The Jack Russell Terrier is too active to be a lap dog.

Sure, coming in at 15 lbs and 12 inches tall, the Jack Russell Terrier may be small enough to fit into your lap. But by no means are they lap dogs. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. If you’re looking for a true lap dog, these breeds are the best.

Like with most terriers, the JRT has an insane amount of energy, and they need to stay active if you want to raise a happy and content dog. These dogs need at least 1 to 2 hours of high-quality exercise each day. So don’t expect them to lounge around on your lap all day…or even at all.

One JRT owner says,

“If he’s on the couch, he’s by no means a lap dog and has his cushion he sits on. He’ll come if he wants to be petted, though it’s 50/50.”

If you’re not up for the task, or you’re too busy to keep up with these dogs, then the JRT probably isn’t for you. But what’s the worst that can happen if they don’t get enough physical activity? Well, most likely they’ll show you some destructive behaviors, which leads me to my next point.

2. The Jack Russell will dig for “fun.”

Most Jack Russell Terriers will have a strong instinct to dig, especially if they’re left out in the backyard for long periods of time. And if you don’t give them an outlet for releasing their pent-up energy, they’ll take it out on your yard. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Digging is such an odd behavior, especially if they’re not hiding bones or treats. But not for these dogs.

You see, the Jack Russell was originally bred for hunting. To be specific, they were bred to hunt badgers, foxes, rabbits and other animals. Notice anything these animals have in common? They’re all known for creating underground dens, burrows and shelters, to hide from potential predators.

So when JRTs hunt, they’re often required to dig in order to chase after the prey. The bad news for owners is that this “habit” is now ingrained in their DNA. They’ll dig holes and they probably won’t even know why.

3. They’re some of the best “escape artists.”

Make no mistake…the Jack Russell is an intelligent, highly energetic, and naturally curious dog. But when you combine these 3 traits together, you’ll discover a highly talented and successful escape artist. And that’s exactly what the JRT is. 

Here’s what one owner had to say,

From my experience, they can be little escape artists. Given the chance, they’ll run off to explore, and are more than happy to get chased around because they can outrun you.”

Another owner chimed in, saying:

I would add that my JRT really likes to escape and isn’t good off leash. I let her run around my yard, but she’s never off the leash otherwise. It’s to the point where when someone leaves the house, you have to look to see if she is by your feet, ready to escape.

These dogs have a strong instinct to investigate interesting odors, sights or sounds. And when your Jack Russell has his mind set on escaping, he’ll be relentless about it. So if you want to own a JRT, make sure your enclosure is fully secured.

Plus, giving them sufficient mental exercises and physical activities may actually calm down their urge to escape. All the more reason to get them plenty of run and play time.

4. Don’t let your JRT jump around too much.

Now I don’t mean the typical jumping that your dog does when playing with other dogs. Instead, limit the up-and-down jumping from couches or beds that many JRTs love to do. And trust me, they will.

A Jack Russell will take every opportunity to show off their insane vertical leap. And while it may seem impressive, this may actually cause your dog a lot of pain down the road.

You see, Jack Russells are prone to developing hip dysplasia – a condition where constant stress and wear to the hips causes a misalignment. The fact that these dogs have short legs but long bodies doesn’t help either. 

But it’s really the vertical jumping that speeds up the development of hip dysplasia in the breed. Instead, I’d suggest getting your Jack Russell a dog ramp. And if you can, start training them to use it early. There is no guarantee they’ll adjust to using one later on in life (because they’re stubborn).

5. Jack Russells are notoriously stubborn and independent.

You can’t describe a Jack Russell without the saying, “terrier tenacity.” They’re persistent yet determined dogs that’ll do everything in their power to get what they want.

It’s why they’re great escape artists and extra difficult when it comes to obedience training. And this type of determination….well, it often manifests as stubbornness.

One owner on Reddit said:

“Cute and stubborn. I didn’t realize it before I got one, but that’s pretty much the JRT distilled to its pure essence. Wouldn’t have it any other way, love my little goober.”

So if you really want to own a Jack Russell Terrier, you’ll need to be patient and consistent when it comes to training.

6. The JRT isn’t ideal for small kids.

Most Jack Russells love to bark. And if you’re a parent, you probably already know that loud noises and small kids don’t mix well, especially with infants and toddlers.

Because Jack Russells are naturally alert dogs, they’ll bark to let their family know if anyone or anything comes too close to their home.

They may even bark due to boredom and restlessness, which is a habitual behavior that’s fairly common in highly active and energetic dogs. But most importantly, they’ll bark because they were bred to do so.

On the hunting field, JRTs use barking as a way to communicate to their owners when they’ve detected a small prey nearby.

So whether they’re communicating to you that there’s a cat in the backyard, or that they’re hungry and want a treat right now – expect a lot of barking from this dog. But here’s another reason why they bark…

7. Some Jack Russells will be territorial.

It’s fairly unusual for such a small dog to have territorial instincts. However, this is the case with the Jack Russell Terrier. Anything from a stranger coming into their home, or a squirrel running through their backyard, can potentially set your JRT off.

They may vigorously bark, growl, get into a defensive position, and sometimes even bite if this happens. One Reddit user said,

“My JRT bit everyone on our street. It’s our fault for not training him. They’re territorial. So as everyone has mentioned, he needs to be trained by a professional.”

Another user followed up, saying:

“Yeah, territorial and over-protective. He’ll constantly watch who approaches me, and what their next moves are.”

Dealing with a territorial dog requires a combination of obedience training, socializing, and management techniques. It’s crucial that any new owner takes this seriously, otherwise these instincts could lead to aggression in the future.

8. Resource guarding is fairly common in Jack Russells.

Territorial behavior and resource guarding are somewhat related, but not exactly the same. Resource guarding is when your dog protects his resources, such as food, toys, treats or other valuable items. 

If a person or dog gets too close to their resource, they may show aggressive behaviors. Some dogs may growl, snarl, snap, or even lunge at them. 

One JRT owner explains how he deals with this, saying:

“A JRT resource guards because they’re a stubborn little atomic bomb in the shape of a dog. That you will never fully get rid of. What I did was, if I noticed my boy guarding, I’d just give him his space and not taunt him. If, on the other hand, he brought me a toy and then started resource guarding, I’d take the toy away and give it back to him months later. Action and consequence.”

Dealing with this type of behavior in your JRT requires patience, but more importantly, a consistent approach. Resource guarding is a natural instinct in the JRT, but can be improved with training.

Hand feeding them to build trust, respecting their personal space, and teaching them the “leave it” command can all help. And the earlier you start with your Jack Russell, the quicker you’ll be able to suppress these instincts. 

9. Your Jack Russell will still have his hunting instincts.

Like I mentioned, these dogs were originally bred to hunt small prey. And even though they’ve been domesticated in a home, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of their hunting instincts from the past.

Because of this, not only will they dig holes, but they’ll also likely view other small animals as potential prey. If you have another small dog or cat in the home, it’s possible they’ll chase them around as if they’re playing a sport. 

However, there’s a relatively easy fix to this. They’ll need to be socialized with other animals very early on. In fact, the best time frame to socialize your Jack Russell is between 8 to 14 weeks old. 

During this time, they’re more curious about the world and seem to form the most positive associations. By letting them meet as many dogs, cats and people during this time, it’ll be that much easier to subdue their instincts. 

10. The JRT will shed more than you think.

Just because they’re small, doesn’t mean they won’t shed a lot. Thanks to the double coats of the Jack Russell Terrier, they’ll shed moderately year-round and require consistent grooming to keep their coats in check. 

And if you have a lot of dark furniture in your home, expect their white fur to be fully visible just about everywhere. However, that’s not even the worst part.

During the spring and fall seasons, a Jack Russell will blow its coat, leading to heavy shedding for a few weeks to a few months during the year. 

When the season transitions from hot to cold, JRTs will shed their lighter coat that’s meant for warm climate, in preparation for growing out their heavier winter coats. So if grooming isn’t your thing, maybe skip the Jack Russell Terrier.

If you own a Jack Russell Terrier, let me know if I missed anything. What’s something about the JRT that all owners should know. Leave a comment below!

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