Life with a Jack Russell Terrier by Aleksandar Mishkov Published 09-27-2023.
No other dog combines determination, intensity, loyalty, and extremely high energy levels like the Jack Russell Terrier.
This smart, loving, athletic breed is a perfect addition to many households. But if you want to determine whether this pup is the right option for you, let me help you understand what living with a Jack Russell Terrier is like.
Always check the breed's history when looking for a dog. This will help you understand the temperament of your future pet, and what he was bred for.
The story of the small Jack Russell begins with Reverend John Jack Russell. He was a reverend living in the 19th century in Devonshire, England. An avid fox hunter and a terrier enthusiast, he wanted a small, fearless, and tenacious dog to assist him on his hunting trips.
So, he began selectively breeding terriers that had those personality traits. His idea was to get a terrier who could keep up with the foxhounds during hunting trips, but also dare to go underground and chase foxes out of their burrows.
Reverend Jack focused on the working abilities of the dog, not the aesthetics. At the time, other terrier breeds were used for fox hunting, like the fox terrier.
Following his death in 1883, many other terrier enthusiasts continued his mission. They focused on standardizing the breed’s characteristics and appearance. Yet, to this day, there are variations in size, coat type, and color.
In the United States, the American Kennel Club recognizes the breed as the Parson Russell Terrier. In Europe, the United Kennel Club differentiates between Jack Russell and Parson Russell.
Mainly, it is the size, with the Jack being the smaller dog, and more muscular, while the Parson is a taller dog with longer legs, and slightly leaner.
Jacks have gained immense popularity in the past several years thanks to their appearance in Hollywood. Milo, my dog's name as well, was a star in the movie The Mask with Jim Carrey. We also must mention Eddie, portrayed by Moose, in the television show Frasier.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of owning a Jack Russell Terrier.
You will hardly find a dog that enjoys life more than a Jack Russell. This pooch is always ready to explore, have fun, and play. And he has the energy for such a lifestyle.
I can tell you as much. Often, when we return from our daily walk and exercise, Milo continues to initiate play at home. When people are playing with him, he can go all day long.
When people speak of high-maintenance dogs, they sometimes talk about grooming. But physical exercise needs should also be part of the conversation.
If you want to own a Jack Russell, be ready to spend at least an hour and a half on daily walks, exercise, and mental stimulation. Do not worry, your Jack will let you know when he is bored. He/she will often bring you toys and try to initiate play.
For people who love the outdoor life, few pets can compete with the Jack Russell. I take Milo on hiking trips lasting 3 to 5 hours, and he has no problem. I often joke that if he is 100% free, he will go to the mountain top, back down, and then go up and meet us halfway.
JRTs also love swimming, running, jogging, and other activities that allow them to explore the world. Being outside in the woods is like being in heaven for them.
Here is a funny story. A year and a half ago, we went hiking with a group of friends. Everything was amazing until we got into a section with high grass and bushes. The bushes were taller than Milo. So, he had no chance of walking and going through the bushes and grass.
The simple solution? We put him in a backpack and carried him for a while. Once we were on a clear road again, he continued his shenanigans of running around and sniffing everything he could.
Any Jack Russell owner will tell you, that a JRT will always come back. That will make your recall training easy and smooth. There are times when Milo stays behind because he sniffs something. Or run around and chase a scent.
But he will always come back. Now, it might take time. But he will come back when he needs to.
A JRT’s love for exploring might be too much to handle for some panicking owners. These dogs are unpredictable off the leash. Even a well-mannered Jack, one who has been trained to be obedient, can be tempted into chasing something.
You just cannot get around it. That doesn’t mean your Jack will not come back. But it will be under his own terms, once he is satisfied with the scent he was chasing.
When a Jack wants to be around you and show his love and affection, nothing can stop him. Milo has hopped in our bed, on our picnic blanket, in our hammock, and more. When he wants to cuddle and be next to you, nothing stops him. That is the terrier's determination.
The good news is Jacks are not as heavy. So even when they hop in your lap, you can “survive” for a while.
On the flip side, if your Jack doesn’t want to cuddle, or be petted, you cannot do anything. These dogs have an independent nature. That is one of the main reasons why many terrier fans love them. You just cannot force a contact here. This is not your Golden Retriever that allows everyone to pet him at any time.
Jacks cuddle when they want to cuddle. They allow you to pet them when they want to be petted.
For one, Jacks are not cold in the winter. Yet, more importantly, they despise clothes. You will have a hard time putting on a sweater or anything more on a Jack.
Milo wears bowties, but they are sewed into his collar.
You can say Jacks are quite financially efficient. You do not need sweaters, jackets, or similar clothes you often buy for small dogs that cannot handle the weather.
If a Jack fixates on something, good luck taking his mind of off it. The good news is you can use that to your advantage in training. Milo gets fixated on balls, and he doesn’t care about anything else in the environment when he plays.
Why I am putting it as a con? Well, because if they get sniff a toy you are trying to hide at home, they will not stop until they find it or you give it to them. Or when they fixate on a cat/squirrel outside. It will take plenty of training and using redirections to get his mind off it.
You probably will not find Jacks on the list of smartest dogs in the world. But there is a reason for that. That ranking has obedience and willingness to please as the two main factors. Jacks are stubborn. They are not working dog breeds that will do anything you ask.
But their intelligence goes beyond the standard obedience. They will surprise you at every step of the journey. Here is an example.
Milo knows exactly where I am going based on what type of clothes I am putting on. For example, if I put on some jeans, he knows I am going out, and very often, that means he is not coming. So he goes into his spot immediately.
And when he sees I am putting on some “walking” clothes, he runs to the door, sits patiently, and waits to go outside. When I start packing my hiking backpack, he goes nuts.
Having an intelligent dog is a double-edged sword. If you do not get on his level, a Jack Russell will try to outsmart you and outmaneuver you. This cunning dog tries to use every opportunity to be on top of things. His loyalty is one thing, but his willingness to be the one who is right is another.
Jacks love children, even though they might not make it into any “best family dog breeds” list. But there is a certain family and children that Jacks love.
That is the active family. He loves children who love to play with him. Jacks are not much into children who love grabbing, petting, and touching dogs all the time. Toddlers who are taught how to play with dogs will work great with a Jack. You can burn your dog’s and your children’s energy at the same time. Let them play together.
For Jacks, it is all about dominance and showing their alpha personality. They cannot ignore this trait even when they are obedient and well-mannered.
Here is an example of how Milo tries to have the last word.
He sees it is bedtime when we get ready to sleep at night. And he is already in his bed. We have already collected all the toys and put them in the basket. Yet, he goes to the toy basket, brings a toy to the living room, and then goes to his bed again.
Jacks are tenacious, they do not back down and will protect you when they sense danger. I have seen situations where Milo doesn’t back down from dogs weighing 100 pounds and more. I truly believe that if it comes to that, and we meet some wild animals, he will not back down.
There is no quitting with this dog breed. The word “quit” is not in his dictionary. He will fight until his last dying breath. And you can use that determination for playing games like tug or throw him the ball. You can throw the ball 100 times, he will still go as determined to get it.
Jacks bark. I cannot sit here and tell you they do not when I have lived with one for more than 6 years. These dogs love to express their opinion about different things. Often, that comes in the form of barking.
Milo barks when he is scared of thunderstorms (probably the only thing that scares him) when he protects the home from intruders (like when someone rings the bell) and in many more situations.
When I talk about suitability with people who meet me and want a Jack Russell, I always talk about two things. Are you ready to put the time and effort into providing enough physical exercise for your new pet? Jacks can live in an apartment, but too little exercise, companionship, and mental stimulation will not suffice.
These are not dogs you can leave alone in the house for the whole day while you are gone. They want to be part of every activity. And if they are bored, they might turn to destructive behaviors. Now, Milo is well-trained to be left alone for longer periods. I’ve worked on crate training since he was little.
These active dogs cannot live with a family that has a solitary or sedentary lifestyle. They require vigorous daily play sessions, including ball chasing, and plenty of mental stimulation.
Often, a problem with a Jack Russell is he was left alone and he tore down the house. Do not get one if you plan to leave him alone for long periods from Day 1.
Aleksandar Mishkov is a 36-year old dog enthusiast. He has been living with dogs his entire life, and nowadays, he shares his life with a 6 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Milo.
Visit Aleksander at his website The Daily Tail where he shares helpful tips on how to train and make sure your dog behaves properly.