Behavioral Issues

Jack Russell terriers are first & foremost hunting dogs. They happen to be small and cute, but the average Jack needs as much exercise as a young German Shorthaired Pointer or a Lab. Most Jacks unfortunately never get even close to the level of activity which they need to stay ‘sane’ & calm on a daily basis. This does not have to be only physical activity – mental activity can be just as tiring for a dog. And a tired Jack is a good Jack.

Jacks are also power hungry bossy dogs. With some exceptions, Jack Russell terriers need to understand (and be reminded often) of who is in charge – and it is not them. Your Jack needs to learn & remember that you pay the mortgage, that the bed belongs to you, and that when you say something you mean it. Think of your Jack as a particularly gifted & manipulative toddler and you will get the picture.

Jacks like to kill things. Jake (above) is killing a leg. Jacks were bred to find prey, go into a hole or den, and then bark, bite and hold an animal fighting for its life.

DOs and DON’Ts

* DO sign up for a basic obedience class. Even a well behaved dog will benefit.

* DO remember that Jacks door dash ! A cheap water spray bottle set on ‘JET‘ will solve this with most dogs. Ask the dog to SIT and WAIT about four feet away from the door. If the dog does not WAIT, direct a strong jet in the dog’s face and repeat the command. Timing is vital here ! Most dogs learn this very quickly. A water spray bottle can also be kept in the car. If you have kids, make sure they understand how important it is that they (and their friends) keep doors closed.

* DO keep an eye on small children around Jacks. Even the nicest terrier will not tolerate being poked, pinched or prodded. Running, screaming, fighting children will over-excite most dogs of ANY breed, and nipping or worse will result. Either control the children or put the dog in his crate or in a safe room when you have unruly visitors.

* DO feed a good quality dog food. Many Jacks are allergic to corn. Read the fine print on the dog food bag! Canned food ruins dogs’ teeth. Do not feed canned food unless your vet recommends it. Fresh veggies, cooked rice, and real meat are all better choices.

Prey Drive

Jack Russell terriers all have prey drive imprinted in their DNA.There seem to be 3 types of prey drive: motion-activated,sound-activated and scent-driven. Your Jack is going to have all of these to one extent or another, although some dogs are more scent-driven than motion-activated, and some are highly sound-driven, etc etc. But all 3 of these prey triggers are present in your Jack. Thus, your Jack is going to do some, or all of these things:

  • Chase birds, bicycles, skateboards, cars, motorcycles, cats, and running humans. Attack hoses, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, leaf blowers, chain saws, and/or anything held up out of reach in someone’s arms.
  • Dig holes, climb fences, and kill or attempt to kill cats, chickens, and sometimes other dogs.

Almost all of these are fix-able issues (cats & chickens aside). It is vital to expose your terrier to as much as possible as often as possible (super socialization) and not duck away from all these common prey triggers. Use a Halti or a front-fastening no-pull harness when walking your Jack if you feel you cannot control his reactions to passersby or other dogs. Practice positive reinforcement – ask the dog to SIT and LOOK AT ME and reward with a great treat (cheese, hot dog slice) every time he looks away from the yummy dog, skateboarder, cyclist etc and focuses on you instead. Build strong parameters & reward positive behavior only.