7 Crucial Jack Russell Terrier Facts You Should Know

By Yordan Zhelyazkov | Updated on May 2, 2022

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Jack Russell Terriers are a very popular breed and many first-time owners are often excited about adopting or buying such a pet. And they are wonderful dogs, however, there are a few caveats many dog owners are not aware of. So, especially if this would be your first canine pet and someone has told you that Jack Russell Terriers are “very easy to look after, just get one, there’s nothing to worry about”, here are the 7 crucial Jack Russell Terrier facts you should know ahead of time.

Here’s what you need to know about the Jack Russell Terrier

First and foremost, you should note that this is a terrier breed, as the name suggests. Unlike many others of the other popular canine pet breeds people get today, terriers were bred as independent hunters. This means that, unlike gun dogs, retrievers, setters, pointers, and even many hounds, the terrier was bred to just jump in the field and then track, chase, and take down the prey (almost) all on its own.

This doesn’t make terriers bad family pets, however, it does mean that there are a few things you should be aware of if you’ve never had a dog before or if you’ve had a non-terrier breed. These include the terrier’s prey drive, their willful and stubborn nature, their high energy levels, and more.

1. The Jack Russell Terrier is a small but very hyperactive dog breed

A Jack Russell Terrier is expected to be just about 10 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder (25 to 38 cm) and somewhere between 13 and 17 pounds in weight (6 to 8 kg). Clearly, these dogs are quite athletic and this is reflected in how much energy their little bodies possess.

So, even though the Jack Russell Terrier categorically falls in the “Small dog breed” category, you can expect these dogs to be far more energetic than many Medium or even Large breeds. In other words – this ain’t no lap dog.

2. Jack Russell Terriers need lots of exercise outdoors but can live in apartments if they get it

What exactly does the Jack Russell Terrier’s “energetic” nature mean? It means that you should be ready for a good 90 minutes of outdoor time spent with your dog every day. This should ideally be divided into two separate trips to the dog park or around the neighborhood. The Jack Russell Terrier loves to explore, track, and jog around, and they need this for mental stimulation as much as for physical exercise. Just make sure that your pet is always leashed as the Jack Russell Terrier has a very strong prey drive and can run off chasing anything it sees.

Having a large yard can be a boon for a Jack Russell Terrier, however, there are two things to keep in mind, here:

  • Jack Russell Terriers are escape artists so your yard will need to be fenced very well. Their high prey drive combined with a love for digging and athletic bodies that are great for jumping, means that leaving a Jack Russell Terrier unsupervised in a poorly-fenced yard almost guarantees that you’ll lose your dog.
  • Having a yard and letting your Jack Russell Terrier play there, doesn’t negate the need for two long walks outside. Your dog will still need two long and exploratory jogs outside whether or not it has got to play in the yard. In that sense, the Jack Russell Terrier can be raised in an apartment too as it will be more than happy to play in a spacious living room instead of a yard.

3. These dogs have an easily recognizable coat that’s also pretty easy to groom and manage

The Jack Russell Terrier’s coat can come in either a smooth or broken variety but it’s always double-coated, it’s always coarse to the touch, and it’s always short or medium-length. The hair can be white, a white & black or white & tan bi-color, or a tri-color. It always has quite a bit of white, however, as that helped hunters trace their Jack Russell Terriers while the latter were running off after their prey.

As for grooming, that should be easy – brushing once or twice a week is usually enough to minimize these dogs’ shedding and keep their coats in good condition.

4. These dogs are affectionate but are also self-driven enough not to suffer from separation anxiety most of the time

A Jack Russell Terrier loves to snuggle and sleep on its human’s feet or lap once playtime is over and it’s time to recharge the batteries. Unlike many affectionate lap dog breeds, however,** the Jack Russell Terrier is still independent enough to entertain itself when you’re out for work** or you’re doing something else without your pooch.

This is great for people who want a fun pet and interactive pet but don’t want to have to deal with separation anxiety. So, if you live alone, work away from home, and/or your dog is going to have to spend time home alone, the Jack Russell Terrier is an excellent pet choice. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your home will be safe from mischief as the Jack Russell Terrier is going to find a way to entertain itself while you’re gone, one way or another.

5. The Jack Russell Terrier tends to bond with a single person but is still outgoing and friendly enough to get along with everyone

Like many other terrier and hound breeds, the Jack Russell Terrier tends to focus its love and attention on one person in the family. That’s a function of their breeding and training as hunting animals as they were asked to form bonds with their hunters.

This doesn’t mean that your Jack Russell Terrier will only love one person in the family and not get along with everyone else. If you raise your dog well, it will love everyone and will enjoy spending time with every family member. However, even then, the Jack Russell Terrier will still have a bit of extra love for one family member, usually the one that feeds and walks it.

6. Getting a Jack Russell Terrier to get along with other dogs, cats, or even small kids can be challenging

While social overall, Jack Russell Terriers often have issues getting along with other dogs because of their feisty and domineering nature. That’s true for most terrier breeds – they just weren’t bred to work in groups with other dogs.

This isn’t to say that your Jack Russell Terrier can’t get along with other dogs, it just means that it’d be more challenging. Excellent socialization is a must for anything of the sort as is great obedience training. What makes matters even more challenging is that the Jack Russell Terrier isn’t exactly an easy dog to train. That’s why we are often confounded when people recommend Jack Russell Terriers to first-time dog owners – these dogs are quite willful and self-driven which means that training them to obey takes time and effort.

As for getting along with cats and other non-canine pets – that’s even more difficult as such animals tend to trigger the Jack Russell Terrier’s prey drive. It’s not impossible, especially if the Jack Russell Terrier is the second animal and not the first, but it is difficult.

When it comes to kids, the only issue to keep in mind is that young children and babies usually don’t know how to act around and treat dogs. This, in turn, can often clash with the Jack Russell Terrier’s lack of patience and high energy. So, constant supervision is strongly recommended.

7. Jack Russell Terriers are healthy when bred properly but there are a few things to watch out for

Jack Russell Terriers are healthy dogs that can have very long lifespans but you’d do well to ask the dog’s breeder for a health certificate first. If you’re adopting, ask for detailed medical information at the very least. After that, it’s all a matter of good care, quality food, and plenty of exercise. Do that, and you should avoid some of the health issues that can happen to a Jack Russell Terrier such as:

As you can see, the Jack Russell Terrier is a fantastic family pet, provided that you train and socialize your dog well enough. This can be said to a certain extent for a lot of other dog breeds but it’s especially true for terrier breeds like the Jack Russell. So, if you are a first-time dog owner, you should do you due diligence and prepare accordingly. Both socialization and obedience training are best done in the earliest days and months of getting your dog so you should be ready to start right away.

Aside from that, you should also make sure that you can match the Jack Russell Terrier’s high energy levels and exercise needs. If you are a mostly indoorsy type person and you thought you’d be getting a small dog to just chill out in the living room with your, the Jack Russell Terrier isn’t that. These dogs need lots of time jogging, running, exploring, and playing outdoors. A yard isn’t strictly necessary but you should go outside with your dog for at least two long trips every day.