Is The Jack Russell Terrier The Dog For You?


Jaunty. Flamboyant. Tenacious. These are words that may come to mind when you see a Jack Russell Terrier. And all are accurate. This breed of dog is known for its big personality in a tiny body – being made famous by several dogs on tv and in film, including Uggie, the dog star in the 2011 film “The Artist” and Moose and his son Enzo in the American sitcom “Fraiser.” And how could you not fall in love with Jesse, the YouTube star, who is known for doing household chores, including laundry and making tea? After experiencing their lively personality, it’s easy to see why anyone would want one. But the Jack Russell is not always an easy roommate. Before adding one to your family, consider whether the Jack Russell Terrier is the dog for you by looking over the following information.

Breed History

The Jack Russell Terrier is a relatively new breed, having been developed in the early 1800s in England by Reverend John Russell. A passionate fox hunter, Russell created a terrier that would be the ultimate fox hunting dog: small, flexible, and bold. Anywhere a fox can go, including underground, the Jack Russell Terrier can go too. Since the breed was developed for true work, the standard is broad, as are the genes and they are not bred for “type.” Rather, the emphasis, even today, is on how well a dog can work, not just winning in the confirmation ring. In fact, breed enthusiasts have shied away from the breed being recognized by kennel clubs, worrying the show ring would ruin the essence of the breed.

The Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia was formed in 1972 to promote the breed, with their own standards. Adult dogs should not be over 34cm (working height) and their weight should be approximately 1kg to every 5cm in height.


Considered a clown by many, the Jack Russell is really a two-sided dog. They definitely have a fun, playful side coupled with intelligence that lends itself to acting jobs and YouTube fandom. This can make them an engaging companion for someone looking for a dog “to do” things with.

On the other side, however, is the bold hunting dog that was bred to seek out animals, regardless of cost. The hunting instinct is strong in the modern Jack Russell Terrier! This side of their temperament makes them barkers, diggers and high energy housemates that need a job. Naturally assertive, they don’t always play well with other animals, including other dogs, or small children. Jack Russell Terriers do have the instinct to kill smaller animals like rats, birds and cats, in the home.

Energy Level

As you might have guessed, the Jack Russell is a high energy hunting breed that needs a good solid exercise routine daily. It’s not just about exerting physical energy either – they need a job to stimulate and work their brain. Bored Jack Russell Terriers can get into all sorts of trouble – like digging in your yard or “killing” your throw pillows with the terrier shake. For this reason, Jack Russells do best in active homes where they can participate in things like agility, nose work, or earthdog events.

Space Needed

Although they are a small dog, their high energy level means a Jack Russell Terrier is happiest in a home with a large yard and a very secure fence. Since their main instinct tells them to seek out animals, they are frequent escape artists if felt alone outside and have been known to travel miles in pursuit of prey. If you plan on having your Jack Russell in an apartment or condo with little or no yard, providing daily exercise in some way is a must. Also always having toys around for them to “shake” and “kill” can help save your own items, such as pillows and shoes.

Common Health Problems

The Jack Russell Terrier is a fairly healthy breed, thanks in large part to its working background and many of the clubs restricting line-breeding and in-breeding when the breed was forming. However, like all dog breeds, there are some things they are prone to. The main two are eye issues, including several genetic eye diseases, and deafness. Be sure any breeder you are buying from tests their lines for genetic diseases, including congenital cataracts, micropthalmia, and progressive retinal atrophy in the eyes, as well as Legg Perthes, a disease of the hip joints that causes rear-leg lameness. They are also prone to kneecap dislocation, so keeping your terrier in good shape is important to reduce the risk of these.


The Jack Russell Terrier is intelligent, making him a fun training partner. If you dream of stardom, this may be the breed to take you there IF you are dedicated and have patience. Like most terriers, they are easily distracted, so sometimes it can be hard to get them to stay focused: you have to be more interesting then the surrounding environment. Off leash work takes even more focus and work, as they have no problem bolting after an animal they see, hear, or smell.

If you have small animals and children at home, special training needs to happen with your young Jack Russell to ensure peaceful co-habitation. Just remember, no amount of training can remove hunting instinct. You can teach your dog to suppress it (doing a mat-stay instead of chasing the bird in the yard), you can show him appropriate ways to redirect it (chewing on his bone instead of the cat), but it’s never gone.

Feeding Recommendation

We recommend you feed your Jack Russell Terrier puppy Stay Loyal’s Salmon, Turkey & Pork All life stage puppy portions until they are approximately 8 months old, and then switch to Adult portions and adjust according to weight/condition.

Review this information and decide if the Jack Russell Terrier is the dog for you. If you think it is, then research breeders – asking lots of questions about temperament (especially if you have children and other animals) and genetic health testing. Taking time to choose a well-bred dog will help you both have a long and happy life together.

Ann Jowett

Every word is the truth. My Max is dachshund X jack Russell, but his personality is predominantly Jack Russell. He is very high maintenance and misunderstood by my family which forced me to have to move out. So anyone thinking of getting a Jack Russell should be aware of what they are letting themselves in for, Ann Jowett

Louise Frank

Our Sharpei X Barnie was put down at 13. We were so devastated. We just had to find another similar type of Character. Bingo! We purchased our JRS at only 8 weeks. We are in our 70th and nearly gave up.... but we persevered and Milo will be 4 in May. We love him to no way to describe it.


My two spent ten years and five years on our hobby farm in Tasmania running and chasing and disappearing down wombat holes when they thought they’d get away with it. We then relocated to a retirement unit and they fitted in right away, loving the elderly neighbours who in turn loved them too. Sadly Josie’s back legs were getting bad then she developed a type of dementia that made her very fearful. She was 16. Little Tas sadly and unexpectedly left us just 6 weeks after being diagnosed with melanoma on his eye. He was 12 and the light of my life. We now have Bella the JRTx who is living her best life after s ruff start to life. I don’t know that I could live without at least a little bit of JRT in my life.

Marlene KellyCherie

I’ve just read your article on your Jack Russell x
We rescued our first JRX she’s now 13 then decided to rescue another he’s 11 They are amazing and living in comfort now. We’re also considering moving to a retirement village, but I was worried about how they would settle in a small area, so I’m relieved to hear your comment. They are very sociable and loves people so I’m thinking now they would settle well. Thanks for your comments couldn’t come at a better time.

CherieMarlene Kelly

Just saw this. I’m sure your little ones will settle in quickly. My two were much loved by all of our neighbours and I miss them so so much. Little Bella is a challenge now that one of our neighbours got a cat but I couldn’t imagine life without her. All the best to you.

CherieMarlene Kelly

Just saw this. I’m sure your little ones will fit in well. Little Bella is a challenge now that one of our neighbours got a cat but I couldn’t imagine life without her. All the best to you.

CherieMarlene Kelly

Just saw this. I’m sure your little ones will fit in well. Little Bella is a challenge now that one of our neighbours got a cat but I couldn’t imagine life without her. She’s happily snoring beside me right now. All the best to you.

Joanna van Raay

Thank you for your in-depth analysis of the Jack Russell breed, very informative! I am 80 years young and, when ready to stay more or less in one place, I would like to have a dog again. I probably will get one from an animal shelter, not a Jack Russell, but a more calm type and not a puppy. Thank you for your great articles. Joanna