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Jack Russell with harness sitting on the grass


Thinking of adopting an adorable and perky Jack Russell terrier but concerned about their reputation for being a little aggressive, and a lot mischievous?

Jack Russell terriers are a lively, intelligent, highly trainable breed. They’re always eager to learn new tricks — so much so that one might even call them the “Houdinis” of the canine world.

If you want to know all about the Jack Russell terrier, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll go into the history, temperament, and personality of this unique breed. Let’s dive right in!

Senior Jack Russell terrier lying down

The history of the Jack Russell terrier

The Jack Russell terrier was named after Reverand John “Jack” Russell, who created the breed in the nineteenth century for fox hunting in England. While it isn’t known which breeds he used, it’s presumed that Jack Russell terriers were bred by crossing bull terriers with beagles.

John Russell’s intention was to breed a dog that could hunt foxes both above and below ground. That’s why these terriers are so adept at digging — they were bred specifically to dig out foxes.

There’s some confusion about the Jack Russell’s name. Some (including the UK Kennel Club) consider the Parson Russell terrier and the Jack Russell terrier to be separate breeds (with the latter having slightly shorter legs than the former).

However, the American Kennel Club typically recognizes the Jack Russell terrier and the Parson Russell terrier as being one and the same.

Five fun facts about Jack Russell terriers

Fun fact #1: They’re avid jumpers

Jack Russell terriers love to jump, which is one reason they typically excel as agility dogs. Though this breed is typically only 12 inches high at the shoulder, they can jump at heights of over four feet.

Fun fact #2: Jack Russells are natural problem solvers

Jack Russell terriers are intelligent and inquisitive animals; as such, they can become bored easily. As a breed originally created to hunt, the Jack Russell likes being given jobs and puzzles to complete.

If your Jack Russell terrier is barking at you and you don’t know why, then perhaps it’s time to give them some mental stimulation with a game.

Fun fact #3: They love to dig

Jack Russell terriers often demonstrate their prowess at digging. So it might be a good idea to create a designated digging zone in your backyard — or, if you’d prefer, to train your dog to avoid the habit entirely.

Fun fact #4: One of them is a Guinness World Record holder

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes took his pet Jack Russell terrier, Bothie, on several expeditions. In fact, Bothie holds the Guinness Book of Pet Records for visiting both the North and South Poles with its master.

Fun fact #5: Jack Russells are Hollywood darlings

Because Jack Russell terriers are so trainable, they’ve starred in several film and television productions, including Frasier and Hotel for Dogs. In fact, this medium-sized breed needs firm and heavy exercise, just like larger breeds like a rottweiler.

The Jack Russell terrier temperament and personality

The difference between temperament and personality

Some people believe that a dog’s behavior is inherent in its in-breed temperament. Current evidence suggests, however, that temperament accounts for only about 9% of a dog’s behavior, and the rest is down to its personality.

You might be asking why it’s even necessary to understand a breed’s temperament if temperament has little bearing on a dog’s behavior. The answer is that temperament still provides a good starting point on which to determine behavior.

The Jack Russell terrier temperament

The Jack Russell terrier is typically tenacious, courageous, energetic, and friendly with people over age four (more on this below).

This breed enjoys being in the company of other Jack Russell terriers due to their hunting background in which they worked in “packs.”

Prospective Jack Russell terrier owners with children under age four should note, though, that large packs of Jack Russell terriers have been recorded as behaving unpredictably.

This is one possible reason why the American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t recommend that families with children under four own this breed.

The Jack Russell terrier personality

Most of a Jack Russell terrier’s personality depends on how the dog has been nurtured, trained, and socialized. If it’s been showered with love and introduced to children while it was a puppy, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be extremely friendly with anyone.

Jack russell terrier puppy

Jack Russell terrier FAQs

Are Jack Russell terriers aggressive?

Jack Russell terriers aren’t typically aggressive and, as stated above, are generally good with older children. They’re affectionate and typically very well-behaved around other dogs.

As with any dog breed, however, if a Jack Russell terrier has been poorly socialized, badly trained, or abused, their behavior will likely reflect that.

Are Jack Russell terriers good family dogs?

Jack Russell terriers are typically excellent family pets. They love going on family walks and playing fetch and other games with their owners.

They’re an intelligent, sprightly breed that is keen to please and learn new tricks. Because of their inquisitive nature, they enjoy being given tasks where they have to figure things out.

Jack Russell terriers are typically extremely good with children, although their compatibility with babies and toddlers has been a topic of discussion, as mentioned earlier. This breed has seemingly endless energy, so, like any active breed, an excited Jack Russell terrier might intimidate a young child.

It’s also important to note that if you have cats, you’ll have to train your Jack Russell terrier to cohabitate with them peacefully since this breed typically has a strong prey drive.

Do Jack Russell terriers shed a lot and require lots of grooming?

The Jack Russell terrier comes in three coat types: smooth-coated, broken-coated, and rough-coated.

This breed sheds moderately throughout the year. You can minimize the amount of loose hair you find throughout your house by grooming your Jack Russell terrier’s double coat at least once per week.

When grooming your Jack Russell terrier, make sure you remove the loose hair from not only its rough outer coat but also its soft undercoat.

Do Jack Russell terriers bark or otherwise vocalize a lot?

Yes, Jack Russell terriers tend to bark a lot — especially at other dogs. That is just one of many reasons you should ensure your dog gets well-socialized. One way you can do this is by signing you and your dog up for obedience training.

Don’t ignore your Jack Russell terrier when it’s barking. Barking is a form of communication, and your pooch is likely trying to tell you something. It might be sounding an alarm when seeing a stranger or it might be hungry or bored.

Do Jack Russell terriers need vigorous exercise?

As mentioned earlier, Jack Russell terriers are a very active breed, and walking your pooch is essential to keeping it healthy and at a good weight. This breed should be walked for at least an hour total per day — two half-hour walks are ideal.

As with many breeds, your Jack Russell terrier can become destructive if it’s not exercised enough.

Jack russell terrier puppies in a wooden box

Are Jack Russell terriers easy to train?

Jack Russell terriers are highly intelligent, sprightly, and inquisitive. As such, they’re typically easy to train. A word of warning, though: this breed can become bored of an obedience session that isn’t sufficiently interesting. Always make sure you have a sufficient stash of games and treats to keep it motivated.

Given their trainability and need for lots of exercise, Jack Russell terriers are ideal for canine sports, such as agility and flyball. Many of them even seem to love performing in front of a crowd.

What is a typical Jack Russell terrier’s size?

Jack Russell terriers range from 10–12 inches in height and weigh between 9 and 15 pounds. Their size means they pack considerable energy levels, making them comparable to breeds like the American pit bull.

Can a Jack Russell terrier’s personality change when it’s in a “pack”?

When Jack Russell terriers are together in groups, their hunting instincts can take over, making them harder to control. There have even been a few instances where packs of Jack Russell terriers attack very young children when the dogs become overexcited.

While these are unfortunate stories, they shouldn’t deter you from owning a Jack Russell terrier if this breed is otherwise ideal for you. To keep your children as safe as possible, you should try to avoid pack scenarios and ensure that your dog is well-trained and socialized early.

Jack Russell terrier on a forest walk

Are there any health concerns with Jack Russell terriers, and what’s this breed’s life expectancy?

When well taken care of, Jack Russell terriers are typically a happy and healthy breed.

They have some propensity for loose kneecaps and eye disease, but these issues are typically screened by responsible breeders.

The Jack Russell terrier’s life expectancy is 12–14 years.


Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting a small dog, but you’re not sure which breed is the right one for you.

Perhaps you’ve seen Jack Russell terriers running around at your local park and found their appearance and sociability appealing.

If you have a fully fenced backyard, have time to take your Jack Russell terrier for at least an hour’s worth of walks each day, and are prepared to put the time in during the early stages to socialize and obedience-train your new pet, then you can hardly go wrong with this amiable breed.

Ready to learn more about the ins and outs of pet ownership? Betterpet is the place for you! With a variety of pet ownership and breed information right at your fingertips, we’re your partners in raising healthy, happy pets. Visit betterpet today to learn more.