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Jack Russell Terrier Personality

5 Most Common Jack Russell Terrier Personality Traits

Owning a dog brings joy to so many people. Dogs are exciting creatures that can make you laugh, smile, find love, etc.

Many feel as though their dogs are children – and in some ways they are – but just like “real parents”, pet-parents need to make sure they are aware of their dog’s breed and personality so that they can properly take care of them in the long run.

When it comes to owning a Jack Russell Terrier, this is much more important, as they tend to be pretty specific to the breed and need to be properly taken care of. Knowing these traits will allow you to understand your dog more, and that will lead to more love and attention from you to him. Here are the top five traits to be aware of for everyone’s sake:

1. Energetic and agile

Anyone who has experience with this breed will tell you that they love to move, run, play, and generally be alive. This is a good trait because it means that they’ll keep you busy, but if you are someone who has never had a dog before, or even kids, you may find his constant energy a little hard to get used to at first. The thing to remember, primarily, is that he won’t just “grow out of it”. He’ll want to play and roughhouse every day of his life, and you need to make sure you commit the time to doing that for him.

As far as skills go, a Jack Russell Terrier is very agile. They love to move quickly and you will really be impressed with how they jump and hop from spot to spot. This will be fun for you and him while training and playing, especially for agility where they are rock stars. These dogs tend to be similar to cats in terms of their structure and physical skills. These are great dogs for people who love to be outside and exploring. Your dog will easily and faithfully keep up with you.

2. Intelligent

There’s no question that these dogs are incredibly (and sometimes, terrifyingly) smart. They will pick up on tricks like that and you’ll be able to get a lot out of him in terms of tricks and training. If you are someone who wants to take on the hobby and training your dog in a show, a terrier is definitely a great way to go about doing that. That being said, once in a while, having a dog that is smart can work against you.

He’ll know how to rile you up and get you frustrated when you’re busy or in a rush. While these excited dogs aren’t mean, they will want to play with you once in a while when it comes to making you frustrated. Be aware of this and don’t become bitter when this happens – he just wants to connect with you! Give him a few minutes of attention and he’ll settle right down!

3. Fearless

As far as genetic background goes, Jack Russell Terriers are pretty close to fearless. They will lock their eyes on a target (or goal) and won’t stop until they get to it. As hunters – originally – they would use this same mentality to approach the animal they were hunting. Therefore, Jack Russell Terriers do tend to make great guard dogs in that they won’t whimper in a corner when something goes bump in the night, which will help many who want to feel safe.

Additionally, Jack Russell Terriers may get into fights, and they don’t tend to back down from them. Make sure you’re aware of this when socializing your dog.

4. Strong play drive

These dogs love to play! Whether you’re just tossing a ball around or going for a walk, this breed of dog is great for those who aren’t just looking for a dog that wants to cuddle all day long. A Jack Russell Terrier will want to love you, of course, but he wants to play and bark and jump around with you, even more!

Make sure you leave enough time for him to have a great time in the backyard. Playing with your dog is always good too, as it bonds you and him much closer, meaning you both can benefit greatly from the play time. It’s great exercise and makes you closer to your furry companion, too. Make time for you and your dog to play, even if it’s just for half an hour each day. It’ll make a huge difference in attitude and connection between human and dog.

5. Noisy

Yes, these dogs do tend to be on the noisy side. They love to talk to you and get your attention so that you can share with the fun. Remember that dogs bark in order to communicate with you, so take that seriously. This is the reason why you need to start teaching him to stop barking from the very first day (Learning how to bark on command and therefore the stop barking cue helps a lot, don’t just yell at him to stop – there is a big chance he doesn’t understand what you want).

Odds are, he simply wants a few moments of your time, and you can do that without derailing your entire day, whether you’ve thought about it that way or not. It will help both you and him deal with any issues in terms of noise control and love.

Your Jack Russell Terrier is part of your family, and we get that. We also want to make sure that you know that you are prepared to make the commitment to your dog. We do this through offering these five top personality traits to be aware of so that you can always make sure that you are a good fit for this breed of dog.

Knowing you’re a good match will make both you and him much happier and bring you all sorts of happy memories with no inconveniences in sight.

Do you Jack Russell owners think there is something else to add to this list? Or are you concerned about any of these? Tell me in the comments below.

20 comments

  1. Hello, my jack russell terrier is almost 2 years old. Overall, is a great, affectionate, smart, playful, and loving dog. He is absolutely wonderful with people he knows (my husband and I, friends, family, even other dog owners at the dog park I take him to). However, when I take him to public places, he (for the most part) is fine with people. However, there is usually at least ONE person at some point during the time that we are out that he barks at. His trainer we went to said that he can sense people’s negative energy and it’s normal. However, he has barked at some elderly people, a few children, and even my own landlord (who are good people). We always tell him “bad boy” when he does that, and tell him “Good boy” when he is good with strangers. But we would LOVE for him to not bark at ANY strangers. This has been a work in progress since the beginning. Any guidance would be awesome. Thanks! :)

    • Hi Rose, barking on some people can be a sign of lack of socialization. It seems like you did a lot of it, but maybe not enough with total strangers. Also, have in mind that he doesn’t have to like all the people, he has to be polite and not aggressive, but he doesn’t have to like everyone who would like to pet him. After all, I’m sure you don’t like ALL people, no matter if they are good or bad people.
      If I were you, I would change the tactics and try to make uncomfortable situations more comfortable. For example, I wouldn’t tell him in those situations that he’s a bad dog. I would watch him closely and try to see a moment when he becomes nervous and try to calm him down and reward immediately. You can also ask random people to give him food (for a start to toss it and maybe later to hand feed) and you can praise him if he accepts and stays calm. If he starts barking, remain calm and move on until you find next human “victim”. Good luck, Ana

  2. Hello my name is Debbie. We have a female JRT who is 6yrs old. My daughter recently had a baby and she lives with us. Since our grandson was born our JRT has become extremely ‘needy’ and a bit jealous of the little guy. Any suggestions on what we can do to help her with this?

    • Hi Debbie, jealousy is common in such situations. You can try to change her feelings about him and you can do it using only positive reinforcement methods. Prepare some extra yummy treats (high-value treats – cheese, hot dogs…) and use those only for this purpose. When she’s around him and when you expect she could become jealous, give her a treat while she’s still calm and tell her she’s a good girl. Repeat frequently until she connects your grandson with something great happening to her. Try to incorporate her into your daily activities connected to your grandson and give her plenty of time only for her – for playing and cuddling, after all, she still feels like your first child. Soon, when he’ll be old enough to play with her, he’ll become more interesting to her and they’ll be great friends soon.
      Good luck, Ana

      • Thanks for the advice Ana, we greatly appreciate it. We will definitely give that a try.

        • Try to be imaginative about it and use that technique in the situations you know could make her nervous. If you’ll be persistent with it, it will work like a charm. Cheers, Ana

  3. Yes sir my jack Russell is jack and i need all the advice i can get im 60 years old and he gives me a run for my .money i was looking around and found a book called Jack Russell Savey but if you can help me it would be better

  4. My jrt is 7 yrs his name Dallas he is my life he is very spoiled I would like to know why he scoot blanket anything he can under his front feet

    • HI Linda, I’m not sure what you meant, but if you thought with scooting – dragging bottom – than that’s probably an indicator of some kind of problem with anal sacs. If that happens regularly, you should check it with your vet. If your question was about Dallas digging the blanket, that’s probably a mix of need of digging – strong personality trait in JRT’s (they were breed for digging for the hunt) and making himself more comfortable. Hope it helped. Cheers, Ana

  5. DO JR LICK THERE FEET ALL THE TIME. AND WANT TO DIG HOLES.

    • Hi, no, no dog should lick their feet all the time, it can be a sign of allergies or problems with anal glands. If your JR licks it’s paws, go to the vet for a check up. and digging, yes, mostly they enjoy digging, but it doesn’t mean all of them do it all the time. Cheers, Ana

  6. Hi I have a jack Russell his name is toffee I got him from a free home a few moths ago the only thing is he can be aggressive to strangers and people he doesn’t know it takes him time to trust do you have eny advice for me he’s 2 years next month my names veronica

    • Hi Veronica, it would be the best to hire a professional dog trainer who uses only positive reinforcement methods. Dealing with aggressive dogs can end bad if you’re not sure what to do. It’s important to be calm and try to change his emotions toward strangers. Most likely his aggression is a result of fear. It would be the best for you to learn to read his body language (you have some goods reads here: https://www.happyjackrussell.com/10-best-dog-books-every-dog-owner-read/) so you can always know when he turns from happy to worried or aggressive. Then learn which treats are high value for him as high value treats work much better in emotion change. You should organize situations where you’ll keep him on the edge of reaction but still on a safe distance (where he still feels safe but is aware that potential threat is near) and feed him treats. Also, try doing some easy tricks which he knows really good. When you see he relaxed (after few sessions on same distance) you can take him a bit closer to strangers. It’s all about balancing between his worries and you showing him you’re here for him. Again, as aggressive dogs can make much damage and therefore it can end bad for him, find good dog trainer with experience in such situations and follow his instructions. It will take lot of work, but it can be done. Cheers, Ana

  7. One thing I would like to correct that I have read in several articles is that it’s not a particularly good idea to leave Jack Russells together. I can tell you that I’ve had Jack Russells for over 20 years and as long as they’re socialized properly they tend to do remarkably well together. Yes, they can tend to get a little bit territorial but usually will work this out amongst themselves with a little bit of direction. My dogs have always been an integral part of my family. That means that they are treated to some degree like children. I also practice falconry and use them for hunting, which they excel at. I have found that a good blend of socializing with the family as well as allowing them to hunt tends to produce a very stable and happy dog. Most of my Jack Russells have lived 17 to 18 years so if they are properly cared for and given appropriate outlets for their Boundless Energy and hunting skills, they tend to do very well.

    • Hi Steven, thank you for your correction. I wrote it few times as I’ve heard and read about lots and lots of examples of Jacks not doing well with other dogs. As I see it, that problem comes mostly from lack of socialization (which they need a lot) and lack of activity. They surely aren’t satisfied with 30-45 min of activities a day. So, it seems like your combination of socialization, training, affection and hunting is the winning combination. But unfortunately it’s rare. Therefore I think it’s better to warn people not to take in more Jacks and leave them to spend their energy in their own ways. But after all, I have to agree that there are wonderful examples of multi-JRT households, and I’ll be more careful describing why someone should or shouldn’t take in some other Jack. Regards, Ana

  8. Coco is a female almost 11 years old. She went for puppy training and also advanced training. She has a tendency to bite my other dogs. But wont let go. This has lead to me having to put to sleep 3 dogs already. It broke my heart. She is so part of my life. She has recently attacked my other rescue jack russel cross doggie. I put Snippie to sleep, my heart just keeps on saying it is not Coco. Now she went for my little dachy cross. I have another jack russel, male castrated, all my dogs are sterilised. I dont know what to do, many people has told me to put coco to sleep, but i just cant, and at the same time i cant put another innocent doggie to sleep because of injuries. They all sleep on the bed with me, i spend at least half an hour in the afternoon with them, playing etc. How can i handle this. Please i need advice.

    • Hi Petro, I understand you are in difficult position. Such things could be a matter of socialization and training, but some times some dogs just do some unexplained things no matter how much training they received. It seems like Coco does it out of frustration/fear/jealousy. Some dogs are not intended to live with other dogs, some of them should live in one dog household. It’s very noble to help homeless dogs and it’s so nice you are rescuing them, but if you do, you have to take your current dog(s) into consideration. From those dogs who still live with you, is she going after them too or is she maybe in good relations with them? Did you consider rehoming some of them? Or you can try to solve it. It’s a really hard work and it would be the best to hire a professional trainer who uses only positive methods so you can try to change her feelings about other dogs. Also, 30 min a day with such active breed is wway too short, so her frustration may come from pent up energy. Good luck and think about safety first. Regards, Ana

  9. Hi i have a 5 month old JR which i have had for three weeks and she growls at my 14 year male Maltese S walks all over him don’t know what to do she doesn’t listen she just wants all my attention i love her so much but she’s boss and so jealous i take her to obedient school.
    Also i feed her dry food ivory coat i feed her twice a day how much food should i put in her bowl.
    Any advice would be great thank you Alisa.

    • Hi Alisa, congrats on your new family addition. In which situations does she growl at him? Is she maybe protecting food or toys? Or is it a part of a play? Is she in pain? JRT’s are very vocal, they tend to bark a lot and have something to “say” in different situations. If it’s a part of a play – for example while tugging, than it’s not a problem. If she’s resource guarding, than you should start dealing with that problem. It’s very important to observe her and understand when any why she growls.
      Jealousy is common in multiple dog households and before it becomes worst, you should start dealing with it. Both of this problems aren’t something which should be punished. Start giving her treats when she’s behaving, if you cuddle with your Maltese and she’s good, tell her that and treat her. It’s all about showing her which behaviors you like. Obedient school is a very good choice. Only mind that you use only positive reinforcement methods. Ask your trainer there about growling – he/she knows her better than I am and can give you more specific answer.
      Mind that JRTs are much more active than Malteses, so most of your problems could be solved with enough activities through the day – running, playing, obedience, doing tricks and playing with puzzle toys. Tired JR is good JR :)
      Regarding food, follow the portion size chart on the back of the food and adjust it to her specific needs – for example – give her more food if she run and played all day, or give her less if she was calmer.
      Good luck, Ana

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