some very special little dogs
Jack Russell Terriers are a unique breed, fearless, fun-loving, active, happy dogs who are hopelessly devoted to their owners, First and foremost the Jack Russell is a working terrier that, until recently, has been bred for hunting. The breed takes it name from the Reverend John Russell who bred one of the finest strains of terriers for working fox in Devonshire, England in the mid-to-late 1800's. Everything about the Jack Russell has fox hunting in mind, coloring, conformation, character, and intelligence. The body is compact, of totally balanced proportions, the shoulders clean, the legs straight, the tail docked to provide sufficient hand-hold, and most importantly, a small chest (easily spannable by average size hands at the widest part behind the shoulders). The Jack Russell must also be totally flexible, allowing them to maneuver underground. This conformation allows the terrier to follow their quarry down narrow earths. The fox is a good model for the Jack Russell - where the fox can go, so must the terrier. Although originally bred for fox hunting, the Jack Russell is a versatile working terrier to a variety of quarry including red and grey fox, raccoon and woodchuck.
At home this means you have a dog that is driven to work, often creating their own jobs if none are provided, and a dog that is prey driven and often incompatible with other small pets. Cats are sometimes tolerated depending on the individual dog but that does not mean that a terrier should be left alone, or unsupervised, with them. The same conformation that lends itself so well to fox hunting also means that your terrier is more than capable of escaping from an improperly secured yard. Jack Russells easily pass through holes you would not assume a dog would fit, and a motivated terrier will make a hole where none exist. JRTs have also been known to climb (fences, trees, etc.) over things they can not jump over. A properly secured yard is the best defense your terrier has against the outside world of cars and larger aggressive dogs. This also means not leaving your terrier outside unattended for long periods of time, and checking on them periodically to make sure they are not implementing an escape plan.
This strong hunting drive also means that you must always keep your Jack Russell on a leash when you are not in an area that is 100% secure. JRTs will bolt at a moments notice if they see, or think they see, something that interests them, and even the very best trained terrier will rarely recall when in this frame of mind. Off-leash parks should be used with caution as your dog may be able to find holes in the fence you never knew were there. Jack Russells were also bred to be earth dogs and the instinct to go to ground remains strong, meaning not only will your dog run after something that interests them, they may follow it into the ground and disappear. This can be a traumatic experience for even seasoned JRT owners as terriers have been known to stay in the earth for hours or even days with their quarry.
Jack Russells are also highly intelligent, social dogs that love to be with their people. They form strong attachments to their families and do not do well when left alone for extended periods. JRTs also require a large amount of exercise and stimulation to be at their best and are happiest when they are putting their problem solving skills to good use. An unattended, bored terrier will not stay that way for long and will find something to entertain themselves with and potentially seek out the company of a neighbor. For these reasons it is best to crate your terrier when you are not home. If properly introduced to it, JRTs love their crate, it is a safe den-like place that is their very own.
Socialization is very important to ensure you JRT is at their best. Jacks can be temperamental and stand-offish if they are not properly socialized and due to a sizeable Napoleon complex this can lead to trouble. By introducing JRT puppies to strange people, children, other dogs, cats, etc, you begin to build the foundation for a well balanced dog. These early exposures allow your puppy to become comfortable with new things, in a variety of settings, but this is a process that must be kept up their whole life. A happy, well-adjusted JRT is one that regularly meets new people and dogs on their daily outings.
Contrary to what some might think JRTs can be outstanding family dogs. Their loving, sweet nature and absolute devotion to their people make them excellent family members. Well behaved children can be great partners in crime for a JRT, but it is important to educate the child as well as the terrier on how to interact with one another. The best behaved terrier but will not tolerate much of the rough handling unsupervised children sometimes use, and even unintentional abuse will often be met with snarling and snapping teeth. Because of this it is not recommended to leave a JRT unsupervised with children under 9.
To best understand the Jack Russell temperament, it must be remembered that they are first and foremost a "working dog." In other words, they were designed to aggressively run, chase, and flush out fox and badgers in hunts in England. These traits, so passionately guarded by Jack Russell breeders since the 19th century, have delivered to us a dog that is fearless, happy, alert, confident, intelligent and lively. A dog that is ready to meet the world on a moment's notice; this is the Jack Russell temperament in a nutshell. With a little work and a lot of love you will have the pleasure of a dog who is completely devoted to you and provides endless hours of amusement throughout it’s life.