In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring a couple of different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

For many years, some of you may have seen Eddie, the Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) on the television show, Frasier. Eddie was a very well-trained and well-behaved doggie (although Frasier Crane may not have always agreed!). Is this a true representation of the Jack Russell personality? More than likely not, although I do know an adorable guy named Reggie who is just as laid back as Eddie. But this is not your typical JRT.

JRTs belong to the terrier group of dogs, bred to be strong willed and energetic working dogs. JRTs are more likely to be very high-strung dogs, requiring a great deal of work. According to the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America’s web site, the JRT is, “a serious hunting dog. Your lifestyle must be adjusted to meet their needs; they must have jobs to perform — an outlet for their considerable energy and intelligence.” If you work full time and want to come home to a dog who will be happy to calmly relax with you, forget the JRT!

The JRT had its beginnings in the mid 19th century in England, thought to be a cross between the English White Terrier and the Fox Terrier. Reverend John Russell, an avid hunter, wanted to breed a dog with the attributes of high stamina and determination to hunt foxes, however, the dog must not kill the prey. Their personality is fearless, able to hold their prey in place. Tenacious is a good word for JRTs!

JRTs were bred to be working dogs, not family pets. But because of their spunk and cuteness, after World War II, they started to come into homes as companions.

The typical JRT is highly intelligent, athletic, and demanding. They are well-suited for canine sports such as agility and flyball. In fact, if they don’t have an outlet for their energy and drive, they can be a nightmare to live with. They are prone to destructiveness, aggression, and a great deal of barking if they are left alone too much, if they don’t get enough exercise, or if they are not given the opportunity to work and play. Like Chihuahuas, they may look deceivingly small and cute like a toy but not always so. They are tough little dogs and require a knowledgeable owner.

JRTs need early obedience training or else they definitely will quickly train their owners and will be in charge. The first time I trained a JRT was an eye opening experience. This young puppy was the most unfocused dog I had ever met. As I tried to teach him to sit and look at me, no food appealed to him. He just jumped and spun and ran all over the place. It was unbelievable. Finally I was able to get his attention with a toy. Phew. But then I had a difficult time disengaging him from chasing the toy. He was relentless. Once he understood what I wanted of him, he learned very fast. It was amazing, and quite a valuable learning experience for me as a trainer.

In addition to early training, JRTs need a great deal of early socialization to other animals, people, and situations. If not, they can tend to become aggressive to other animals. This makes sense because they were bred to chase small animals. JRT owners must be strong leaders, i.e., ones who do not allow the dogs to train them and are good parents by not indulging the dogs.

JRTs may live long lives and can remain extremely active into their senior years. So if you get a JRT expecting it to calm down once it gets older, think again. It cannot be stressed enough, a JRT is a long-term commitment to a life of activity! If you are considering a JRT, please do your research. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America’s web site is a great source of more information.