Easy isn’t the first word that comes to mind for any Jack Russell terrier activity, with the exception of getting into mischief. He’s an active, adventurous, independent little dog. Those are the nice adjectives — your JRT may vary. Training is possible, especially if you find work he likes to do.
To understand your JRT’s mind, look into their history and what they were originally bred to do. They are hunting dogs, bred to kill rodents. Your Jack will enthusiastically try to kill smaller animals crossing his path: squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and neighborhood felines. Smart and feisty, the JRT may be aggressive with other canines. While he’ll take on bigger dogs with no thought to the consequences, he’ll also take on fellow JRTs. According to the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, more than two Jacks should never be left unattended, even if housemates.
JRT’s have a workaholic nature. Without a job, that energy gets channeled into more dubious activities — you’ve probably already experienced that if you live with a Jack. He may be small, but he’s a terrier, not a toy dog. JRTs require lots of exercise, both physical and mental. Think twice about getting one if you live in an apartment, unless you can take him for long walks every day. If you have a fenced yard, check the fence line frequently to make sure it’s terrier-proof. They like to dig — a lot. Other than killing rats, which isn’t something a modern Jack may get the chance to do, digging is probably their favorite activity. Barking is also high on the list.
Training should begin after your Jack reaches two months of age or more. Not just the basics like house-training, although that’s important. Socialize him with people, other dogs and cats. JRTs often aren’t good with cats, seeing them as prey, so make sure your puppy understands that felines are off-limits for hunting. Take your JRT to puppy kindergarten to learn basic obedience. Above all, make him understand, in a gentle but firm way, that you are the boss, not him. That lesson must be instilled early so you don’t create a monster.
Consistency and discipline are key to training a JRT. However, make sure you are providing the environment your dog requires. He wants your attention, but even negative attention is better than none as far as he’s concerned if you don’t spend much time with him. According to the Jack Russell Club of America, many JRTs end up in shelters for doing what comes naturally to the breed, such as behaving aggressively, digging and barking. If you need help with your dog, find a trainer familiar with the breed’s special needs.
Your athletic Jack may not be the top student in obedience school, but he can shine in terrier trials. These events include racing; go-to-ground, or simulated hunting; agility; obedience, competing with other JRTs; trailing and locating, which features above-ground quarry, and the high jump. You both can have a great time and bond while training and competing in terrier trials.