Jack Russell Terrier: The Adrenaline Junkie of the Dog World

A pair of Jack Russell Terriers running with abandon

If you’ve never heard of a terrier who can jump 5-foot fences, spend hours tenaciously pursuing a rodent, and keep the whole family continually entertained with its antics, then you don’t know Jack.

Actually, that description could apply to terriers in general. However, the Jack Russell Terrier is arguably the epitome of terrier-ness, possessing in spades all the traits that make terriers what they are.

Jacks were originally bred to hunt foxes in England in the late 1700s. But like other terriers who started as hunting dogs, they have more recently leveraged their intelligence, charm, and scruffy good looks to become beloved household pets.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who choose to bring a Jack Russell into their home don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into. These little dogs are quite healthy as a breed, but due to their assertive personality, they can be very high maintenance in other ways.

Jack Russell Terriers at a Glance

Size13-18 pounds
Life Expectancy13-15 years
Overall HealthGood
Grooming RequirementsLow – Medium, depending on coat
Exercise RequirementsHigh
Barking TendencyHigh
Digging TendencyHigh
Good With Children?Yes – with supervision
Good With Other Dogs?Varies – introduce slowly
Prey Drive/Tendency to ChaseHigh
Overall Terrier-tudeJacked Up


Jacks are feisty, funny, affectionate, loyal, smart… and entirely too much for many people to handle.

These active pups need lots of daily activity. If they don’t get a chance to burn off their excess energy in positive ways, they’ll find ways to do it in negative ways. In fact, even when regularly exercised and properly trained, these little scamps can be naughty at times – it’s part of their charm.

Jack Russell Terrier running toward the camera
Keep them active, and everyone will be much happier.

Jacks are generally good-natured, especially toward members of their own pack. However, they’re not afraid to mix it up with other dogs – even dogs that are several times bigger than them. To head off problems with aggression, make sure to get your Jack Russell pup socialized with other dogs early on.

Health Problems & Life Expectancy

The life span of a Jack Russell is generally 13 to 15 years. Compared to other breeds, the Jack Russell doesn’t have a lot of inherent health problems.

With its small, tank-like build, it’s also resistant to injuries – though these dogs can get hurt anyway due to their rambunctiousness. In particular, they’re known for confrontations with wildlife (skunks, snakes, and vermin) and ill-advised tussles with other dogs.

Jack Russell with an oversized bone
Jacks are known for biting off more than they can chew


A lot of Jack owners report that their dogs shake, sometimes uncontrollably, and often in response to stimuli such thunderstorms or fireworks. This seems to be a product of the breed’s intense nature.

That said, while it might be a common trait of the breed, it’s always a good idea to talk to your vet about it. Shaking in dogs can be a sign of severe stress, pain, or anxiety.

Variations & Mixes

The term “Jack Russell” is often applied to the long-legged Parson Russell Terrier and the short-legged Russell Terrier. However, technically speaking, the Jack Russell is a working dog that is not recognized by the AKC. Those other two breeds are variations of the Jack that have specific physical traits and – according to some, at least – less hunting instinct.

Besides the two breeds recognized by the AKC, there are many other Jack Russell variations, including the Irish Jack Russell Terrier, the Australian Jack Russell, and the Miniature (or Toy) Jack Russell.

They are also a popular component in hybrids. Here’s a list of the most common JRT mixes:

Breed Mixed With Jack RussellResulting Designer Dog Breed
Australian TerrierRustralian Terrier
Border CollieBorder Jack
Boston TerrierBojack
Cairn TerrierJacairn
ChihuahuaJack Chi
Cocker SpanielCocker Jack
French BulldogFrench Bull Jack
Golden RetrieverGolden Jack Retriever
Norfolk TerrierNorjack
Shih TzuJack Tzu
Siberian HuskyHusky Jack
Toy Fox TerrierFoxy Russell
West Highland White TerrierJack Highland Terrier
Yorkshire TerrierYorkie Russell

Finally, Jack Russells are also differentiated by their coat type: smooth, rough, or broken (mixture of the first two).

5 Terribly Interesting Facts About Jack Russell Terriers

The Jack Russell Terrier has a long history and is one of the best known terrier breeds. Here are some nuggets of info about the JRT that you might not know.


The Jack Russell Terrier originated as a hunting dog in 19th Century England. The JRT takes its name from Parson John Russell, who is credited with being the first to breed the small white “working terriers.”


It all started when John Russell became enamored of a female dog named Trump (yes, you heard that right). He bought Trump from a milkman and bred her to produce his famous fox-bolting dogs.

Old sketch of Trump, known as the original Jack Russell Terrier
A sketch of Trump, the dog that started it all.


To this day, the breed continues to be used in the controversial sport of fox hunting, particularly in the United Kingdom. The UK banned the hunting of foxes with dogs in 2003, but the practice continues.


The breed spiked in popularity in the 1990s thanks to its regular appearance on the American TV sitcom Frasier. Fans of the show may have gotten the wrong idea about Jack Russell Terriers, as “Eddie” was portrayed as a calm and collected coach potato.


You won’t see a “Jack Russell Terrier” at Westminster. However, you will see the Parson Russell Terrier and Russell Terrier. The broader Jack Russell Terrier breed isn’t recognized by the AKC, and has its own registry through the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. Of course, all of this is just inside baseball if you’re thinking about getting a JRT for a family pet.

Owning a Jack Russell Terrier

Jacks are a hoot-and-a-half, but as mentioned, you’ve got to keep them busy. Here are a few things to consider before getting a Jack:

Exercise. A short daily walk usually isn’t enough for these dogs. Jacks are best suited to people with active lifestyles who can include the dog in regular outdoor recreational activities. Agility training is another option to get these dogs some much-needed mental and physical stimulation.

Digging. Jack Russells love to dig. If you have a garden that’s precious to you, you might want to consider another breed.

Aggression. Some pooches just aren’t cut out for social hour at the dog park, and that includes a lot of Jack Russell Terriers. That said, taking your Jack to puppy kindergarten early on can have a lifelong impact on how he or she reacts to other dogs.

Two very young Jack Russell Terrier puppies wrestling
Getting your Jack Russell Terrier pup socialized with people and other dogs is crucial.

If you still want a Jack Russell, choose a dog from a reputable breeder – not over the internet and definitely not through a puppy mill.

Unfortunately, because a lot of people get Jack Russells without realizing how much attention they need, you can also find a lot of these dogs surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. If you’re up to the challenge of owning a Jack Russell, consider adopting an adult dog that needs a home.