As a breed originally designed for hunting small game, you might wonder if Jack Russell Terriers exhibit the classic pointing behavior commonly seen in other hunting dogs.
Yes, Jack Russell Terriers do point, but it’s not a dominant trait like in some other hunting breeds. While terriers have a strong prey drive, their pointing behavior is less pronounced compared to sporting group dogs such as pointers, setters, retrievers, and spaniels.
Read on to learn more about why dogs point and how you can train your Jack Russell to point.
Jack Russell Terrier Background
Jack Russell Terriers were originally bred for hunting foxes and other small animals, rather than bird hunting like many pointing dog breeds. They naturally possess a strong prey drive, making them tenacious in chasing after their prey, rather than standing still and pointing at it.
Although they share a hunting background with some pointing breeds, Jack Russells are classified as a terrier breed, not part of the sporting group. This distinction is important to understand, as it influences their innate pointing behavior compared to other hunting dogs specifically bred for bird hunting.
What does a dog pointing look like?
When a dog points, it demonstrates a particular stance that communicates its interest in something nearby. The typical pointing posture consists of:
- Lifting one front paw off the ground, often with a slight bend at the wrist
- Standing completely still, with a focused and alert expression
- Pointing their nose in the direction of the object or scent that has caught their attention
This distinctive stance helps the dog convey its interest to both its human handler and other dogs in the vicinity.
Why do dogs point?
Pointing is a fascinating behavior exhibited by dogs for various reasons:
- Natural behavior to communicate interest: Pointing serves as a means for dogs to communicate their interest in something to other dogs and humans. It’s an instinctive way for them to signal that they have detected something noteworthy, such as potential prey or an intriguing scent.
- Associated with hunting breeds: Pointing is especially prevalent in hunting breeds, as it has been selectively bred into their genetics over generations. This behavior is valuable for hunters, as it helps them locate and identify the game their dogs have discovered.
Theories on the Origin of Pointing
There are two main theories on how pointing became a trait in dogs:
- The “wolf pause” theory: Some scientists suggest that pointing behavior in dogs is a leftover trait inherited from wolves. The “wolf pause” is where the lead wolf in a pack freezes and points its muzzle in the direction of a scent, allowing other pack members to pick up the scent as well.
- Charles Darwin’s view: Charles Darwin, on the other hand, believed that pointing was an exaggerated pause of an animal preparing to spring on its prey. He theorized that this behavior was then selectively bred by hunters for their advantage, as it made it easier for them to locate and identify the game their dogs discovered.
Dog Breeds that Point
There are several dog breeds known for their strong pointing instincts. These breeds have been specifically bred over generations to excel in hunting, and as a result, their pointing behavior is more pronounced. Some of the most well-known pointing breeds include:
- English Pointer
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
- Italian Spinone
While purebred Jack Russell Terriers may not point as frequently as the breeds listed above, certain Jack Russell mix breeds may exhibit stronger pointing instincts due to their mixed lineage.
For example, the Jackador, a mix between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Labrador Retriever, is more likely to point due to the Labrador’s strong hunting background and its classification as a retriever within the sporting group.
Can I Train My Jack Russell to Point?
While not all Jack Russell Terriers may point instinctively, you can train them to do so. All dogs have the capability to point, but some breeds are more inclined to this behavior than others.
- Natural and learned behavior: Pointing is both a natural and learned behavior in dogs. Some dogs, especially those from the sporting group, may point instinctively, while others may need training to develop the skill. A Jack Russell who lives with a pointer dog may, over time, pick up the behavior himself as a way to communicate with his pack mate.
- Training your Jack Russell to point at specific things: With patience and consistency, you can teach your Jack Russell to point at specific objects or scents. This can be done through a combination of obedience training, scent work, and positive reinforcement.
Training Techniques and Tips
- Start with basic obedience: Before teaching your Jack Russell to point, it’s essential to establish a foundation of basic obedience commands, such as sit, stay, and come.
- Introduce scent work: Begin by introducing your dog to the scent of the object you want them to point at. This could be a toy, treat, or something more specific, like a bird wing for hunting dogs.
- Encourage pointing behavior: Encourage your dog to point by placing the scented object in a hidden location and rewarding them when they find it and exhibit pointing behavior. You can use a clicker or verbal praise, followed by a treat.
- Gradually increase difficulty: As your Jack Russell becomes more proficient at pointing, you can increase the difficulty by hiding the object in more challenging locations or using different scents.
- Be patient and consistent: Training a dog to point takes time and dedication. Be patient with your Jack Russell and maintain consistency in your training sessions to help them develop this skill.
By following these techniques and tips, you can successfully train your Jack Russell Terrier to point, whether it’s for hunting purposes or simply as a fun and engaging activity for your dog.
In summary, Jack Russell Terriers do point, but their pointing behavior is not as pronounced as in other hunting breeds. By understanding the origins of pointing behavior in dogs and recognizing the differences between terrier and sporting group breeds, you can appreciate the unique qualities of your Jack Russell Terrier.
If you’re interested in training your Jack Russell to point, it’s entirely possible with patience, consistency, and the right training techniques. Whether you want to enhance their natural hunting instincts or simply engage in a fun and stimulating activity, teaching your Jack Russell to point can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog.