Jack Russell Terrier Temperament and Behavior [Good & Bad]

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Jack Russell’s are a super-active dog that certainly has a unique personality.

I do not think that anyone who is a Jack Russell parent would deny this fact, and that includes myself.

What I do want to cover today is the typical behavior and temperament you will notice and experience with your Jack Russell.

Understanding how a Jack Russell behaves and what causes positive and negative behavior is ultimately going to teach you how to take care of your Jack Russell in the best fashion possible.

Here is what I want to detail for all of you today:


If you need to use any of the links above to skip around in this post, feel free to do so.

Otherwise, sit tight for a few minutes, and I will break down everything I know about Jack Russell’s behavior after owning my Jack Russell for the past several years.

Here are the critical details I believe you should understand.

Understanding Jack Russell’s And Their Common Behavior

Jack Russell’s has been a famous and popular dog for quite some time.

Perhaps you are familiar with these loveable and loyal dogs from sitcoms such as Frasier or even movies such as My Dog Skip.

Shockingly enough, a lot of bad information exists on the internet about Jack Russell’s, and anyone publishing this content does not actually own a Jack Russell and likely has never even interacted with a Jack Russell.

Jack Russell’s make for excellent family pets and can be just as calm and collected like any other dog breed.

However, it is essential to understand that this does not happen without some work on your end.

This is typical with any dog breed and should not come as a shock to anyone who has owned a dog in the past or the present.

I have also owned a full-bred yellow lab for the past 8 years and can tell you that he was a dog full of energy and lack of discipline in the beginning as well.

Now, just because this is the case with all dogs and their common behaviors does not mean that it is not important to understand a Jack Russell and their natural tendencies.

Let’s start with that information and then move into the specifics about the positive and desirable behaviors and discuss some of the negative behaviors you will experience if you decide to adopt a Jack Russell.

A Quick Background on Jack Russell’s

Before jumping right into it, I want to take a minute to give a brief background on the Jack Russell.

Maybe, after understanding the Jack Russell a bit more, you will be able to understand why they behave the way they do and where that unique personality comes from.

Jack Russell’s are a dog truly bred to work and named after Reverend John Russell.

Originally bred in England and primarily used to hunt fox and to help scare and chase fox from burrowed holes.

In short, Jack Russell’s has been a dog breed since the 1800s that have a strong desire to please their owners and provide loyalty and work.

Many websites online will incorrectly publish content about Jack Russells, claiming that they are not and cannot be capable of being a calm family dog.

This is not true, and we are going to cover these issues and behaviors in great depth shortly.

For now, let’s start by covering the traits that are desirable from a Jack Russell and make it completely worth adopting one if you are currently on the fence.

Desirable and Good Behavior Traits of a Jack Russell

Keep in mind, as I start diving deeper into the behavior of a Jack Russell, I own one and have been raising a Jack Russell for about 2.5 years.

This should help you distinguish my viewpoint of the true behavior of a Jack Russell compared to all the spun content online, claiming that all this dog does is bark and dig.

I also want to make it clear that I believe that personality characteristics and behavior fall into separate categories so I may not mention everything you are looking for when it comes to Jack Russell’s behavior.

For example, I believe Jack Russell’s are extremely intelligent.

Still, I believe that to be more of a characteristic as opposed to a true behavior they display.

Here are some common behaviors you will notice with your new Jack Russell in most circumstances:

Follow You Everywhere

This can either be awesome or can annoying, depending on your personality.

My Jack Russell literally follows me around everywhere. It does not matter what I am doing.

She is always within hands reach.

This is also an excellent opportunity for your Jack Russell to feel connected and working.

If you are going around the house doing your daily chores, allow them to follow you and encourage them to partake in some of the activities.

Nonetheless, connected to their owners and always feeling the need to be around is a behavior I would venture to say a good majority of Jack Russell’s will display.

Hyperactive When Energy Has Bottled Up

No people, it is not a Jack Russell’s natural behavior to be so hyper that you cannot control it.

However, if days pass with no exercise and no activity, you may notice that they get a bit wilder when they have a chance.

Maybe this done by running laps in the backyard or chasing you around, and maybe they are jumping more than usual for attention.

Jack Russell’s do need a good deal of exercise, but when you simply do not have the time to do this, they will still behave.

They may just be a bit fuller of life than usual when they do not have the chance to release some of that bottled up energy they have.

They Want to Be Shown Attention and Will Let You Know

My Jack Russell will physically come up to me when I am sitting in my chair or on the couch and attempt to lift my hand with her nose to indicate to me that she prefers to be pet and loved on.

This may be part of the behavior we discussed previously where Jack Russell wants to be around you all the time.

However, I see this behavior as a Jack Russell showing affection towards you and wanting you to know that if you have a minute you can spare, they would appreciate a head or ear scratching.

Let’s begin moving into the best Jack Russell behaviors and the behaviors that make them one of the best dogs you can adopt in my book.

Jack Russell’s Make for Excellent Exercise Partners

Another behavior a Jack Russell will display is their eagerness and willingness to get moving with you.

They love to exercise, and they need exercise.

I take my Jack Russell on walks and runs with me all the time and she can keep up no problem and can also learn to stay in a good rhythm with your running pace relatively quickly.

Make sure to allow them this opportunity with you.

Enjoy other activities with them as well such rollerblading or swimming.

They will behave much better for the rest of the day and overall, if they have had a chance to release some built-up energy, and it is a lot of fun.

Reinforcing Good Behavior with Jack Russell’s

The behaviors we have discussed thus far into this post are common, and I stand behind stating that because I own a Jack Russell Terrier.

I also believe it is essential for any new Jack Russell owner to understand that you want to always want to be reinforcing good behaviors with a Jack Russell.

This is much better than using discipline or any form of physical punishment when your Jack Russell makes a mistake.

Use training methods and rewards such as treats to get your Jack Russell understanding that good behavior is rewarded, and you prefer to see more of it in the future.

We will discuss methods to implement for the bad behaviors next.

Bad Behaviors Your Jack Russell May Display

Digging and Finding Animals in The Yard

Again, this is a behavior of a Jack Russell that is widely overstated.

Other blogs make it seem like no matter what you do, that a Jack Russell is digging up your yard.

This is not true.

However, the fact that they do like to dig is entirely true and true of many dogs.

My Jack Russell if bored or left in the yard to do her own thing for too long will undoubtedly start exploring below the grass level.

Especially if she is tracking the scent of rabbits or other animals.

Make sure to correct this kind of behavior when it begins, but also be sure to be aware that it will likely happen at least once or twice while owning a Jack Russell.

Jack Russell’s Will Vocalize Complaints

Another common behavior with Jack Russell’s, especially in the first year or so, is barking.

I know it is unfortunate, but this is also a behavior trait of the Jack Russell that has been blown way out of proportion when I read other online blogs about this dog breed.

Yes, they will bark to let you know the mailman is walking up to the house.

Yes, they may bark for the first few weeks when you place them inside of their crate to begin the potty-training process.

A Jack Russell will also bark to let you know anything they deem necessary or of importance.

My Jack Russell will typically bark at me when it is time to eat, and I am delaying her food way too long due to other things occupying my mind.

She will also bark when visitors approach the front door and when she is playing with my yellow lab.

As far as the crate training goes, she does not behave like that anymore and the barking in the crate has ended.

Overall, if you work with your Jack Russell, barking is a behavior you can remedy relatively quickly.

However, it is a natural behavior that a Jack Russell will display.


Jumping is another trait that Jack Russell’s have that compares to none.

They have some crazy jumping abilities, and yes, they will undoubtedly jump to get your attention and sometimes even just for the heck of it.

Typically, I notice my Jack Russell jumping the most when a new visitor comes over to the house when she wants to play or when I first arrive back home for the day.

Overall, I find the jumping amusing, and it has never been at a level that I find it bothersome.

However, I am sure that other individuals have reached this point where the jumping may be considered more of a nuisance.

If it is a behavior that you do not want to see from your Jack Russell, be sure to communicate this using proper training to decrease the overall amount of jumping you will notice with your JR.

Now, the next couple of pieces of the equation have more to do with a few wildcard behaviors that a Jack Russell may display depending on the situation, so I want to ensure we touch on those as well.

Displaying Dominant Behavior

I have seen firsthand how this could be a negative behavior with a Jack Russell.

It has never become an issue in a manner that worried me, but when my Jack Russell was a bit younger, she would always use the same approach towards my older yellow lab, who also weighs more than 80 lbs. than her.

She likes to get up in face and growl but never in an aggressive manner.

More of a playful manner than anything but still a behavior I did not want to continue.

Perhaps if I was not around during this phase of her life, it might have become that, but I honestly do not think so.

Jack Russell’s simply likes to be the center of attention for you to show them that you love them quite often.

If they ever display any behavior that indicates that they believe they run the house, correct that behavior right away.

Examples can include getting on furniture or in the bed or trying to always lead the way during a walk or a run.

Work with your Jack Russell and remain consistent to ensure this kind of alpha and dominant behavior does not continue into the adult years.

Aggressive Behavior with Jack Russell’s

Aggressive behavior can be another common concern with Jack Russell’s.

Still, it is also not something that I have experienced thus far into my journey with my JR.

It is known however, that Jack Russell’s typically do better with other dogs that are similar in personality.

This includes the other dog also being outgoing, interactive, and energetic.

While this may be an issue with some Jack Russell’s, I believe that any aggressive behavior with any dog breed is likely on the hands of the owner and not the dog itself.

Work with your Jack Russell and ensure they are beginning to socialize with other animals and pets from an early age.

This is typically why I recommend adopting a Jack Russell from a breeder near you.

Breeders are often great options to ensure you are getting a Jack Russell that will not be aggressive.

It also ensure that they have been around many other dogs and pets and are used to people.

Disciplining and Correcting Bad and Negative Behaviors with JR’s

All the bad behaviors that we have discussed thus far with Jack Russell’s can certainly be corrected and turned into positive behaviors.

The key is to start at a young age and ensure that your Jack Russell is receiving clear messages and understanding what you expect for the best results and long-term discipline and obedience.

Exercise, Training, and Consistency Are Key

The last piece of advice I want to leave you with today is something we briefly touched on previously.

Jack Russell’s are an exceptionally well behaved and loyal dog when they have a chance to burn energy and develop a routine.

Keep consistency in their schedules.

This can include anything related to when they go outside, when playtime makes sense and when you feed them.

When they have a chance to adjust and get used to this routine, they will understand what to expect.

This makes behavior remain in check even when you need to leave your Jack Russell home alone.

The more consistent you can be, the better.

All Dogs Have Good and Bad Behaviors, Jack Russell’s Are No Different

Jack Russell’s are much like any other dog breed when it comes to their behavior.

You have some good behavior, and you have some bad behavior.

With some patience, diligence, and consistency, I can tell you firsthand that a Jack Russell can make an excellent addition to the family.

Luna and I wish you the best of luck with your Jack Russell’s and hope you experience all the good behaviors of this wonderful pet and deter the negative behaviors as quickly as possible.


Share Your Thoughts

Does your Jack Russell display any other behaviors we have not listed out and explained in this post?

Any other good or bad behaviors you believe we need to mention in this post to inform any new potential Jack Russell owners?

Be sure to share those thoughts, stories, and concerns by dropping a comment below.

As always, Luna and I appreciate you stopping by and reading today.

Thanks again, and we will see you next time.

Josh Martin- Founder and Creator of Terrier Owner

Josh Martin is the proud owner of a female Jack Russell Terrier Named Luna. Josh founded TerrierOwner.com to share the stories of owning a Terrier and to help all terrier owners with the struggles, excitement and common questions that come with being a new terrier parent.

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