orangetunJack Russels in Agility

They are fun to run. When it is perfect, it is like flying a little radio controlled airplane or running with a feather on a silken thread. Those are the wonderful fun runs with the Jack Russell Terrier. They are worth all their quirky ways. They love to work and love to play. In fact if they don’t have a job they can be bored as unemployed dogs. They have been used for work for over a hundred years and kept with packs of foxhounds. Everything in the Jack Russell’s profile is life applied to work.Take this compact athletic dog and give it agility and you have one laser beam of a dog to play agility with. They have the capacity to be a true teammate. It is important to know that they were bred to have courage to face a fox below ground. They have the intelligence and the athletic form to be able to follow the fox to ground and dislodge it by barking at it so it would bolt. Their job was to eject the fox by its invasive presence or they would lunge at the fox and hold it at bay until the handler dug to the dog. The other technique to hunt the dog and the hardest, is for the dog to stay with the fox until the handler calls the dog out. Often they are not eager to come out, the fox having the dog’s undivided attention.

Jack Russell’s name was given to define the dog apart from the popular show ring terrier the Fox Terrier. At one time the Fox Terrier and the Jack Russell Terrier were exactly the same dog. Soon the conformation of the show ring Fox Terrier changed. Russell’s known strain and others breeding working terriers worked their dogs and did not go in the show ring. Russell’s dogs were hunters. Russell himself said the dog should never be a murderer of foxes. He said the intelligence of the dog should prevent him from doing such a crime. Jack Russell was a popular figure in England and was a fox hunting man and a Parson. The dog has not changed in appearance over the years. It is never to be questioned this little dog has courage and needs to meet lots of other dogs early on and be protected from itself. They must be well socialized with lots of people in lots of places. Oddly they have very strong likes and dislikes when it comes to other dogs. Many have been known to go hunting alone because they are hard wired to explore. They will obsess over a caged bird or gerbil. To harness their compulsion and aim their boundless energy to agility can be a lot of fun.

The Jack Russell is compact; very intelligent, and very athletic. For the most part they jump twelve inches and train easily because agility uses their athleticism and intelligence. It is the two things they want and need to work the most, their bodies and minds. This is a dog that is so sensitive and so affectionate that they are easily offended. They will turn themselves inside out to please you if you are teaching them and you are an interesting trainer. Training them requires a most positive attitude and positive training techniques. They are praise junkies and love treats. Most will take the praise over the treats. They shut down if they think they have done something wrong during a run or even in a class situation. If you so much as exhale in disapproval they may walk off the course. There has to be great value in it for them. If you keep them happy and playful they will give you their all, running courses with great panache.

The difference between the Jack Russell and the Parson Russell Terrier is kennel club recognition. The Parson Russell group was a splinter club that broke from the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America {the JRTCA} and approached the AKC to be recognized. The JRTCA is the largest registry of Jack Russells in the world and continues to keep the diverse size of the breed standard for varied earth working situations. The motto of the JRTCA is “to preserve, protect, and work the Jack Russell Terrier.” Emphasis is less on showing then working. There are breed classes but the highest honor must go to a known working terrier. Jack Russell events include racing, earth tests called go-to-ground, agility, obedience, trailing and locating. They also love lure coursing and ball tosses. The highest honor is given to earth working in the field. This is to retain the conformation and ability of keeping the hunting instincts of the strain fondly known as the REAL Jack Russell Terrier. Other variants are approaching the AKC including the “Russell Terrier” which is the short legged version. The registry of the Jack Russell Club is the most valued registry because only mature dogs of a year in age owned by Club members may apply to register. The dog must be examined by a veterinarian to make sure there are no known defects present. Just because both the sire and dam are registered, it is not a guarantee an offspring will. Dogs with bad bites and other defects can upon being spayed or neutered by recorded and enter non conformation events. The registry helps keep known defects from being passed on from generation to generation.

A correct Jack Russell Terrier is balanced in appearance and athletic by structure to do the job of following the fox into tight earthen tunnels below ground. It takes drive and courage so the dog was modeled after the red fox of Great Britain. A good nature is the first thing mentioned in the breed standard. Because they worked with a handler and had to be touched when working, they had to be stable in temperament. The dominant color white was so the handler could tell which was the dog and which was the fox when covered with dirt! They were very popular in the 1990’s. People bought “Eddie” dogs and found they had a bored dog in city apartments that longed to run and play and not be confined all day. Some bored dogs made up games that were not what owners wanted to come home to. One time I got a call after a man had called the police thinking he had been robbed. His two Jack Russells had torn apart his apartment. Not many folks think digging a terrier out of a hole is their cup of tea so finding a place to aim this little action packed loaded gun is well aimed to targets during agility lessons!

Breeds they are best with: hounds. Best let them pick a housemate if you choose to keep two Jack Russells. Have them meet on neutral territory. Opposite gender is best as they sometimes will slug it out with the same gender. Containment is a must. Some can climb human style over fences. Good with cats? Rarely, cats most resemble foxes and the dog loves a good chase! Good with children? Yes, over five if respectful and gentle. Never let a Jack Russell out without watching them every minute. They can take off after something and never see a truck coming at them. Teaching the recall is VERY important. They can become instantly deaf if interested in a squirrel across the busy highway! For more information about Jack Russells visit or for information about adopting a Jack Russell Terrier visit .

Catherine Romaine Brown is the current Chairperson of the Jack Russell Club of America and is a Working and Conformation judge for the JRTCA. She runs her dog “Twister” in CPE and Teacup events and is addicted to the fun of agility. She founded Russell Rescue and has written three books on Jack Russells published by Howell Book House. She was recently awarded the Dedication Award for preserving the working Jack Russell Terrier in America. It is an award given by the Jack Russell Club of America from the Jack Russell Club of Great Britain. She lives in Livonia NY with her husband Charles Streb.

3 Comments on “AgiliJack!

  1. Your article was wonderful, thoroughly informative & inspirational!
    My Jack,named Emmy is 4 years old, purchased from a breeder here in NJ. Excellent health for 4 years except lately..quite concerned about the change in her eating habits.
    Lately refusing to eat her morning meal & at times being finicky about her evening meal also. Shall I wean her off her food on to another one..and if so what do you recommend?
    Would love some help. Please respond whenever.

    Thank You ever so much.


    • That would worry me, too! Personally, if my dog ‘went off her food’ for more than a day or two, I’d speak to my vet to make certain there isn’t an underlying health cause. I’d then work with my vet to find a food that works well for me and my dog.

  2. You article was wonderful, thoroughly informative & inspirational!
    My Jack, named Emmy is 4 years old, purchased from a breeder
    here in NJ. Excellent health for 4 years except lately quite concerned about the change in her eating habits.
    Lately refusing to eat her morning meal & at times being
    finicky about her evening meal also. Shall I wean her off
    her food on to another one..and if so what do you recommend?

    Would love some help. Please respond whenever.

    Thank You ever so much.