Tips for Managing Jack Russell Terrier Behavior


Aggression With People | Fighting and aggression With Other Pets | Barking | Chewing | Digging | Fighting | Licking | Thunder and Lightening | Ask a Question

The crux of the problem when confronting Jack Russell Terrier behavior is that this breed of dogs wrote the book on strong willed, stubborn as a mule, defiant as Napoleon, hard to catch  little rascal terrier friendly dog breeds you ever saw in your life.

If you get a Jack Russell from a rescue group, you might be able to find a mixed breed that is more mile mannered. That said, a pure bred will have lots of pent up energy that needs to be directed to positive behaviors at an early age.

And in the early years, a Jack Russell puppy can run fast. They were originally bred that way, remember, to chase and hunt foxes. And don't think they don't know when they've messed up...they know alright...that's why they're running. (typical Jack Russell Terrier behavior)

But there are some very efficient ways to master Jack Russell Terrier behavior. And also some very interesting ones.  Before we go on, if you don't find the information on Jack Russell Terrier behavior you are looking for, just ask here.

two jack russell terriers jumping over fence on farm

In Anna Katherine Nicholas' great book, Jack Russell Terriers, she tells of a man who had a dog in a kennel that would wake him up at 1:30 a.m. every night barking his head off.

A platform to hold small dog in a bucket of water was constructed over the area of the kennel in which the dog usually chose to bark.

Through a system of hinges, ropes, and pulleys, a mechanism was devised so that the dog owner could pull a rope from his bedroom window, dumping a bucket of water on the dog when he started to bark.

The bucket was suspended such that once it was dumped, it uprighted itself and the owner could fill it again remotely by turning on a garden hose.

After two appropriate dunkings, the dog's barking behavior was apparently eliminated.

While this approach is inventive, it doesn't work well with those of us who are not good with pulleys, ropes and hinges.

Jack Russell Terrier Playing in Mud

But trying to stop a dog, and especially a jack russell terrier dog breed puppy or terrier dog breed that is extremely territorial, from excessive barking, can be quite a challenge as it is a natural Jack Russell Terrier behavior response to sound an alarm when other dogs or people approach their territory.

It is advisable, as good owners, dog lovers and good neighbors, to try and curb problem barking before it becomes a bad habit and before a Jack Russell Terrier puppy matures into an adult dog. And as I have mentioned before, START EARLY because these dogs are smart and they WILL learn, but only...if YOU are consistent.

But once punishment is administered, make every attempt from that point on, to punish ALL undesirable barking. Don't allow long periods of barking to go unpunished.

During this period of training it may be necessary to keep the dog inside while the owner is away, unless the dog can be, in some way, punished while the owner is gone.

But don't over-punish and harm or break the dog's spirit. Remember, Jack Russell Terrier behavior is rooted in a breeding as a high-spirited hunter and diligent protector of his territorial space.  One of the keys to Jack Russell Terrier behavior is praise and support. 

My dog Jimbo listens... most times to me. But it took us a few hours and some tangling and battle of wills to get here.


He loves to please me. And when the temptation over-rules his respect for me, I don't mind so much because he makes up for it in loyalty and affection that is hard to find an equal comparison. His whole life is me. If I go out, he's there at my feet. If I come in, there he is again, his eye ever watching and ready to defend.

This is Jack Russell Terrier behavior at its best.

Jack Russell Behavior General Tips

  1. Don't over stimulate your Jack: Time outs can be an effective way to handle  your Jack and to help him settle down. For example, ask visitors not to interact with your dog until he or she calms down.  Also, placing a harness on the dog can be a signal that calmer behavior is expected.
  2. Choose a time out corner: Select an area for your Jack to spend time when unacceptable behavior occurs.  This will be a clear signal that they did soemthing wrong. If you have a puppy, lift him up and carry him to the corner.  Older dogs will go when commanded.  You can also send the puppy to the bed area or place inside a crate.  If you decide to go the crate route, make sure it is only for your Jack to relax after being over stimulated and to calm down.  Do not leave the puppy in a crate for more than 15 minutes.

Fighting With Another Dog or Pet

If two dogs are constantly fighting, it is usually due to "pack" instability.  This means that it isn't clear in the household who is the dominant dog (after you).  The problem often arises when an owner favors a subordinate dog, giving that dog confidence in the presence of what was the dominant dog.  You should always favor the dominant dog for this reason.  Jack Russell Terrier's need to know the pecking order.  Once it is clear the Jack Russell Terrier behavior that you expect should return to normal.  You can also let two dogs work it out.  If they are hurting each other, try muzzling them and leaving them to work it out.  The muzzle will keep them from hurting each other, while allowing them to establish who is more dominant. Tips include:

  • Socialization: Proper socialization is key for a well-behaved dog. Expose your Jack Russell to different dogs, animals, and environments in a controlled and positive manner. Start with calmer, well-behaved dogs, and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations.
  • Obedience training: A well-trained dog is easier to manage in various situations. Teach your dog basic commands like "sit," "stay," "leave it," and "come," which can help you control your dog's behavior around other animals.
  • Positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats, praise, or play when they exhibit calm, non-aggressive behavior around other dogs or pets. This helps reinforce the desired behavior.
  • Leash training: Teach your dog to walk calmly on a leash without pulling or lunging. This can make it easier to manage your dog's behavior when encountering other pets. Learn to read body language: Understand the signs of stress or aggression in your dog's body language, such as stiffening, growling, or raised hackles. If you notice these signals, redirect your dog's attention or calmly remove them from the situation.
  • Create a safe space: At home, provide a separate area for your dog to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable around other pets.
  • Gradual introductions: When introducing your dog to other pets, do it gradually and in a controlled environment. Keep both animals on a leash and at a safe distance, allowing them to observe each other before slowly decreasing the distance.
  • Break up fights safely: If a fight occurs, avoid putting your hands between the dogs to prevent injury. Instead, use loud noises, water, or objects to separate them. Once separated, calmly remove your dog from the situation.
  • Consult a professional: If your dog continues to display aggressive behavior, seek help from a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. They can assess the situation and recommend a behavior modification plan.

Remember to be patient and consistent when working with your dog. Aggressive behavior may take time and effort to address, but with proper guidance, most dogs can improve. Always use positive reinforcement and avoid punishment, as this can exacerbate the problem.

When Your Jack Russell Attacks, Is Aggressive, or Snaps at People

  • Motivate with food: Food is a great motivator for dogs. Your dog will learn to obey any command if you reward him with food. Feeding your dog by hand is a great way to reduce his possessiveness around food and to make him less aggressive towards you.
  • Discourage jumping: Jack Russells are a small-sized breed and are unlikely to do much damage by jumping on people, but you should still put an end to this behavior.
  • Teach non-aggressive behavior: Teach your dog non-aggressive behavior such as sitting, staying, and coming when called. This will help your dog learn that he can get what he wants without being aggressive. 
  • Put an end to biting in the early stages: If your dog bites you or someone else, it’s important to put an end to this behavior as soon as possible. You can do this by saying “no” firmly and removing your hand from his mouth.
  • Keep him busy: A bored dog is more likely to become aggressive. Keep your dog busy with toys and games that challenge him mentally and physically.Consult a trainer: If your dog’s aggression is severe or if you’re having trouble managing it on your own, consider consulting a professional dog trainer.


Chewing is a natural canine behavior. Jacks have strong jaws, so chewing can be an issue. The simple quick way to encourage Jack Russell stop chewing behavior is to remove items from reach that your puppy chews, and replace them with durable chew toys.  Consider something like the Kong toys that had treats in the chew toy.  This will exercise your Jacks mind and keep the chewing to those few favorite toys.  One technique for puppies is to take the item that you don't want chewed out of their mouth while saying "no chew" or some other command.  Then immediately replace it with another acceptable chew toy and say "good chew" or something like that.


This is a natural behavior for Jacks (as well as any healthy dog). Consider funneling this behavior into a specific area of the yard. Use a command such as "OK dig" so your Jack knows when it is an acceptable behavior. Frustration is often the cause of digging, such as being placed outside when company arrives as a "punishment." By using behavior modification you can address the issue with visitors, and then the digging should stop. Specific tips include:

  • Exercise and mental stimulation: Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation to help burn off excess energy. Jack Russells are high-energy dogs and may turn to digging out of boredom or frustration.
  • Redirect the behavior: If you catch your dog in the act of digging, redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity, such as playing with a toy, practicing obedience commands, or going for a walk.
  • Offer alternatives: Provide your dog with appropriate outlets for their digging instincts, such as a designated digging area in your yard or a sandbox filled with sand or loose soil. Bury toys or treats in the designated area to encourage digging there.
  • Positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with praise, treats, or playtime when they dig in the designated area or engage in other appropriate activities.
  • Discourage digging: Make the areas where your dog typically digs less appealing by adding rocks, chicken wire, or a layer of citrus peels just below the surface of the soil. Be careful not to use any materials that could be harmful to your dog if ingested or could cause injury.
  • Avoid leaving your dog unattended: Supervise your dog when they are outside, especially in areas where they have previously dug. This allows you to intervene and redirect their behavior as necessary.
  • Address underlying issues: If your dog's digging seems to be driven by anxiety or stress, work on addressing these underlying issues. This may involve creating a more structured routine, providing more mental stimulation, or consulting with a professional trainer or veterinary behaviorist.Consistency: Be consistent in your approach to managing your dog's digging behavior. Encourage appropriate digging outlets and consistently redirect inappropriate digging.Patience: Understand that modifying your dog's behavior may take time and effort. Be patient and persistent in your training and management strategies.

Excessive Barking

Excessive barking can be a common issue with Jack Russell Terriers (even at bigger dogs), but with consistent training and management, it's possible to reduce this behavior.

The key to barking is to determine the underlying cause and then by applying the appropriate training method. For example, does barking occur after a visitor arrives, due to boredom, separation anxiety, excitement etc. In general, dogs bark when there is some perceived pleasure associated with the action, such as when wanting to play a came of fetch. Sometimes simply ignoring the situation can help, as this creates a negative reward for the behavior (this method can take weeks). If your Jack barks due to territorial concern, sometimes just acknowledging the barking, will get the Jack to stop. The Jack may just wanting you to acknowledge that it has protected your territory. Use a command if you dog stops and praise the dog for doing so. Jacks that bark out of fear or that are insecure is a different issue. For example, if guests move away when your dog barks, that is reinforcing their behavior, since they now know that they can get people to move away or that they can be intimidating. This is often the case for the mail man or delivery people that leave after dropping something off. Unfortunately, dog barking is a fact of life. Sometimes how the puppy is treated, or even praised for barking when young, may send the wrong signal The best approach is to seek out a local professional trainer.

If barking is due to a visitor to the house, are are some tips:

  • Teach the 'quiet' command: Start by teaching your dog a command, such as "quiet" or "enough," to signal when it's time to stop barking. Reward your dog with treats and praise when they obey the command. Practice this regularly to help them understand the desired behavior.
  • Desensitize to the doorbell or knocking: Gradually desensitize your dog to the sound of the doorbell or knocking by playing recordings of the sound at a low volume while rewarding your dog for staying calm. Gradually increase the volume and continue to reward calm behavior. This helps your dog associate the sound with positive experiences rather than feeling the need to bark.
  • Redirect their attention: When someone comes to the house, redirect your dog's attention with a command like "sit" or "down." Reward them for complying and remaining calm.Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats, praise, or attention when they remain calm and quiet as someone approaches or enters the house.Create a designated spot: Train your dog to go to a designated spot, such as their bed or a specific area, when someone comes to the house. Reward them for staying in that spot until they are calm or released.
  • Manage your dog's environment: If your dog tends to bark at people passing by windows, consider using window film, blinds, or curtains to limit their view of the outdoors.Exercise and mental stimulation: Ensure your dog receives adequate exercise and mental stimulation to help reduce excess energy and stress that may contribute to excessive barking.
  • Socialization: Regularly expose your dog to different people, animals, and environments to help them become more comfortable with new experiences and less likely to bark in response.Consider professional help: If your dog's barking persists or seems to be driven by anxiety or fear, consult a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist for guidance.

    Remember to be patient and consistent when working to modify your dog's barking behavior. It may take time and persistence to see significant improvements. Always use positive reinforcement and avoid punishment, as this can exacerbate the problem.


Dogs may lick for various reasons, including affection, submission, grooming, or even stress relief. Since Peanut spent most of her life in a crate before you adopted her, she may be seeking comfort and reassurance through licking. Here are some strategies to help minimize or stop her excessive licking:

  1. Identify triggers: Pay attention to when and where the licking occurs to identify potential triggers or patterns. If you can determine what's causing the behavior, you may be able to address it more effectively.
  2. Redirect the behavior: When Peanut starts to lick, redirect her attention to another activity or toy. This can help her form new habits and reduce her focus on licking.
  3. Teach an alternative behavior: Train Peanut to perform an alternative behavior, such as "sit" or "down," when she starts to lick. Reward her with treats or praise for obeying the command and not licking.
  4. Provide mental stimulation and exercise: Ensure Peanut receives adequate exercise and mental stimulation to help reduce boredom and stress, which can contribute to excessive licking. Engage her in interactive play, provide puzzle toys, and take her on regular walks.
  5. Offer chew toys: Provide Peanut with appropriate chew toys to help occupy her mouth and provide an alternative outlet for her licking behavior.
  6. Ignore the behavior: When Peanut licks you, ignore her by turning away or leaving the room. This can help her learn that licking does not result in attention or rewards.
  7. Positive reinforcement: Reward Peanut with treats, praise, or attention when she is calm and not licking. This helps reinforce the desired behavior.
  8. Consider medical causes: Consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues that may be causing her excessive licking, such as allergies, skin irritation, or dental problems.
  9. Be patient and consistent: Changing a behavior like excessive licking can take time and consistency. Remain patient and continue to work with Peanut to help her develop new habits.

If the excessive licking continues despite your efforts or if you're concerned about the behavior, consider consulting a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist for guidance. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your dog's specific needs and history.

Thunder and Lightening

It's not uncommon for dogs to be afraid of thunder and lightning. The loud noises and bright flashes can be frightening and disorienting. Here are some tips to help your Jack Russell Terrier feel more comfortable during thunderstorms:

  1. Create a safe space: Provide your dog with a safe, comfortable spot in your home where they can retreat during storms. This could be a crate or a small room with their bed and some familiar items. Consider adding some white noise or calming music to help mask the sounds of the storm.
  2. Desensitization and counter-conditioning: Gradually expose your dog to recordings of thunder and lightning at a low volume while providing treats or engaging in positive activities. Over time, increase the volume while continuing to provide positive reinforcement. This helps your dog associate the sounds of storms with positive experiences.
  3. Distract and engage: During a storm, engage your dog in fun activities like playing with toys, practicing obedience commands, or enjoying puzzle toys. This can help distract them from their fear and provide a positive outlet for their energy.
  4. Use calming aids: Consider using calming aids like a Thundershirt, which is a snug-fitting garment designed to help reduce anxiety in dogs, or calming pheromone products like Adaptil. These can help your dog feel more secure during storms.
  5. Stay calm and reassuring: Dogs often take cues from their owners, so it's important to remain calm and reassuring during storms. Speak to your dog in a soothing tone and offer comfort, but avoid overly coddling them, as this could reinforce their fear.
  6. Keep your dog indoors: Make sure your dog is indoors during thunderstorms to help reduce their exposure to the frightening stimuli and ensure their safety.
  7. Consult your veterinarian: If your dog's fear of thunder and lightning is severe, consult your veterinarian. They may be able to recommend medication or supplements to help manage your dog's anxiety during storms.
  8. Seek professional help: If your dog's fear persists or worsens, consider working with a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance and recommendations to help your dog feel more comfortable during storms.

Remember that it's essential to be patient and consistent when working with a fearful dog. It may take time for your Jack Russell Terrier to become more comfortable during thunderstorms, but with proper support and training, their anxiety can often be managed or reduced.

If you don't see the Jack Russell behavior information you are looking or suspect some type of health problem is causing the behavioral issue? Please ask a question by filling out the form below.

Have a Jack Russell Behavior Question or Suggestion?

Share your questions and tips about any Jack Russell behavior challenges or suggestions. Proper training and behavior modification is key to having a happy and successful relationship with your Jack. I will try to answer any questions as best I can. And of course we have thousands of readers who are always happy to help.

Or if you have an answer to any of the questions, it would be such a help to all seeking information about their beloved Jack Russells.

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