Also referred to as a Russell Terrier, Reverend John Russell developed the Jack Russell in England in the 19th century as a fox hunting dog. Its small size, loud voice and strong sense of smell made it the ideal traveler and hunter on fox hunting trips. Today, Jack Russells are a popular pet choice. The breed's high energy level, intelligence and devotion make them good playmates for kids. Parents need to be careful, however, to make sure that they and their children properly train and discipline the Jack Russell to prevent behavioral problems.
Jack Russells have a lot of energy, so they do well with families with children who like to play outdoors. Once outside, Jack Russells will spend their time exploring the area, barking and chasing after things and digging holes. While their high energy level is very fun for children, it also means that they can get destructive if not provided with enough exercise. A Jack Russell that is 12 inches tall can jump five feet, so it may jump over fences and on top of small children. Due to the breed's genetics, Jack Russells have strong hunting instincts so they require careful watching when in areas with other small animals and dogs.
Highly intelligent dogs, Jack Russells pick up games and tricks quickly. They are easily trained to perform complex tricks, as evidenced by their use in television shows and movies. "Wishbone," an award-winning and popular show that aired on PBS in the mid-1990s, followed the adventures and antics of a Jack Russell. The long-running hit show "Frasier" featured a Jack Russell as Dr. Frasier Crane's constant companion.
Not only do Jack Russells have limitless energy and high intelligence, they are devoted dogs. While they are affectionate and generally kind to children, they will fight back if teased or hit, so they are more suitable for families with older and/or well-behaved children. If treated right, Jack Russells will remain loving to their caretakers for a lifetime.
While Jack Russells are generally obedient, their intelligence coupled with their fearlessness means that children need to establish boundaries and rules with them. Jack Russells that are not disciplined after disobedience will start believing that they are in charge and will take advantage of their caretakers' kindness. Behavioral problems, which include obsessive barking, separation anxiety, snapping and selfishness, can arise if caretakers do not establish authority over them. Families who are considering a Jack Russell as a pet need to make sure that everyone in the family consistently trains and disciplines it.