Are Jack Russell Terriers Aggressive? [The Truth]

If you’ve begun looking for a dog to add to your household, you may have been taken in by a Jack Russell’s adorable features. But if you’ve heard some rumors about their aggressive nature, it might make you hesitant to welcome them with open arms.

So, is it true? Are Jack Russell Terriers aggressive? The short answer is no because they’re not inherently more aggressive than any other type of dog.

are Jack Russell Terriers aggressive
Are Jack Russell Terriers Aggressive? [The Truth]

If you still have concerns, we can help explain more about the causes of aggression in Jack Russells and how to stop it.

Jack Russells Aggressive Reputation 

If you’ve seen one of the many famous Jack Russells on TV and in movies, like Wishbone, you may have become enamored with their cute white coats and spotted faces. But if you researched the dog afterward, you might have been horrified to see stories about aggressive dogs.

Jack Russells are one of the many dog breeds with a bad reputation for being violent. There are some instances of Jack Russell Terriers lashing out. However, if you have a good understanding of a Jack Russell’s behavior and needs, you shouldn’t face the same issues.

Many people are unaware of the breeding history of Jack Russells when they were fox hunters. This history can mean that the small dogs have high intelligence, plenty of energy, and regularly need stimulation to be on their best behavior. 

Even though they were hunters, the original breeder John Russell prided himself on his dogs being non-aggressive to keep the foxes alive during hunts.

Today, when trying to figure out if Jack Russell Terriers are aggressive, the more reliable method is to examine the dog’s environment and history. A recent study has shown that no dog breed is inherently aggressive, and the behavior largely relies on the owner.

grinning Jack Russell
Jack Russell being aggressive by showing teeth.

Keeping a Dog’s Aggression in Check

So, what can you do as an owner to help keep your Jack Russell lovable? First, you must get to know your dog and meet its needs.

Meeting energy and stimulation needs is crucial, especially if you’re concerned about Jack Russells tearing apart items while you’re away from home. This behavior is usually from boredom.

A Jack Russell’s high-energy needs mean that you should try to play with them and walk them a bit every day. Then, incorporate games like hide-and-seek or daily training sessions to keep their minds at work.

Show your dog patience and love, and never react to aggression with yelling.

Besides meeting their needs, you should also try to recognize different forms of aggression, which can help you avoid triggering situations until you can train for them.

Jack Russell Terrier playing
Jack Russell Terrier running with a wooden stick in his mouth.

Recognizing Aggression

Dogs usually show many warning signs of aggressive behavior before they lash out. Understanding this behavior and the many possible causes can help you de-escalate situations before they get that far.

Unfortunately, the truth is that some Jack Russell Terriers are aggressive in certain situations, like any dog. Aggression in dogs originates from fear or traumatic pasts, especially in adopted dogs, which doesn’t mean there is no hope for the dog, but it means to be careful of situations.

Here are some of the most common causes of dog aggression:

  • Territorial aggression occurs when dogs lash out against intruders or strangers in their homes.
  • Dogs can become protectively aggressive when they fear for their friends or family’s safety.
  • Possessive aggression happens when dogs believe their belongings need protection from others.
  • Dogs can become aggressive when they’re afraid.
  • Dogs could be socially aggressive if they believe their position in the family hierarchy is at risk.
  • Frustrated-elicited aggression happens when dogs are excited by an event but held back from participating.
  • Redirected aggression is possible when a dog is chasing an animal or other target, and someone interferes.
  • Dogs can become aggressive when they’re in pain.
  • Dogs that aren’t sexually fixed can be aggressive when in heat toward other dogs.
  • Predatory aggression is when a dog’s instinct makes them aggressive toward fast-moving objects.

Monitor your dog closely during new situations for any sign of aggression. You can recognize when a dog is on edge by their physical traits. Some indications can be the dog being very still, growling, raising hair, showing teeth, snapping, or lunging.

Jack Russell growls
Jack Russell growls at the stranger.

How Jack Russells Are With Children? 

Jack Russells can be good family dogs, as they can be very affectionate and loyal to children. They’ll love running along with your kids while they play.

However, it all depends on the dog. Some may struggle with the addition to the family if you have a baby, or they might find a child’s erratic behavior confusing.

Unfortunately, when considering if Jack Russell Terriers are aggressive, there aren’t many blanket statements that cover every situation. But, in general, it’s a good idea not to have Jack Russells around children under eight years old.

Before a child is eight, they can’t adequately respect a dog’s boundaries and understand when a dog might be uncomfortable. As a result, it can cause accidents that are neither the dog’s nor the child’s fault. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a Jack Russell and children, though.

Keep a close eye whenever your dog and child are left alone together, and you likely won’t have issues.

Jack Russell Terrier with a boy
A boy spends time playing with his Jack Russell Terrier.

How Jack Russells Are With Other Dogs? 

For the most part, Jack Russells will enjoy the company of other dogs. However, if you’re able to, it can help if you socialize your Jack Russell while they’re young, which gets them used to the presence of dogs and learning proper behavior.

Jack Russell Terriers are sometimes aggressive towards other Terriers, in particular. But, again, socialization can help when they’re young. Additionally, like other dogs, if you don’t spay or neuter your Jack Russell, they may become aggressive when they’re in heat.

Plus, some dogs can become protective of their home, family, and belongings towards other dogs. Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to have dogs meet in public on neutral ground for the best results.

A Jack Russell usually enjoys meeting and playing with other dog friends.

two Jack Russell Terriers together
Two Jack Russell Terriers posing together for a photoshoot.

What To Do if Your Dog Becomes Aggressive?

There are Jack Russell Terriers with aggressive behavior, and if you already own one who begins to show signs of aggression, you might feel like your options are limited.

There are a few methods you can try to help stop this aggression. Don’t panic, as your dog isn’t hopeless!

First and foremost, you must remove your dog from the triggering situation. Be careful when approaching dogs showing signs of aggression, and try to get them as far away as possible so they can calm down. If it’s something like another dog or a person, try to have them leave, too.

Once your dog has had some time to calm down, it’s time to make a plan for future situations. Of course, you’ll want to avoid anything that could cause a similar reaction for a while. It doesn’t mean that the activity will always be forbidden, as you may be able to train your Jack Russell to handle it better.

Never yell at dogs if they lash out, as it can cause more fear and aggression. This negative feedback only teaches them to hide their signs of agitation.

You might want to speak with your vet if the aggression seems very out of place and sudden. Sudden outbursts could be signs of pain or other health issues. Plus, a vet or training professional can give you tips to help stop the behavior.

Finally, if you continue to struggle with aggression or the trigger is unavoidable, you may consider giving your Jack Russell up for adoption. But, first, you can try some training methods. 

Jack Russell Terrier licking
Jack Russell Terrier licking owner’s hand.

How To Train for Aggressiveness? 

Some people think that Jack Russell Terriers are aggressive because of their personality and don’t realize that it is usually behavior that is possible to train out.

One of the most important methods of training is positive reinforcement.

For instance, if your dog is aggressive towards strangers, try to spend time outdoors on walks where you may encounter them. Then, when the stranger is far away, and your dog is calm, give them treats. If the dog remains peaceful while the stranger approaches, you can continue to praise them.

Eventually, they may be able to have a stranger approach with little to no reaction as they associate the experience with positive things like praise and food.

Whenever possible, try to praise your Jack Russell for calm behavior. If you struggle with calming your dog, the best method is often to ignore them until they settle themselves. As a result, giving them what they want or praising them will reinforce good behavior.

Finally, you can consider consulting a professional dog trainer if you still struggle with aggressive issues. They will have plenty of material and methods to help you train out the problems.

Jack Russell stays with owner
Jack Russell stays beside the owner.


So, are Jack Russell Terriers aggressive? Realistically, the breed is not aggressive, but that doesn’t mean individual dogs can’t have their own issues.

Keep an eye on new situations and keep up with training for the best results with Jack Russells, and you’ll enjoy an affectionate pup with plenty of love for the family.