Are Jack Russell Terriers Smart?

Jack Russell Terriers were first bred in England in the 1800s to hunt foxes. They are known for their vermin-catching, energy, and playful personalities.

So, are Jack Russell Terriers smart? Many would say yes, but it depends on the way you measure intelligence.

are Jack Russell Terriers smart
Are Jack Russell Terriers smart?

Jack Russell Terriers are known for their cleverness and sometimes outsmart their owners. Jack Russells are also very active and playful, making them seem like they are always up to something. But what makes a Jack Russell smart? Let’s take a look.

What Makes Jack Russell Terriers Smart?

There is no definitive answer, as intelligence is subjective. However, many experts believe that Jack Russells are indeed intelligent dogs.

There are a few things that indicate Jack Russell Terriers are intelligent. First of all, they are very clever and cunning. I’ve seen this breed think of creative ways to get what they want and prove that they are not afraid to try new things.

Jack Russells are quick learners who are good at problem-solving and remember commands well. They are also known for their resourcefulness. For example, if a Jack Russell wants to get out of its yard, it will probably find a way.

One indication of this breed’s versatility is its use in TV and movies. Eddie from Frasier, Skip from My Dog Skip, and Arthur from Beginners are just a few examples. The tendency to use Jack Russells is due to their responsiveness, perky personality, and expressive face.

They also have a good memory, so they can remember things they have learned in the past. Jack Russells are very inquisitive. This means that they are always learning and trying new things, which helps to keep their minds sharp.

In addition to their intelligence, Jack Russell Terriers are also very energetic. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Because of this, these dogs may not be the best breed for everyone. Leaving a Jack Russell alone all day in an apartment will not end well. 

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

Are Jack Russell Terriers Easy To Train? 

Jack Russells don’t score very high on the most intelligent dog breeds list. This result is because these lists focus on trainability, and Jack Russells are too stubborn and independent to be incredibly trainable.

These dogs have difficulty paying attention. Once they’ve decided they don’t want to do something, it’s hard to get them to change their minds, but with patience and persistence, you can train a Jack Russell to do most things you want them to do.

Jack Russells are excellent hunters known for their ability to track down vermin. This skill makes them very useful dogs on a farm or in the countryside. However, their hunting instincts can also contribute to some training challenges. 

Jack Russell Terriers are considered a working breed, so they are not eligible to compete in American Kennel Club dog shows. However, they excel in many other activities, such as agility, obedience, and tracking. With that being said, Jack Russell owners would likely agree that these dogs are not a pedigree breed. 

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

What Are the Different Types of Dog Intelligence? 

There are various different approaches to measuring dog intelligence. We’ll discuss a few common methods.

Stanley Coren’s Dog Intelligence Ranking

Canine expert, Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence criteria is a good measure of a dog’s brainpower. These criteria include problem-solving ability, memory, and willingness to learn. Jack Russells score high in all these areas, making them a smart dog breed.

jack russell puppy
If you adopt a Jack Russell puppy, expect a ball of energy and lots of play

Innate Ability

An obedience test functions to determine dog intelligence, and the Jack Russell does not excel in this arena. Instead, the breed’s ability to find vermin is what’s truly impressive. A dog using its innate abilities is called instinctive intelligence.

As with an Australian Shepherd wrangling sheep, the Jack Russell does not need training to hunt vermin. This is an innate ability passed down from generations of hunting dogs. They know to chase vermin down holes and grab them with their powerful jaw. These dogs will wait for days for the chance to catch a rodent.

Jack Russell Terrier hunts
Jack Russell Terrier is a good hunting dog.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is the ability of a dog to understand emotions. Jack Russell Terrier owners state that their dogs understand how they are feeling and what they want. The breed is known to be very loyal and loving, making them great companions.

So, while the Jack Russell Terrier might not be the best at following commands, they are still an intelligent dog breed. They are intelligent because they are resourceful and have a great memory. They are also very active and playful, which helps to keep their minds sharp.

Jack Russell Terrier petting
Petting Jack Russell Terrier by his owner.

Jack Russell Terrier Training Tips

To enable your Jack Russell to reach their full potential, here are some training tips to keep in mind.


Jack Russels should be socialized early if you want them to respond well to commands. Dogs that are not socialized correctly can be challenging to train. Jack Russell Terriers need to be around people and other dogs from a young age to learn how to interact with them.

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

Introduce Other Pets

Since Jack Russels love to hunt and stalk, be careful with other pets in the house. They might see your cat as a hunting target and go after it. It’s essential to introduce your dog to other animals early and often. Cats and hamsters will deal with being chased if your dog is not properly acclimated.

Positive Reinforcement

The best way to train a Jack Russell is with positive reinforcement. Reinforcement means rewarding your dog when she does something you want her to do. Your Jack Russell Terrier will be a well-behaved and obedient dog with proper training.

Jack Russels are active hunting dogs and need stimulation and activity to remain well-behaved indoors. A tired dog is a good dog. A good game of fetch or a long walk will help wear them out.

That’s why giving your Jack Russell Terrier plenty of exercise is essential. A daily walk or run will help to keep them happy and healthy. These dogs tend to destroy things in the home if they get bored and frustrated.

Anxiety is a problem for Jack Russells that don’t get enough time to play and chase vermin. This breed needs a lot of stimulation to stay happy and calm. Without enough exercise, they can become destructive and anxious. Giving them plenty of space to run around and explore is essential.

Jack Russell Terrier treat
Jack Russell Terrier being rewarded with a treat.

How Can I Test My Dog’s Intelligence?

You can do some tests to determine a dog’s problem-solving and information retention abilities. Try the following intelligence exercises:

  • Throw a blanket over your dog and see how long it takes her to escape. Escaping in under 15 seconds is excellent, 15 – 30 seconds is average, and over 30 seconds is below average.
  • Place three bowls upside down on the ground with a treat under one. Your dog should see where the treat is. Distract your dog for a few seconds, and then see if he remembers where the treat is. If he goes right for the treat, it shows an excellent ability to retain information.
  • Move the furniture around in a room where your dog likes to relax. If your dog comes in and goes right to her favorite place, this shows excellent reasoning ability.
  • Show your dog his leash at a time when he usually does not go on a walk. If your dog gets excited about a walk, this shows a good ability to make associations.

Conclusion: Are Jack Russell Terriers Smart?

Are Jack Russell Terriers the smartest dog breed? No. But while they might not be the best at following commands, they have innate abilities that demonstrate intelligence.

Jack Russells are clever and cunning and have a great memory. But take my word, these dogs also need plenty of stimulation and exercise to remain well-behaved. Nonetheless, your Jack Russell Terrier can be a loyal and obedient dog with positive reinforcement training.