Before you consider owning a Jack Russell it is very important to understand the exercise requirements of this breed. There seems to be a misconception that large breed dogs need “room to run”, and smaller dogs are fine in apartments,etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love my big German Shepherds, but all of my terriers can outrun and outlast her any day of the week.
It is up to responsible Jack Russell breeders to educate perspective J.R. owners about their very high exercise needs. If you are under the impression that the average J.R. will be fine with a walk around the block once a day, you would be wrong. Unfortunately T.V. shows like “Frasier” painted a picture of a cute little dog who usually sat on the couch most of the day. Not once did you see this canine T.V. star bouncing from room to room looking for something to do. Now I realize not everyone ( myself included ) is an avid jogger or hiker, but the average person can meet a J.R.s needs with a little planning and creativity.
First of all, just being outside is a big plus. They need a fenced in area where they can safely run and play. If you start your puppy early with lots of retrieving games, the everyday tennis ball will be an invaluable tool for you. If your dog loves to play fetch he will get so much great exercise, and have fun too. This way if you are not feeling particularly energetic yourself, you can even sit on a chair and throw the ball so your terrier gets a good workout.
I had a wonderful terrier named “Tye” who was so obsessed with tennis balls he would bring them to me at any moment of the day ( or night! ) and he would play ball until he could hardly stand up, take a two minute rest, and start at it again. Luckily I had a large water trough for the horses that Tye would jump into, cool off, and return in a flash with his beloved soggy tennis ball.
There are all kinds of fun accessories now like “Chuk – Its” that help you to throw even further for your dog. And if you become interested in canine sports you can train your dog to play Frisbee, and may be even become a competitive “disc dog”.
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of Canada www.jrtcc.ca has a variety of performance events that showcase the terrier’s ability. You can teach them to do hurdles, learn agility, or learn the hugely popular sport of Flyball. The great thing is, the Jack Russell terrier is smart enough, and athletic enough to do all of this and much more! It is simply amazing to watch these little dogs compete in such events as racing, and lure coursing
I always encourage Jack Russell owners to be creative. If you are talented enough to roller blade or skateboard while you run your dog, you will both get an amazing workout. This gives your dog so much more of an effective workout than a leisurely walk around the block. In the winter, why not take your J.R.s cross country skiing? As long as the temperatures are favorable and you have protective footwear for your friend, it can be a great time for both of you. And in the summer you might want to cool off by taking your terrier to a safe stream or pond to chase sticks or floating toys. Many Jack Russell’s are excellent swimmers, and enjoy the water very much.
My favorite way to train and condition my terriers is to use a hands free device called a “springer”. A springer attaches to the frame of your bicycle and is designed so that a dog will naturally pull away from the wheels of your bike.
I see people all the time trying to ride a bike and manage their dog on a leash with one hand. More often than not, this can be both frustrating and dangerous. The big concern is when the leash is too long, the dog can cross in front of your bicycle or get into trouble with on coming obstacles. With the springer, I find it so much safer and easier to manage that I run two terriers in tandem.
The key is to do some basic training of key commands, so your dogs can be cued for right and left turns. I keep my most experienced terrier on the inside (my wheel dog) and he will actually push his partner over to do a left turn. It is great to have a steady experienced springer dog to help teach the new ones. You must always be ready for distractions on your ride. It could be anything that grabs your terriers attention and takes their mind off what they are doing. The great thing with having your hands free is you can safely stop your bike, deal with the distraction (squirrel, cat, loose dog etc.) and carry on.
Very rarely will the dogs run towards the bicycle wheel, but part of the challenge for the rider is to always be aware and prepared! Sometimes all it takes is a gentle voice command to remind the dogs they are too close to the wheel. The other big consideration is the physical capabilities of your terrier.
Start slowly! You can’t expect them to run full speed the whole way. Most of my riding is done at a nice brisk trot. Remember these dogs were bred to cover ground in the hunt field all day, but you must take into consideration the temperature and the dogs fitness level. I always carry water and a collapsible bowl for them and take frequent water breaks. I also keep the dogs on the softest surface, and the bicycle on the pavement. I avoid gravel or any other surface that would be hard on their feet and make sure their paws are on grass or dirt trails for the majority of our trip.
I think my years of riding horses has taught me to constantly scan my surroundings for hazards and with the dogs I make sure I am just as diligent. You can avoid most hazards (broken glass, holes, etc.) but it’s good to carry a cell phone in case you run into trouble.
I want to address the idea that your dog needs to work for a living. When you researched your breed, you would have come across what work your particular breed was developed for. Dogs have not had the job description of “pet” for very long. It has only been in relatively recent years that dogs have come out of the barn and into the house. What happens to all of those instincts that have been developed for thousands of years?
BOREDOM is the scourge of the pet dog. It is my opinion, that boredom kills more dogs every year than any other affliction. How can I make a comment like that?
Family adopts a Border Collie because they are “smart” dogs. Border collie puppy is petted and carried around for the first few weeks. Because herding breeds can have a tendency to be mentally sensitive, their behavior in inhibited for several weeks. As the puppy begins to feel more secure and develops physically, his behavior begins to change. When the puppy reaches a size where he is no longer easy to carry around he is circling and nipping at the kids. The kids become afraid of the dog and the dog is tied up when the children are playing. When the dog is tied up for the greater part of the day, he becomes anxious and explosive when released from the confines of the chain. When mom tries to take the dog off the chain after the kids are at school, the dog, so ecstatic for social contact, jumps up on Mom in an attempt to greet her at her face. The more frustrated and angry Mom gets the harder the because the puppy tries to appease this angry pack mate. Frustrated and covered in muddy paw prints, Mom re-chains the dog and leaves. After several failed attempts to interact with the dog, it is decided that the dog is “nasty”, has a screw loose and “needs a farm” to run on, etc.
Dogs are pack animals, they are social creatures. Isolation is as damaging to them as it is to us. They need physical and mental stimulation in order to be well. Behaviour problems are very often a manifestation of boredom.
A walk around the block at the end of the night is not enough for most dogs. Mental work is so critical to their well being. When your dog is mentally and physically fatigued, you have a much nicer creature to live with. So what are we going to do with these dogs? GIVE THEM A JOB!
- Use Your Kongs! Stuff them, freeze them, do whatever it takes to turn that toy into a slow food delivery system! Make them work for it. They will thank you for it.
- The Great Cookie Caper! Take 10 dry biscuits, with your dog confined to their crate in another room, hide the cookies throughout the house. Let the dog out and tell them to “find it”. Let them self-discover the goodies you have hidden. Do make it easy for first timers and puppies.
- Teach Your Dog to do Tricks! The sky is the limit here, be creative. Tricks stimulate the mind just as well as those traditional exercises.
- Teach Your Dog to Retrieve! This is a great way to exercise your dog quickly. Ten minutes of retrieving is worth 2 hours of leash walking!
- Roll With It! Use a kibble ball. These are marketed under many different names but they all work on the same premise. Fill the ball with kibble and let your dog figure out how to get those goodies out.
- Use Your Life Rewards! Rewards are not just food. What does your dog like? How can you make them earn it? An honest day’s work feels as good to them as it does for us. Why not use a car ride or a favorite game as a reward?
- Get into the Game! Get involved with canine sports. Join an agility club. Even if you go out to a club to practice the basics, the mental stimulation of being in the thick of the activity, will make for a very tired dog.
- Consider Therapy Work! Most nursing homes and hospitals are very grateful for well mannered dogs, and the joy they bring to the residents.
Or Perhaps One of These Will Appeal to You… swimming, scent work, search and rescue, hide and seek, hunting, rally-O, lure coursing, Freestyle (dog dancing), commercials, still photography for ads, conformation, obedience, flyball etc. The options are nearly endless!
“Just a Dog”
From time to time people tell me “lighten up, it’s just a dog”, or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog”.
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog”. Many hours have passed and my only companion was “just a dog”, but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog”, and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me the comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog”, then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend”, “just a sunrise”, or “just a promise”.
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.
Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me, and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what is good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.
I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a man”. So the next time you hear the phrase “Just a dog” – just smile because they “Just don’t understand.”