Are Jack Russells Smart?

By John Martin - January 28, 2022

Smart Jack Russell at attention

Jack Russells are considered to be quite smart, although the extent of this can vary depending on the context. There are several reasons why Jack Russells are smart dogs, which you can read about here.

At the same time, there are certain things that you will need to watch out for when it comes to their smartness and intelligence and what can hamper the extent of these.

Are Jack Russells Smart?

Jack Russells are quite smart considering the fact that they can follow commands and instructions easily while also learning to adapt to new situations in a hassle-free way.

Since they were first bred for hunting, they continue to have high levels of alertness and vigilance when it comes to their temperament. Their pack mentality can also contribute to this, since they are able to identify the leader and follow them well.

When it comes to their IQ, Jack Russells rank 46th out of 79 dogs, according to Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, which is average but still considerably good considering that they can learn to obey commands fairly quickly.

What Makes Jack Russells Smart?

There are several aspects of the temperament and nature of Jack Russells that make them smart, although the extent of this is bound to vary. You can go through these below.


Jack Russells are usually easy to train and eager to please. They can learn commands fairly quickly, although you will need to keep reinforcing the target behavior several times until they completely internalize it.

You will, however, need to start at a young age when it comes to this. You should also get through all the basic commands first so that your dog can retain this for a long time.

Making use of clicker training can also be a good way for your Jack Russell to learn the behaviors that you want them to repeat and retain.


When it comes to instinctive intelligence, you should look at the purpose for which Jack Russell Terriers were initially bred. Developed for the specific purpose of fox hunting in England, Jack Russells were bred to be energetic, active, alert and quick on their feet.

Thus, whenever they caught the scent or movement of the target, they would be able to capture and hunt them down while also making their way through narrow or difficult spaces.

This makes these dogs extremely smart when it comes to their instincts. Today, you can find this behavior in how alert and cautious they are while also being able to sense threats or alterations quickly.


Another aspect of what makes Jack Russells smart is their adaptive intelligence. This means that these dogs are quite flexible and can learn to adapt to new people, places, commands and situations.

They also have the ability to figure out their mistakes fairly quickly so that they can work towards avoiding them next time. This can contribute to their easy trainability levels.

It is essential for you to provide suitable enough conditions for your dog as well, so that they can have an easier time. In some cases, you might also need to have a bit of patience until your Jack Russell can adapt.

Also Read: Are Jack Russells Cuddly?

Response Rate

Jack Russells tend to have a good response rate when it comes to learning new commands and reacting to them. Usually, they might take a few tries to get something right, but once they do, it will become easier for them to retain it for a long time.

This can also apply to how they react to your attempts at calling them or to the other people around them. They are likely to respond immediately, especially when it comes to the people they know and trust.


Jack Russells are quite obedient. They can not only understand what you expect from them, but can also carry out the required action in a quick manner. Make sure you begin this process early on while also rewarding them well so that they can become fully adept at listening to your needs.

Mental Stimulation

Jack Russells require plenty of mental stimulation on a daily basis, which can add to their intelligence and problem-solving skills. To hone this, you can give them various kinds of tasks and ensure that they carry them out fully.

This is also a good way to keep them occupied so that they can release some of their energy. This can tire them out while also keeping them alert, happy and active.

You can try out various kinds of activities when it comes to this kind of stimulation. You can provide them with dog games, puzzles and chew toys that they can then work on.


Jack Russells also have empathy, which can add to how smart they are. This usually means that they can sense what their owners are feeling and alter their reactions and behaviors accordingly.

This can make them great companions to be around, especially since they are quite affectionate and cuddly as well. They are quite playful and can cheer you up pretty well.

While they can be quite vigilant and alert, they are also extremely open to new people or strangers and can learn to get along with them well. This also applies to kids and other pets, although this can take a while for them to get used to.

Things to Watch Out For

Despite the fact that Jack Russells are smart, there are several things you might need to watch out for that you can look into below.


Jack Russells are quite stubborn when it comes to their temperament. In this sense, it can sometimes be difficult to train them or resist their demands, since they usually love doing what they want.

In case they become too stubborn, it will become difficult for you to teach them or train them at that moment or get them to listen to you. This can then hamper their obedience, adaptability as well as response rate.

To avoid this, you should begin the training process when they are still quite young so that they can learn the essential tricks and behaviors in due time.


Jack Russells also tend to be quite independent by nature. They tend to like doing things on their own and being left to run around and perform tasks in an independent manner.

However, leaving them alone for too long might end up making them bored, causing them to look for their own ways of keeping themselves occupied and interested.

This might then end up leading to chaotic situations and destructive tendencies, which is why you must keep an eye on them and be around them as often as possible.

Of course, this does not mean that you should coddle them too much. Give them their space just as you require yours.


Jack Russells were bred for hunting and although they are now largely domesticated, they can still retain some of that aggression and instinct, especially when they notice a threat around them.

While this is entirely possible to minimize or even avoid, it can sometimes show up if they are around people or other animals that they fear. This can also turn up if you do not meet their essential needs and give them enough time and affection of your own.

This aggression can manifest itself in the form of growling, biting, barking, chasing, scratching, chewing on furniture or other such behaviors.

Also Read: Can Jack Russells Swim?

Energy Levels

Having high amounts of energy, Jack Russells require plenty of physical exercise and stimulation to release their energy and remain healthy, smart, responsive and happy.

They are quite agile and enthusiastic, loving to run around and play whenever they get the chance. It is up to you to ensure that you provide them with this kind of physical exercise on a regular basis so that they can then calm down properly.

Not being able to use up their energy levels can then result in feeling restless and cooped up, causing them to act out and not respond well to your commands.

Lack of Training and Care

If you do not provide training and socialization to your Jack Russell early on or regularly, then this can make them less likely to react and behave in smart ways. Getting older without proper training can make it slightly difficult for them to adapt and learn.

Neglecting them or not taking care of their meals, affection needs and stimulation needs can also inhibit their intelligence.

Other Pets and Kids

If there are other pets and kids around Jack Russells, then it can take some time for them to get used to them. While it will be okay once they become comfortable around them, you will also need to establish boundaries or else they might become fearful or view them as threats.

Parting Remarks

It is now clear that Jack Russells are quite smart when it comes to their trainability, adaptability, obedience, instinct, response rate and empathy, although you might need to give them a push in the right direction while also remaining cautious of certain aspects.