Can Jack Russell Terriers Be Service Dogs?

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According to the 2010 census, there are 50 million disabled adults. Many of these people have a service dog. When it comes to service dogs most people think of german shepherds, labrador retrievers and golden retrievers. But what about smaller dogs?


Can Jack Russell Terriers be service dogs?

Any type of dog, including Jack Russell Terriers, can be a service dog. However, not every breed is suited to the same work. For example, a Jack Russell Terrier can’t do certain jobs that require a larger, stronger dog to do. Despite that, there are still roles that these smaller dogs can fill.

What is a service dog?

The American Disabilities Act has defined service dogs as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” There are multiple different branches of service dogs, each with their own unique talents.

There are seeing eye dogs, dogs who help alert deaf people, psychiatric service dogs and medical alert dogs. The branch of medical alert dogs is an ideal avenue for a Jack Russell Terrier. These intelligent and well trained dogs detect certain medical situations such as low blood sugar or an oncoming seizure, and alert the owner. That way the owner can either fix the situation or prepare for them appropriately.

Many people think Jack Russell Terriers make wonderful emotional support or therapy dogs, which they do; but these are not considered to be true service dogs. This is due to the fact that they have not undergone specialized training to perform a certain job to assist people with a disability. Individual states have separate guidelines on emotional support dogs but they are not protected by the same laws as service dogs are.

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Laws that protect service dogs

There are many different laws when it comes to service dogs. The most commonly known one is that these dogs are allowed into any public business. The owners by law must not be separated from their service dog unless the dog is not under control or there is concern that they may be directly harmful to people. People are also not permitted to be charged extra at places such as a hotel, unless there is any damage caused by the service dog. In schools, as long as the student has passed a public access test, they are allowed to have their dog with them and have full access to the school.

While there are multiple beneficial laws in place, there is one specific law that has caused a problem in recent years. This is the law that a business may ask what task the service dog is trained to do, but may not ask to see any qualifications or ask the owner about their medical condition that makes the service dog necessary. This lack of identification has led to many people falsely claiming that their dog is a service dog and abusing the laws that protect true, trained service dogs.

Positives Traits for Jack Russell Service Dogs

In order to be a good candidate for being a service dog, they need to be intelligent, which is a trait that Jack Russell Terriers have in spades. It is important that these dogs can repeat the same acts over and over again without fail which once again comes down to training. Thankfully Jack Russells tend to be fairly easy to train to do much more involved tasks beyond your basic sit and stay.

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Smaller dogs like the Jack Russell can be great for certain situations such as search and rescue. Many people immediately think of golden retrievers and german shepherds when it comes to this role, but the edge that these roughly 15 pound pups have is that they can get into places large dogs can’t. This can be extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to searching for missing children.

Jack Russell Terriers have a very high energy level which is both a blessing and a curse. Their energy makes them very alert and ready to respond to a situation when it arises. It also helps ensure that they will be ready to go whenever they are needed and won’t tire easily.

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Negative Traits for Jack Russell Service Dogs

On the other side of the coin when it comes to their boundless energy, they can be very reactive and hyper. This can cause them to become distracted, especially in unique and busy situations. It is essential for a service dog to remain calm and socially appropriate in a wide variety of places with a huge range of sounds, sights and people. This can be a big thing to ask of such a high energy dog.

Despite being easy to train, Jack Russell Terriers are known for a stubborn streak. Unless it is curbed, that stubbornness can be detrimental in their strive for becoming a service dog. Some Jack Russells can get past this with training, while others will not be ideal candidates due to this trait.