How to Read the Body Language of My Jack Russell Terrier

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A JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) can express different types of emotions through its body language. It can be challenging to understand because many gestures that a JRT show conveys things people wouldn’t expect.

If you’re wondering how to read the body language of my Jack Russell Terrier, this article is for you. It contains different JRT body gestures, along with their meanings, that will help you understand your dog better.

How to Read the Body Language of My Jack Russell Terrier

If you’re a new Jack Russell Terrier owner, the following are some common ways your pup will use to communicate with you.

Graphic image of two Jack Russells with a text describing the importance of reading the body language of Jack Russell Terriers

Lowered Tail Wagging Slowly

A Jack Russell Terrier usually lowers its tail while wagging it slowly when it’s feeling happy and waiting for your command to do something. For example, if you’re playing fetch with your dog, it’ll show this sign after bringing the object to you.

But if your Jackie isn’t feeling excited and you show the lowered tail, it can be a sign of submission. In this case, you might also see that your furry friend’s head is tilted down.

Head Tilt

It’s one of the most common body gestures not only in Jack Russell Terriers but also in almost all dogs. It’s an adorable signal that shows the curiosity of your dog.

A JRT tilts its head when it wants to understand your command or anything you’re saying. You’ll also see the same sign when the dog is trying to hear something better.


If you see your Jack Russel Terrier yawning it can mean any of the following:

A black and white Jack Russell dog wearing a white rope around its neck while standing on a black asphalt
  • JRTs usually yawn when they’re tired or sleepy
  • Yawning can also show that your pup is under stress, like a jaw ache after chewing a toy for a long time
  • Some JRTs also yawn when they’re happy

So, it can mean different things depending on the current situation.

Showing Teeth While Growling Lightly

If your JRT shows its teeth while growling lightly, it’s trying to guard something and wants you to back off. It usually happens when you do something that your dog doesn’t like, such as trying to take food or a toy from it.

Your JRT may stop showing this sign with time as your bond improves. Until then, you should respect this behavior and stop doing what your dog doesn’t appreciate.

Staring with Eyes Wide Open

If your Jack Russell Terrier is staring at you with wide open eyes, it might be waiting for food. It can also happen when your dog needs your attention and wants to play. If it’s not your dog’s meal time, consider rewarding it with a treat.

Whereas, if your JRT is staring somewhere else with a firm posture, ready to run, it’s showing its aggression. Your dog will show this behavior when it senses a threat or something unusual has caught its attention. You might also hear growling if your dog is in this situation.

Lying on Back

If your Jack Russell Terrier is sleeping on its back, it means that it’s feeling protected and comfortable. This behavior represents your dog’s affection and love.

If your pup shows the same behavior when it’s not sleeping, it might be asking you to give it a lovely belly rub. You might also see your JRT blinking or squinting quickly while lying on its back beside you. It’s also a good sign and allows you to bond with your canine friend.

A white and brown Jack Russell dog wearing a purple collar lying on a green grass

Downward Dog Position

If you see your dog in a downward dog position, where its legs are on the ground, but its head and butt are in the air, it wants to play.

A JRT makes this pose when it’s feeling excited and wants to burn off its energy. So, grab your dog’s favorite toy and head out to spend some time with it.

Barking Excessively

Jack Russell Terriers usually bark excessively when they’re stressed or anxious. The easiest way to calm your dog down in such a situation is to play or spend some time with it.

However, a JRT can also bark excessively when:

  • It is sensing danger
  • There’s another animal in its territory
  • It needs to release energy
  • It is bored 


Jack Russell Terriers are highly energetic, and they run and exercise a lot to burn their energy. While they’re playing or running, you’ll notice them panting. However, it can also happen when your dog is anxious, stressed, or scared.

If you see your pup breathing heavily and not showing any signs of excitement, then something could be seriously wrong with your canine friend. It can be due to some severe illness or heatstroke. In such a situation, you should take your pet to a professional vet immediately.

Raised Tail

If you see that your Jack Russell Terrier has raised its tail up high, it might have seen another dog. These dogs do this when they’re trying to express that they’re in charge. In such a situation, you just need to make sure that you keep your furry friend under control.

A brown and white Jack Russell dog wearing an orange harness with an orange leash while running on the green grass field

Lowered Tail Tucked In

When a JRT feels feared, scared, or threatened, it tucks its tail between its legs. If you see this behavior, you’ll need to figure out and remove what’s scaring your pup.

Wagging Tail

A wagging tail usually means excitement and joy. But a JRT can show this body language signal when it’s angry. In this case, your dog will be wagging its tail very fast or holding it vertically.

Why Is It Important to Read the Body Language of a Jack Russell Terrier

Understanding your Jack Russell Terrier’s body language is important because it allows you to understand your pet better. It helps you know when your dog needs your attention, when it’s feeling happy, and when there is something to worry about.

It also allows you to train your dog quickly and effectively. However, the most significant benefit is that it helps you ensure your dog’s health. If you can read your canine’s body language, you’ll understand quickly when it’s in pain or if there’s something wrong with its health.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some common questions that people ask about reading the body language of a Jack Russell Terrier.

How Do You Tell If Your Jack Russell Terrier Loves You?

There are multiple signs that a Jack Russell Terrier shows to express its love. These signs include making eye contact, showing excitement to see you, feeling relaxed and calm in your presence, reaching you for physical affection, showing belly while sleeping, and listening and responding to you.

How Do You Know When Your Jack Russell Terrier Is Angry?

Barking excessively is the most common way Jack Russell Terriers use to show their anger and aggression. You might also see them growling while showing their teeth. In such a scenario, you should stop doing what’s making your dog angry.

How Do I Know If My Jack Russell Is Depressed?

If your Jack Russell Terrier has suddenly lost interest in running around, going for walks, or playing, it may suffer from depression. Take your dog to your vet as soon as possible because there could be an underlying medical condition as well.

Final Words

Jack Russell Terriers use body language to communicate, and knowing how to read it is essential to be a responsible dog owner. Make sure that you pay attention to every sign that your dog shows and use this guide to understand its meaning. It’ll help you understand what your JRT is feeling and allow you to make your connection stronger.