I grew up with Jack Russell Terriers and Labrador Retrievers. My rural homelife brought into stark contrast the ways in which these breeds have very different personalities, and jobs to do.
When working our Labs sat beside pegs, or retrieved over long distances. They were patient, confident and focussed. The Terriers scrapped through the undergrowth. They were outgoing, alert and determined.
At home Labs were expected to be exemplary mannered citizens. Our Jack Russells were much more likely to be found sneaking into your lap or telling off the other dogs.
And it’s not just historical roles and personalities that draw these breeds apart, they of course have radically different appearances too.
Although it’s understandable to want to combine your two favorite breeds into some kind of ultimate canine combination, the realities of merging two distinct dogs isn’t a seamless fusion of types.
The Jack Russell mix is more likely to be a random, unpredictably constructed canine. One that holds little resemblance to the dog you’d imagined. But is that such a bad thing if you’re considering a Jackador as your next family pet?
The Working Jack Russell
Jack Russells are most often thought of as family pets these days, but around the world they are still widely used as working companions too. Primarily ratters, they have a high hunting drive and love sniffing out and catching rodents.
Their instincts are to grip and shake their prey, which is a quick and effective method of dispatch. Sadly though, this is not a great trait if you keep small rodents as pets in a family home along with a determined Terrier!
The Field and Show Histories Of The Labrador
The working Labrador Retriever was bred over generations to be patient yet driven. They will sit and wait silently by a hunter’s side whilst they watch for a bird to fly overhead. When it’s shot, they will follow hand signals and directions to find the fallen game. Often passing fearlessly over rivers or through thick undergrowth.
Labradors are what we call soft mouthed. This means that they are bred to pick things up and carry them gently. Delivering game to their owner without breaking it’s skin and damaging it is an important part of their job. A very different sort of prey drive to the Terrier.
However, Labradors are also very orally focussed. They are bred to want to pick things up, after all. This translates when they are relaxing, stressed or bored into hardcore chewing tactics. And they don’t discriminate between their toys and your furniture or prized possessions.
English Labrador Differences
The show, or so-called English Labrador, has less drive than those bred for the field. They are however still Labs at heart, and possess just as much intelligence and natural cooperation as their working cousins.
They are however generally less highly strung but a bit sillier in nature. When you create a Jack Russell Lab mix by combining a purebred Labrador parent with a Jack Russell Terrier, you’ll need to think about which line of Labs you are most wanting to have reflected in your puppy when they grow up too.
Crossing Canine Purposes
Your Jackador might well be a balanced combination of yappy prey drive and focussed fetching, but first generation crosses are a bit of a wildcard. You just won’t know until your puppy grows up which parent their personality is more like.
And their looks won’t even give you a clue as to the balance of temperament.
Variations in Sizes and Colors
As a general rule, mixed breed dogs look like a half way point between the parents. In reality, the pair of sibling Jack Russell Lab mixes that lived next door to me as a kid looked like a purebred yellow Labrador, and a black Labrador with inexplicably short legs and more than the average amount of white on her chest.
You’ll find a huge range of potential in terms of markings, size, height, build and even tail position. They can weigh as much as the smallest Jack Russell in adulthood, or grow into a strapping standard Labrador size.
The further down the filial generations you can, so the more they are truly half and half, the more consistent these traits tend to be. However, not many people are breeding Jackadors in this manner, like you’ll find with Labradoodles and Cockapoos. They are almost all first generation designer dogs.
Jack Russell Lab Mix or Purebred Puppy?
If you are looking into this mix because you’ve met a lovely dog in a shelter that you think matches the two, that’s great. Make sure you love Jack Russells, Labs and everything in between. If you are a fan of those, you and your new pup are onto a winner.
However, if you’re thinking about buying a puppy then you might want to consider why you’d go for a mix when you have such better predictability from a purebred puppy. They don’t need to be a pricey pedigree dog, most Jack Russells aren’t registered anywhere and few are health tested. But they are all similar in terms of looks and characteristics.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website