The Remarkable Jagdterrier: A Complete Guide

If you’ve never heard of this breed, you’re not alone! Pronounced “yack terrier,” this is one of the least popular terriers in North America. Let’s learn more about the Jagdterrier!

Mar 12, 2024By Chelsea Pinkham
remarkable jagdterrier the cunning canine companion

Also known as the Deutscher Jagdterrier, this small, stocky hunting dog originates from Germany. Mortal enemy to rats, mice, and other small rodents, the Jagdterrier is an extraordinary hunter. In fact, the breed name is a direct translation of “hunt terrier” in German. So, if you’re looking for a dog to snuggle up on the couch with your pet rabbit, the Jagdterrier is not for you. Let’s learn more about these action-packed pups and their charmingly feisty nature.

Breed History of the Jagdterrier

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In the early 1900s, the Fox Terrier was a widely popular breed. Now separated into two breeds, the Wire Fox Terrier and the Smooth Fox Terrier, these dogs used to comprise a single recognized breed. But not everyone was completely satisfied with the flashy, beautiful Fox Terriers.

A small group of hunters decided to separate from the Fox Terrier Club to create their own no-frills terrier breed whose exclusive breeding goal was hunting. This breed wouldn’t be as cute as a Welsh or Lakeland, nor as handsome as a Wire Fox–- but they would possess an unparalleled ability to “get the job done.” They decided the dogs must be courageous, unafraid of navigating through water and deep animal burrows.

The dogs would be highly trainable, have a remarkable prey drive, and not offer a moment’s hesitation to leap into a hunt.

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The founding dogs of this breed were black and tan terriers descended from purebred Fox Terrier lines. Over many years, these dogs’ predecessors were crossed with a variety of terriers, including the Welsh Terrier. In 1926, the breed standard was finally a reality. The German Hunting Terrier Club was founded for breeders and fanciers to continue the breed’s development.

Today, Jagdterriers will willingly leap into battle with foxes, raccoons, badgers, pigs, birds, rodents-– essentially anything besides a dog or human that moves. The Jagdterrier is a relatively new breed and not a popular breed at that. That’s for the best, as these dogs are simply not compatible with the average pet dog family.

Jagdterriers Are Small and Muscular

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At 13 to 16 inches high, the Jagdterrier packs a tremendous punch in a relatively small body. The dogs weigh only 17 to 22 pounds but are muscular, strong, stocky, and tough. Jagdterriers have a wiry coat to protect them from brush and undergrowth while navigating a hunt.

They come only in black (with tan points), black and gray, or dark brown. As reflected in their breeding history, these dogs were not created for looks, but strictly for function. “No other Terrier projects a look of sheer evil along with the innate ability to fulfill that promise,” said terrier enthusiast Richard Reynolds in an interview with Showsight Magazine.

Because of their functionally focused breeding, Jagdterriers have few known health issues. These are some of the healthiest terriers, hardy both in temperament and body structure.

A Tenacious Terrier Temperament

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Nearly all terriers have some extent of a prey drive. But the Jagdterrier falls on the far end of the spectrum with a downright extreme chase drive. Jagdterriers are not compatible with any small animals, including guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, hamsters, and birds. While supervised space to roam can be beneficial, Jagdterriers can and will kill chickens and other farm birds.

Cats are not exempt from the Jagdterrier’s list quarry, and these two pets are sadly just not compatible. While we may see our feline companions as beloved family members, the Jagdterrier’s genetic history leads them to see cats as nothing more than prey to be chased and killed. To a Jagd, a rat is a cat is a bird is a fox, and they’re all fair game!

Jagdterriers Are a Vocal Breed

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Like many terriers, Jagds are incredibly energetic, excitable, and oftentimes, downright relentless. It takes skill and time to teach these dogs the ability to simply relax and settle down in the home. Jagdterriers have a sharp, piercing bark, and are exceedingly vocal. For years, vocal terriers have been selectively bred because the louder and more aversive a terrier’s bark, the more likely they are to drive animals from their underground dens.

These Dogs Are Affectionate With Family

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Aggression toward other dogs is a behavioral trait many terriers are prone to. Active, positive socialization is critical from a young age. Still, caregivers should be satisfied with the fact that they’ll likely never visit the dog park with a dog of this breed. Many dog owners are surprised to find out that there is no correlation between aggression toward other animals and aggression toward humans. Jagdterriers are actually known for their friendly and social demeanor when it comes to interacting with people.

Like most terriers, Jagdterriers are deeply intelligent dogs. When rewards-based training is used to motivate them, they are highly trainable. Jagdterriers are confident, adventurous, feisty, outgoing dogs. All dogs can be trained, and the Jagdterrier’s sharp intelligence makes them a strong candidate for breed-specific activities, such as agility, Fast CAT, lure coursing, and an AKC dog sport known as “barn hunt.”

Jagdterriers Are Working Dogs at Heart

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While these pups are exciting to admire, they are best suited to working dog homes. In fact, most ethical breeders will not even place puppies in typical “pet homes.” While every dog is different, in general, Jagdterriers are not for inexperienced owners, and breeders want to reduce the likelihood of rehoming.

At the end of the day, Jagdterriers are working dogs, and they thrive with jobs, like ratting. In a highly controlled setting, these terriers may be unleashed on a farm with severe rat problems. The dogs can hunt dozens of rats per minute, furiously digging out their dens and killing them.

Though it’s brutal, it’s a more ecologically safe and humane form of rat control than using free-roaming cats or rodent poison. Controlling rat populations is essential for protecting native wildlife, and the Jagdterrier helps do just that.

Jagdterriers Are Not for Everyone

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While an experienced trainer can certainly teach a Jagdterrier a variety of skills, managing these dogs’ needs on a daily basis is simply not for everyone. Jagdterriers need an outlet for chasing, digging, problem-solving, and extensive exercise. If their needs are not met, they can become incredibly destructive in the home. Because they were bred to dig animals out of their burrows, unsupervised access to a fenced yard will likely lead to an escape. There’s almost nothing a Jagdterrier can’t dig underneath!

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Only those experienced with hunting breed terriers should consider acquiring a Jagdterrier. For new terrier lovers looking for a suitable match, there are many alternatives. West Highland White Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, and Bedlington Terriers have some of the mildest terrier temperaments and can help caregivers adapt to caring for this breed group. These dogs still have some terrier instinct but are not full-blown, purpose-bred killing machines.

Helping Your Jagdterrier Thrive

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Helping Jagdterriers thrive begins with understanding their behavior and embracing it rather than attempting to suppress it. Having a healthy outlet for their strong prey drive can help this breed in everyday life.

Interactive toys, such as flirt poles, can provide an opportunity to chase, and predation substitute training can help terriers have the chance to engage in fulfilling predatory behaviors. Prey drive simply cannot be punished or trained out of Jagdterriers. It is innate in their nature, and by bringing one into your life, you must be comfortable navigating it.

“Terrier-tude” is a common phrase in the dog world. And this term is based in truth! Terriers are highly prone to developing handling sensitivities, and they have a low tolerance for aversive handling. Like all dogs, Jagdterriers should be carefully supervised around children. Accidental rough handling on a child’s part is far more likely to lead to a bite or an attack with this particular breed group than, say, with a Golden Retriever or a Cocker Spaniel.

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Positive reinforcement and cooperative care must be used to increase these dogs’ comfort level with all forms of handling. This non-invasive, fun form of training can begin at any age but is especially ideal for puppies. Brushing, bathing, trimming nails, and examining all parts of the body should not create discomfort for a well-trained dog.

Ideally, bathing the dogs yourself is the best option. If a groomer is too forceful, they could cause a setback in the dog’s training, and worsen handling sensitivities. Because terrier tendency for handling sensitivity is strong, it’s beneficial to introduce muzzle training at a young age. This way, in case the dog ever needs emergency care from a veterinarian beyond their comfort zone, a muzzle will not cause additional stress.

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All terriers need constant engagement to keep them satisfied with their lives. A walk alone is not enough to calm the mind of such a highly driven breed. Trick training, dog sports, and enrichment will improve the life of a Jagdterrier. Earth Dog, Barn Hunt, and Fast CAT are sports that come naturally to this breed, without any prior training.

For rodent control practitioners, there are few better-suited breeds than the Jagdterrier. Working these dogs in the field is easy; it’s caring for them in the home that is the challenge!

Chelsea Pinkham
By Chelsea Pinkham

Chelsea is an animal advocate, rescuer, and aspiring rewards-based dog trainer. She is a Fear Free Certified Pet Professional with over a decade of animal experience. Chelsea has worked at animal shelters, sanctuaries and with many private dog training clients. She immerses herself in canine behavior education as she pursues her CPDT-KA dog training certification. In her spare time, she trains dozens of fun tricks for her and her partner’s rescued adventure cat, Iggy!