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Hailing from Germany, jagdterriers are gifted hunting dogs with a knack for fearlessly chasing down prey and flushing out underground critters. These highly intelligent pups love their human companions intensely—and they aren't afraid to show it either. After a long hike or hunting excursion, jagdterriers will happily snuggle up and relax with the family. Their strong prey drive and courage make German jagdterriers an ideal pet for experienced owners who intend to spend lots of time outside with their furry friend (ideally by hunting). Though the jagdterrier dog breed dates back to the early 1900s, they remain relatively rare around the world today.
"Jagdterriers are bold, adventurous, and outgoing dogs," says Corinne Wigfall, DVM, BVS, BVM, consulting veterinarian with SpiritDog Training. "They are bred for hunting and incredibly good at their job. A jagdterrier can run all day and not get tired."
Jagdterriers are petite, regal-looking dogs who carry themselves with confidence. Their fur is traditionally black and tan but may also be black, black and gray, and brown; they typically have tan markings. Their dense coat is usually short and coarse but can vary from smooth to rough, depending on the individual dog.
Though they're on the smaller side, jagdterrier dogs are muscular and strong with sturdy bodies that are always ready for the next adventure. The jagdterrier size is typically 10–13 inches tall, and they weigh 17–22 pounds.
Their triangular ears are small and spunky, typically folded over onto themselves while remaining taut with energy (especially while he's listening closely to a sound!). Jagdterriers have small, deep-set, dark eyes that often appear bright and alert.
And while some jagdterrier owners and breeders dock the dogs' tails, the practice is controversial—according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, this practice can be painful and has no proven benefits to the dog.
Jagdterriers are pure hunting dogs through and through. Their courage, intelligence, tenacity, and strong prey drive make them incredibly well-suited for hunting all sorts of animals—from tiny varmint like mice to large game like coyotes and cougars, according to the American Hunting Terrier Association (AHTA).
Because of their hunting heritage, jagdterriers really need a "job" to be happy, healthy, and engaged. In addition to hunting excursions, this means they need a lot of mental stimulation around the house or yard (items like food puzzles and interactive toys can help), and they're also good contenders for dog sporting events.
"The jagdterrier can be described as a high-maintenance dog who does require a large amount of exercise and mental stimulation," says Linda Simon, MVB, MRCVS, consulting veterinarian at FiveBarks. "They are happiest when outdoors and active, and pet dogs become quickly bored when kept inside. If frustrated at being kept inside for too long, dogs may become difficult to deal with."
Hunting abilities aside, these dogs are incredibly loving toward their human family members and relatively well-behaved around young children. They're playful and lively but also highly vigilant—they'll let you know as soon as a delivery person drops off a package or a new-to-them person arrives for game night.
Jagdterriers are relatively open to meeting strangers, but it may take them a few moments to warm up to the person. They typically get along well with other dogs, though owners should always supervise meetings with other new pups. They might not be a good fit for households with cats and other small mammals as pets, which jagdterriers will almost certainly view as something to chase.
Because of their intense and long-standing prey drive, which includes hunting for little critters underground, jagdterriers need a very securely fenced yard and should always be walked on a leash. They are small, adaptable dogs who really prefer having a lot of room to roam but, no matter where they live, they need regular exercise like hunting excursions, walks, and playtime.
"Most experts would agree that the jagdterrier is not a wise choice for an inexperienced owner or for someone living in an urban setting with little opportunity for off-leash exercise," Simon says. "They are happiest when living rurally, with plenty of opportunities to hunt and be active."
These pups are ideal for active owners who are dedicated to exercising and training their jagdterrier—more specifically, they're the best fit for owners who are looking for a canine hunting companion. In addition to hunting with jagdterriers, these adventure-loving dogs also enjoy hiking and swimming with their human family members. Jagdterriers also thrive in canine activities and sports like obedience, rally, agility, and earthdog.
Training is another great way to keep a jagdterrier's mind sharp. These pups benefit from short, fun, challenging training sessions that involve plenty of rewards for good behavior—treats, petting, ear scratches, words of encouragement, and other positive reinforcement methods all help savvy jagdterriers master new behaviors and cues quickly and easily.
It's important to start training and socializing your jagdterrier puppy early. This is where puppy kindergarten classes and playgroups (supervised by a knowledgeable trainer!) can come in handy. These early interactions help jagdterrier puppies get to know other dogs and humans as well as learn basic manners and behaviors. Specific jagdterrier hunting classes or programs can also be helpful for honing this dog's abilities, too.
"These dogs need an owner experienced in dog training with the ability to reinforce good habits while they are still young," Wigfall says.
Jagdterriers are relatively low-maintenance dogs, though their coats do require a little extra care and attention when it comes to grooming. Their short, wiry coats need to be hand-stripped periodically, a process that involves gently removing older hairs to make way for new strands to grow. You can find a knowledgeable groomer who specializes in hand-stripping or learn how to do it yourself—the technique just requires a little patience.
Other than hand-stripping, short-hair jagdterriers don't need much in the way of grooming—just a bath when they get extra dirty outside and weekly brushing to prevent tangles and mats from forming. Though running around outside on more abrasive surfaces can help keep a jagdterriers nails in check, it's a good idea to trim or grind them down periodically to prevent any discomfort.
Jagdterriers aren't afraid to get down and dirty (they were originally developed because of their strong underground hunting abilities!), which means that debris and dust have a tendency to accumulate in their ears. Set aside time regularly to clean a jagdterrier's ears with an ear cleaning solution designed for dogs.
Also make a habit of brushing your jagdterrier's teeth nightly (or, at the very least, several times a week). To get your pup accustomed to having a toothbrush in his mouth, start introducing him to the brush when he is a young puppy, then gradually work your way up to longer and longer periods of brushing. Talk to your veterinarian about whether regular deep cleaning sessions are also necessary for the jagdterrier's pearly whites—it varies from dog to dog.
Luckily, responsible jagdterrier breeders have helped to ensure that these dogs lead long, healthy lives. They typically live 10–12 years.
Still, jagdterriers can be susceptible to certain hereditary conditions and health issues. These include primary lens luxation, a condition that affects the dog's eyes and can lead to blindness. They may also experience myopathy, a painful muscle disease that can cause the dog to become uncoordinated and have muscle tremors. According to the German Jagdterrier Club, jagdterrier breeders test their dogs for these and other conditions to help ensure the longevity and well-being of the breed as a whole.
Like other small breeds, jagdterriers can easily reach an unhealthy weight if they eat too much or don't get enough exercise. A veterinarian can help you come up with a weight management strategy and determine the appropriate amount to feed your jagdterrier each day based on the dog's individual stature and activity levels. It's also important to feed your jagdterrier a dog food that's specially formulated for his life stage—puppy, adult, or senior, for example.
Jagdterriers were originally developed in Germany shortly after World War I. The breed's developers wanted to create a fearless, top-notch hunting dog, one that was especially good at underground hunting, which is required for flushing out burrowing animals like rabbits, rats, foxes, and badgers.
They bred fox terriers, Welsh terriers, and Old English wirehaired terriers to eventually develop the black-and-tan German hunting terrier, or jagdterrier. The German Jagdterrier Club formed in 1926. Today, the jagdterrier breed remains relatively uncommon around the world.
"The jagdterrier is a rare breed that many are not familiar with," Simon says. "These dogs were developed by the Germans in an attempt to develop a terrier that would rival the other popular terriers. The aim was to create a tenacious and confident breed—a hard worker who had no fear of larger prey."
- The jagdterrier dog breed's name is very descriptive. Jagd is the German word for "hunt."
- For people who don't speak German, the breed's name can be difficult to pronounce at first. Jagd is pronounced "yack."
- Jagdterriers are particularly skilled at earthdog, a dog sporting event that was designed specifically for breeds who are good at hunting underground. Earthdog events test dogs' abilities to locate rodents who are held (safely) in cages underground. Other breeds that are good at earthdog include dachshunds, wire fox terriers, and miniature pinschers, just to name a few.