Jack Russell Terrier Obedience

Handler and Jack Russell Terrier are required to perform a series of exercises that test the obedience of the terrier.

Jack Russell Terrier Obedience

JRTCA Obedience Rules (updated for 2017)

Note: the JRTCA 2017 Rulebook contains the official rules for all sanctioned trial events and supersedes the rules posted below.

  1. To earn a qualifying score, the terrier needs to earn 170 out of 200 points and receive no less than 50% of the given points for each exercise. Half points may be used to determine a qualifying score.
  2. Any terrier receiving three qualifying scores in the same class, under two different Judges, is eligible for a JRTCA Obedience Certificate; the terrier must be JRTCA registered or recorded, and the owner must be a current member of the JRTCA. The Certificate may be obtained by submitting signed score sheets along with a $20.00 check (payable to JRTCA) to: JRTCA, P.O. Box 4527, Lutherville, MD 21094.
  3. Leashes for Sub-Novice need to be a minimum of 6 feet in length. Collars should be well-fitting buckle or limited slip martingale collars, no pinch collars or chokers and no race leads.
  4. All terriers must be at least 6 months of age to compete in Obedience. Titles are only issued to registered and recorded dogs 1 year of age and older.
  5. A complete set of Obedience Rules can be found on the JRTCA site to download. Or contact committee member at mousemoorjr@cs.com
  6. Our Sub Novice Class is split into "A" & "B" - The A class is for competitors that do not hold a Sub Novice or Beginner Novice or Starter Novice title in any venue.

1. General Obedience Rules and Reguations

The following rules apply to Obedience Classes at sanctioned JRTCA Trials.

1.1 Eligibility

  1. Any terrier 6 months and older may be entered.
  2. Females in heat are not allowed to compete.
  3. Dogs with disabilities are allowed to compete, provided they are not in pain.
  4. Dogs with bandages, stitches or open sores/wounds are not allowed to compete.
  5. Dogs who are obviously lame and not moving soundly are not allowed to compete.

1.2 Ring Size

Rings should be approximately 40 feet x 50 feet and should not be less than 30 feet x40 feet.

1.3 Equipment

Rings can & should be enclosed if possible with ring gates, snow fencing, or be otherwise enclosed (e.g. indoors) to provide a safe environment from which terriers cannot escape.

Trial hosts must provide all jumps, score sheets, and other equipment necessary to properly host a trial. If not, they must be certain that judge will supply the necessary equipment for Obedience.

2. Judging Guidelines

Consistent judging is critical. Judges are expected to have full understanding of all judging guidelines. As with any dog sport, there may be areas of interpretation and judges are required to make those interpretations fairly and consistently. Exhibitors are also expected to be familiar with judging guidelines. Judges may, but are not required to, discuss an exhibitor's scoring after the class is finished. Judges are not to enter into any discussions with an angry or argumentative exhibitor. If an Exhibitor feels that his/her performance was not scored fairly, they may file a complaint with the Trial Chair.

2.1 Scores and Qualifying Performance

After the last exercise has been performed, and the score sheet completed and signed, the judge shall inform each team whether their performance was qualifying or non-qualifying. Each team enters the ring with a score of 200. As errors are made, deductions are noted on the scoresheet. A final score of 170 or better is considered a qualifying performance, provided the team has scored at least 50% of the individual point values for each exercise. Half-point deductions will be made and precision is important. Dogs who exhibit fear or aggressiveness; eliminate or become ill in the ring will not receive a qualifying score. Handlers who discipline their dogs while in the ring will be excused. A judge will not require a handler or dog to do anything not outlined in this rulebook nor will a judge penalize a handler or dog for anything not outlined herein.

2.2 Deductions

  1. Minor deductions: 1/2 point and 1 point
  2. Substantial/major deductions: 2-5 points
  3. Additional cues: 3 points
  4. When hand signals are used, either alone or in combination with a verbal cue, the hand must be returned to a natural position within a reasonable time after giving the signal. If, in the judge's opinion, the hand signal is held and appears to be used as a lure, a non-qualifying score will be given for the exercise.
  5. Other deductions as described for each exercise.
  6. If the dog takes a jump when not directed, a 5 point deduction shall be given.

2.3 Judge's Instructions

  1. Before beginning each exercise, the judge will ask the handler "Are you ready?"
  2. Once the handler has indicated she/he is ready, the judge will instruct the handler "Forward" for all exercises that begin with heeling. For other exercises, the judge's first instructions are noted in the exercise description.
  3. Judging begins once the handler has indicated he/she is ready.
  4. When the team has completed all features of an exercise, the judge will say "Exercise Finished" and judging for that exercise is complete.

2.4 Jump Heights

Height at withers

12.5" and under
Over 12.5" up to 15"

High/Bar Jumps


Broad Jump


# Boards

4" dogs use 1 board

Note: At the discretion of the handler, dogs 9 years and older may jump 4" lower than regular jump heights indicated on the above chart. This must be announced to the judge before judging of the individual team begins.

Jump height will be the only modification in other circumstances other than age. No omission of exercises or changes in distance for performing or time will be allowed.

2.5 Jump Construction

  1. The bar jump will consist of a bar between 2 and 2 1/2" square with the edges rounded to remove any sharpness. Or a plain white jump rail 4-5 feet in length. The posts must be adjustable for each two inches of height. For safety, the jump must be built so that the bar may be knocked over without affecting the uprights.
  2. The high jump (for open only) will be four or five feet wide and painted white. The uprights of the high jump will be four feet high. There must be a sufficient number of boards to accommodate all possible jump height adjustments. The high jump may be made of wood or plastic.
  3. The broad jump must have nesting hurdles. They must be approximately 8" wide, 4-5' in length and must all be painted white. The broad jump may be made of wood or plastic.

2.6 Interference and Double Handling

Exhibitors and spectators are not allowed to interfere or assist in any way with a team that is working in the ring. Instances of interference and/or double handling will result in the working team's performance being judged as non-qualifying if the assistance is perceived to assist the team, or the judge may ask the team to repeat their performance if the situation appears to be intended to adversely affect the working team. Exhibitors who are found to be interfering with a working team's performance will be asked to leave the grounds and receive a non-qualifying score that day. Any involved spectator will be asked to leave the grounds as well.

2.7 Unusual Conditions

If, during a team's performance in the ring, an unusual condition arises that could negatively affect the team's performance, the judge may have the team perform that portion of an exercise again.

2.8 Ties

The tie performance is a continuation of a team's original performance. All Misbehavior rules apply to the tie performance. Refer to the Misbehavior section of this chapter for a description of the behaviors identified as "misbehaviors". In the case of a tie in Pre-Novice or Novice class, each team will again perform the On-Leash Heeling Pattern exercise. In the Open class, each team will again perform the Off-Leash Heeling Pattern exercise.

2.9 Score Sheets

The judge will determine the number of points deducted from each team's performance. Before determining placements the judge must double check to ensure scores were calculated properly. The judge must clearly mark each score sheet as qualifying or non-qualifying score and sign it. Since JRTCA competitors are responsible for their own paperwork to submit for certificates, they will obtain their score sheet from the judge or a steward at the conclusion of the trial.

2.10 Physically Challenged Handlers and Dogs

Dogs and/or handlers with disabilities are allowed to compete provided the dog does not appear to be in pain. The judge has a right to refuse entry into the ring if a dog appears in pain. The judge will excuse from the ring any dog that becomes lame during any of the exercises.

2.11 Judging Order

Exhibitors shall check in with the judge or a desk steward to be sure their entry and score sheet is correct. Although accommodations shall be made within reason for dogs to be judged throughout the trial day's time frame posted in the agenda, judges are not required to delay judging for any dog that is not presented at the ring in a timely manner. If there is a conflict with an entry in another class, the handler must inform the judge or a desk steward at check in. Absent dogs will not be permitted to run after judging has officially concluded for the day. No entry fees will be refunded in this instance.

2.12 Leash

All dogs must be kept on leash except when in the Obedience ring, warm up or exercise area. Dogs must be on leash when brought into the ring and when leaving the ring. The leash be made of fabric or leather and not exceed 6 ft. in length. For the Pre-Novice class only a 6 ft. leash is required. Otherwise it must be long enough to provide adequate slack when held. Slip leads (e.g. racing leads, leashes with choke collar as a part of the leash) are not permitted, nor are conformation type slip leads or Flex-type leashes.

2.13 Collars

Collars may be flat, buckle type collars or limited slip martingale type collars. No choke collars, head collars, prong collars or electronic collars are allowed. Body harnesses are also allowed, but a dog may only wear either a collar or a harness, NOT BOTH. Equipment must be properly fitted and while they may have tags on them, the tags must not interfere with the dog's movement. Dogs may not have decorative items around their neck nor on their collars.

2.14 Heel Position

The dog should be at the handler's left side and straight in line with the direction the handler is facing. The dog should be close to the handler but should not be so close as to crowd the handler and prevent the handler from moving naturally. The area from the dog's head to its shoulder should be in line with the handler's left hip. Heel position applies to instances where the dog is sitting, lying down, standing or moving next to the handler.

2.15 Hands

Hands and arms must be held in a natural position at all times. In the event a handler chooses to have a hand signal, the hand must be returned to a natural position after giving the signal. At no time may it appear that the handler is using their hands/arms to pretend to lure the dog, as with food.

In all exercises in which a dog is required to heal on lead, one of the options listed shall be followed: (1) The handler's arms and hands shall move naturally at his/her sides while in motion, with the leash held in the left hand, or (2) The hand(s) holding the leash will be held against, and centered in front of the body, in the area of the waist. The forearm(s) shall be carried, as much as possible, against the body.

In exercises in which the dog is required to heel off leash (free), one of the options listed shall be followed: (1) The handler's arms and hands shall move naturally at his/her sides while in motion and hang naturally at his/her sides when stopped, or (2) the handler's right hand and arm shall move naturally at his/her side while his/her left hand shall be held against and centered in front of the body in the area of the waist. The left forearm shall be carried, as much as possible, against the body in any of the above situations, the hands and arms may be adjusted during the fast portion of the exercise in order to maintain balance.

Hand position, other than during the fast, must remain constant during the heeling exercise, except if a hand signal is used to begin heeling. In that case, an acceptable hand gesture is allowed instead of a verbal command. After the hand gesture is made, the hand must return to one of the acceptable positions. There shall be a minor to substantial deduction if the hands and arms are not carried in one of the positions stated above, in all exercises in which the dog is to "come to" or "return to" the handler and "sit in front", the handler's arms and hands shall hang naturally at his sides while the dog is coming in and until the dog has sat in front. A substantial deduction shall be made if a handler's arms and hands are not hanging naturally at his sides while the dog is coming in and until the dog has sat in front.

2.16 Cues

Handlers may use hand and verbal cues simultaneously for all exercises. Once a cue has been given by hand, verbal, or hand/verbal, additional cues will be penalized with a three-point deduction, regardless of the additional cue given. The dog's name may be used preceding any cue without penalty and may be used as a cue in and of itself. Loud verbal cues are to be penalized. Once an error has been made that results in a non-qualifying score, the handler may not give additional cues to perform that portion of an exercise again.

2.17 Praise and Encouragement

Handlers are allowed to praise and encourage their dogs during an exercise. The praise and encouragement must be calm, quiet and pleasant. Repeating a verbal cue to perform an exercise is not considered praise or encouragement and will be penalized as an additional cue. Overly exuberant, loud and/or unpleasant praise and encouragement will be penalized. Handlers may not pat their legs or clap their hands as encouragement.

2.18 Food Rewards

  1. Handlers are allowed to reward their dog with a food treat at the completion of all features of an exercise after the judge has said "Exercise finished" if they so choose. This must be done before the team begins to move forward to the next exercise as directed by the judge.
  2. Handlers may not lure a dog with food nor pretend to have food in their hand. Food rewards are to be kept hidden in the handler's pocket only. No bait bags, fanny pouches, etc. are allowed, and handlers may not have food in their mouths.
  3. Handlers must use that can easily and quickly be swallowed by the dog and may not use food rewards that might create crumbs while the dog is swallowing it.
  4. A 5 point deduction will be taken in the event the handler or dog drops the food on the ring surface.
  5. Handlers who lure or appear to lure a dog will receive a non-qualifying score.
  6. Handlers may not enter the ring with food in their hand. This should be considered luring and the team will receive a non-qualifying score.

2.19 Handling Between Exercises

In the Novice class, the handler may gently take the dog by the collar and guide the dog to the place indicated by the judge for the next exercise. This is not allowed in the Open class, and deductions at the judge's discretion will be taken for physical guidance in between exercises, as it is expected the dog be under verbal control in this class. Dogs who are not under verbal control between exercises in Open will receive score deductions.

2.20 Misbehavior

Any dog who exhibits fear, nervousness or timidity or any uncontrolled behavior such as snapping, barking, or running away from the handler will be penalized, to the maximum penalty of a non-qualifying score. This applies in between exercises as well as during exercises. If a dog leaves the ring during the transition from one exercise to another and the handler is successful in calling the dog back, a substantial/major deduction must be taken. If the dog leaves the ring during the performance of an exercise, a penalty must be taken to the maximum penalty of a non-qualifying score. A dog that eliminates or becomes ill in the ring will receive a non-qualifying score and be excused from the ring. Handlers who deliver harsh corrections inside and/or outside the ring will be excused from the day's events and asked to leave the grounds.

2.21 Exhibitor Requests to be Excused

The judge should honor any exhibitor's request to be excused from the ring and should note this on the score sheet.

3. Obedience Classes and Individual Exercises

3.1 Classes and Eligibility

There is no requirement in the JRTCA that a dog must progress from Pre-Novice to Novice to Open, earning three qualifying scores in a class before being permitted to enter the next higher one. Dogs may be entered in any class for which they are eligible, except where cross entering is not permitted.

3.1.1 Pre-Novice Obedience "A" is open to dogs that do not hold a Pre-Novice title, or dogs that do not show Obedience in other venues. Not eligible for the Championship.

Pre-Novice "B" class is open to dogs that have a good knowledge of obedience or hold a Pre-Novice title. This class is only is eligible for the championship.

Eligible for a Pre-Novice "B" Obedience Certificate upon completion of 3 qualifying scores.

3.1.2A Novice Obedience - Eligible for a Novice Obedience Certificate upon completion of 3 qualifying scores. May cross enter into Pre-Novice "B" and Open.

3.1.3A Open Obedience - Eligible for an Open Obedience Certificate upon completion of 3 qualifying scores. May cross enter into Novice and Pre-Novice "B"

3.1.4 Brace Obedience - Two dogs performing Pre-Novice exercises together judged on Pre-Novice criteria. Dogs may be on two leashes or coupled. Braces to be judged on precision. The brace that works as one stands the best chance of winning. One score sheet for two terriers. Dogs may cross-enter any other Obedience class for which they are eligible as outlined above. This is an optional class that is not eligible for a certificate.

3.2 Placements

Qualifying scores shall be considered first for placements, in descending order. If there are no qualifying scores or fewer that seven entries per class, non-qualifying scores shall be considered to fill the remaining placements.

3.3 Obedience Trial Championship and Reserve

The dogs with the two highest combined scores from the Pre-Novice "B", Novice Obedience, or Open Obedience Classes will be Obedience Trial Champion and Reserve. Ties shall be broken by each team again performing the Off-Leash Heeling Pattern exercise. Addition-Note: Two of the three classes are acceptable for Championships.

3.4 Scoring

All dogs are to enter and leave the ring on leash for all classes. Any dog leaving the ring without a leash for any reason will be excused and will receive a non-qualifying score.

For a qualifying score a team must earn a minimum of 170 points total AND at least 50% of the points for each individual exercise. Non-qualifying scores will count for class placements.

OPEN OBEDIENCE: Judge or Club should provide a marker for the go out. Two ring gates with an upright in the center would be ideal. If that is not available either a cone or visible mark on the floor is appropriate. But only one marker should be used.

NOTE: A complete set of rules, guidelines, and class exercise descriptions is available on the club web site. You may also request a copy from the Trial Committee or from the Obedience Chairperson.

RALLY-O RULES: A complete set of Rally-Obedience Rules can be downloaded from our JRTCA site or contact committee member at mousemoorjr@cs.com

3.5 - 3.7 Obedience Exercises

View/Download JRTCA 2017 Obedience Exercises (PDF)