Temperament: lively, alert, curious
Height at the shoulder: 10-15 inches
Weight: 13-17 lbs.
Life expectancy: 12-14 years
Breed Group: Terrier
About the Jack Russell Terrier breed
If you are looking for a strict set of narrow physical characteristics of the Jack Russell Terrier breed, you may have some trouble finding them, especially in the USA. There is a Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA). Still, at the same time, the American Kennel Club recognized it as two separate breeds – the Parson Russell Terrier and the Russell Terrier. The fact is, both breeds are variants of the true Jack Russell Terrier.
The Jack Russell Terrier breed was developed 2 centuries ago in England for fox hunting. Today, it is among the most popular show dog and companion dog breeds in the world.
The dogs from this diverse breed can vary in size, in coat type and in the types of markings they have, but they all are incredibly clever, lively and independent dogs. Thanks to the many different variations, the Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most diverse working dog breeds.
Since the JRTCA has devoted itself to keep the breed as a working dog, and any kind of inbreeding has been prohibited in order to prevent damage to the genetic pool. Today the Jack Russell Terrier is pretty much the same dog as it was 200 years ago.
The Club is opposed to dividing the different varieties into different breeds because eventual breeding and inbreeding are bound to change the Jack Russell Terrier forever.
A great example of this phenomenon is the fact that what we know today as a Fox Terrier actually once was a Jack Russell Terrier which evolved as these dogs started appearing on the show ring and gradually lost their natural ability to hunt.
Jack Russell Terriers can be with smooth, rough or broken coats, and they are white with tan or brown markings. All of the dogs from this diverse breed shed quite a lot.
The JRTs are compact in size but are muscular. According to the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, their height at the shoulder should be 10 to 15 inches, while the AKC standard has set a smaller range of 12-14 inches in height. The JRTCA show dogs are classified into two groups, depending on their size – 10-12 ½ inches and 12 ½-15 inches.
According to the devoted fanciers from the club, the Jack Russell Terrier still has the physical structure and the heart and mentality to hunt for foxes underground and is a physically and mentally sturdy dog.
Thanks to these preserved qualities, the dogs from this breed are not only excellent hunters but are incredible athletes and versatile companions who can win at any game or contest from agility to hunting, skateboarding, surfing, racing, flyball and so on. These dogs are also excellent entertainers, therapy dogs, search and rescue helpers and loving companions.
These pups are not only excellent when working on the field, but they are affectionate and charming canines. All future owners captivated with their natural charm should be warned that the dogs from this breed can be quite a handful when it comes to care and training, so they are recommended for experienced dog owners only.
Many Jack Russell Terrier owners and breeders may also add that you will need to be very patient and have an excellent sense of humor if you want to properly train this dog. The reason for this is not because Jack Russell is not smart enough to learn, but actually quite the opposite – it is intelligent and often has a mind of its own, and cannot stand being bored. If you don’t find ways to keep your dog entertained, both physically and mentally, it will find its own way to do it, and most likely, you won’t like the results.
If you are ready to live with a dog that can play fetch until it drops and which can learn tricks in a few seconds, and which is a great companion when it is not getting in some kind of trouble, then the Jack Russell Terrier could be the perfect dog for you.
On the other hand, if you are not ready to deal with a pup that has endless energy levels, chases after every cat and small animal digs, runs and barks whenever it decides, or jumps up to 5 feet in height, then you may want to stay away from dogs from this breed.
One other potential problem with Jack Russell terriers is their fearless natures which can get them into different kinds of problems. They can find a way out of a fenced yard by climbing on the fence, digging or sneaking through tiny crevices. They also have a strong prey instinct and nothing can stop them from chasing small animals other than a leash.
Their instinct for digging deep and large holes very quickly is something that you will have difficulty curbing, so you may want to train the dog to dig in a specific place only. JRTs are also barkers, so you need to keep that in mind if you are looking for an apartment dog.
In other words, the dogs from this amazing breed are perfect for active people who have the patience and time to devote to satisfying the needs for physical and mental exercise and to train these free-thinking and lively pups. They can become your best friends and the most loyal and fun companions you have ever had.
The dogs from this breed can also become superb playmates for older children, but its energetic nature may be a tad overwhelming for toddlers or smaller kids.
Your days will become more fun-filled with a well-trained and properly exercised Jack Russell Terrier. If you have the confidence that you can deal with a pup like this and are looking for a running or cycling buddy, then get ready for a wonderful but wild ride when you adopt one.
Further Reading: Terrier Breeds: The Full Guide
As with many other terrier dog breeds, the personality of the Jack Russell terrier is pretty colorful and is more of the personality of a large dog in a compact body.
They are friendly and affectionate and should never be shy. Their willful natures will make them run off, jump over fences, chase any smaller animal and dig until they drop, so you will need to be very patient, consistent and clever when it comes to training a dog from this breed.
For the best results, you should keep your Jack Russell Terrier mentally and physically engaged for as long as you can. When training it, ensure you don’t prolong the training sessions too much or focus on repetitive tasks, because these dogs get bored and distracted pretty easily.
Like all other dogs, the Jack Russell Terrier needs to be socialized from an early age. You should meet the puppy with as many different people as possible, as well as with friendly dogs, and expose it to different experiences, sounds, and sights if you want a well-rounded dog with great social skills later on.
Unfortunately, the fearless nature of these terriers can get them into serious trouble with large and aggressive dogs, so you should monitor their interactions with unknown dogs and keep them leashed when there are dogs like this around.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a highly energetic, happy dog with a natural desire to work. If you give it a job to do – it will be at its best.
These dogs’ digging and prey instincts are very difficult to control or curb, so make sure you keep your dog on a leash or teach it to dig only in a specific area outdoors instead of digging up your entire garden.
At the same time, JRTs are companion dogs and love being with their humans, so don’t leave your dog alone outside in a kennel. It needs to be with you. In fact, many dogs from this breed tend to suffer from separation anxiety, so make sure you don’t leave your pup home alone for too long.
They are also pretty vocal and can have a hard time tolerating other dogs, cats or young children at home too.
Otherwise, they are very alert canines and make excellent watchdogs.
The quantity of food you give to your Jack Russell Terrier depends on its size and weight, age, activity level, metabolism, and overall health.
Also, the quality of the food you give to your dog makes a difference, whether you decide to feed it with commercial or homemade dog food.
Divide the food of your JRT into two meals a day instead of leaving a full bowl out all day. This will allow you to control just how much the dog is eating and prevent it from becoming overweight or obese, which can be harmful and even dangerous for it.
Always give your dog food that is suitable for its age, and take it easy with the treats if you want to keep it in shape. Avoid feeding it with human food scraps because they can have high-fat content and contain ingredients and spices that are bad or even toxic for canines.
Speak to your vet if you have concerns about your dog’s weight or questions about its diet and the most suitable food to feed it with.
They may be sturdy little hunting and working dogs, but Jack Russell terriers do need to be adequately groomed if you want them to look good and stay healthy.
The different Jack Russell Terriers come with different coats. They can be smooth, rough or broken. No matter the coat type, they all tend to shed, but some coats need more grooming than others.
The smooth-coated dogs from this breed have short and smooth fur, which lies close to the body. The ones with broken coats have a smoother undercoat and longer and wiry top coat, which is especially visible on the body, legs, and face of the dogs.
The rough-coated JRTs have longer and denser undercoats and wiry hair on top.
All of the coat types are dense, waterproof and lay flat close to the bodies of the dogs.
The smooth-coated Jack Russell Terriers are the ones that tend to shed the most, but at the same time, require less grooming than the other types. The rough-coated Jack Russell Terriers shed less, but their coats need to be stripped manually.
Smooth-coated Jacks should be brushed once a week and more frequently in the spring when they shed more. You should use a standard brush for this task, which will help remove any dirt and untangle the hair. Some groomers recommend that even the smooth-coated Jack Russells should be manually hand stripped.
As for the dogs with broken coats, they definitely need to be stripped twice a year. This helps remove the dead hair which has not fallen off naturally.
The best way to do the stripping is with a special stripping knife before bathing the dog. After a bath, the coat becomes soft and slippery, so stripping is much more difficult and can even be impossible.
Before stripping the coat, make sure you brush the coat to remove any dirt and untangle and tangled hair. Then take the stripping knife and hold it between your thumb and index finger firmly.
The stripping is done by grabbing a piece of the fur in between the knife and thumb and by pulling. Since this can take quite a lot of time, it is a good idea to strip one area at a time every day to prevent the dog from getting annoyed or stressed.
Of occurs, it is best to leave the stripping job to a professional groomer two or three times a year.
If you are not planning on exhibiting your dog, you can trim its rough or broken coat, which is easier than stripping.
If, on the other hand, you are going to show your JRT, leave it rough coat rough or its broken coat broken, because this is the requirement of the breed standard.
In case your Jack doesn’t wear out its nails naturally, you will need to trim them at least once a month. Be careful when clipping the nails because dogs have blood vessels inside their nails, and cutting through them can cause bleeding, pain and stress to the animal.
Also, make sure you examine and clean your dog’s ears once a week. Use a specialized dog ear cleaner and gently wipe the outer ear from any debris or dirt. If you notice a nasty smell, redness or other signs of inflammation in the ear, do not attempt to stick anything in it, but take your dog to the vet instead.
You should also take proper care of your dog’s teeth and gums by brushing its teeth several times a week.
The easiest way to make your Jack Russell Terrier withstand all of this grooming is to teach it from a young age.
When grooming your dog, don’t forget to inspect its skin, eyes, nose, mouth and other body parts for any worrying signs such as lumps, discharge, redness, rashes, sores or others.
If you brush your JRT regularly, it will only need occasional baths when it is really dirty.
Bred as a fearless and tireless hunting dog, the Jack Russell Terrier is definitely not a dog for everyone. It has strong hunting and digging instincts and wants to work all of the time.
This means that either you go hunting with your Jack, or you find the time, energy and patience to keep it active and busy for as long as possible every day.
If you have a large backyard, this is the best scenario for a JRT, but make sure the fence is tall enough and that it is dug deep enough. These clever and ambitious pups are known to be able to climb over fences as well as dig deep holes under them in a matter of minutes. There is no need to say just how dangerous this can be for your dog.
If it is an entirely indoor dog, make sure you walk it for 30-45 minutes a day or take it jogging, cycling, hiking or exercising with you.
Your Jack Russell terrier will also appreciate a long and fun game of fetch outdoors.
Remember to never trust your Jack, and always have it on a leash when outdoors. This is for its own safety, especially when running into the traffic or attacking or harassing larger dogs.
By keeping your dog mentally and physically entertained and bust, you will both be happy. JRTs are excellent in various dog sports and competitions if you train them properly.
You probably have seen the excellent acting and training of the dogs from this breed staring in different TV shows and movies, such as Frasier, The Mask, The Artist, My Dog Skip, and many others, and have thought that they are very easy to train, but the truth is that training Jacks can be quite difficult and even impossible if you do not have the experience, the confidence and the patience to do so.
They are highly intelligent dogs but at the same time are strong-willed and get bored easily.
They do respond pretty well to positive reinforcement and may become stubborn and unresponsive if faced with harsh punishment and corrections.
You will need to have the time, firmness and patience to provide your dog with specific set rules and routines and praise it for good behavior, and you will be rewarded. The fact is, you can teach your Jack Russell Terrier to do just about anything if you have the skillset and use the right training tactics.
You should provide your young JRT puppy with a lot of positive interactions with different people, dogs and in different settings in order to prevent it from becoming aggressive to other dogs and suspicious of strangers.
The dogs from this English breed can do quite well in homes where there are older children and if socialized early on can even live with other dogs.
Make sure you teach your kids how to handle and approach the dog properly in order to prevent snapping and biting or injuries of either party. Always supervise children and dog interactions to stay on the safe side.
Due to their strong prey drive, Jacks can chase and may even kill cats or smaller pets.
Also, some dogs from this breed can be aggressive to other dogs of the same sex, so be wary about adding a JRT to a household with other pets.
When socialized and trained properly, the Jack Russell Terrier is the perfect loving and loyal companion that will make you smile and keep you busy at all times. It loves working and playing and also loves being with its owners.
This tenacious dog breed was born to hunt and will not be distracted by anything else when at it. This endless energy and fearlessness can make it difficult to cope and live with if you can’t find ways to channel its energy properly. In order to do that, if you don’t hunt, you can engage your pup in different games, dog sports and terrier races, agility or trials.
If a dog from this breed gets bored, it will quickly find a way to entertain itself, and the results may not make you too happy.
The Jacks can be great playmates for your older children and can be the perfect way to make them spend more time outdoors playing instead of sitting in front of the computer or phone screens.
For the best results, you should start training and socializing your puppy from day one. It is intelligent enough to start learning even at the young age of just 8 weeks, so make sure you don’t lose precious time and opportunity to make it a well-behaved and well-rounded dog.
If possible, enroll it into puppy kindergarten when it has had all of its puppy vaccines.
When selecting a puppy, ask to meet its mother and siblings to see what to expect as it comes to temperament and behavior when it grows up.
These sturdy, compact terriers are pretty healthy in general, but like all other dog breeds, they are prone to certain health problems and conditions, some of which are genetic and others not. To make sure that your dog is safe from inherited diseases, ask the breeder to show you health clearances for its parents.
You should expect to be shown health clearances for the patellas (knees) and for the eyes.
Since many of the health problems do not appear until the pup reaches full maturity, the health clearances are not issued until a dog is 2 years old. This is why responsible breeders do not breed dogs younger than this age. They also never breed dogs with genetic diseases and health problems.
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America will not register any dogs with hereditary defects.
Although your Jack Russell Terrier may never have a problem with any of these health issues, it is still a good idea to know what to look for and what to be extra cautious about with this breed.
Here are the most common health issues of the JRT dog breed:
This is a common disease among small dog breeds. It causes a deformity of the hip joint ball, which can be confused with hip dysplasia. This deformity causes wearing off of the bone and arthritis. The condition can be corrected surgically with a good prognosis by removing the damaged part of the bone ball.
Deafness in dogs and other animals is often associated with white coat color. This condition can affect pure white puppies and can be detected with tests in early puppyhood. Death dogs should not be bred.
Commonly referred to as “slipped stifles” this is another common among small-sized dogs. It is caused by the misalignment of the three bones which meet at the kneecap and can cause an abnormal gait, lameness and a skip-like walk.
Although puppies are born with this condition, it may not become evident until much later. The running caused by the misalignment can cause arthritis which is a painful and often debilitating degenerative disease of the joints. Patellar luxation is graded in 4 grades, the first one is the mildest and the 4th grade is the most severe one. Severe cases may need surgical intervention to realign the patella.
This is a painful disease that causes abnormally high pressure in the eye from a liquid build-up in it. The pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to loss of eyesight. There are two types of canine glaucoma – primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is hereditary, and secondary glaucoma can be caused by injury, inflammation or a tumor.
The first symptoms of glaucoma are usually visible in one eye only. It will become red, teary and will appear painful for the pup. The front of the eye can look cloud-like and the pupil does not react to light. Even with treatment, a loss of vision can occur over time. Treatment includes medicine or surgery.
Dogs with hereditary glaucoma should not be bred, and you should ask your breeder for clearance from a certified veterinary ophthalmologist.
This is another condition that can affect the eyes of Jack Russell Terrier. It causes the lens to become displaced due to the deterioration of the ligaments which hold it in place. It can be treated surgically in some cases, and other times, the eye will need to be removed completely to resolve the issue.
Thankfully, dogs are very good when it comes to adapting to partial or complete blindness. They can live pretty happily and safely as long as you don’t change their surroundings.
General health information about the breed
Just like humans, dogs are prone to various genetic health diseases and conditions. This is why you should always look for a responsible breeder who has tested both parents for all potential genetic conditions that can affect the puppy. Ask about the health history of the dog’s ancestors. An honest breeder should tell you about any medical issues in the past as well as the causes of death in the canine family so far. Always ask for written health clearance about the eye, ear and patellar health of the parents.
All dogs registered in the Canine Health Information Center database must have undergone knee and hearing evaluations by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, as well as eye clearance issued by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. All results from these tests are published in the database, so you can always check the health status of the puppy you are about to buy.
Even with the most careful and loving breeders, sometimes Mother Nature can play a trick on the newborn puppies, and they can develop any of these diseases no matter how careful the breeders have been. Thanks to the advances in veterinary care, your dog can still live a normal and good life with any of these diseases.
Remember to be very careful about your dog putting on too much weight or becoming obese if you want to prevent it from developing diabetes, heart problems or problems with the bones and joints too.
With proper care, the average Jack Russell Terrier will live for 12 to 16 years or even more.
The Jack Russell Terrier was developed by an English Parson named John Russell and called Jack by his friends. He lived and worked about 200 years ago in Southern England and despite being a faithful member of the clergy was also an avid fox hunter. Parson John Russell strived to develop a dog that could hunt along with the hounds by flushing the foxes out of their dens with barking but without killing them.
So in the 1800s, Parson John Russell created his first hunting dogs, which quickly became the favorites of various hunters and sportsmen, especially those who preferred hunting on horses.
It is believed that the ancestors used for developing this breed were the Old White English Terrier which is now extinct and a black and tan terrier similar to the Manchester terrier.
In the 1930s, the breed was already exported to and becoming popular in the US, and it was then when several breed clubs were founded, all concerned about the appearance, abilities, and characteristics of the Jack Russell Terrier breed.
Their differences were mainly about whether the dog breed should remain a strictly working dog, or whether it should compete in conformation shows which could change the breed altogether.
Due to the broad genetic makeup of this breed, there is considerable variance in the standards for Jack Russell Terriers. There have been disagreements about the length of the legs, which has led to the establishment of two separate breeds in England, where the longer-legged dogs are called Parson Jack Russell Terriers, and the shorter-legged ones – Jack Russell terriers.
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America has an independent registry from the others and considers the Jack purely a hunting dog breed. At the same time, the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America sought recognition by the American Kennel Club. The recognition was finally granted in 1997, but in order to differentiate it from the one registered by the JRTCA, the AKC renamed it to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003. Thus the long-legged version of the breed is the only one officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Through the years, Jack Russell Terriers have charmed hunters and owners with their fun, lively and tenacious personalities. These dogs are among the most popular dog breeds to take part in movies and TV shows, as well as in commercials and logos (like His Masters Voice’s dog Nipper, pictured by a gramophone made by HMV).
Even though there are a lot of disputes among the fanciers of the different variations of this breed, the Jack Russell Terrier remains one of the most popular, recognizable, hard-working and amazingly fun dog breeds in the world!