The Jack Russell Terrier is an endless flurry of activity. Alert, friendly, and oh, so cute, many families are drawn to this lively and intelligent breed. However, the Jack Russell Terrier is not for the novice owner. Read on to learn more about what it’s like to share your heart and home with a Jack Russell Terrier.
Height: 10 to 15 inches
Weight: 13-17 pounds
Life Span: 13-16 years
Breed Size: Small
Best Suited To: Active families, experienced dog owners
Personality: Feisty, intelligent, athletic, independent, adventurous, prey-driven, loving, affectionate, loyal, tenacious
Intelligence: Highly intelligent
Shedding: Depends on the coat type. Smooths shed the most and roughs the least.
Exercise: Vigorous daily exercise required
Barking: High probability of barking
Drooling: Not prone to drooling
AKC/CKC Group: Terrier group
Colours: The dog should be predominantly white with tan, black, or tan and black markings. These markings are preferably found on the head and at the base of the tail. The dog should be at least 51 percent white in color.
Coat Types: Smooth, broken, rough
Jack Russell Terrier Overview
The Jack Russell Terrier may be small of size, but he is one dog that packs a powerful punch when it comes to personality. A dog of extremely high intelligence, the Jack Russell Terrier is easily able to pick up new skills; the challenge lies in convincing him learning is fun. Well-renowned for their independent nature and stubbornness, the Jack Russell Terrier bores easily and prefers being allowed to set his own agenda. This makes the breed challenging to train and best suited to experienced terrier owners.
The Jack Russell Terrier’s original purpose was fox hunting. The breed is highly prized for its small, flexible body and easily compressible chest, allowing this dog to follow prey inside its den on hunts. A dog with immense prey drive, the Jack Russell Terrier will chase anything it considers to be game including the neighbour’s cat and other small, quick-moving animals.
The breed has a weatherproof double coat that consists of a wiry top coat and soft, plush undercoat. This weatherproofing protects the Jack Russell from the harsh, outer elements when out on a hunt with its owners.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a dog that loves to use its own voice. A baying breed, the Jack Russell would often coax prey from its den by alert barking. The Jack Russell takes great joy in the active lifestyle; eagerly running, digging, hunting, barking, and playing at every opportunity. A dog with exceptionally high energy levels, the Jack Russell Terrier is not suited to the couch potato lifestyle. If not vigorously exercised on a daily basis, this dog will resort to nuisance behaviors and may become destructive and neurotic.
The Jack Russell Terrier has a distinctly intelligent look in its eye that endears him to all who meet him. This breed is naturally very sociable and friendly but is intolerant to rough or foolish behavior. This means that this breed must be carefully supervised around children and may not be the ideal dog type for homes with toddlers or young children who don’t respect the dog’s boundaries.
The Jack Russell Terrier has three different coat types: smooth, broken, and rough. The smooth coats shed the most, and dogs with this coat type have no beard or leg furnishings. Their coats are easy to maintain, requiring baths only when the terrier becomes excessively dirty or stinky and brushing to get rid of any excess hair.
The broken coat is a combination of the smooth and the rough and runs the gamut from very lightly broken with only facial furnishings and a little leg hair to very heavily broken (one step down from rough). The rough coat sheds the least of the three coat types but requires the most grooming to keep the dog in good condition and looking tidy. If allowed to grow out, the rough coated Jack Russell Terrier could soon resemble a sheep!
Of critical importance in any of the three coat types is the texture of the coat. The Jack Russell Terrier’s coat should be wiry to the touch. To maintain this wiriness, regular handstripping is required to maintain the correct double coat. However, most pet owners simply opt to have their terriers clipped. This is the ideal solution for pet owners as the coat remains looking neat and attractive and is far less maintenance. Show dogs must be handstripped to keep the coat properly textured.
The Jack Russell Terrier should be at least 51 percent white in color. Markings that are tan, black, or a combination of the two are permissible; however, the standard indicates that the preferred location for these markings are the head or the base of the tail.
Because the Jack Russell Terrier is a go to ground terrier, the breed should have a correctly shaped, easily compressible chest. This feature ensures the dog is able to follow game inside its den and extricate itself when done.
The Jack Russell Terrier is not the best choice for novice dog owners. A dog of exceptional intelligence, stubbornness, and energy to spare, this dog breed does best in the home of an experienced terrier person. The breed can be difficult to train, often training his owners to do his bidding instead of picking up any new skills himself. The Jack Russell Terrier is very manipulative and loses interest in learning quite easily. It takes a very clever approach to help this dog learn new tricks, and it usually involves convincing the terrier the activity was his idea in the first place.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a high maintenance character, requiring vigorous daily exercise on a regular basis to remain physically and mentally content. Failure to provide this stimulation on an ongoing basis will result in a very unhappy terrier with some behavioral problems that will require addressing.
The Jack Russell Terrier has been selectively bred for generations to encourage the traits that make this dog well suited to hunting. This means that this dog breed loves to run, bark, dig, and chase. These traits cannot be trained out of the dog, so they must be channelled appropriately. Because this breed is very smart, the Jack Russell is well-suited to many active pursuits including agility, flyball, hiking, biking, canicross, jogging, and much, much more.
Another thing that potential owners of this breed must always bear in mind is the Jack Russell Terrier has a very high prey drive. This is another aspect of this terrier that cannot be trained out of the dog. This high prey drive means that the dog may not be able to live peaceably with other small animals such as gerbils, hamsters, birds, or cats, and any of these creatures that find their way into the dog’s yard may become “fair game.” Extremely skilled hunters, the Jack Russell Terrier moves with speed and precision. For best results, the JRT should be kept in a securely fenced yard at all times.
The Jack Russell Terrier is small enough to live in an apartment; however, a home with a fully fenced yard is a better option. The breed needs access to a fenced space in which to run, play, and burn off energy. Bear in mind, the Jack Russell Terrier is a master escape artist, staying many steps ahead of his owner. Terrier proofing will be an ongoing thing for the owners of a Jack Russell Terrier. The number one cause of death for this breed is being hit by a car while chasing prey, so it is easy to see why a secure containment system is an absolute must for this breed. The JRT can jump up to 7 feet in height and can climb trees and chain link fences with ease. If these tricks don’t work, the dog will happily resort to digging underneath a fence to get out if necessary. Keeping the Jack Russell Terrier safely at home is a full time job for any owner.
The Jack Russell Terrier can get along with other household pets as they were bred to work as pack animals. However, for best results, the dog should be introduced to its new housemates as a puppy. Though some Jack Russells can learn to live peaceably with cats, this is not always the case.
The breed is not well suited to life with rowdy toddlers or young children or seniors if they lack the health to take the dog for the daily walks he needs.
The Jack Russell Terrier is easy to keep in good condition. A wash and wear type of dog, this dog type only requires bathing when dirty or stinky, and a brushing a few times a week will keep shedding to a minimum.
Though handstripping is the correct way to keep the Jack Russell Terrier in a proper double coat, most pet owners opt to clip their dogs for ease of maintenance. This can be done by a professional groomer twice a year.
The Jack Russell Terrier is typically a very healthy breed. However, there are several genetic conditions that can affect them including:
- Primary lens luxation
- Spinocerebellar ataxia
- Late onset ataxia
Reputable breeders conduct the appropriate physical and DNA tests on their dogs prior to any matings to ensure genetic illness is not knowingly passed from generation to generation.
A lot of confusion exists between three breeds that have remarkably similar names: the Jack Russell Terrier, the Parson Russell Terrier, and the Russell Terrier. To make matters even more confusing, the AKC and CKC Russell Terrier is known as the Jack Russell Terrier in every country in the world but Canada and the USA.
So, are these breeds the same? While all three breeds trace their roots to the Reverend John “Jack” Russell’s fox-working terriers in Devonshire, England in the 19th century, they are indeed all their own unique breeds.
Reverend Russell made use of Fox Terriers to develop his own strain of dogs with the size, tenacity, and conformation to accompany him on hunts in the hilly terrain of Devonshire. The primary traits he sought in his dogs were the ability to keep pace with hounds and horses on foot and the flexibility, size, and gameness to go to ground, following foxes into their dens if necessary to flush them out during a hunt. This dog came to be known as the original Jack Russell Terrier.
The Parson Russell Terrier takes its name from the American Kennel Club. In the late 20th century, the AKC made the decision to offer full breed recognition to the Jack Russell Terrier. Members of this breed’s governing body were strongly opposed to this, feeling that participation in conformation events may lead to a terrier that was no longer true to its roots as a hunting dog. They refused to allow the name Jack Russell Terrier to be used by the American Kennel Club. In its place, the AKC chose to rename this dog the Parson Russell Terrier. Though the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are nearly identical, the Jack Russell has a drivier, more game nature, and has a more inclusive height allowance to the AKC recognized Parson Russell Terrier. In appearance, they are nearly the same. Both the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are more square dogs with longer legs. The Jack Russell Terrier can stand from 10 inches to up to 15 inches while the Parson Russell Terrier is typically from 12 inches to 15.
By comparison, the Russell Terrier’s development primarily occurred in Australia. Here, the dog was carried in saddle bags on the back of horses then let loose at the site of the hunt. As a result, this breed was longer of body and shorter of leg, making him better suited to the Australian terrain. The Russell Terrier has a distinctly rectangular body and stands from 10 to 12” in total height.
Fun Facts About the Jack Russell Terrier
- Jack Russell Terriers are often featured in TV, commercials, and films. Among the most popular roles played by a Jack Russell Terrier are Wishbone (Wishbone books and TV series), Milo (The Mask), and Eddie (Frasier).
- The dog included in the iconic ads for the Victrola is a Jack Russell Terrier named Milo.