Lively, cheerful, friendly and inquisitive, the Jack Russell Terrier also known as the Parson Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier is a small cute little pooch with a big personality. The Jack Russell Terrier was developed in England around 200 years ago as a working dog to hunt foxes, rodents and voles.
The breed became immensely popular after the appearance of the Jack Russell Terriers, Moose and Soccer, in TV shows Frasier and Wishbone. However, don’t be fooled by the toy-like appearance of this little fellow! The Jack Russell Terrier has oodles of energy and is a tireless worker.
Independent, smart, affectionate and charming, the Jack Russell Terrier may be a challenge to manage and train and maybe best suited only for experienced dog owners.
And, if you have been considering bringing home a Jack Russell Terrier but don’t know what to expect, here is our in-depth guide that will give you all the information you need about this breed.
Origin and History of the Jack Russell Terrier
A true working terrier, the Jack Russell Terrier was developed in the mid-1800s in south England by Reverend John Russell, popularly known as “The Sporting Parson” after whom the breed was named.
Bred as a working dog, the Jack Russell Terrier was developed to hunt alongside hounds to flush out foxes from the dens for the hounds to chase. Jack Russell Terriers were big favorites of huntsmen who hunted on horseback. By the 1930s, the Jack Russell Terrier became popular in the U.S.
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The breed was earlier known as Parson Russell Terrier in the U.K. and its name was changed from Jack Russell Terrier to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003 by the American Kennel Club.
The Russell Terrier was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 2012. The Jack Russell Terrier was recognized officially by the Kennel Club of the UK in 2016.
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Bred mainly for hunting foxes and other small animals, the Jack Russell Terrier has a small, compact and rectangular body. These dogs were bred to be fast runners to keep up with the hounds and their compact size enabled them to go to the ground and bolt their quarry.
Typically, Jack Russell Terriers grow to a height of around 10 to 12 inches and weight of up to 9 to 15 lbs. These dogs have small faces with distinctive dark-colored small, bright almond-shaped eyes, V-shaped ears and a keen intelligent expression. Jacks have a short coat that comes in 3 types—smooth, rough and broken (wire-haired) with a coarse double coat.
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The broken coat is a little long and the rough coat is a little longer compared to the broken coat. However, whatever type of coat the dog has, it is not wavy or curly. Jack Russell Terriers come in different colors such as white, tricolor i.e. white, tan and black and white with tan or black markings.
Jack Russell Terriers are cute charming dogs but under their disarming appearance, they have sharp, cunning minds. Incredibly smart and intelligent, these little dogs are quick to learn and have an extremely high prey drive. Jack Russell Terriers are highly energetic, active dogs who love to work, hunt, run, dig and play.
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They are the happiest when they have tasks to do and can get bored very easily. Jack Russell Terriers are baying terriers and they can be quite vocal, which may make them annoying for your neighbors, especially if you live in an apartment. Their alert nature makes Jacks good watchdogs.
Although they are very friendly towards people, Jack Russell Terriers may not be tolerant of young kids and other pets in your home and maybe quite aggressive towards other dogs, cats and any other pets resembling their prey.
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These dogs love to dig and digging is an inherent part of their nature, since going to the ground and hunting foxes and rodents is second nature to Jacks.
However, you can easily train your pet not to dig but he will easily revert to this habit, especially if he’s left alone all by himself for too long or is bored. You must especially train your Jack not to dig when he’s indoors, or you’re sure to find him digging into your couch, cushions and rugs when he’s bored.
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In general, Jack Russell Terriers are a healthy breed and have an average life expectancy of around 13 to 16 years. However, Jacks are prone to certain health conditions, such as:
- Patellar Luxation: Quite a common problem in small-sized dogs, patella luxation or slipped stifles is caused when the patella does not line up with the femur and tibia. This condition causes abnormal gait or lameness in the leg and can cause arthritis in the long run or your pet to become bowlegged.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This is a common disease that afflicts small dog breeds when the hip ball joint is deformed, causing inflammation and pain affecting your pet’s ability to walk.
- Glaucoma: This disease causes abnormal pressure in the eye caused by the constant production of fluid, which does not drain properly. This condition is extremely painful and damages the optic nerve, causing loss of vision and blindness.
- Lens Luxation: This condition is caused when the ligament holding the eye lens becomes very weak, causing the lens to get displaced.
- Cerebellar ataxia
- Progressive renal atrophy
- Periodontal disease
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Jack Russell Terriers are active and highly energetic dogs and need a high-quality diet to keep them active and fit. Your pet’s diet will depend on his age and size. Jack Russell Terriers are charming beggars and you can’t but resist feeding them. And they can jump up and steal food from the table, kitchen counter, etc.
Jack Russell Terriers are quite greedy and are prone to becoming overweight, which can cause several health problems. And so, you must monitor your pet’s weight and calorie consumption closely so that he does not become obese.
Care and Grooming
As we have discussed earlier, Jack Russell Terriers have 3 different types of coats including smooth, rough and broken, which are easy to maintain and need minimal grooming.
However, while the Jack Russell Terrier has a short coat, they shed all the time and you’re bound to find small white hairs on your clothes, couch, bed and all around your home.
The smooth coat is dense and short and can be maintained easily with a weekly rubdown using a hound glove or a soft brush. The broken or rough coats need to be brushed every week with a dog comb or a brush. The brushing helps to remove any loose or dead hair.
Bathing is rarely required if you brush your pet regularly. The dogs with rough or broken coats need to be stripped 1-2 times a year. You should ensure that your Jack Russell Terrier’s nails are trimmed 1-2 times a month.
If you’re able to hear your pet’s nails clicking when he walks, it means that they are too long and must be trimmed short to keep your pet’s feet in good condition.
Check your pet’s ears every week for excess wax, dirt or debris and clean them as and when required. Brush your Jack’s teeth 2-3 times a week to prevent the buildup of tartar and periodontal disease.
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Exercise and Training Needs
With an endless supply of energy, Jack Russell Terriers are highly-energetic and active dogs that love to run around and play. Not the best for a family that loves to lounge around on the couch all day, Jack Russell Terriers are best suited for active, outdoorsy families who love running, jogging, hiking and biking.
Jacks do best in homes with a fenced yard where he can run around and burn off his pent-up energy. At the given chance, your Jack will take off jumping over the fence into the streets in pursuit of his quarry.
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So, you must ensure that the fence is sufficiently high to prevent your “escape artist” from jumping or climbing over or digging under and running off to chase prey like squirrels, birds, moles, etc.
When walking your pet, ensure that he is on a leash to prevent him from running in front of vehicles, chasing other animals or challenging dogs larger than them. Around 30-45 minutes of vigorous exercise every day, along with loads of play in your yard will keep your Jack Russell Terrier healthy, happy and out of trouble.
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Finding games for your pet to play will keep him both physically and mentally stimulated. Jack Russell Terriers do very well in sporting activities such as playing fetch, flyball, agility, rally, obedience and lure coursing.
Jack Russell Terriers as a breed have a high prey drive, which it has retained from being a hunting dog and so, socialization is extremely important to ensure that your pet is not aggressive towards your younger kids and other pets at home. Early socialization will also help to make your Jack Russell Terrier puppy a well-behaved and well-rounded pet.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a high-maintenance breed and their high energy levels combined with their high prey drive make training imperative for the Jack. They are quite wilful dogs and if they are not trained or bored, they can become quite headstrong and difficult to handle. Their stubborn nature also makes it difficult to train them.
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While the Jack loves routine and structure, to keep him interested, the training sessions should be very short and interesting because repetition will bore your pet very easily.
You need to be consistent and firm while dealing with your Jack Russell Terrier. They respond well to positive motivation in the form of treats, praise and play and can become quite stubborn if you use harsh methods of correction.
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Living With a Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is not a breed for everyone. It is quite difficult to train the hunting instinct out of the breed and they usually view the other pets in your home such as cats, hamsters, etc. as prey and may chase and even kill them.
They may be aggressive towards other dogs, particularly if they are of the same sex. While Jack Russell Terriers are very active dogs and do best in homes with fenced yards where they can run about, play and burn off their energy, they can live in an apartment or small home.
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However, you need to keep a close eye on your pet at all times and ensure that he has sufficient exercise and mental stimulation to prevent him from getting bored and becoming destructive. Jack Russell Terriers do well in homes with older kids, who know how to interact with them and are into activities that keep your pet busy for long periods of time.
These high-spirited dogs may not be well-suited in homes with toddlers and younger kids because any rough play or handling may cause your pet to snap. It is always a good idea to supervise the interactions and play between your younger kids and Jack Russell Terrier to prevent either of them from misbehaving or getting injured.
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In conclusion, Jack Russell Terriers are cute, compact and lively dogs; however, they can be quite a handful. They make excellent companions for the right owner, who has the patience and motivation to manage and handle them, keep them occupied and is willing to put in the effort and time to train them.
If you’re a first-time owner and if you can’t really deal with a pet who will dig, bark, chew, zip around your home all the time, chase small animals and not listen to your commands, then however cute he may be, the Jack Russell Terrier may not be the right pet for you.
So, if you’re thinking of bringing home a Jack Russell Terrier and are wondering if the Jack may be the right pet for you, we hope that after reading our in-depth guide, you have sufficient information that will help you make a considered decision.