ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Jack Russell Terrier became known for its hunting abilities as early as the mid-1800s when he was made to track foxes in the English country regions. This dog owes its breeding and development to a clergyman and hunting enthusiast at the time and who needed a dog that could help in the hunt.

Out of this has come a courageous, bold, alert and confident breed seen even today in this terrier. Aside from this the Jack Russell is an energetic, playful and intelligent dog that needs only to be trained.  His small body and cheerful nature has endeared him to many people, and some have learnt too late that he is not all about being cute, cuddly and a couch potato. He is a very active dog that needs an owner that is like him, ready to eat up the outdoors.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Terriers
Height:10 inches to 1 foot, 3 inches tall at the shoulders
Weight:Generally 13 – 17 pounds
Life Span:10 to 15 years

Because of the energy levels, the Jack Russell is not for everyone! An owner who is not committed to be as active as the dog will become frustrated at his demands, and he in turn will demonstrate his dissatisfaction in unwholesome ways. Jack Russells will chew on your most treasured possessions; he will dig his way under and through any fence. Additionally, he is a great escape artist, and therefore you will need to build a fence that he should find challenging to jump over.

Be mindful that the Jack Russell is able to jump five times its height.The Jack Russell terrier is a small but sturdy dog of enormous strength. He has over 200 years of development and has been seasoned into a strong breed.  Bred to an ideal for the hunting of foxes, the dog still possesses that courage, drive and fierceness that endeared him to hunters of social standing at the time. Anyone who owns a Jack Russell terrier will describe to you a dog with a huge personality.

A dog of small breed, the Jack Russell has boundless energy. You will discover a dog that is enthusiastic, bold, brash, and full of self-confidence, characteristics which very often surprise owners out of thinking their dog was one that prefers to nap on the sofa. The spunky dog makes a great pet. However he is lively, smart, and will aggressively protect its environment. The stranger will be met with loud barking.

The Jack Russell does very well as an apartment pet if the owner is willing to provide him the amount of exercise he needs. With the amount of energy that the dog has, he will be bursting with desire to be busy outside. For this reason you will see the beauty of the true nature of this working dog in environments with barns and horses. A barn with a Jack Russell will never have the likes of mice, rats, woodchucks and other pests around (Woolf, 2014).

The dog is an independent and rather headstrong breed. He has a mind of its own and needs someone who is able to manage this type of personality. For this reason it is recommended that only experienced dog owners should have one. When trained and socialized, the Jack Russell gets along quite well with families and children.

Main Highlights
  • The Jack Russell is not suited for a solitary and sedate lifestyle. This dog is known to be very active, energetic, and athletic and therefore needs an outdoor environment for lots of play and exercise.
  • While the dog makes a great friend and a loyal companion, he has a headstrong independence. Even with training he needs special attention to ensure that he keeps within the bounds of the training he receives.
  • The Jack Russell is suitable for apartment living. He however needs a fenced-in yard where he can chase as he desires. They are good at chasing small animals, digging and barking. This terrier breed is a high jumper and therefore fencing should be constructed with this in mind.
  • This is a great family dog, getting along well especially with older children who can match his energy and athleticism.
  • Unlike other breeds which are associated with major health issues, the dog has few health concerns.
  • While the Jack Russell does not take kindly to other animals, it has a special affinity to horses and therefore relishes barn life.
Breed History

The Jack Russell breed has its origins in the mid-1800s in the Southern parts of England. Parson John Russell, also called “Jack”, and a hunting enthusiast of the period, needed an ideal dog breed to follow the horses and help foxhounds to hunt foxes. He needed a dog that would be able to follow and flush out the fox from its den so that the hounds could chase them. Parson John Russell set to work and was successful in developing a working dog breed of this nature.

The breed was used and made famous by those who especially engaged in hunting sports. The breed was recognized and given the name the Jack Russell terrier in recognition of the work of its creator, Parson John Russell. Although John Russell was extremely active in the English Kennel Club, he would not declare his breed in conformation shows.

Jack Russell enthusiasts maintained this status for the breed, preferring to prove the dog’s mettle in the field rather than presenting it in show rings. This tradition has been maintained even to today, although some Jack Russels have been entered in show rings.

The Jack Russell terrier has been known to America since the 1930s where breed fanciers have differences in opinions in regards to the dog’s appearance, working ability, and whether it should be entered in conformation shows or to be continued in working dog status. You will find this in the differences in status between the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America that designates it as a hunting dog, and the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America that maintains the working dog.

Size

The Jack Russell is a small but sturdy and strong dog. Both male and female maintain similar height and weight. The dog stands at 12 – 14 inches high at the shoulder and weighs 13 – 17 pounds.

Personality and Character

The Jack Russell is a small bodied dog with a huge personality. Here is a dog that is cheerful, loving and devoted, and one that makes a great companion. This is a dog that has all the makings of an animal that is athletic with boundless amounts of energy. Without a care, he will chase anything he desires over fences and across the streets. He loves to be engaged in active pursuits and so he is not for persons who are not as active.  The Jack Russell needs to be entertained at all times and when he does not get this he makes his own entertainment, often getting himself into all kinds of mischief.

Wrapped in this personality also, he is fearless and alert, making you know that a stranger is around with his endless barking. A part of this dog’s make up is his willfulness, and this usually lands him into trouble. Even with training the dog will break the rules to have his own way. Early socialization and training from puppy stage will help you curb his often wild spirit. Exposure to a variety of environments and sights and sounds is recommended for him. You should establish yourself as the leader of the pack or the dog will believe that he is in charge.

Health and Potential Problems

The Jack Russell terrier is usually a healthy dog. Unlike many other breeds, there are few instances of degenerative diseases or disorders that affect the breed. In any case, a dog owner who intends to acquire a Jack Russell should check reputable dog breeding agencies to get health clearances for their dog. The following are the health issues that are associated with the breed.

  • Ataxia: This is a neurological disease originating in the brain caused by the death of certain brain cells. The disease affects the cells that control balance. A dog troubled with ataxia walks with an unsteady gait often walking into objects. He has problems coordinating his leg movements. The condition is progressive but the course of the disease may not be the same in all dogs.
  • Legg-Calves-Perthes: This is a disease affecting the head of the thigh bone in the hip joint. Although it may sound similar to hip dysplasia that often affects other dog breeds, Legg-Calves-Perthes is more of a degenerative disease that causes weakness and wasting of the joint. It is a painful condition, accompanied by stiffness and reduced movement. The dog will tend to walk with the leg held high. You will notice the problem in the dog at about six months old. The condition, however, is considered curable with surgery for hip replacement. This is hereditary and good dog breeders will not seek to pass on the disease.
  • Lens Luxation: Older dogs tend to develop lens luxation. In this disease, the lens of one or both eye dislocates, causing pain and eyes that look red or opaque. Unfortunately, some owners fail to detect that there is a problem from early when the lens is partially separated. Early treatment can prevent blindness.
  • Patella Luxation: This is a condition in which the kneecap moves out of place. Also called floating patella, trick knee, or floating kneecap, this is a common problem among small dog breeds including Jack Russells. This causes lameness in the dog. Constant rubbing in the joint leads to arthritis and severe cases of luxation will need to be surgically repaired. Luxation of the patella usually starts at birth but is not obvious until later in life.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease: A Jack Russell that is observed to have excessive bleeding if he gets a cut should be checked for von Willebrand’s disease. This is a bleeding problem caused from an abnormality in the function of platelets in the blood. The dog affected may bleed from the gums and nose, and blood could also appear in the urine. No cure has been found for von Willebrand’s disease. However, you can help your dog by preventing him from getting into rough fights and other unsafe conditions where he may receive injuries that cause bleeding.
Care Features

The care of the Jack Russell is not difficult and centers mainly on mental and physical stimulation. Although he is an indoor dog and likes to be near the family, he needs a space to be able to run at leisure, and the chance to explore on his own. Because of his natural instinct to chase and hunt, efforts should be made to make his environment safe since he will go off and get himself into trouble. An extensive enough yard surrounded by a strong, high fence will keep him from getting into confrontation with other dogs.

He is a very active dog and should be given very vigorous exercises. He will love a high paced walk twice a day. Walk him on a leash to prevent him from going after other animals, challenging bigger dogs, and getting in the way of cars. Also, engage him in active games that will help him burn off some of the energies that he has. Jack Russells love a good game of fetch, or you chasing him for a toy. In this latter activity, do not make it a habit unless you are incorporating the command for him to “drop it”.

Feeding Schedule

Recommended daily amount: 1 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

The Jack Russell is a high energy dog and of such his diet should include food that will supply enough fuel to support him. While you probably would have liked to prepare him your own meat and vegetables, this may not be possible. If you choose to use commercial food for his nutrition, ensure he gets a high quality kibble.

Coat, Color and Grooming

You will find three coat types in the Jack Russell breed – rough, smooth and broken. The rough coat has a double coat, a short undercoat and a wiry outer coat. Dogs with this type of coat generally have longer than normal hair over the eyes and on the muzzle to form just a hint of a beard. Those with smooth coats come with short, flat hair lying close to the skin. Broken coated Russells have a texture that is between rough and smooth, the outer coat lying closer to the body than the rough coat. Broken coats may or may not have hair over the eyes or a beard.

Jack Russells are predominantly white in color with black or tan markings. You will also find dogs with tricolor. The dog was specially bred in white in their early development so that the hunters could see them in the field.

The grooming needs of the Jack Russell are not burdensome. As a house pet, your dog will need occasional baths, possibly once per week. The frequency of baths will depend on how active your dog is and whether he is one to dig and get himself messy.

Get him used to bathing from puppy stage and try to make it a fun activity for him. Although Jack Russells do not shed a lot, they need a bit of coat grooming. Brush their coat frequently to get rid of hair that would normally fall out during shedding. Dogs with rough or broken coats will need you to be gentle when brushing. Tangled coats can be painful when combed.

Toe nails will need to be trimmed especially in those Russells that do not work that hard. Be careful not to trim too close to the quick. This will expose the dog to infection.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Jack Russell has a personality that is infectious and that draws people to him. He is a very friendly and playful dog, suitable for families with older and active children. Young children would not be able to match his rambunctious nature. It is also the nature of the Jack Russell to be aggressive towards smaller animals. He will chase guinea pigs, cats and snakes. He is also aggressive to other dogs especially those of his sex.

Jack Russell terriers are an extremely active, energetic, and enthusiastic dog that will demand the same energies from its owner. An inactive terrier is going to be unhappy and he will definitely show this by destroying items around the house. This terrier is however, a breed that anyone will love. He is friendly, intelligent, playful and even amusing. Unlike many other breeds, he is not affected with any major health issues and he makes a good house pet.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Angela Pickles

    I’m wondering if Jack Russel Terriers make good companions for folks living in mid-sized apartments? My sister is thinking of getting one, but she’s worried that this breed will be so energetic for her. Is she right on this? Jack Russels are her favorite dogs. :(

    • John Walton

      It is indeed a quite athletic dog. Depending on the age of your folks living in apartment, it can be compensated by walks in the park and some tricks that can be done at home.

  • Red Smith

    Our neighbor’s Jack Russel is over 25 pounds. They got thedog from a breeder in Texas, but no papers. Now, my neighbor is wondering if the dog is pure bred or not. Has anyone seen or heard of a Jack Russel that’s over 25 pounds?

    • John Walton

      That’s quite large to be considered as a purebreed Jack Russel, Red. Jack Russel Terriers can reach up to approximately 20 lbs as adults. While it can be an overweight Jack Russel, a thorough evaluation by the veterinarian can only determine its authenticity.

  • Winona Matthews

    I don’t know if our Jack Russel is a flea magnet or what. We’ve applied Frontline on her. She also wears a tick collar. We’re also limiting her exposure to grass and dirt for the moment, but to no avail. She still has fleas! What do we do next? Anything we’ve missed so far?

    • John Walton

      Avoiding grass and dirt will significantly reduce the possibilities of harboring fleas and ticks. However, the cleanliness of the places where your dog usually roams will play an important role in potential reinfestation. You can avoid the walkways, but if the ticks are roaming around the house or its kennel, then it will always come back.

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