Jack Russell Terrier: Breed Information, Traits & Temperament

The Jack Russell is a super-active, feisty little dog that loves to dig and chase prey animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and your neighbor’s cat!

These extremely intelligent, opinionated terriers do best in a home where they are kept occupied, hunting rats in your barn, riding out with you, or competing in earth-dog tests and terrier races.

Before we take a look at whether a Jack Russell would be the perfect pet for you, we need to take a closer look at the breed’s convoluted history and modern status.

History

The Jack Russell is often confused with two other recognized breeds, the Parson and the Russell terriers. Although all three breeds look similar and are related, they are fundamentally quite different.

All three breeds were named after the Reverend John “Jack” Russell who lived in England during the 1800s. Russell was an enthusiastic fox hunter and was so fond of fox hunting dogs that he bred them.

Reverend Russell was also known locally as “The Sporting Parson.” He wanted to create a working dog that was feisty, robust, and confident enough to hunt the fox to ground and then dig or flush out the prey from its den.

A small, short-legged dog was perfect for the Reverend’s needs and the local flat terrain in his local area. The little dog could run with mounted huntsmen and hounds. When the hounds sent the fox underground, the terriers were used for flushing the fox out of the hole.

After the Reverend’s death, the small terrier he had created evolved into the slighter taller Parson terrier. The longer-legged dog was better suited to working the hillier, rougher terrain in other parts of the hunting country. The smaller Jack Russell terrier was still used as a working dog, but his duties involved keeping farms free of vermin and acting as a watchdog.

Some hunts preferred to use the smaller version of terrier, as the dogs were better able to get into smaller, narrower holes. The little dogs were often carried in terrier sacks that were slung over the hunter’s saddle.

In 2012, the Russell terrier was introduced at the AKC National Dog Show for the first time as a new breed, joining the Parson terrier. However, the Jack Russell is only recognized as an official breed by the Kennel Club in the U.K., joining the club in 2016.

Jack Russells are still used by people who like to hunt vermin on their land, but the majority are kept as companion pets.

Personality

The Jack Russell is a livewire! These dogs are insatiably curious and have an extremely high prey drive.

Jack Russells are notorious barkers and diggers, and they are also accomplished escape artists. That’s not naughty or abnormal behavior; that’s just a Jack Russell being a Jack Russell!

A Jack Russell puppy needs lots of firm, fair, consistent training from puppyhood to be sure that your boundaries are clearly understood. As long as you provide your Jack Russell with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation for his sharp mind, any disruption to your household should be kept to a minimum.

Thanks to his origins, the Jack Russell will readily chase anything that he regards as fair game. That includes mice, rats, squirrels, and your neighbor’s cat. Also, you must be aware that any creature that’s unlucky enough to be caught by a Jack Russell terrier will most likely not live to tell the tale.

So, although a well-socialized Jack Russell will get on okay with another dog, owning a cat is out of the question. Also, if your kids have rabbits, guinea pigs or other small furries, be sure to keep them well out of reach of your Jack Russell.

Health

The Jack Russell is a pretty robust and healthy breed that has a life expectancy of up to 18 years.

However, there are some health conditions to which Jack Russells are susceptible that you should be aware of, including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Cataracts
  • Congenital deafness
  • Patellar luxation

Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition where pressure is placed on the dog’s eye, preventing adequate drainage of fluid from the eye. Glaucoma is a serious condition that will quickly become chronic if it’s not treated, ultimately damaging the optic nerve and leading to loss of sight in the affected eye.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a condition that affects the dog’s eyes. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells at the rear of the eye. The retina contains photoreceptors or light-sensitive cells. The lens focusses light onto the retina, which then converts the light into electrical signals that are processed and interpreted by the dog’s brain.

Cataracts: Your dog’s eyes should look clear. If you notice any opacity within the eye’s lens, a cataract could be to blame. Cataracts can be tiny, causing a very little adverse impact on the dog’s eyesight. However, more significant cataracts can cause blurred vision. Eventually, the whole lens may be affected, and the dog will lose all his sight. Cataracts can be treated surgically, but that can be very expensive, and there’s no guarantee that cataracts won’t recur.

Patella Luxation: Patella luxation is a congenital condition where the dog’s kneecap frequently dislocates, causing lameness, pain, and eventually, osteoarthritis. Patella luxation can be treated with expensive surgery.

Health Certifications

Your puppy’s breeder should be able to present you with veterinary certification from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that clears the puppy’s parents of any ear, knee, and eye problems.

If the breeder is unable or unwilling to show you your pup’s parents’ certification, walk away.

Exercise

Jack Russells are vivacious, active little dogs that do need a surprising amount of exercise to keep them happy. You’ll need to take your Jack Russell for at least two long walks each day, as well as to put aside some time for a play session.

Be warned; a Jack Russell that doesn’t get enough physical and mental stimulation can become destructive and unruly!

Training

Jack Russells are extremely intelligent and quick to learn.

These feisty little dogs like to do things their own way, and it’s important to bear that in mind when you’re training your Jack Russell. These dogs are most responsive to praise and reward, rather than a harsh, disciplinary approach to training.

Keep your training sessions varied, short, and fun so that your dog doesn’t get bored. A bored Jack Russell can become stubborn.

Your puppy’s training should begin on the same day you bring him home with you. Even at just eight weeks of age, your Jack Russell is like a sponge, readily soaking up all he can from his surroundings.

It’s essential that you don’t put off your Jack Russell’s training until he’s six months of age or older. Even at this tender age, a Jack Russell can be headstrong and tricky to deal with. If you can, enroll your puppy in puppy training classes, as soon as he had completed his course of vaccinations. Puppy classes are brilliant for teaching your Jack Russell the social skills he’ll need to take him through to adulthood.

Size & Living Conditions

Jack Russells are small but muscular dogs, standing between 13 and 14 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing from 13 to 17 pounds.

Can a Jack Russell live outside?

Although in theory, a Jack Russell could live outside in a well-insulated kennel, that living arrangement could be asking for trouble.

Jack Russells are friendly, affectionate dogs that don’t take kindly to being separated from their human family. So, if you confine your dog to an outside run and kennel set up, you’ll most likely find that he’ll bark incessantly. Also, your Jack Russell will do his very best to dig his way to freedom, trashing your yard in the process!

Nutrition

Jack Russells are very active little dogs that need around 450 to 650 calories per day to keep them healthy and happy. Dogs older than seven years of age need a little less food, depending on their activity levels.

Jack Russell puppies should receive around 800 to 900 calories to take account of their growth and energy needs. Once your Jack Russell puppy reaches one year old, you can reduce your dog’s calorific intake.

Your Jack Russell should be fed a diet that’s 75 percent dry kibble. As your dog crunches up the kibble, the fragments of biscuit will remove plaque-causing bacteria from his teeth, helping to prevent the development of canine periodontal disease.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions on how much to feed your Jack Russell. Divide the daily amount of food into at least two meals, ideally three. Dividing the food ration into three smaller servings helps your dog to digest the food properly without becoming overfull.

Always choose a high-quality food for your Jack Russell that has meat or fish as its main ingredient. On the food packaging, the percentage of ingredients is listed in descending order. So, the first ingredient on the list forms the largest percentage of the food.

Hard to digest ingredients such as grains and chemical preservatives should be avoided, as these can cause tummy upsets in small dogs such as Jack Russells.

Coat & Grooming

Jack Russells are either smooth or broken-coated. Both coat types shed minimally. Jack Russells are predominantly white with black and tan markings on the body, head, and legs.  They can also be brindle in the head area.

Grooming Frequency

Both Jack Russell coat types require minimal grooming. All you need to do is give your Jack Russell a quick once over with a brush a couple of times a week. That will help to keep shedding under control.

As Pets

Now that you know more about the Jack Russell, would one of these dogs make the ideal pet for you and your family?

Let’s have a quick résumé to find out!

  • Jack Russells are small, compact dogs, so, if you have a small place, this breed would be a good fit. That said, a Jack Russell who is left alone for long periods will bark excessively, which could be a real issue for you if you live in an apartment or have near neighbors.ho
  • Jack Russells require minimal grooming, which is good news if you’re looking for a low-maintenance dog. That said, the Jack Russell does shed moderately, which could be a problem if you have allergy sufferers in your household.
  • Well-socialized Jack Russells can get along fine with other dogs. However, the Jack Russell has a powerful prey drive, and they don’t generally get on well with cats and other small furries.
  • Jack Russells don’t generally suffer the clumsy attentions of small children and can be inclined to snap if tormented. Never leave your Jack Russell unattended with children.
  • The Jack Russell breed is a lively, active dog that needs plenty of exercise to keep him physically and mentally happy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because he’s a small dog, a Jack Russell will be happy with a quick ten-minute stroll around the block!
  • Jack Russells are generally robust and healthy, so you shouldn’t expect too many veterinary visits.

So, a Jack Russell would make the ideal pet for you if you live an active lifestyle and enjoy walking in all weathers. If you have a household with small children and cats, a Jack Russell probably wouldn’t be the best choice of dog breed for you.

Buying a Jack Russell Terrier Puppy

A good place to start looking for a Jack Russell puppy is at a local breed club. Veterinary surgeries in your area might also be able to recommend a local breeder who has a good reputation.

Check out the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America’s website for a directory of good breeders. There’s also the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America website where you can find more information about the breed and breeder recommendations.

Always look for a breeder who has agreed to be bound by the JRTCA’s code of ethics that doesn’t allow the sale of puppies through pet shops, online, or by auction. Also, the code of ethics insists that breeders obtain the recommended health certifications on their dogs before using the animals for breeding.

Purebred Puppy Costs

The price of a Jack Russell puppy can vary tremendously. Generally, puppies who are bred from champions command a much higher price than those who are intended to be used for work or as family pets.

Also, the cost of a Jack Russell puppy will, to some extent depend on where you live in the country and even on the sex of the puppy.

In the current market, you should expect to pay around $600 to $1,200 for a well-bred Jack Russell puppy.

Before you part with your cash, ask to see whatever health certification the breeder has for the puppy’s parents. If there’s no health-screening documentation forthcoming, walk away.

Beware of Puppy Mills

If you’re offered a Jack Russell puppy for a very cheap price, it’s possible that the pup has come from a puppy mill. Puppy mills also supply many small pet shops, so be wary of buying a Jack Russell from one of these outlets.

Puppy mills or farms as they’re also known, are set up by unscrupulous breeders to produce as many puppies as they can in the shortest timescales possible. Most of the breeding dogs do not have health screening certification, so there’s a good chance that the puppies will have congenital health or temperamental defects.

Also, the conditions in which puppy mill inmates are kept are often little short of deplorable. The puppies aren’t dewormed or vaccinated, and that can lead to many sick animals being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

So, never buy a cheap Jack Russell puppy from a puppy mill or a small, backstreet pet shop. Period.

Rescues

If you’re happy to take on an adult Jack Russell, and you want to enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with doing a good deed, you might like to consider adopting a puppy from a rescue center or shelter.

Sadly, there are lots of unwanted adult Jack Russells waiting for a forever home. Have a look around websites such as Adopt-a-Pet.com and Petfinder.com, which often have Jack Russells advertised for adoption. Also, check out AnimalShelter.org for details of rescue centers in your local area.

Popular Jack Russel Terrier Mixes

The JRT is a popular pup to mix with other purebred dogs, making smaller “designer dog breeds” that are a mix of two purebred temperaments.  The end results is often less health issues, and hopefully some of the better temperament traits of each breed.  Here are some popular JRT mixes.

All Jack Russell Terriers From Our Readers

Below are some excerpts of readers that wrote to the founder of LoveYourDog, Janet Wall in the past about their JRT’s.  We wanted to keep the integrity of this page, since so much heart and soul was put into these thoughts by the kids that provided them!

Jack Russells love kids
“Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one.”
– Anonymous

“Skip is two years old. He is a Jack Russell Terrier. He is the best dog in the world. He has never bitten anyone, but is a tough guy. He chases after other dogs. Sometimes I take him across the street to a playground. He LOVES going down the biggest slide. He is great to play with because he just jumps up and starts playing. He is very spoiled, but very smart. He always gets his way. My family and I love him
very, very much.” Shelby, age 11, Missouri USA

“I have a dog with a good attitude and he is very musceled up. His markings are a brown patch on his left eye and a black spot on the tip of his tail. The rest is white. He is energetic and loves to play tug-o-war and monkey in the middle. I can always play with him no matter what.” Rachel, age 14, Kentucky USA

“My dog, Emma, is a Jack Russell Terrier. She loves to take walks, nap, and watch TV. I got Emma when she was nine weeks old and now she is 15 weeks old.” Faith, age 13, Illinois USA

‘I got my Jack Russell about a month and a half ago, and she is already my best friend. She is just like a baby and I love her to death.” Stacey, age 16, Ohio USA

“We have had Winnie for one year now. When we first saw her she was only as big as my hand. Now she’s nearly full-sized and she’s only one! She is kind, affectionate, and gentle. She is getting used to basic commands now like SIT, ROLL, STAND, and GENTLY. She has got a white body, a black tail, and a black head with orange either side of her cheeks and her eyebrows.” Alice, age 10, Wales

“My puppy, Ditto, is 3 years old. I’ve had her since she was born. Her mother abandoned her because she was the runt so I raised her. She is the most wonderful dog ever. Not only is she very smart, she’s also my best friend. She is spoiled and has her own bed, but I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I love my puppy.” Lindsey, age 16, Texas, USA

“One Thursday night my dad came home from work late and I was sad because we didn’t have a dog. In his pocket something barked and it was a new born Jack Russell Terrier! She was so cute. All of the girls in my family had names that started with K except mom. We felt the dog was our sister so her name should start with a K too. We named her Kamereon. We call her Kammi for short. Kammi is 3 years old now and is very gentle and kind. She is all white except she has a black circle and a brown circle inside of the black circle around her left eye. She knows tricks. She knows to sit, lay down, shake, roll over, play dead, speak, stand, and jump on two feet. Kammi is one of my favorite pets I’ve ever had. She sleeps beside me in bed at night and loves us all a lot!” Kaci, age 10, Kentucky, USA

“I have one Jack Russell named Shiloh Anne. She is my best friend ever. She keeps me safe and makes me happy when I’m sad and she never lets me down. We found her as a stray and ever since then she’s been my best dog and best friend. I love her so much. Her favorite game is ball and try to kill my hamster
which I don’t get mad because she’s a rat dog and I understand, but I don’t let her get it. The weird thing about Shiloh is she loves to play hide-n-seek. I hide and then I say READY! Then she goes for the search. She does not stop until she finds me and when she does find me, I praise her and then I say go get Dad. Then she’s off. She gets Dad, then brings him to me and of course we praise her. So if you want to try to play that with your dog, train her, but remember it takes time and patience. Love, Sarah and Shiloh.” Sarah, age 14, California USA

“I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Eddy. My dad brought him home one day and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. We now have seven Jack Russell Terriers and love all of them. I love how aggressive they are around snakes. Eddy loves to kill snakes. “Max, age 17, Missouri USA

“Well, my Jack Russell was just born about five weeks ago and her name is Molly. She’s the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen! She’s got a brown spot around her eye and a pink little one around her left. I love that dog to death!” Andrew, age 14, Ohio USA

“I have a two year old Jack Russell. He’s very fun and loves to do agility. We go to a show called Super-dog. It’s really fun. We won first last year and we’re hoping to win again. She’s great and a lot of fun and full of energy!” Cindy, age 13, Alberta Canada

“I have a 3 year old Jack Russell Terrier named Buster, and he is the best pet anyone could wish for. He is our second dog since we moved here and I can honestly say that nothing in the world could replace him. He is smart, and he actually has his own little personality. He loves to go “bye bye” (car rides) and put his nose on anything possible. And he is small enough to sleep in your bed with out your parents
getting mad. He also loves to lick. And he thinks he is the roughest, toughest little protector. Sorry if this seems odd because I’m older and all but I love dogs and I had to write about my little angel.” Jamie, age 18, Minnesota USA

“My grandma, Pat, has a dog named Jesse and she is really wild. She is a Jack Russell Terrier. She helps my grandma with the dishes and she steals everyone’s shoes. Well, one time I was washing her up. Man does she hate baths. One time when I was washing her she snapped at me and then she jumped out of the tub and got water everywhere.” Jenny, Age 11, Illinois USA

“My 1 year old dog, Raskle (Jack Russell Terrier ), is very good with the new baby. He doesn’t bark or growl when the baby tugs on his little tail or yanks on his “Taco Bell Dog” ears. My mom has a double stroller, and Raskle walks beside it. But sometimes he jumps right in! And when I took the baby and Raskle for a walk to the park, Raskle did something real funny. I had put the baby in the baby swings and was pushing him. Well Raskle kept jumping up, trying to jump onto the baby. So I looked at Raskle and said, “Raskle, do you want to go in the swing?” And of course Raskle looked at me with pleading, big, brown, puppy dog eyes, so I put Raskle in the baby swing. And you know what? Raskle was smiling and barking happily as I pushed him back and forth.” Stacia, Age 12, British Columbia, Canada

“I used to read and read and read and read so many books about dogs until one day, in April of 2000 my mum bought home a dog for me. She had been down at our local pet shop and was picking up some food for our cat when in the window she saw the most adorable Jack Russell. She was only eight weeks old and was half price. Mum knew that the Jack Russell was the dog I wanted so she bought it and
thank God she did! I now have a gorgeous puppy and play with her everyday and night!” Chezz, Age 13, Australia

Famous Jack Russell Terriers

  • Eddie, star of the TV show, Frazier , whose real name was Moose
  • Wishbone, from the famous PBS show Wishbone, played by Soccer
  • Chalky, Chef Rick Stein’s dog who appeared in his British cooking show
  • Unnamed, made a guest appearance in the film Crimson Tide
  • Tillamook Cheddar , the animal artist from Brooklyn, New York
  • Milo, from the movie The Mask
  • Moose and Enzo , from the movie My Dog Skip
  • Nippy, from the movie Problem Child 2

Final Thoughts

If you live an active lifestyle, have no young children or cats in your household, and you like the idea of owning a lively, super-bright little dog, a Jack Russell could be the perfect pet for you.

A Jack Russell will happily fit in a small apartment, provided that you give him plenty of exercise. However, do be aware that the Jack Russell breed is prone to barking and becoming destructive if left alone for long periods. Also, you can’t shut a Jack Russell outside in a kennel or run for the day while you’re at work. The chances are that you little pal will spend all day barking and yapping, which will drive your neighbors crazy. You may also find that your feisty canine companion will probably try to dig his way to freedom!

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