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.
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 the 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 slightly 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.
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 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 along 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.
Size & Appearance
Jack Russells are small but muscular dogs, standing between 13 and 14 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing from 13 to 17 pounds. It is expected that females are somewhat smaller than males.
These cheerful little fellas are sturdy for their size. Their frames are rectangular in shape, meaning they are longer than they are tall. Because they were bred as working dogs, they have more muscle than one would expect in a small pooch.
They have small heads with V-shaped ears that flop over. Black and pigmented rims outline their almond-shaped eyes. They also have a black or pigmented nose.
Coat & Colors
Jack Russells are either smooth or broken-coated. Both coat types shed minimally and are neither woolly nor silky. The dense undercoat will blow twice a year, before the beginning of the winter and spring. It is common for Jack Russells to have longer hair around the face and tail.
Jack Russells are predominantly white with black or tan markings on the body, head, and legs. They can also be brindle in the head area. They were bred with mostly white fur so hunters could see them in the field.
Exercise & Living Conditions
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!
Jack Russells are friendly, affectionate dogs that don’t take kindly to being separated from their human family. Although in theory, a Jack Russell could live outside in a well-insulated kennel, that living arrangement could be asking for trouble.
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!
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.
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:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Congenital deafness
- Patellar luxation
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 focuses light onto the retina, which then converts the light into electrical signals that are processed and interpreted by the dog’s brain.
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 its sight. Cataracts can be treated surgically, but that can be very expensive and there’s no guarantee cataracts won’t recur.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dogs with floppy ears are prone to ear infections. Check your pup’s ears two to three times a week for redness or foul odor, which can be signs of an infection. Use a damp cloth or cotton pad to wipe clean your dog’s ears, which will ward off bacteria. Never insert a cotton swab into your dog’s ear canal!
Smaller dogs can develop periodontal diseases. Use a toothbrush to brush your pup’s teeth at least once a week. There are also other ways to keep your dog’s mouth and teeth clean and fresh! Chewing toys, sticks, water additives, and wipes are just a few examples.
Long nails can cause problems in our dogs, such as arthritis and other health conditions. Trimming your Jack Russell’s nails at least once a month will prevent injury, as well as scratches on your hardwood floors!
Begin grooming your little furry friend from a young age! This helps them get used to it, as well as make it easier on you.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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 & Shelters
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.
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 result is often fewer health issues, and hopefully some of the better temperament traits of each breed. Here are some popular JRT mixes you may find:
As Family 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.
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 your 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!