The Bold and Lovable Jack Russell Terrier

This intense and athletic little dog has won dog lovers’ hearts everywhere with its speed, intelligence, determination, and bold attitude.

Many hunters, flyball enthusiasts, professional trainers, movie producers, and those who love small dogs favor the JRT.

Jack Russell Terrier lying on the grass

Where did the Jack Russell Terrier originate? 

The Jack Russell Terriers we know today were bred first by Reverend John Russell, a priest, socialite, and red fox hunting enthusiast born in England during the 19th century

Looking for the ideal Fox Terrier, he purchased a small female named Trump. She became the prototype for Russell’s breeding program to develop a working-terrier with stamina and courage. 

Jack Russell Terrier portrait

Today, the lovers of the original JRT believe that dog show standards take away from the dog’s working qualities that John Russell wanted to preserve.

By the 20th century, the Russell Fox Terrier was much different from the original breed.

In some places, the old-style JRTs remained. It is from those preserved breeding lines that the modern Jack Russell Terrier is descended.

Some breeders believe that the JRT should keep his unique working-dog qualities, while the other side prefers Parson Russell dog show standards. 

Before World War II, fewer hunting dogs were needed. As hunting became less popular, so did JRTs. People started training them to be companion dogs to increase their popularity.

The JRT comes from the Terrier family, which is a french word for a burrow. The name comes from their job of hunting vermin in underground holes.

Terrier breeds vary in size and they are categorized by function. They are part of the working dog group.

Watch this video to learn more about the Jack Russell Terrier. 

The Jack Russell Terrier is now one of the most popular breeds globally but the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize them as a breed.

In 1850s England, the dogs started to gain public recognition as a distinct dog breed, but they only came to the US in the 1930s.

Several American breed clubs had differing opinions about the JRT’s appearance and ability to compete in the show ring.

In 1976, Ailsa Crawford created the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, and she is one of the first people to breed the dog in the US.

The JRTCA created the breed standard for the original JRT and holds conformation classes in place of breed shows. This unique competition judges the JRT based on their preserved hunting instincts.

Crawford’s JRTCA maintains an open and independent breed registry. They still consider the JRT a hunting dog only, and the Jack Russell Terrier is not accepted in traditional dog shows.

There were also several Jack Russell associations created in the United Kingdom. The main two are the Jack Russell Club of Great Britain and the South East Jack Russell Terrier breed club.

In 2001, the AKC granted admission to the JRT, but under their rules, with a new name and standard, known as the Parson Russell Terrier.

What does a Jack Russell Terrier look like?

The Jack Russell’s almond-shaped, dark eyes are full of intelligence and life. He has little v-shaped ears that drop forward. 

Young Jack Russell Terrier

The JRT is a small, muscular dog. He has a strong muzzle, with a razor-sharp scissor bite. The dog’s neck is muscular and he has a supple chest and back for quick movements in small spaces.

The JRT has cat-like feet, and his hindquarters are sturdy with hocks close to the ground.

Size: How Big is an Adult JRT?

Jack Russells can range in height from 10 to 15 inches at the withers, and a healthy JRT can weigh up to 13 to 17 pounds.

Shorty Jacks stand anywhere from 10 to 12 inches. This mix tends to look more like the Corgis and other stocky breeds that they are bred with.

The Different Coats of The JRT

The Jack Russell Terrier has three different coat types, and all are a form of double coat. 

All three should be weatherproof. Some dog owners decide to use a dog jacket on the short coat JRT for extra warmth.

Wet Jack Russell Terrier

Smooth Coat: This coat is short and appears soft, even though it feels rough. The hair grows in one direction and is the easiest to care for. This coat only needs weekly brushing.

Rough Coat: This coat is long fur with a messy texture. The hair on this coat will grow to varying lengths and may be referred to as the wire-haired Jack Russell Terrier.

Broken Coat: This coat has a combination of the coats described above. It has an equal amount of rough and smooth patches throughout the body. 

The most typical and favored color coat of the Jack Russell Terrier is white. This dog was bred to have a white coat so that it would be easier to differentiate it from the red fox during hunting.

They can also come in:

  • Black and White
  • White and Tan
  • White, Black, and Tan
  • Brindle (Not accepted by the AKC standard)

If you get a JRT, you will notice that the puppy may develop small black or tan markings. They change in size, amount, and color as the dog matures.

It is not your dog that is changing color, but the markings on their skin. 

Temperament as Pets: Are They Cuddly?

This dog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and worldwide, and for a good reason. 

The JRT is cute, small, and portable. They are never shy, very social, and affectionate.

You and your family will fall in love with these cuties and be amused for hours by their high energy level and playful antics. They will be your best friend and adventure companion. 

How could you not love a JRT?

As loving and memorable as they are, the dog breed has a few habits that can surprise the novice dog owner.

This dog is not aggressive in the sense that it will bite when provoked, but they are hunting dogs at heart. There is no need to worry, though.

The JRT was bred with a tempered drive that wills them to pursue the fox, but without causing unnecessary harm.

This is not a dangerous dog, but their boundless energy level can be channeled into undesirable behaviors such as chewing, digging, escaping, barking, and chasing small animals if they do not have a proper outlet.

JRTs commit to you and your family for life. They are ecstatic to greet you when you come home and want to always be with you.

Their fitness as a hunting dog makes them excellent jogging or exercise partners. They will keep you in top shape whether you work out alone or with the family. 

Active and older children are better suited for the Jack Russell Terrier.

This breed does not tolerate young children or older people who do not know how to approach a dog. If not handled with respect and care, they can become hostile. 

Your Jack Russell Puppy needs to be socialized around people of all ages, as well as other animals. If not socialized, they may bark, charge, chase or try to bite other dogs in an act of dominance. 

Their prey drive is rampant and their natural hunting instinct causes them to take off after any smaller animals that resemble prey like cats, mice, and rabbits. 

Is the Jack Russell Terrier Hard to Train?

Some Jack Russell’s are actors, such as Jack Russell Terrier Moose, who plays Eddie Crane on Frasier, or “the little dog with a big imagination,” Wishbone.

It’s actually not easy to train a Jack Russell. You need to have a lot of time, patience, and a good sense of humor. 

Jolly Jack Russell Terrier playing
Image source

The JRT gets bored fast. If you do not keep them entertained throughout the training, they will lose interest. 

If you want a dog who can learn impressive tricks, dominate in agility, or fetch for hours, then the Jack Russell Terrier is your dog!

Remember that to become the impressive performer seen on screen, the JRT needs an experienced dog owner who can handle their boundary-pushing behavior.

Jack Russell Terriers thrive when they are living with the family unit and they can develop horrible separation anxiety, so when you leave the house, it helps to turn on a TV or radio. 

If you leave them alone for too long, they may become destructive and naughty.

The Jack Russell Terrier loves to dig and will make a large hole fast. Digging is natural to them and it will be easier to train them to dig in a specific area than to break the habit. 

Like every dog, Jack Russells need early socialization, which will help your Jack Russell Puppy interact with different people, children, and other animals.

A JRT puppy may feel like a handful when it comes to housetraining. A pup younger than six months will have accidents and the potty process will take time.

Dedicate two weeks to this and always watch them in the first part of the learning process to intercede when there are signs of urination. Your dog will most likely need to pee in the morning and after food or exercise.

Don’t let the Jack Russell Terrier Puppy roam free until he’s house trained. Every time you think they need to go, take them outside.

Be very strict in the beginning; otherwise, they will do as they please. When they do well, you will need to praise and reward them! 

How to Take Care of Your Jack Russell Terrier

Exercising Your Jack Russell Terrier 

Energetic Jack Russell Terrier running

A healthy JRT has an insatiable high energy level. They love to run, jump and play for hours. 

Give them at least 30 to 45 minutes of intense exercise daily. 

The activity keeps your dog fit and, most important, mentally stimulated. These dogs require entertainment and exercise, or they can become your worst nightmare.

Grooming the Different JRTs

All double-coated dogs are prone to shedding, and the JRT is no exception. There is nothing you can do to prevent this because the dog needs to regulate body temperature.

To reduce the shedding, you can provide your dog with a nutritious diet, access to clean water, and flea treatments. 

It is always best to start training your JRT to expect and enjoy grooming when they are puppies.

Jack Russell Terrier grooming

These are the grooming requirements according to coat type: 

Smooth Coat: Run through the hair with a thick brush weekly to remove dead hair and skin.

Broken Coat: Brush the hair weekly. The coat will need regular clipping to maintain the top layer and prevent long hair from matting. 

Rough Coat: This coat requires the most care. Burrs, debris, and dirt will stick to the longer hair. Brush your JRT with a wire slicker brush a few times a week.

While clipping your dog’s hair is more convenient, it may make the coat of your Rough Coat JRT dull. We recommend you have a professional groomer strip your dog’s coat or show you how to do it.

If you are attentive and consistent with the grooming, your JRT will rarely need a bath. Avoid washing them weekly, as this can damage the coat’s natural oils. 

Trim their nails once a month to protect your legs from scratches when they greet you at the door. Brush their teeth at least two or three times a week to prevent tartar buildup and disease. 

Here are a handy few grooming accessories for your rough or wire-haired JRT:

  • Dog Shampoo 
  • Coat conditioner
  • Grooming table
  • Natural bristle or nylon brush
  • Slicker brush
  • Wide-tooth metal comb
  • Stripping knife 
  • Scissors
  • Blunt-edged scissors

JRT Feeding / Nutrition

The recommended amount of food for your Jack Russell Terrier is 1.25 to 1.75 cups of high-quality dog food, divided into two meals during the day.

Jack Russells will gain weight if they do not exercise and if they overeat. Keep them in good shape by measuring their food and don’t leave food sitting out all day.

A simple way to know if your dog is overweight is to look down and see if you see a sign of the waist. You can also put your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward.

You should be able to feel the ribs without pressing too hard. If you can’t, your dog may need to lose some weight. 

Jack Russell Terrier’s Health

The Jack Russell Terrier is a hardy breed but can be prone to certain health conditions like:

  • Glaucoma: A painful eye disease when the eye is full of pressure and produces a fluid. If this fluid is not draining well, it could result in blindness. The eyes are red, watery, and appear painful. The pupil looks cloudy and will not react to light. Treatment can be surgery or medicine, depending on the severity.
  • Lens Luxation: This is when the ligament that connects the lens of the eye deteriorates and displaces. It can be treated with medication or surgery, but in severe cases, the eye may need removing.
  • Deafness: Loss of hearing can develop with age and this condition is more likely in the white coat Jack Russell.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: A disease where the hip joint deforms. This condition needs to be treated with surgery and physical therapy.
  • Patellar Luxation: It happens when the patella doesn’t align with the other parts of the kneecap. This misalignment causes an abnormal gait. The condition is present at birth but develops further with age. The rubbing caused by the joints can cause arthritis. 

When you get your JRT, you want to see health clearances that state your dog is free from health problems. Find a good breeder who will show you releases for your dog and both of their parents. 

The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America doesn’t register any JRTs with hereditary defects.

A thorough exam from your local vet can help identify any health issues if you are unsure of your JRTs pedigree.

Although they can develop some health problems, it is more realistic to focus on training than worrying if your dog has a disease.

A healthy Jack Russell has a lifespan of around 13 to 16 years. The number one cause of death for this breed is getting hit by a car. Keep your JRT on a leash!

How Much is a Jack Russell Terrier Puppy?

The average JRT litter has 4 to 8 puppies. Jack Russell Terrier Puppies cost $2,000-$3,000 for pets with no breeding rights and $4,000 and up for top pedigree. 

Group of Jack Russell Terrier puppies

The JRTCA allows you to test your compatibility with the breed. 

JRT Breeders

The JRTCA recommends that you only buy through their state listed breeders’ directory. 

If you are looking for a JRT that follows the AKC standards, they register and list as a Parson Russell Terrier. You can find these breeders on the AKC marketplace

JRT Rescue / For Adoption

Before you purchase a puppy, it is a good idea to consider adoption. There are many dogs in rescue centers because of owner naivety or lack of patience. 

Adopting is an especially good option if you are looking to care for an older JRT or a JRT with specific care needs. It is also the right choice if you are looking to bypass the destructive puppy phase and find a trained dog. 

Jack Russell Terrier vs. Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers are very similar but have one big difference: their size.

Parson Russell Terrier in the pile of logs
The charming Parson Russell Terrier dog – Image source

The Parson is between 12-14 inches at the shoulders, within the range of JRT but more restrictive. 

They have a more elongated, more square-like body and head than a Jack. Parsons have a broader chest and are bred only for show, while Jack Russell is bred for its working and hunting traits. 

Should I Get a JRT? 

The Jack Russell Terrier is for an active and confident dog owner. You must be enthusiastic about your JRTs exercise and behavioral training requirements. 

Happy Jack Russell Terrier running

They make an excellent dog for the avid dog trainer, small game hunter, athlete, or farmer. These dogs also make loyal companions to the active family.

Pros

  • Intelligent
  • Eager to learn
  • Agile
  • Great hunter
  • Small
  • Great hiking or exercise companion
  • Playful
  • Fearless

Cons

  • Intense energy
  • Not friendly with other dogs
  • Can develop a bad attitude
  • Does not do well with small animals
  • Does not adapt well 
  • Barks a lot
  • Love to dig
  • Not with good with little kids or the elderly

Further Reading: Jack Russell Terrier Mixes

Being so endearing and portable, we humans couldn’t help ourselves and included the JRT in the popular trend of designer dog breeding; this mixes two purebreds to form a new fashionable, but separate breed.

  • Jack Chi – A cross between a purebred Chihuahua and a purebred JRT. 
  • Jack-A-Bee: A cross between a purebred JRT and a purebred Beagle.
  • Jug – A cross between a purebred Pug and a purebred JRT.

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