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the search for a dog
Jack Russell Terrier looking at camera

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Working dog
  • Height – 10 to 15 inches (to shoulder)
  • Weight – 13 to 17 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Medium to long, coarse texture
  • Coat color – Jack Russell dogs typically have three coat colors: white, tan, and black. Purebred dogs will always have some white in varying amounts, while some mixed breeds may be solid black or tan.
  • Exercise needs – High
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – More than average
  • Life span – 10 to 15 years
  • Temperament – Family, pet, and stranger friendly
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – England

Jack Russell fun facts

  • As a hunting, working terrier, Jack Russell terriers make excellent snake hunters and can help clear snakes from a yard.
  • It wasn’t until 2012, well over a century since their origin, that Jack Russells were accepted into the American Kennel Club.
  • Jack Russells can jump up to five times their height! Relative to their size, no other dog can jump as high.
JackRussell-funfacts

Jack Russell temperament and characteristics

Socialized Jack Russell terriers make excellent family pets, but they aren’t the best choice for first-time dog owners — for one thing, their high energy and intelligence mean they’ll need an experienced hand at training. Like many other intelligent breeds, these small dogs can be stubborn. But when trained and entertained, they are devoted family pets and an excellent choice for experienced dog owners.

A little dog with a big personality, Jack Russell terriers are true to their hunting roots. Because of this, they might perceive smaller animals as prey and tend to be fearless with bigger dogs. Owners should keep a close eye on their Jack Russell terrier during walks or when bringing their newest addition home to a multi-dog household.

Common Jack Russell health problems

Many of the same health conditions that impact other dogs — arthritis, patellar luxation, or hypothyroidism — affect Jack Russells, too. Other conditions such as tumors in the digestive system have been reported in certain breeds, including terriers, shepherds, and poodles. Jack Russells may also be prone to:

  • Deafness. Hearing problems are often associated with breeds that have a predominately white coat 
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. Sometimes confused with hip dysplasia, this disease impacts smaller breeds like Jack Russells  and leads to degenerative joint disease in the hip joint managed with surgery and therapy.
  • Dental disease.  Most small-breed dogs are prone to dental disease.  At-home dental care along with regular  professional dental cleanings are needed to keep their teeth healthy.
  • Lens luxation.  This disease, in which the lens in the eye can suddenly become displaced, is hereditary and can be very painful. Medication and surgery can sometimes help, but eye removal may be necessary in cases of lens luxation where the displacement and resulting glaucoma aren’t caught in time.

If the lens falls into the anterior chamber of the eye (in front of iris), then it can cause glaucoma to develop quickly. The eye pressure rises and can cause permanent blindness. Glaucoma is very painful and difficult to manage so surgical removal of the eye is often the best option to keep a dog comfortable. If a lens luxation is diagnosed quickly prior to glaucoma forming, then surgery to remove the lens quickly can be successful.

Cost of caring for Jack Russells 

Even the healthiest Jack Russell can experience health problems, so invest in your pet’s health insurance on Day One and create a pet budget that lets you plan for unexpected things, like eye surgery. Without insurance, treatments can cost anywhere from  $200 to $3,000 or more once you consider medications and ongoing care.

👉 Don’t get caught off guard! Plan for health expenses with our comprehensive guide on budgeting for your pet.

History of the Jack Russell terrier

Hailing from England, Jack Russells took their name from the Rev. John “Jack” Russell who in the mid-1800s bred these small terriers to hunt. Their popularity among hunters in England and, later, the United States, even led to spirited debates about whether this working dog could also be a show dog. The show side won — Jack Russell terriers have competed annually since  2012!

Since those early days, Jack Russell terriers have experienced  changes in  name and variations. From the original Jack Russell terrier breed came the Parson Russell terrier, which has long legs for hunting in areas with hillier terrain. The Russell terrier, also known as “shorty JRT,” is an offshoot of the Jack Russell terrier, with the shorter legs of its lineage. Both look so much like the original breed they can be hard to tell apart besides leg length and a slight difference in body shape.

JackRussell-history

Caring for your Jack Russell

Whether you get a puppy from a breeder or adopt from a rescue, new pets can be a lot. You’ll want to take your Jack Russell for a first vet trip and schedule any initial or follow-up vaccinations. Puppy proof your home and stock up on safe chew toys for puppy teething.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when caring for your Jack Russell:

  • People dogs. Jack Russell terriers may be hunting dogs, but they aren’t cut out for full-time  outdoor life. They should live indoors with the family but have outdoor, fenced-in time to burn off energy.
  • No leash-free walks. Your Jack Russell may be obedient in the home or yard, but their prey drive is  strong. Always walk your dog leashed to keep them (and smaller animals) safe.
  • Training and early socialization. A dog with a bold personality, Jack Russells require patience and a firm, consistent approach. Begin socializing them at a young age, and develop a routine with consistency and the right balance of praise, treats, and rewards.

Exercise 

Jack Russells do best living indoors, but they need outside time, too. As a small yet fearless breed, Jack Russells  left unattended or unprotected by a  strong fence can become a menace. They will go after rabbits, squirrels, and other animals. Thanks to their impressive jumping skills, fences that are OK for other dogs aren’t a match for a Jack Russell. Invisible fence systems may not work for such a spirited pup.

Your best bet might be to spend time with them  outdoors to burn off that high energy with roughly 30 minutes of daily,  intense exercise or playtime. Bored, energetic Jack Russells are more prone to getting into trouble! With their penchant for digging, destroyed grass or carpets may be the result. Proper training, socialization, and attention may prevent damage to your home or yard.

Here are a few more tips to keep your home in one piece with a Jack Russell (or any pup!):

  • Remove valuables. As you and your new dog get used to each other, it’s a good idea to store valuable or sentimental items away.
  • Mess-proof toys. Give your dog chew toys that don’t leave a mess. Stuffed animal toys, for example, won’t last long with a Jack Russell. This squeaky, peanut butter-scented toy will satisfy their prey drive and keep your home clean.
  • Discipline them young. When your puppy is destructive, immediately redirect and train them to prevent problems later.
JackRussell-exercise

Grooming 

Jack Russells are easy to groom compared to many other breeds. Their short coat comes in three forms: rough, smooth, and a mix of the two, and all three are easy to maintain. For smooth coats, a good, weekly rubdown with a soft brush or glove is enough to remove shedding fur and keep coats shiny. With the rough and broken textures, a once-a-week brush or combing session is enough to keep coats healthy and reduce shedding.

Trim nails every month and clean their ears biweekly to check for wax buildup and signs of infection.

Lastly, prioritize dental care. Dogs suffer from dental diseases just like their human companions, so daily teeth brushing is an important part of grooming. If daily isn’t doable, brush your dog’s teeth as often as possible, as soon as possible. It gets easier, and you can supplement brushings with dental toys and treats that reduce tartar buildup.

Diet and nutrition 

As a high-energy breed, Jack Russells need quality food to meet their energy needs. Choose a dog food recommended by your vet, ideally one that’s easier for smaller dogs to chew. Daily portions typically run about 1¼ to 1¾ cups, divided into two meals. Ultimately though, how much they need depends on many factors. 

Talk to your vet about how much food your Jack Russell needs, what kind is best, and how often they should be fed. Special health concerns might impact your dog’s diet. Although there are dog-safe people foods and many healthy options as treats, make sure they are safe for your dog and only given in moderation.

Training your Jack Russell terrier

Jack Russells are intelligent and trainable, but training isn’t an easy task. These dogs are prone to mischievous and destructive behavior when they are bored. With such strong willpower, they require a patient and firm owner who will start training early. Owners and trainers should have a good sense of when it’s time to switch up techniques or call it a day. Like many dogs, Jack Russells don’t respond well to negative reinforcement.

As a new owner, keep your sense of humor. Much like small children, Jack Russells will push the boundaries. These intelligent dogs like to test their human’s resolve and look for leeway where they can get it. Owners who have never dealt with this type of behavior might find Jack Russells quite challenging. 

If you are second guessing if a Jack Russell is a good fit for your home, here are some other options to consider.

JackRussell-training

Breeds similar to the Jack Russell

Not quite sure that a Jack Russell is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Boston terrier. For a separate breed with a similar nature minus the intense, high energy, consider the Boston terrier instead.
  • Poodle. Poodles are a great alternative to Jack Russells because of their similar needs and personality. Plus, they are a more hypoallergenic breed.
  • Doberman pinscher. For a dog that’s just as loyal and intelligent as a Jack Russell but bigger, think outside the box and consider a Doberman pinscher. (There’s a miniature pinscher too!)

Frequently asked questions

Is a Jack Russell terrier a good family dog? 

Jack Russells are great family dogs when trained and well socialized! Their high energy makes them ideal for spending time in the yard with the kids. And, their small size makes them a great option for many different households in many different spaces.

What problems do Jack Russell terriers have? 

Jack Russells are particularly susceptible to eye issues and common small-dog ailments such as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and arthritis.

Are Jack Russell terriers intelligent dogs? 

Generally speaking, Jack Russells are quite intelligent. Because of this, they are highly trainable but also very willful. 

Do Jack Russells bark a lot? 

Jack Russells are often recreational barkers that bark more than the average dog. Training may help, but new owners should expect to hear their Jack Russell coming before they see them.