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Jack Russell Terrier - Breed Facts & Characteristics

When it comes to energy, the small but mighty Jack Russell Terrier might have cornered the market. Their liveliness is matched by a smile-inducing confidence that seems to say, “Move over world, I’ll take it from here.” Originally bred for the hunt, the breed still boasts a keen intelligence, making them easy to train if you know what you are doing. Jack Russell Terriers form strong bonds with their human family, especially the person taking care of their needs on a daily basis. If that is you, you’ve got a friend for life. Albeit one that doesn’t sit still for long.

Official name: Jack Russell Terrier

Other names: Jack Russell

Origins: England


Black and white portrait of a sitting Jack Russell
  • Drooling tendencies

    1 out of 5
  • Grooming needs

    2 out of 5
  • Energy level*

    5 out of 5
  • Compatibility with other pets

    5 out of 5
  • Warm weather?

    2 out of 5
  • Suited to apartment living

    3 out of 5
  • Family pet?*

    4 out of 5
  • Can stay alone

    1 out of 5
*We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication. For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioural needs). Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice. All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
Illustration of a Jack Russel
MaleFemale
HeightHeight
25 - 30 cm25 - 30 cm
WeightWeight
5 - 6 kg5 - 6 kg
Life stages
PuppyAdult
2 to 10 months10 months to 8 years
MatureSenior
8 to 12 yearsFrom 12 years
Baby
Birth to 2 months
Jack Russell Terrier in color
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Get to know the Jack Russell Terrier

All you need to know about the breed

There is nothing quite like that Jack Russell Terrier attitude. It is perfectly encapsulated by the expression “Big dog energy”. It just happens to be housed in a little dog’s body.

With all the boldness, exuberance and yes, energy, of a far larger animal, the Jack Russell Terrier struts through life with a lively joy. Loyal and devoted, they will be more than pleased to have you along for the ride.

While Jack Russell Terriers can make great family pets, especially when socialised as puppies, they are best suited to families with slightly older children able to understand how to behave around dogs. Remove this statement - can't claim this as this won't be true in all instance.

Originally bred to accompany hunters, the Jack Russell still has the stamina and temperament that are part and parcel of a working dog’s personality, including the high prey drive for which they were prized. You might be less enthused to discover your Jack Russell Terrier taking off after anything that moves so keeping them on a lead when out and about is a good idea. But better still, ensure you teach good recall from an early age.

Two things to note about the breed: In spite of their small size, they do need a lot of exercise – you will likely tire long before they do – and mental stimulation. And they really don’t take well to being left alone. Separation anxiety can actually affect their overall health. Luckily, with that early socialisation and training – perhaps with a professional familiar with the Jack Russell Terrier’s particular brand of smarts – they will be more than ready to accompany you as you go about your day.

Jack Russell puppy sat on a large pumpkin
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2 facts about Jack Russell Terriers

1. Did you say something?

It has been said that the Jack Russell Terrier likes the sound of his own voice. Perhaps a kind way of saying that the breed can be a bit barky. Excitable by nature, they will not hesitate to let you know if they are upset. Or content. Or hear something. You get the idea. Calm and consistent training, ignoring the behaviours you don't want and rewarding those you do, can help get this tendency in check early.

2. How much exercise exactly?  

They may be small, but this feisty, lively breed needs to expend their considerable energy every day. A walk around the block twice a day is not going to cut it. Think one hour of exercise a day minimum for your Jack Russell Terrier. Off-lead time nourishes their independent spirit – just make sure they are in a well-enclosed space or have excellent recall. As a true terrier, if they can dig their way out, they will escape!

Black and white portrait of a sitting Jack Russell
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History of the breed

Originating in England sometime in the mid-to-late 1800’s, the Jack Russell Terrier was bred by the Reverend John 'Jack' Russell - funnily enough, not the John Russell Terrier - to accompany the good reverend on his beloved fox hunts. Mostly white so as not to be confused with the animals being pursued, they were low to the ground to be close to their quarry, fast enough to keep up with the hunt and wriggly enough to follow foxes down narrow burrows to flush them out. And they were noisy enough to sound the alarm for all to hear when they’d found something, never harming their prey in the process.

In any event, these hardy terriers were bred to do a job and, while current Jack Russells are unlikely to be traceable to the parson’s original dog, the breed is still driven to work, a fact that surprises nobody considering the breed’s high energy reserves and prey drive. Now a popular companion animal, sprightly Jack Russell Terriers still require room to explore and their smart minds occupied.

No reason to bore you with all the to, fro, and discussion around the breed’s official recognition. Suffice it to say that they were finally recognised by the AKC in 2001, with their name changed to Parson Russell Terrier. The Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association followed suite, becoming the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America. Interestingly, the UK Kennel Club, the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) and the New Zealand Kennel Club (NZCK) are among kennel associations that register both the Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier as different breeds.

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Jack Russell Terriers

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2
3
4
5

1.Eyes

Dark, almond shaped eyes with expression of alertness.

2.Nose

Black, fully pigmented nose.

3.Skull

Flat skull gradually decreasing in width.

4.Body

Lithe, predominantly white body proportioned slightly longer than tall.

5.Tail

High-set tail may be straight or with slight forward curve.
Jack Russell standing looking directly at the camera
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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Jack Russell Terrier

A skip and a jump

A pretty healthy breed overall, Jack Russell Terriers can be prone to a few select joint problems - all that constant movement might be to blame – from hereditary Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP) disease, which can be corrected surgically to, most commonly, luxating patellas. Basically, their knee-caps can move out of position. You can spot symptoms of the latter early, including limping or skipping, and a sitting position that seems as though they are compensating. A good vet can help you decide if your pooch needs surgery or not.

Yawn… the breed bores easily

While training the Jack Russell Terrier can be a relatively easy endeavour thanks to the breed’s inherent smarts, they are known to get bored rather quickly and lose interest. Not good for training! So it's on you to keep those sessions entertaining, to make sure your Jack Russell Terrier stays engaged. If you do, they will learn fast and the training will stick. They were bred as a working dog after all.

Healthy diet, healthier dog

When choosing food for a Jack Russell Terrier, there are many factors to consider: their age, lifestyle, activity level, physiological condition and health, including potential sickness or sensitivities. Food provides energy to cover a dog’s vital functions and a complete nutritional formula should contain an adjusted balance of nutrients to avoid any deficiency or excess in their diet, both of which could have adverse effects on the dog. Clean and fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. In hot weather and especially when out exercising, bring water along for your dog’s frequent water breaks. The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your dog has health problems,
please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.

A Jack Russell Terrier puppy’s requirements, in terms of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, are much greater than those of an adult dog. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, as well as to grow and build new cells. Until they are 10 months old, a Jack Russell Terrier puppy’s immune system develops gradually. A complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E, can help to support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries and new encounters. Their digestive functions are different from an adult Jack Russell Terrier, too: their digestive system is not mature yet so it’s important to provide highly digestible proteins that will be effectively used. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, support digestive health by helping balance the intestinal flora, resulting in good stool.

Similarly, a puppy’s teeth – starting with the milk teeth, or first teeth, then the permanent teeth – are an important factor that needs to be taken into account when choosing the
size, shape, and hardness of kibble. This intense growth phase also means high energy needs, so the food must have a high energy content (expressed in Kcal/100g of food), while concentrations of all other nutrients will also be higher than normal in a specially formulated growth food. It is recommended to split the daily allowance into three meals until they are six months old, then to switch to two meals per day.

Throughout their life, it is important to avoid feeding them human foods or fatty snacks. Instead, reward your dog with kibble taken from their daily meal allowance, and strictly follow the feeding guidelines written on the package in order to prevent excessive weight gain.

The main nutritional goals for adult Jack Russell Terriers are:

Maintaining an ideal body weight by using highly digestible ingredients and keeping the fat content at a sensible level.

Preserving the health and beauty of the skin and coat with the enriched addition of essential fatty acids (especially EPA-DHA), essential amino acids, and B vitamins.

In adulthood, small breed dogs are more prone to oral and dental issues, more precisely, accumulation of dental plaque and tartar. The Jack Russell Terrier’s teeth and jaws need a lot of support. A formula containing calcium chelators will help reduce tartar formation, hence helping to support daily oral hygiene. Small breed dogs are well known for being fussy eaters. Exclusive formula and flavourings, as well as a kibble size with a special texture, will stimulate their appetite.

Small breed dogs are prone to urinary stones; a diet that supports a healthy urinary system is recommended.

For Jack Russell Terriers living mainly indoors, highly digestible proteins, an appropriate fibre content, and very high quality carbohydrate sources will help reduce faecal smell and volume. Because an indoor lifestyle often means less exercise, an adapted calorie content, which meets the reduced energy needs, and a diet that contains L-carnitine, which promotes fat metabolism, can help maintain an ideal weight. Apart from an indoor lifestyle, neutering is also a factor in overweight dogs.

After 8 years old, Jack Russell Terriers start facing the first signs of ageing. A formula enriched with antioxidants will help support their vitality and an adapted phosphorus content will support their renal system. Ageing is also accompanied by the modification of digestive capacities and particular nutritional requirements, so food for older Jack Russell Terriers should have the following characteristics:

Higher vitamin C and E content. These nutrients have antioxidant properties, helping to support the body’s cells against the harmful effects of the oxidative stress linked to ageing.

High-quality protein. Contrary to a widely held misconception, lowering the protein content in food brings little benefit in limiting kidney failure. In addition, older dogs are less efficient at using dietary protein than younger dogs. Reducing the phosphorous content is a good way of helping to slow down the gradual deterioration of kidney function.

A higher proportion of the trace elements iron, zinc, and manganese to help maintain the good condition of the skin and coat.

A higher quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids to help maintain the quality of the coat. Dogs can normally produce these fatty acids, but ageing can affect this physiological process.

As they age, dogs increasingly suffer from teeth problems. To ensure they continue to eat in sufficient quantities, the shape, size, and hardness of their kibble needs to be tailored to their jaw.

Jack Russell walking through a forest
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Caring for your Jack Russell Terrier

Grooming, training and exercise tips

While Jack Russell Terriers come with different coat types, none are particularly high maintenance. Brush or comb your dog’s coat weekly to remove loose hairs, prevent matting or knots and to help distribute their natural skin oils for a cleaner, shiny coat. Trim nails as needed and check ears for wax or dirt regularly. When it comes to exercise, the robust Jack Russell Terrier needs a lot of exercise. Head into nature for long walks, hikes and bike rides. Tired Jack Russell Terriers are a good thing! The breed does have a high prey drive – early training can help avoid problems. As we have said elsewhere on this page, with patience and consistency, training headstrong Jack Russell Terriers can be a breeze – as long as you keep it interesting to offset the breed’s natural short attention span.

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All about Jack Russell Terriers

Sources
  1. Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/
  2. Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020
  3. Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/
  4. Royal Canin BHN Product Book
  5. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/

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