Jack Russell Terrier: The Spirited Breed That Loves To Play Games!

Jack Russell Terrier: The Spirited Breed That Loves To Play Games!
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If you are looking for a pup with a high amount of energy, petite size, extreme loyalty, and plenty of personality, the Jack Russell Terrier is the dog for you. A popular choice in countless television shows and movies, the Jack Russell Terrier is an instantly recognizable breed.


Overall, the Jack Russell Terrier is a family-friendly dog that loves plenty of space to run around and play in. Let's dive into its characteristics, personality, history, dog care needs, and breed organizations so that you can get your very own Jack Russell Terrier!



small white and tan dog on leash



Jack Russell Terrier Characteristics

The Jack Russell Terrier is a strong, short, and active canine breed with a hunting background. The breed has a balanced rectangular body with the ability to move swiftly and confidently in yards and out in fields when hunting. 


The Jack Russell's eyes are dark and almond-shaped, and their ears are famously V-shaped. They have a double coat that helps combat harsh weather. The coat is usually white with black or brown face spots. Jack Russells need very little grooming besides nail trimming since they shed their fur.


This breed is a great companion because of its loyalty and intelligence. Although training a Jack Russell can be challenging because of how active it can be, the experience is overall rewarding. The average lifespan of a Jack Russell Terrier is 13-15 years.



Jack Russell Terrier Size

Compared with other members of the Terrier family, Jack Russell's size up closer to a Rat Terrier or a small Jagdterrier. Jack Russells can grow somewhere between 13-17 pounds. And as for height, male Jack Russells can be up 14 inches tall while females can be 13 inches.



Jack Russell Terrier Personality

For the most part, Jack Russell Terriers are happy and energetic dogs. They enjoy playing outside, going for walks, and hunting down anything that moves. Jack Russells are excellent dogs for owners who are active and need a jogging or hiking buddy.


Jack Russell Terriers come from a hunting breed, so they innately always try to capture, explore, and hunt down anything that they can find in the yard. With plenty of energy, Jack Russell Terriers need as much yard space as possible (or designated playtime) to meet their needs.


When out in the yard, don't be surprised to see a bunch of holes. Jack Russells famously love digging holes, trying to find rodents or other buried treasure.


Jack Russells can also be very vocal and alert, making them great watchdogs. They are very perceptive of their surroundings and have a good sense of danger or unwanted intruders.


With early training, Jack Russells can be wonderful family pets. However, they may try to assert their dominance or hunting abilities with other animals and children when you are not looking. With this in mind, it is best to supervise your dog around the little ones.



Jack Russell Terrier Exercise

Jack Russells do not enjoy sitting still. This breed needs plenty of exercise and physical activity every day to match its level of energy and stamina. If you are an outdoorsy type of person who enjoys hiking, jogging, and other activities, a Jack Russell is the perfect companion for you.


Jack Russell Terriers are very smart and can easily pick up on new games, like fetch or tug-of-war. As much as you may think you can exhaust your little pup from playing, they will most likely tire you out first.



Training a Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers can be a bit hard-headed and may try to assert themselves as the head of the household if you do not make your dominance clear. Because of this behavior, training a Jack Russell can be difficult, so it is best to begin training them at a young age.


With training any dog, it is always important to stay consistent and clear. Always be confident in your demands and use positive reinforcement if possible.


Attending an obedience training program with your Jack Russell can be beneficial and help them learn how to socialize with other dogs. A training program can also help with more vocal dogs and demonstrate how to keep your pet's barking to a minimum.


It is important to be patient throughout your training process. Your dog will not learn everything you want it to know in one day, so stay consistent and understand that this is not a sprint but a marathon.



Jack Russell Terrier History

The Jack Russell Terrier originated in England during the mid-1800s. The breed took its name from Reverend John Russell, the original breeder in England. Jack Russell Terriers were true working dogs and used exclusively for hunting purposes. Russell Terriers would hunt down foxes and flush them out for the fox-hunters.


Over the years, there has been some disagreement between the variety of the Jack Russell Terrier. In England, there are two different names for the breed depending on its legs. Long-legged dogs are known as the Parson Jack Russell, and short-legged pooches are called Jack Russells.


In America, the long-legged breed is referred to as the Jack Russell Terrier. Jack Russell Terriers were first recognized in the United States in the 1930s and were popular among equestrians. This breed was the perfect companion for sportsmen, hunters, and horseback riders.


The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America continues to recognize the breed as a purely hunting dog. In contrast, the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America sought recognition from the American Kennel Club and was granted in 2000. To differentiate between the two associations, the American Kennel Club uses the name Parson Russell Terrier.



Common Jack Russell Terrier Health Problems

Jack Russell Terriers are strong and happy dogs but are prone to several health problems. Not all Jack Russells will experience these health issues, but they are the more common problems the breed faces. Most health issues Jack Russells experience are related to joint problems, deafness, and eye diseases.


Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease generally affects smaller breeds. This condition is a disease that causes deformity in the ball of the joint hip. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease can lead to deterioration and joint issues. This can cause discomfort, limping, and pain in the dog. Surgery may be able to help an affected Jack Russell.



As you likely already know, deafness is hearing loss. Jack Russell Terriers are more prone to deafness than other breeds. Several factors can cause hearing loss. These factors include:

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Head injuries
  • Old age
  • Ruptured eardrums


Because deafness is such a common occurrence among Jack Russell Terriers, getting a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test to identify your pup's hearing levels. A BAER test detects electrical activity in the cochlea and auditory pathways in the brain. Similar to the way an antenna searches for different radio stations, a BAER scans for any activity to ensure your dog's hearing is in top shape.


You can get your dog a BAER test at a young age (2-3 weeks) to determine if deafness has been genetically passed down to your dog. Testing anytime after five weeks of age can be useful to help gauge your dog's hearing strength.


Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition common in smaller breeds where the patella, which consists of the femur, patella (knee cap), and tibia, do not line up. This can result in limping or lameness in the affected leg. Patellar luxation can be present at birth but can gradually worsen over time if not treated with surgery. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation may lead to joint problems.



Glaucoma is a condition that affects the eyes, causing an abnormal amount of pressure to build up. The eyes go through a cycle that produces and drains fluid in the eye known as aqueous humor. However, glaucoma interrupts this cycle and makes it difficult to drain the fluid, causing pressure to build inside the eye. The increased pressure in the eyes can lead to optic nerve damage and potentially blindness.


Glaucoma can be genetically passed down to a dog, and secondary glaucoma can result from eye issues such as inflammation, or an injury. You can determine if your dog is suffering from glaucoma by looking at the eyes to see if there is a redness or cloudiness. Depending on how severe the condition is, glaucoma can be treated with surgery or medicine.


Lens Luxation

Lens luxation occurs when the eye lens becomes displaced. This occurs when the zonula — the ligament holding the lens in place — deteriorates. This issue can lead to tearing and a bluish tint over the eyes. Lens luxation can also lead to glaucoma and even corneal edema (swelling of the cornea). Lens luxation can be fixed through surgery or medicine, but severe cases may result in total eye removal.



little dog with red plaid collar



How to Care for a Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers generally love people and can fit in with any family as long as they are active. Having access to a large yard or plenty of time to go on walks, hikes, and other outdoor activities is crucial for a Jack Russell Terrier. This breed is a hunting dog, and providing an opportunity to practice their innate hunting skills will keep them satisfied.


Jack Russell Terriers dig a lot. They may be trying to find animals such as rodents or other treasures all around your backyard. So don't be surprised if you trip over a hole or two! When going on walks, make sure you have a strong grasp on your leash. Jack Russells can take off in a second at the sight of a cat or any other moving animal.


Bringing a Jack Russell to a dog park can be a great way for your dog to socialize and meet new friends. But you must train your dog beforehand to get used to interacting with other dogs. Jack Russells may sometimes want to assert their dominance over other dogs if they are not trained otherwise.


Ensuring that they have plenty of vigorous exercise is a must for any Jack Russell. It is almost a guarantee that you will get tired of playing before they do. They have so much energy that it can be exhausting. But their loyalty and charismatic energy is such a joy to witness that you can't help but try to keep up with them.



Nutrition and Feeding Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers strives off high-quality dog food amounting to 1-2 cups daily, divided into two meals. It is essential to maintain a consistent and closely monitored diet to ensure that your dog stays healthy.


How much food your dog should be eating is determined by its weight, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. With a Jack Russell, you most likely have a ball of energy on your hands, so make sure you provide enough food and nutrition for them to keep going throughout the day!


It is also important to monitor your dog's weight to ensure other health conditions do not arise. You can determine if your dog is becoming overweight by looking at their stomach or placing your hands on their waist. 


You should be able to see a waist, and as you move your hands down, you should feel but not necessarily see the ribs without needing to press too firmly. If you cannot feel the ribs, you may want to give a smaller portion of food or give your pup fewer snacks.



Coat Color and Grooming

The Jack Russell Terrier's coat colors vary between an all-white coat with black or tan markings. There are exceptions where the black and tan markings can be mixed, but the overall coat color is usually white. Sportspeople favor Jack Russells' white coats because they are easy to spot out on a hunt.


The texture of a Russell Terrier's coat is either smooth or broken. The coat length is usually short, as Jack Russells tend to shed quite often. But despite their shedding, it is important to brush the coat about once a week to remove dead and loose hairs.


Trimming nails is a crucial part of a Jack Russell's grooming to avoid any issues such as ingrown nails. It is best to keep their nails trimmed to ensure that they do not scratch your legs when jumping up for playtime.


Dental hygiene is another essential part of a Jack Russell's grooming. Keeping a Jack Russell's teeth clean can help with preventing tartar buildup and other dental diseases. Brushing your pup's teeth two or three times should be plenty.


Because Jack Russells are such an active breed, it is important to check their paws every now and then to ensure they haven't stepped on anything sharp and don't have scratches on their bodies. Also, check their face and eyes for any blemishes or signs of glaucoma. Regularly check their ears to ensure there are no infections. And it's always good to check for fleas and other pesky creatures that may end up on your furry friend.



Children and Other Pets

Jack Russell Terriers are overall loving and friendly pets. The breed can make for an excellent family dog, provided you can satisfy the pup's energy in some way!


It's important to train a Jack Russell at a young age to show them how they should interact and socialize with other dogs and pets. If a Jack Russell grows up not learning how to get along with other dogs, they may attempt to show their dominance and bully other dogs. This behavior stems from their hunting background, and the dogs are used to a strong prey drive.


The same goes for children. Jack Russells get along fantastically with children who also have a ton of energy. But it is important to show your child how to interact with and touch a dog properly. The dog should understand not to be overly aggressive with young children.



Rescue Groups

Several rescue groups are dedicated to rescuing Jack Russell Terriers and finding the dogs a loving home. Russell Rescue, Inc. is a network of volunteers connecting abandoned and unwanted Jack Russell Terriers to permanent and loving homes. Russell Rescue, Inc. temporarily places their dogs in foster homes until they find a more suitable living situation. Russell Rescue, Inc. constantly updates the registry of their dogs, and they offer rescue pets all over the United States.


Jack Russell Rescue CA is another great organization dedicated to educated communities about the Jack Russell Terrier breed and finding owners willing to rescue and adopt these wonderful dogs. Jack Russell Rescue CA is based in California, working with animal shelters and foster homes to find permanent homes for these dogs.


When some shelters reach full capacity, they may contact rescue organizations or breed clubs to take extra dogs. This is how Jack Russell Rescue CA finds many of its abandoned or homeless dogs.


If you are from the state of California and are interested in adopting a dog of this breed, Jack Russell Rescue CA is a perfect place to start. For those who don't live in California, Jack Russell Terrier Rescue is another excellent resource.



puppy running through flower field



Breed Organizations

A few breed organizations highlight the Jack Russell Terrier, and two of our favorites are the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America.


Founded in 1976, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America states that its purpose is "to protect and preserve the unique characteristics and working heritage" of the Jack Russell Terrier. The JRTCA has a massive amount of information about the Jack Russell, resources to help you adopt your very own dog. They also provide various ways to support and protect the legacy of the Jack Russell Terrier.


The JRTCA has plenty of tips for training a Jack Russell to get over extreme shyness, separation anxiety, and housebreaking. If you are interested in participating in any competitions or trialing, the JRTCA has all the information you need. The JRTCA is not affiliated with the American Kennel Club.


The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America is an organization of breeders and owners committed to promoting the well-being and working tradition of the Parson Russell Terrier. Established in 1985, the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America represents the symmetrical-bodied terrier (similar to a foxhound) rather than the short-legged Jack Russell.


The PRTAA works with the American Kennel Club, which means they have the responsibility and privilege of preserving the Parson Russell Terrier breed. The PRTAA has information on the versatility of this breed, the breed history, and where you can adopt your very own Parson Russell. To become a member of the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, two current association members (within the last two years) must sponsor you. There is also a fee of $35.


Fun Fact: Jack Russell on the Red Carpet

The Jack Russell Terrier is an energetic dog with a fox hunting background that has appeared in television and film numerous times. In Jim Carrey's 1994 movie The Mask, his dog was a Jack Russell Terrier. In the Golden Globes winning 2011 film, The Artist, the main pup, Uggie, was also a Jack Russell Terrier. Jack Russells have even been represented in animated movies such as the 2016 Dreamworks picture, The Secret Life of Pets starring Kevin Hart, and Eric Stonestreet!



More About the Jack Russell Terrier

Like every good terrier, the Jack Russell is a spirited and energetic dog that gets along incredibly well with families. They have a rich history of athletics and hunting, so you can be sure that this dog knows how to play games. If a little fire in your pup's personality is just what you're looking for, the Jack Russell is for you!

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