Jaunty. Flamboyant. Tenacious. These are words that may come to mind when you see a Jack Russell Terrier. And all are accurate. This breed of dog is known for its big personality in a tiny body – being made famous by several dogs on tv and in film, including Uggie, the dog star in the 2011 film “The Artist” and Moose and his son Enzo in the American sitcom “Fraiser.” And how could you not fall in love with Jesse, the YouTube star, who is known for doing household chores, including laundry and making tea? After experiencing their lively personality, it’s easy to see why anyone would want one. But the Jack Russell is not always an easy roommate. Before adding one to your family, consider whether the Jack Russell Terrier is the dog for you by looking over the following information.
The Jack Russell Terrier is a relatively new breed, having been developed in the early 1800s in England by Reverend John Russell. A passionate fox hunter, Russell created a terrier that would be the ultimate fox hunting dog: small, flexible, and bold. Anywhere a fox can go, including underground, the Jack Russell Terrier can go too. Since the breed was developed for true work, the standard is broad, as are the genes and they are not bred for “type.” Rather, the emphasis, even today, is on how well a dog can work, not just winning in the confirmation ring. In fact, breed enthusiasts have shied away from the breed being recognized by kennel clubs, worrying the show ring would ruin the essence of the breed.
The Jack Russell Terrier Club of Australia was formed in 1972 to promote the breed, with their own standards. Adult dogs should not be over 34cm (working height) and their weight should be approximately 1kg to every 5cm in height.
Considered a clown by many, the Jack Russell is really a two-sided dog. They definitely have a fun, playful side coupled with intelligence that lends itself to acting jobs and YouTube fandom. This can make them an engaging companion for someone looking for a dog “to do” things with.
On the other side, however, is the bold hunting dog that was bred to seek out animals, regardless of cost. The hunting instinct is strong in the modern Jack Russell Terrier! This side of their temperament makes them barkers, diggers and high energy housemates that need a job. Naturally assertive, they don’t always play well with other animals, including other dogs, or small children. Jack Russell Terriers do have the instinct to kill smaller animals like rats, birds and cats, in the home.
As you might have guessed, the Jack Russell is a high energy hunting breed that needs a good solid exercise routine daily. It’s not just about exerting physical energy either – they need a job to stimulate and work their brain. Bored Jack Russell Terriers can get into all sorts of trouble – like digging in your yard or “killing” your throw pillows with the terrier shake. For this reason, Jack Russells do best in active homes where they can participate in things like agility, nose work, or earthdog events.
Although they are a small dog, their high energy level means a Jack Russell Terrier is happiest in a home with a large yard and a very secure fence. Since their main instinct tells them to seek out animals, they are frequent escape artists if felt alone outside and have been known to travel miles in pursuit of prey. If you plan on having your Jack Russell in an apartment or condo with little or no yard, providing daily exercise in some way is a must. Also always having toys around for them to “shake” and “kill” can help save your own items, such as pillows and shoes.
Common Health Problems
The Jack Russell Terrier is a fairly healthy breed, thanks in large part to its working background and many of the clubs restricting line-breeding and in-breeding when the breed was forming. However, like all dog breeds, there are some things they are prone to. The main two are eye issues, including several genetic eye diseases, and deafness. Be sure any breeder you are buying from tests their lines for genetic diseases, including congenital cataracts, micropthalmia, and progressive retinal atrophy in the eyes, as well as Legg Perthes, a disease of the hip joints that causes rear-leg lameness. They are also prone to kneecap dislocation, so keeping your terrier in good shape is important to reduce the risk of these.
The Jack Russell Terrier is intelligent, making him a fun training partner. If you dream of stardom, this may be the breed to take you there IF you are dedicated and have patience. Like most terriers, they are easily distracted, so sometimes it can be hard to get them to stay focused: you have to be more interesting then the surrounding environment. Off leash work takes even more focus and work, as they have no problem bolting after an animal they see, hear, or smell.
If you have small animals and children at home, special training needs to happen with your young Jack Russell to ensure peaceful co-habitation. Just remember, no amount of training can remove hunting instinct. You can teach your dog to suppress it (doing a mat-stay instead of chasing the bird in the yard), you can show him appropriate ways to redirect it (chewing on his bone instead of the cat), but it’s never gone.
We recommend you feed your Jack Russell Terrier puppy Stay Loyal’s Salmon, Turkey & Pork All life stage puppy portions until they are approximately 8 months old, and then switch to Adult portions and adjust according to weight/condition.
Review this information and decide if the Jack Russell Terrier is the dog for you. If you think it is, then research breeders – asking lots of questions about temperament (especially if you have children and other animals) and genetic health testing. Taking time to choose a well-bred dog will help you both have a long and happy life together.