The Jack Russell Terrier (now called the Parson Russell Terrier by the American Kennel Club) has been running fox to ground in England since the mid-1800s. These small Terriers are friendly and affectionate in the home, and they have lots of energy in everything they do. They make a good family dog but they should be monitored with very young children.
History of the Jack Russell Terrier
As hunting foxes on horseback, with hounds, became increasingly popular some 200-300 years ago in England, hunters found that they needed a small Terrier to go in after the foxes when they went to ground. They needed a small Terrier to “bolt” the fox, or drive him out of his den. Around this time the Rev. John Russell bred a small white Terrier in the mid-1800s probably by crossing the Old English White Terrier (which is now extinct) with a black and tan Terrier which was similar to the early Manchester Terriers. The result was the Jack Russell Terrier. The Jack Russell were able to trot for long stretches and follow the hounds; they had a chest which could compress so they could go down into the fox’s den after the fox; and they had a strong head and jaw so they could hold the fox. The Jack Russell was first brought to the U.S. in the 1930s. Today there are several different strains of Jack Russell dogs. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America was founded in 1976. The club and the AKC have since changed the name of the breed in the U.S. to the Parson Russell Terrier. However, many breeders continue to breed Jack Russell Terriers. They are similar dogs. The Jack Russell is a smaller dog with a longer body and shorter legs. The Parson Russell is a slightly larger dog with longer legs. Jack Russell Terriers are registered with the United Kennel Club now while the AKC registers Parson Russell Terriers.
The health information (and all other information) for both the Jack Russell and the Parson Russell are the same. These dogs have been the same breed until the last few years.
Jack Russells are considered to be a very healthy breed and they may live from between 13 and 16 years.
However, there are health problems that can appear in the breed, even though they are not widespread at this time. Problems which may appear in the Jack Russell include hereditary cataracts, congentital deafness, lens luxation, luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps), ataxia, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, myasthenia gravis, and von Willedebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia in humans).
Fortunately, none of these problems appears in a great number of Jack Russells at this time. However, it is important for breeders to test for possible health problems and for pet owners to report any problems to their breeders and to participate in breed health studies.
The Jack Russell is also prone to something called skunk toxic shock syndrome if it is sprayed by a skunk. The chemical found in the spray of a skunk can cause severe or even fatal anemia and kidney failure in the Jack Russell. If the chemical gets into the eyes it can burn the dog’s cornea. If your Jack Russell is sprayed by a skunk you should seek veterinary help right away to have the chemical toxin flushed from your dog’s system.
If you are interested in getting a Jack Russell Terrier you should talk to your breeder about the breed’s health and their dogs in particular. Ask questions about how long their dogs live and if they have had any particular health problems. Find out what kind of health testing the breeder does and if they recommend their puppy buyers do any testing. This is your chance to ask any questions you may have about the breeder’s dogs and the breed’s health.
Temperament and Training
Jack Russell Terriers are exuberant. They are high energy dogs and they approach everything in life with lots of energy. JRTs are quite intelligent and it’s best if they have some work to do. Otherwise, they can find lots of ways to get into trouble. They are also very athletic and vocal. They bark a lot. They can become loud and destructive in your home if you don’t provide them with plenty of daily exercise. These dogs do best in a yard of their own or, even better, if you have a rural area where they can stay busy outdoors for hours. It’s no accident that many people who have farms and stables keep these dogs. The dogs have lots of space to keep busy and they can do some of their original work, looking for rats and vermin in barns. Jack Russell Terriers are working Terriers and many breeders take pride in the fact that these dogs can still do their jobs very well.
These dogs will get bored if they have to live in a house all the time without enough exercise. They are affectionate and loving but they need work to do. They are very intelligent and they are usually easily trained. However, they can be stubborn at times. They are Terriers and Terriers are not always the easiest dogs to train. You have to find ways to motivate your dog. While positive reinforcement is a good idea, treats and praise may not be enough to motivate a Jack Russell Terrier. You may have to use toys, play sessions, or find other things that make your JRT want to learn.
The Jack Russell Terrier doesn’t always get along with other animals. They don’t always like other dogs or other pets. You should definitely socialize your JRT puppy from a very young age and encourage him to play nicely with other puppies and friendly dogs. If you have cats then you should teach your puppy to treat them well. However, if you have rabbits, gerbils, hamsters or other small pets, you will need to keep them carefully protected because your Jack Russell will view them as prey. You can try to train your JRT to leave them alone, but it’s likely that no matter how much training you give your Jack Russell, he will still see these small pets as prey and they won’t be safe unless you lock them up in a room where your JRT can’t get to them.
Your Jack Russell Terrier should also be carefully socialized toward people. They can be too bold and aggressive toward people at times. So take your JRT puppy to places where puppies are welcome and encourage friendly strangers to pet your puppy and give him treats. Enroll him in a puppy preschool or puppy kindergarten class so he can interact with friendly puppy owners. And it’s a good idea to sign up for a basic obedience class with your JRT puppy. You should definitely make sure that your Jack Russell knows that you are in charge.
Jack Russells can make good family dogs but they should not be left alone with small children. They can be nippy with young children and they may not respect them. They usually do better with older children who can make the dog behave without mistreating it.
Jack Russell Terriers are high energy dogs and they need an owner or a family who is able to keep up with them and provide them with lots of exercise and training, and preferably with some work. With the right family, the JRT is comical, amusing, and a very happy dog. With the wrong family they can be destructive, loud, aggressive toward people and pets, and a disaster.
The Jack Russell Terrier has several different coat types but they are all easy to groom. You should brush your dog a couple of times per week and bathe as necessary. If you have the rough-coated or wire-coated variety then you will need to keep the coat stripped out to remove dead hair. You can do this by plucking out the hair with your fingers, or by using a stripping knife. If you use a professional groomer you can take your dog to the groomer every couple of months to have this done.
You should clean your dog’s ears weekly to prevent ear infections.
Trim your dog’s nails on a weekly basis to keep them short. If you trim them each week, removing just a small amount of nail, then you won’t cut the quicks or harm your dog.
Special Needs or Care
The Jack Russell Terrier is an expert digger and they can dig their way under fences. They can also jump or climb over fences. If you have a fenced backyard you will need to take extra care that your Jack Russell doesn’t find a way to get out and go exploring because these dogs have lots of curiosity and your dog will probably try to find a way out.