So, you are thinking you might want to get a Jack Russell? It is a fun-loving breed that many see for the first time on TV or on a movie, as they are easy to train and alert, and many people fall in love with their short legs, “smiling” face and impressively high jumps!
The Jack Russell Terrier is the poster breed for happy and energetic dogs, and they are hard not to love. Before you decide if a JRT is right for you, it is important that you know a few things about the breed.
Not all dog breeds are suited for everyone, and while the Jack Russell is a very versatile dog that adapts to most situations – you will want to know what you’re getting into before you welcome one into your home and family.
The Jack Russell Terrier is the definition of a large dog in a small body; it has no perception of its own proportions and it will happily take on a dog 5 times its own size! It is an intelligent dog breed that is known for its trainability, which is why it is often seen participating in canine sports like Agility, Flyball, Competitive Obedience and Rally Obedience.
Jack Russell Terriers are also commonly used in Hollywood – for movie appearances, which is also due to the breed being easy to work with and good at taking direction. They learn fast and can comprehend a large variety of commands when trained properly.
Jack Russel Terriers are not only smart but also very hyperactive! They bark, bounce around, love to run, they jump up and down in excitement and they can display almost cat-like behaviors when they balance on the back of your couch or somehow manage to get up on the kitchen counters.
Outdoor games like fetch (frisbees and balls especially) are ideal for Jack Russell Terriers, as simple walks may not be enough to drain them of their seemingly never-ending energy.
This breed is considered an excellent family dog mostly because they can keep up with energetic children and busy lifestyles, but it should be kept in mind that they are not quite a tolerant with being grabbed as, for example, the Golden Retriever.
If being mistreated by a child – they might nib, but this is a responsibility that falls on the parents as no dog should have to put up with being pushed, pulled and grabbed by a child. If mutual respect exists and if the children in the family are taught how to treat a dog – the Jack Russell will most likely make the perfect playmate and friend.
The breed may have a very strong prey drive due to being bred for hunting, which could cause it to chase after birds, squirrels, cats, and other small animals. This is potentially an issue when having the dog off-leash, as there is a risk of it taking off unexpectedly.
It can also become a problem if the dog is expected to live together with smaller animals, but many JRTs can learn to adjust if trained from an early age.
History of the Jack Russell Terrier
The breed’s history goes back to the early 1800s when a man known as Reverend John Russell started breeding the Jack Russell Terrier. It is believed that the breed originates from the English White Terrier – a dog breed that is now extinct – and everything supposedly started when John Russell purchased female terrier named Trump from a local milkman in 1819.
The terrier was white and tan, and she quickly proved to be an excellent fox terrier (a term used back then for any terrier type dog that helped during fox hunts) with – according to those who knew her – the ideal mentality and physical built.
Reverend John Russell was a big hunting and parson enthusiast, and he set up a breeding program where his dog was the main keystones for creating a dog that would hunt with just the right level of aggression, and without hurting the pray more than what was necessary. The reverend himself claimed that Trump – his loyal dog – never drew blood while she hunted, but there is no evidence to back this claim up.
The Jack Russell Terrier was declared its own individual breed at some point during the 1850s, but it is believed to be highly unlikely for any modern JRT’s to share DNA with Reverend John Russell’s first dog.
This is due to the known fact that he suffered from financial issues on several occasions throughout his life, and that he had to sell all his dogs more than once. Regardless of whether this is true – his initiatives and the dog Trump are considered the backbone of the modern history of the Jack Russell Terrier.
This little digger of a dog is usually between 8-13 inches (20-30 cm) tall, 10-15 inches (25-38 cm) long and weighs somewhere in between the numbers of 13-17lbs (5-7 kg). It is a robust dog with a wide chest and square shape, and it may have longer or shorter legs depending on both parent animals and other genetic factors.
The JRT does not have that fragile look many small breed dogs have, and instead, they are quite a little power machine!
Jack Russell Terriers can have both short and longer hair – often referred to as ‘smooth’ and ‘broken’. It is the topcoat length that presents the biggest difference between the two, along with the presence or absence of longer hair on the dog’s extremities.
JRT dogs tend to be mostly white with tan or black patches, and the breed is known for having small- and medium-thick V-shaped ears, almond-shaped dark eyes and a high-set tail, and it has an athletic built that allows the breed to run fast and jump both far and high. It is the ultimate adventure dog, and it is unlikely to be held back by its short legs.
The JRT is generally a very healthy dog breed, and professional breeders have done a good job with preserving the breed and by protecting it from hereditary illnesses and diseases being brought in with bloodlines. This alone is a good reason to choose your breeder carefully when getting a Jack Russell Terrier, as the choice of a responsible breeder will help contribute to the JRT being a continuously healthy breed.
They are prone to some hereditary conditions, but not on the same scale as many other dog breeds. It is still good to be aware of these, however, especially if you already have- or if you plan to acquire a Jack Russell Terrier, as it is always beneficiary to catch a health condition in its early stages.
While certain lines of the breed seem to be more affected, it can also affect dogs with seemingly healthy parents, siblings, and ancestors. Some of the hereditary conditions sometimes seen in the Jack Russell are patella luxation, von Willebrand disease, ataxia, congenital deafness, hereditary cataracts, and muscular disorders.
As with all dog breeds, the best way to prevent any serious health issues is by providing a healthy diet, plenty of exercises and to take regular trips to the vet for checkups.
This is a surprisingly active dog breed considering its size, and it requires both physical and mental stimulation to thrive. Keep in mind that it is a dog breed developed to run and hunt, and they can sometimes seem to have so much energy bottled up in their small bodies that they are unable to stand still!
Long and variated walks might be enough if you walk often enough, but a JRT will most likely also need additional exercise like the chance to run around at a dog park, longer games of fetch or involvement in challenging sports like agility. You might wish to use something like an automatic fetch machine for your JRT, as you’re more likely to get tired than he is!
Another good way to tire out a Jack Russell Terrier is by providing mental exercise in the form of training and fun games. You can opt for feeding your JRT from an activity or puzzle toy instead of from a regular bowl, as this will force them to work for their food instead of having it be handled to them – literally – on a plate.
There are many feeding puzzles and toys that will provide a more fulfilling feeding experience for an active dog like Jack Russell, and it is an excellent complement to physical exercise and daily outings.
Is a Jack Russell Terrier Right for Me?
If you prefer to spend your days on the couch, if you don’t feel like going out when it rains and if a barking dog is something that annoys you, then – unfortunately – the Jack Russell Terrier is not for you.
The breed needs a fun and active family that are okay with a few excited barks (some Jack Russell Terriers can be very avid barkers) on occasion, and you shouldn’t be afraid of walking even when the weather isn’t so great.
The Jack Russell is a very tough and tenacious dog that is always up for a challenge, and it is a dog that will likely tire you out long before they even start showing signs of exhaustion.
For the right person, the Jack Russell Terrier can be the ultimate family member, friend and adventure buddy, and while it may sound like they require a lot – they are also known for loving a good cuddle on the couch at the end of the day.
JRTs get a little calmer with age and some are more low maintenance than others, but if you are planning to get one you should be prepared for the type of dog breed you are getting. Few dogs are as funny and goody as the Jack Russell Terrier, and it will make you laugh. A lot. Be honest with yourself and your abilities, and it won’t be too hard to figure out if Jack Russell Terrier is right or wrong for you.
Jack Russell Terriers are great dogs for active individuals with reduced living space, as it is a big dog in a small body. It can do everything its bigger canine friends can do, but they eat less (meaning they are cheaper to keep), require less space and they are generally known to be a healthy dog breed that does well with children and other dogs.
If you are thinking about getting one – opt for getting a rescue JRT, or buy one from a responsible breeder to avoid supporting backyard breeders or puppy factories.