Small, friendly and fiercely loyal, Jack Russells are popular pets for dog lovers looking for a loving companion who’s great fun to be around but doesn’t take up too much space in the home. Originating in the UK from hunting dogs bred by the hunting enthusiast Reverend John Russell in 1795, the Jack Russell Terrier has many similarities to a fox terrier and is known for its determination and bravery.
Reverend Russell bred the dogs for their tenacious fighting spirit and their short stature which made it easy for them to dig into holes and capture foxes. Although they make lovely domestic pets, they still need plenty of exercise and like to have a “job”, so are often used as working dogs by farmers and the police. One of the most easily recognisable dog breeds, there have been lots of famous Jack Russells over the years, including Nipper, the HMV mascot, Eddie in the American sitcom Frasier and Milo in the Jim Carrey movie The Mask. Brave and protective, they have often been known face extreme danger to help humans- in 2007 a Jack Russell called George died after rescuing five children from a pit bull attack and explorer Ranolph Fiennes’ dog Bothy accompanied him to both the South and North Poles in his 1982 Transglobe expedition.
Size and Weight
Short, sturdy and stocky, the average height for a Jack Russell is 12 to 14 inches, and you can expect them to weigh between six and a half and eight kilograms. Even though they’re small, they are real little pocket rockets who don’t like to sit still for long- if they’re not given the exercise they need you’re in danger of ending up with an overweight, unhappy and potentially snappy dog.
The Jack Russell Terrier personality can be challenging if they’re not given the stimulation they need. Jack Russells are great fun to have around and have bags of energy- but they can become quite “yappy” if they don’t get enough exercise or are left alone for too long. Cheeky, inquisitive and highly intelligent, they can get bored easily and need plenty of distractions. They enjoy challenges and can be very easy to train to do tricks- so with a little perseverance and commitment, you can find yourself living with a very entertaining pet. These dogs may be small but they have huge personalities- bold, confident and totally fearless, they’ll really keep you on your toes and are not for the dog lover who just wants a tiny pet to carry around in a handbag.
Training and Temperament
Because they are so smart, Jack Russells can tend to manipulate if not given enough discipline, so it’s important to let them know who’s boss from an early age and take them to puppy training classes. Start training as soon as you bring them home, socialise them with other dogs early to help them develop good behaviours and give them plenty of exercise. Never assume that because they’re little they won’t need much exercise- these dogs were born to work and need to be kept occupied or they won’t be happy. Taking on a Jack Russell means you’ll need to commit plenty of time and energy for training, to give them the attention they need and avoid bad behaviour.
Children and Other Pets
Because of their natural ability to fight, Jack Russells can be quite short tempered and don’t react well to being teased or mistreated- so if you have young children it’s very important that they understand how to treat animals with respect and that you supervise any contact in the early stages. This doesn’t mean they are aggressive or dangerous dogs, it just means they won’t put up with being pushed or pulled around. They can get on perfectly well with other pets, but may have a tendency to chase cats and other small pets and can bark or snap at other dogs if not properly trained from a young age.
Nutrition and Feeding
Jack Russells need a healthy, balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Although they do not usually suffer with as long a list of ailments as some other pure breeds, they can be prone to eye problems, especially lens luxation (where the lens becomes dislocated from the rest of the eyeball), glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy (RPA). You may find it beneficial to bring some omega fish oils into the diet, and regular checks with your vet are essential to maintain healthy vision and general good health.
Coat and Grooming
Jack Russells tend to have smooth, dense and thick hair which is prone to shedding- although it’s often short, it has a tendency to stick to clothes, so some Jack Russell owners avoid wearing black. They need a daily brush and a visit to a professional groomer every six weeks in order to keep their cotes in tip top condition, and you’ll need to give their bedding a regular shake and clean. Investing in a good lint roller is a wise decision for anyone living with a Jack- and accepting the fact that dog hair happens will make your life a lot easier!
Jack Russells need to have plenty of exercise so if you can’t commit to a couple of walks a day and a regular long trek, you may want to consider a different dog breed. Often referred to as the adrenaline junkie of canines, they are fearless little dogs who love a challenge. Their stamina and need to be occupied are almost unparalleled by any other type of dog, so be prepared for long runs in the park and invest in some good dog toys to keep their interest when you’re not around.
The average Jack Russell lives for 13-16 years, meaning they’ll be around to entertain you for years. Even older Jacks like to be exercised regularly, and have been known to perform tricks well into their own age. If you’re looking for a dog who’s a little higher maintenance but who really rewards you for your love and attention, you’re in for years of fun with one of these fantastic little doggies.