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Jack Russell Terrier
Smallest type of Jack Russell

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 Russell Terrier

The Russell Terrier is a small purebred originally from England and further developed in Australia. There are three 'types' of Jack Russells with the same origins that than veer off and have become declared separate breeds. These are the Parson Russell Terrier, the Jack Russell Terrier which is not a recognized breed and the Russell Terrier. There is a lot of confusion over these dogs, some places will tell you they are different names for the same dog (not the case) but different countries recognize different versions or use different names too. For example this dog the Russell Terrier is called a Jack Russell Terrier in Australia, but the dog the English call a Jack Russell is not a recognized breed and is bit larger than the Russell. The Parson is the larger of the three. If that has cleared things up (probably not) the Russell was bred to be a vermin and fox hunter and has also become a companion and does well in events like agility and tracking.

The Russell Terrier at A Glance
Name Russell Terrier
Other names Jack Russell Terrier (old style), Shorty Jacks
Nicknames RT
Origin England, Australia
Average size Small
Average weight 10 to 15 pounds
Average height 8 to 12 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Short,
Hypoallergenic No
Color White with markings
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 90th by the AKC
Intelligence Above average – understands things in a reasonably quick manner
Tolerance to heat Good – okay in warm to hot weather but nothing too high
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold weather just nothing extreme
Shedding Average – sheds some so will leave some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to drool or slobber
Obesity Above average – can be prone to weight gain as it likes its food, measure and give it enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly
Barking Frequent – will need a command to control it
Exercise needs Very active – but being small that is still manageable
Trainability Moderate – easier for experienced owners, can be stubborn
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – needs an experienced owner
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but need socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Good – size is ideal but it is active and vocal which means best with a yard
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for some moderate periods of time but not overly long ones
Health issues Quite healthy – a few include deafness, patellar luxation, eye problems and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
Medical expenses $435 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $75 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $495 a year for license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1005 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $600
Rescue organizations Several including Russell Rescue Inc, and Russell Refuge
Biting Statistics None under Russell Terrier but 5 attacks under Jack Russell Terrier, Child victims: 3 Deaths: 2 Maimings: 2

The Russell Terrier's Beginnings

The Russell Terrier's origins go back to the early 1800s when a man called John (Jack) Russell was at Oxford University on campus and came across a dog that caught his attention with the milkman. It was a white and tan small terrier female. He bought it and that dog started his breeding program that would eventually lead to the Jack Russell Terrier. The dogs were bred especially for fox hunting, it was a popular sport for the wealthy, they would ride on horseback, terriers would go to ground and chase out the fox from its den, and then hound dogs would give chase with the hunters on horseback chasing after them. Russell bred his terriers to be brave, bold, tenacious and spirited. They were not giving a killing instinct as that was not their job, but they did need to be strong enough to deal with the fox until it ran away. Several breeds were involved in its development, and it is thought as well as the Fox Terrier and the Beagle that a now extinct dog the Old English White Terrier was also used.

Even after Reverend John Russell died his terriers continued to be valued, as companions, as ratters and especially by fox hunters. But different terrains and needs led to some being bred with one type of dog and some breeders using others. There was a lot of variation in looks, size and height and even though it was a very popular and common dog in England it was not recognized by the Kennel Club. Some bred the dog to have longer legs and that version went on to have a standard and club and is called the Parson Russell Terrier. Some hunters found by breeding it smaller it could be carried in terrier bags on horseback.

New Lease on Life

Later in Australia the dog went through more development and there were called the Jack Russell Terrier. This caused some problems in the UK and in the US as that name was already being used for the non recognized dog. So it was renamed the Russell Terrier. The Parson Russell Terrier and the Russell Terrier are two different breeds and are not to be bred together. The RT was recognized in Australia by 1990 and by the AKC in 2013. In the US this dog is more a working breed than a companion though it can be both of course! It is ranked 90th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today


The Russell Terrier is a small dog weighing just 10 to 15 pounds and standing 8 to 12 inches tall. It has a small uniquely flexible chest that allows it to more easily get into animal burrows and dens and has a rectangular shaped body meaning it is longer than it is tall. It is a lithe dog, small but strong and definitely flexible. In some places the tail is docked where that practice is still allowed but there are many countries now that have banned this practice, so in those countries the tail is left natural. Its coat can come in three types, smooth, rough and broken. The coats are waterproof and usual colors are mainly white and then some markings that can be black, brown or tan. Broken coated RTs have a slight beard and longer eyebrows. The smooth coat is the shortest, then the broken is a little longer and the rough is the longest. All are a coarse and rough texture, straight not wavy or curly.

The Inner Russell Terrier


The Russell Terrier is an alert dog so can be a good watchdog and will bark to laert you to an intruder. However given its size and that it is not especially known to be protective it may not act to defend you or the family. It is a very loyal dog, intelligent too, active and fearless. With the right owners it is affectionate and devoted, confident and faithful. This may be a small dog but this is not your lazy lap dog breed. While it will be happy to have a cuddle, it also wants adventure, it is full of life and energetic and will need activity, stimulation and lots of attention.

It forms very close attachments that will last all its life so make sure this is the dog you are ready to commit to. It has a lot of personality and will be entertaining, but also sometimes it will get up to mischief and aggravate you too! It should be friendly towards other people too and likes to be part of family activity. It does bark frequently so will need training to control that. Typically it is often kept as a working dog and it is very focused at that and determined. It is not a dog best suited to new owners as its strong temperament means experience really helps.

Living with a Russell Terrier


What will training look like?

RT training is not easy and experience really will help. It is intelligent but it can be stubborn and headstrong so will need owners who are able to stay in command, stick to the rules and give it structure. Keep the sessions short and interesting so that it does not become bored, making them overly repetitive and long will make things harder as it will lose interest. Be consistent too and use positive methods to motivate and reward it, praise it, encourage it and use treats, they are always welcome! Using harsh techniques will not be effective and in fact will make become even more stubborn. Along with training Russells also need good early socialization. Make sure it is exposed to different places, people, animals, sounds and situations so that it grows into a more confident and trustworthy dog. It is especially needed to help it with its aggression around other dogs.

How active is the Russell Terrier

Russell Terriers have a lot of energy so will need active owners though being small they are easier to meet their needs than larger dogs. It needs lots of play, at least two good walks outside, lots of toys to keep it mentally stimulated and opportunities to run free of leash like at a dog park. It can adapt to apartment life as long as it is kept busy but would do better with access to a yard it can play in. Most RTs are kept as working dogs and as such they have a strong prey drive still. Any yard needs to be well fenced and when out walking it needs to be kept on a leash or it will run off if it spots other animals to chase. Overall it needs a good 30 to 45 minutes of physical exercise a day along with play time and mental stimulation.

Caring for the Russell Terrier

Grooming needs

Taking care of the Russell Terrier will take a low to moderate amount of effort. The smooth coats are especially easy to care for, a brush or two a week, a rub down with a cloth to keep it clean. The broken and rough coated Russells will need a bit more attention, more regular brushing will keep mats from forming and they will need professional care a few times a year with either stripping or trimming depending on what standards you need to keep to. All only need a bath as needed to avoid drying out its skin and only use a proper dog shampoo for the same reason.


If its nails are not naturally worn down with its activity you should have them clipped either by a groomer or by yourself using a proper dog nail clipping tool. But make sure you are aware of where on the nail to cut to, going too far down can cause pain and bleeding as there are nerves and blood vessels there. It will also need its ears checked weekly for infection signs that might include irritation, redness and wax build up, and then wipe them clean weekly. There are dog ear cleansers you can use with a cotton ball or just a warm damp cloth is fine as long as you stick to the parts of the ear you can reach, do not insert anything into the ears. Its teeth need regular brushing too. Using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste give them a brush at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size is going to need to be fed about ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food each day, and that should be split into at least two meals. Make sure that it also has clean water refreshed and can access it at any time. How much a dog eats can vary depending on its metabolism, size, age, health and level of activity.

How is the Russell Terrier with children and other animals?

Around children when it has been well socialized and raised with them it is affectionate, playful and full of energy and mischief. It is best with older children though as they are less likely to to startle, pull or handle them roughly. Make sure you teach the children how to approach, play with and touch dogs in a kind way. Because of its strong prey instincts it does not always get along with small animals like cats, rabbits and such. It can learn to be better with pets it has been raised with, but even then it is best to supervise or separate. Around other dogs it can be aggressive especially to dogs of the same sex that have not been fixed. It does not care of a dog is larger than it is so keep a check on it around larger dogs in places like dog parks.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Russell Terrier has a life span of about 12 to 14 years. It is quite a healthy dog and only has a few issues to be aware of that may come up including deafness, eye problems, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease and Patellar Luxation.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm over 35 years in the US and Canada there is no specific mention of the Russell Terrier, but there are 5 incidents linked to Jack Russell Terriers. Since it is quite possible for the two to be mixed up it is worth noting. Of those 5 incidents 3 victims were children, 2 of the 5 victims died and 2 were classed as maimings. A maiming is when the victim is left with permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb. 5 attacks over the span of 35 years (1 attack every 7 years) means this dog is not at all likely to become aggressive, but it is worth noting here that any dog has the potential for a bad day. Importantly responsible owners can help to having a confident and trustworthy dog by socializing and training it, and giving it the right level of attention, exercise and stimulation.


Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Russell Terrier puppy will cost somewhere around $600 from a decent breeder, but that would be more from a top breeder, and a waiting list is likely. There are a lot of ways to speed up the process of getting a dog nowadays, using pet stores, puppy mill sourced sellers or back yard breeders using local ads or ads online. However potential owners should do their best to avoid turning to such breeders. Most are at best just ignorant about proper breeding and care of the dogs, but sadly many are even cruel to their animals. Avoid giving your money to them and this means you are also not playing a lottery with the health of your dog and its parents. Another great option if a purebred is not absolutely needed is to look at giving a rescue a second chance at a new home. These would be $50 to $400, would come with initial medical needs done, but may not be a puppy, there are lots of mature dogs looking for love!

Once you have found your dog, there are some items it needs and if they have not already been done there are also initial medical concerns to deal with. Items will include a carrier, crate, bowls, collar and leash for example and will come to around $120. Health wise as soon as you have your dog home it should be taken to a vet for a physical exam, deworming, neutering or spaying, blood tests and shots and these will cost around $260.

There are also ongoing costs to factor in to your decision. A Russell will cost about $1005 a year for things like food, items, grooming and health care. This breaks down to $435 a year for pet insurance and basic health care like shots, check ups and flea and tick prevention. $495 a year for basic training, grooming, toys, miscellaneous items and license. Then $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats.


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  • The Russell Terrier is a great hunting dog and is used mostly as a working dog but can be kept as a companion as long as owners are prepared to keep it busy and active. It is outgoing, lively and feisty and becomes very attached to its owners. It is an intelligent breed and a stubborn one too so experience is needed for its training. It needs owners who are prepared for a dog with energy, and will find its antics amusing rather than frustrating. Owners will need time to spend on not just its exercise, training and stimulation but also giving it the attention it needs.

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