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The Jack Russell Terrier: Boundless Energy in a Small Package

Discover how to care for your intelligent, high-energy Jack Russell Terrier.

October 9, 2023 4 min read
The Jack Russell Terrier: Boundless Energy in a Small Package

When you saw that adorable little dog jumping around and practically begging for you to adopt it, little did you know that the action never stops with the Jack Russell Terrier. This small breed offers countless hours of affection and entertainment, but it can also prove quite a handful to the unprepared. The more you know about Jack Russell terriers, the more easily and effectively you can keep your new family member happy, healthy, and well adjusted.

History of the Jack Russell

The breed known variously as the Jack Terrier, Jack Russell, or Russell Terrier can trace its history back two centuries. It gets its name from the legendary British breeder John Russell, who created the breed for fox-hunting purposes. Both UK breeders and the American Kennel Club officially recognize two distinct breed variants of this dog -- the standard shorter-legged Jack Russell, and the longer-legged Parson Russell.

Over the years, the Jack Russell Terrier's energy, work ethic, and intelligence have turned it into something of a celebrity. Examples of famous Jack Russells include the beloved dog Eddie in "Frasier" and the four-legged star of the children's TV program "Wishbone."


A typical Jack Russell stands about one foot in height, with a healthy weight of 13 to 17 pounds. Its coat, which can be smooth, rough, or broken in texture, is mostly white with patches of tan and/or black. A Jack Russell dog with a broken coat may also sport a tufted beard and a pair of tufted eyebrows. Their triangular ears normally flop downward.

Jack Russell Personality and Training

Jack Russell Terriers are bred for agility, athleticism, and stamina, chasing their prey for long periods and digging obsessively. Your Jack Russell might even see other small animals around the house (including the family cat) as potential prey. Like other hunting dogs, they also bark and bay instinctively in response to stimuli. Take these inherited traits into consideration before selecting a Jack Russell for apartment life or a household full of "pocket pets."

Fortunately, the natural intelligence of this breed also makes it highly trainable. Less fortunately, their stubbornness can equal their intelligence. Early socialization and other training can help you control your Jack Russell more easily and consistently. However, you may want to invest in professional assistance from a skilled trainer.

Diet and Exercise for Your Terrier

As you might expect, high-energy dogs like Jack Russell Terriers burn lots of calories. Even so, your dog can still gain excess weight if you let it eat whenever and whatever it wants. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a high-quality product. Serve your Jack Russell two meals (totaling 1.25 to 1.75 cups of food) per day.

Because Jack Russells need an outlet for all that energy, regular exercise is a must for this breed. Unless you have a large fenced yard, you'll need to take your dog to a park or other area where it can walk, run, fetch, and play to its heart's content. Don't forget to exercise this clever dog's mind as well. Jack Russells can get bored easily, so you'll want to challenge it with lots of fun problem-solving games and activities.

Grooming a Jack Russell

The Jack Russell Terrier poses no great challenges in the grooming department. Weekly brushing should suffice, although the type of brush you use will depend on the animal's type of coat. If your Jack Russell sports a short, smooth coat, brush it with a hound glove or soft dog brush; if it has a broken or rough coat, a standard dog comb or brush will yield better results. Remember to schedule regular nail trims and check the ears for signs of dirt, wax buildup, or infection.

Potential Jack Russell Health Issues

A healthy Jack Russell Terrier can easily live up to 16 years. While this breed typically enjoys robust health, it can nevertheless fall prey to certain health issues common among smaller dog breeds. Examples include:

  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, an abnormality of the hip joints.
  • Inherited deafness related to the same gene that produces a white coat.
  • Glaucoma, or abnormal eye pressure that can lead to optic nerve damage and blindness.
  • Patellar luxation, a misalignment of the kneecap that can cause joint instability and lameness.

Regularly-scheduled preventative wellness exams can allow your veterinarian to catch these and other conditions in their early stages. Even if your dog has an untreatable issue such as deafness, early detection and veterinary counseling can help you make the necessary adaptations to give your pet the highest possible quality of life. Other important aspects of veterinary wellness care include:

  • Vaccinations
  • Deworming
  • Weight and dietary management
  • Dental cleanings
  • Vital sign evaluation
  • Bloode, urine, and fecal testing to check for diseases or infestations
  • Eye, ear, and skin inspections
  • Spay or neuter surgery
  • Microchipping

Set the Stage for Years of Healthy Fun

Now that you know some key points about Jack Russell Terrier ownership, you can take the proper steps to ensure many happy, healthy years with your energetic friend. Proper training, diet, grooming, and wellness care can help your new pet settle into the household while maintaining its active lifestyle. Start by scheduling a veterinary evaluation and any necessary treatment your Jack Russell might need. Your veterinarian can give you additional tips on how to meet your individual dog's needs.

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