Breed Group: Terrier
Height: 13 to 14 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 13 to 17 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 14 years
“Born to dig” is this dog’s rallying cry. He’s super-active, super-smart and, in the wrong hands, super-destructive. The Jack Russell (Parson Russell if you live on the AKC side of the fence) does best when he is kept busy hunting rats on a farm, going riding with his owner, or competing in terrier races and earthdog tests.
Did You Know the Jack Russell Has a Tremendous Drive to Dig?
The name Parson Russell Terrier is used by the American Kennel Club and Britain’s Kennel Club to avoid confusion with terriers that use the name Jack Russell Terrier, which is trademarked by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America. The Parson Russell and the Jack Russell are essentially the same breed, with minor differences in size in their breed standards.
No matter how enamored you were of Eddie on Frasier or Wishbone from the PBS show of the same name, the fact is this: The Jack Russell Terrier (or the Parson Russell, as he’s known in AKC circles) is almost certainly not the breed for you. That’s not because Jack Russells are bad dogs. They were created for active work, and it’s what they love and what they are driven to do. If you have a job in mind for him that will push his limits and engage his full and enthusiastic attention, then you may be that rare person who is right for one of these dogs.
If you’re wondering why your Jack Russell isn’t as well-behaved as Eddie or Wishbone, it’s because the dogs that portray those characters have full-time trainers on staff to keep them in line. More to the point, those dogs had full-time jobs, which is what the JRT wants and needs. His endless desire to be digging, barking and investigating can’t and shouldn’t be squelched. It should be celebrated by someone who loves the very traits that drive many JRT owners insane.
Those traits include a tremendous drive to dig – something bred deep in the Jack Russell. It is the legacy of his legitimate work eradicating vermin on the farms where he originated. He’ll excavate your garden and your living room with just as much determination as when he’s digging for a critter. A Jack Russell Terrier who digs doesn’t have a behavior problem; he’s the epitome of the breed.
A dedicated owner can channel that enthusiasm into hunting, but if your interests lie elsewhere, the Jack Russell excels at all kinds of organized and informal canine activities, and of course he excels at terrier races and earthdog tests. He loves to hike, and can be an excellent agility dog, too.
A Jack Russell will need firm, fair and consistent training from a young age so he’ll understand the boundaries necessary for living with humans. As long as he’s getting plenty of exercise and stimulation for his quick mind, he’s perfectly capable of differentiating between the great outdoors and the family room sofa – as long as you take the time to teach him.
Other Quick Facts About the Jack Russell
Jack Russell/Parson Russell Terriers come in two coat types: smooth and broken. The main difference between the two is the length of the topcoat and the absence or presence of furnishings: the long hair on the extremities.
One type of Jack Russell is longer than he is tall, standing only 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder. These dogs are nicknamed Shorty Jacks and resemble Corgis or Dachshunds more than they do the taller Parson Russell or Jack Russel Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) Jack Russell.