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Jack Russell Terrier: Breed info and health advice

Date updated: 20 09 2018

Hardy, healthy and with loads of energy, Jack Russells are happiest when they’ve got a job to do!  But it’s definitely not a case of all work and no play with these little guys. Walk through the door and their joy at having you home is obvious. And with that special combination of loyalty, affection and enthusiasm, it’s no surprise that this is one of the UK’s best-loved breeds.

outdoor jack

Stats
Average lifespan: 13 to 16 years

Weight: (Males and Females) 6.4 to 8.2 kg

Height: (Males and Females) 25 to 30 cm

Colouring: All “standard” Jack Russell coats contain mostly white, often with patches, masks or saddle markings in another colour. Common secondary Jack Russell coat colours include black, sable, tan and red.

Grooming requirements: low

Average purchase cost: Around £300 for a registered pedigree puppy

Jack Russell facts...

  • Jack Russell was a real person. We’re not talking about the former England wicketkeeper, but the Reverend John (Jack) Russell who first developed the breed in the early 1800s. Taking a Fox Terrier as a starting point, Reverend Russell wanted a dog that was strong and smart enough to flush out prey over the toughest countryside terrain.
  • They’re expert ratters. That keen prey drive is still alive and kicking in these dogs. If there’s something lurking in your garden or under your decking, the typical Jack Russell won’t rest until they’ve dealt with it!
  • The breed has only just gained GB Kennel Club recognition. It seems strange that this popular little pooch has only just been recognised with its own breed standard. But as the Kennel Club explains, it’s because such a wide variety of dogs could be described as a Jack Russell Terrier (long or short-legged, rough or smooth coat etc). As such, up until 2015, it was categorised as a type rather than a distinct breed.
  • Frasier caused the Jack Russell’s popularity to spike. Martin Crane’s dog, Eddie had a habit of stealing the scene with each appearance on the popular US sitcom - and reportedly received more fan mail than any of his human co-stars!
  • Mariah Carey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rick Stein, Serena Williams, Prince Charles... just some of the many Jack Russell lovers out there!

jack on his back

Great for…
If twice-daily long brisk walks are what you’re into, then you and your Jack Russell are likely to get along just fine. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a companion to spend hours on end chilling in front of the TV, this probably isn’t the best dog for you!

These guys can get bored easily when left to their own devices and they can also make a lot of noise. As such, they’re not ideal for you (or your neighbours!) if the house is empty for long stretches of the day.

That strong prey drive means that introducing a Jack Russell into a home where there’s rabbit, cat or other small animal is a highly risky move. They don’t always get along with other dogs although this potential problem can be overcome with a socialisation programme from a very young age.

Although their playful side means they can easily become best buddies with older kids, Jack Russells can get very snappy - so they aren’t the best choice if there are younger children around.

Jack Russell training and behaviour
A bored, restless Jack Russell can soon lead to furniture chewing and other types of destructive behaviour. So from the moment they arrive, it’s important to focus both on training - and on giving them lots to do!

On the training front, their intelligence means that a Jack Russell can soon pick up the basics (e.g. Sit, Stay, Down, Heel and Bed). The way forward generally involves a firm (but not harsh!) manner and lots of positive reinforcement. This type of approach can also help to address certain of their more antisocial traits such as their tendency to jump up at their favourite people as soon as they walk into the room (especially if you address it from a very young age). 

It’s a fact of life that some breeds are more noisy than others and most owners find that life’s rarely quiet with a Jack Russell in the home. That said, there are steps you can take to turn down the volume, and our guide provides a handy starting point. 

Activity-wise, one of the best home setups for a Jack Russell involves giving them access to a well-secured back garden for them to burn off any pent up energy during the day. And of course, they’re even happier if you can take lots of time out to give them a game of fetch!

For walking, you are looking at around 60 minutes each day for an adult dog; usually split between a morning and evening session. If it’s safe to do so, this should ideally include some time off the lead.

Looking after your Jack Russell
For grooming, these guys are low-maintenance, although their coat tends to shed all year round; more so in the Spring and Autumn. If you brush their coat twice a week or so with a slicker brush, it can go a long way in reducing the amount of hair on your floors and furniture. 

Both smooth coated and rough coated Jack Russells are popular in the UK. Especially for the rough coated doggies, a twice-yearly trip to a professional groomer is recommended to have the coat stripped and to keep it in great shape.

The Jack Russell needs to be exercised all year long - and both the long and short coated varieties feel the cold in the winter months. As such, a thermal jacket and booties are recommended when it’s really wintry.

A high energy dog like this demands a good quality, fuel-rich diet. Your vet will advise on the right quantity depending on age and any specific health needs, as well as on the right proportion of dry to wet feed.

 jack lying down

Common Jack Russell health problems

  • Lens luxation is especially common in terrier breeds, including the Jack Russell. It’s where the eye ligament breaks down, causing the lens to move from its normal position. The quicker it’s spotted and dealt with through surgery, the better the chances of a good recovery. 
  • Knee problems. Jack Russells sometimes develop a luxating patella, where the kneecap slips temporarily out of place. It doesn’t always require intervention, although surgical realignment of the patellar ligament is sometimes recommended in serious cases. 
  • Portosystemic shunt refers to a circulatory problem whereby blood is shunted into general circulation instead of passing through the liver. The congenital form of this disease can affect Jack Russells, resulting in puppies that fail to thrive as they should. Surgery is sometimes recommended for it.
  • Congenital deafness seems to be linked to the Jack Russell’s white pigmentation genes, meaning that they are thought to be slightly more likely than many other types of dogs to be born deaf.
  • Cataracts are another condition Jack Russells can be predisposed to. These are usually fixable provided they are dealt with swiftly after onset.
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