The small and zestful Russell Terrier is a bundle of energy with a big personality. It's easy to become smitten with the Russell's good looks and spirited nature, but think carefully before bringing home this breed. Russell Terriers are independent and strong-willed, which makes them difficult to train. Owners with the time and patience for training, however, are rewarded with a dog who is a pleasure to spend time with.
Russells were originally bred as versatile hunting dogs in England, swift enough to keep up with horses and smart enough to flush ('bolt') foxes from their burrows so the hounds could chase them. This makes them tenacious and lively; they'll insist on playing games of catch in the yard all day. Russells aren't ideally suited for apartment living, unless you can take them outside often for exercise. When Russell Terriers become bored, they resort to destructive behaviors in short order.
Russell Terriers are nicknamed Russells. The breed is often called the Jack Russell Terrier, which is not a recognized name under the American Kennel Club, but is the name recognized by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, or the World Canine Organization.
Russell Terriers have weatherproof double coats that may be smooth, rough, or broken. The smooth coat is dense and coarse, the rough coat is medium length with slightly longer hair on the face, and the broken coat is the longest, with still longer hair on the face and chest and feathering on the tail and legs. Whatever the variety, the outer coat is harsh to the touch. The coat color should be at least 50 percent white, with black, tan, or black and tan markings.
Average Height: 10-12 inches
Average Weight: 9-15 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Viewed from the side, Russell Terriers have a distinctly rectangular shape, slightly longer than they are tall. They are sturdy and muscular, leaving the impression of great ruggedness for their size. They are agile and quick, and always self-assured. Russells are lively and their intelligence is apparent in their attentive almond-shaped eyes and expressive triangular ears. They may have a docked tail, according to the American Kennel Club breed standard. This joyful dog is loving and loyal to their family members.
Russell Terriers take their name from Reverend John Russell, a 19th-century parson in Southern England who loved fox hunting and developed the breed to be fast enough to keep up with the hunt, and small and clever enough to flush quarry from their burrow.
Russells were highly popular among hunters in England for more than a century before drawing the attention of dog fanciers in the US in the 1930s. There is some confusion over the breed's name here due to a disagreement about whether the breed should be kept as a pure hunting dog or also registered as a show dog. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America maintains a registry of the breed as solely a sporting dog. According to the American Kennel Club, Rev. John Russell's terriers diverged into two breeds: the Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier. The Parson variety was recognized by the AKC in 1997, while the Russell Terrier was recognized in 2012.
AKC Breed Category
Russell Terriers are curious about the world and are always ready to get out there and explore it with their people. Lively, lovable, and energetic, they'll play all day as long as you are interested. Russells need to be kept busy or they will pass the time with unwanted behaviors such as incessant barking and chewing. If you want a quiet dog, don't choose a Russell Terrier. Sometimes they simply bark because they are feeling happy and want to share the joy with you. Jack Russells are very sociable with their people, but they can be wary and even quarrelsome with unfamiliar dogs and humans.
Are Russell Terriers Good with Kids? Russell Terriers love their families, the kids included. Children love this breed because they are tireless playmates. They do best with older children who respect a dog's personal space during rambunctious play.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Russell Terriers Good with Other Pets? Russell Terriers can be aggressive with other dogs when they are not socialized with them from an early age. If you plan to have more than one dog, be sure your Russell Terrier learns to view other dogs as friends rather than foes. As for cats and smaller pets, Russells have a powerful prey drive and cohabitating with small animals is not advisable for the breed.
Russell Terriers are somewhat protective and guarded when it comes to people and animals they don't know.
Are Russell Terriers Good Guard Dogs? Russells will bark at everything that moves in the vicinity of your home. That includes blowing leaves, cats, squirrels, and burglars. They will go on the offensive with intruders, but they are too little to pose much of a threat.
Russell Terriers are exuberant, bouncy dogs who require several hours of vigorous exercise each day in order to keep the peace at home.
- These high-energy dogs require a lot of exercise.
- Socialization is important so they are well-behaved on walks and when meeting strangers.
- May be aggressive towards dogs they don't know.
- Chronic barkers.
- Digging is in their nature; it's unlikely your yard will be hole-free if you own a Russell.
- They require experienced owners who can dedicate time for consistent training and exercise.
- They get destructive when bored—and they bore quickly.
- They should always be walked on a leash with a comfortable collar or harness because they will chase small animals.
- The yard should be thoroughly secured or they will find a way out.
- May develop separation anxiety if left alone too long.
Russells thrive with their humans and should live indoors as a prized member of the family. A house with a yard is ideal because it gives them a convenient place to expend excess energy. The breed gets frequent cases of the 'zoomies,' so keep the breakables up high.
You'll want to spend a lot of time outside keeping your Russell Terrier mentally and physically active. Along with training and socialization, this is an important component to having a well-behaved Russell. Be aware that Russell Terriers will dig, and training them out of this instinct is futile. Give them a section of yard where they can dig to their heart's content, so they don't excavate your entire property.
A healthy Russell Terrier requires several hours of physical activity each day to remain fit and well-behaved at home. They are excellent athletes and take well to most dog sports.
Russell Terriers don't tucker out easily. They have the stamina for multiple long walks and play sessions each day.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Healthy Russell Terriers can jog with you for two to four miles, but only if you've taught them not to chase every critter along your route. Because their legs are short, they aren't ideal for speed or distance running.
- Hiking Miles: Russell Terriers make lively hiking companions for three to five miles. They have trouble containing their urge to bark, so it's considerate of other hikers to hit the trail when it's less congested.
Generally, this breed requires about 1½ to 2 cups of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Russell's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Russell Terrier.
Russell Terriers get out of sorts when they are asked to spend time alone and will make it clear by barking, chewing, and digging. With patience, you can crate train your Russell to cope with the time it takes to run an errand or two. Just be sure to leave his favorite dog toys and puzzle toys in the dog crate to keep him busy until your return.
Health and Grooming
Russell Terriers of all coat varieties require minimal grooming. A brush once a week will keep the short coat type presentable, while the broken and rough varieties need a brush two or three days a week. A bath once a month or so keeps their coat clean and pleasant smelling. Wash your Russell's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush their teeth several times a week, and trim their nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Russell Terriers may present some breed-specific health concerns, such as:
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a deformity of the hip joint found in small dogs
- Eye conditions, including lens luxation and glaucoma
- Patellar luxation, misalignment of the leg bones
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Russell Terrier by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
This is a breed that is thrilled to spend time with you, so they are usually eager students. They have moments of stubbornness and distractibility, however, so patience, consistency, and dog treats are required.
The athletic, lively Russell Terrier is a natural at most dog sports and agility training. The breed is especially adept at Earthdog trials, which test their skills finding rodents underground. They are also good candidates for advanced obedience training, which helps keep the breed's more challenging behaviors in check.
Sporting Dog Training
Russell Terriers were originally bred as fox hunting dogs and still maintain those instincts. In the US, Jack Russell Terriers are the dogs bred with a focus on their hunting skills, though they are not formally recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Russell Terriers.
No. Russell Terriers shed and leave behind pet dander, which is the primary cause of pet-related allergies. Because they are small in stature and moderate shedders, frequent brushing and vacuuming may help minimize dander.
In the United States, Jack Russell Terriers and Russell Terriers are nearly identical. However, when the American Kennel Club recognized the dog with a breed standard, they were called Russell Terriers to distinguish them from Jack Russell Terriers. Jack Russell fans wanted to sustain the breed as a true hunting dog and objected to standards they felt prioritized show ring traits over hunting traits.
Russell Terriers are usually strong swimmers and most of them enjoy taking a dip in the water. Just like people, dogs are unique in their likes and dislikes, so introduce your Jack Russell to water slowly and don't force the issue. All dogs should be watched closely while swimming.