Centuries ago, men of property, including men of the clergy, loved hunting. The Parson Russell terrier was developed to hunt foxes in the south of England about 200 years ago.
Parson John Russell, popularly known as Jack, needed a dog that was efficient in hunting, and he designs the Parson Russell Terrier to suit his needs.
The Parson Russell Terrier, also known as the Jack Russell Terrier, Parson, or Parson Jack Russell terrier, is a bold, athletic dog that wins the hearts of dog lovers with his intelligence, quickness, intense desire to hunt, and determination.
It is a favorite breed among dog sports enthusiasts, horse owners, dog trainers for TV and film, and dog lovers who appreciate the Jack Russell terrier’s boundless energy, portable size, fearless personality, and his entertaining antics.
The JRT is perfect for those looking for a dog that can run agility, learn tricks, or play fetch until you’re too tired to keep up. However, this is not the perfect breed for those who can’t deal with a dog who digs, chews, barks, and runs around the house multiple times a day.
To learn more about this before getting one, we look at 15 things you should know about the Parson Russell Terriers:
These dogs are little bundles of joy
1. The Breed is named after Reverend John “Jack” Russell
Reverend Parson John Russell was an avid fox hunter who loved breeding hunting dogs in England. He is credited for developing the Parson Russell terrier during the mid-1800s; the breed took up his name.
John wanted to create a working terrier that could bolt foxes from their dens and hunt with hounds in chasing them. Parson Russell terriers became quick enough to keep up with the horses and efficiently track down a fox.
2. They Went From Namesake to Name Change
This breed has since been renamed three times. The JRT was the first hunting dog bred by Reverend Russell. After Russell passed away, the breed evolved into the Parson Terrier (Parson Stands for Reverend).
The Parson terrier was developed with longer legs than the Jack Russell terrier to allow them to navigate hillier areas during hunting escapades easily.
The Russell terrier was later developed from the Reverend’s original terrier breed but with shorter legs. Compared to other types of terrier lineage, the “Shorty” Russell terrier was 8-12 inches tall.
These three breeds still look alike but have a few differences like their body shape and height. The Parson Terrier is known for its square body, while both the Shorty Russell terrier and the Jack Russell terrier have rectangular bodies.
The name Parson Russell terrier is used by Britain’s Kennel Club and American Kennel Club to avoid confusing them with other Terries that use the “Jack Russell Terrier” name, which is trademarked by the JRTC (Jack Russell Terrier Club) of America.
Hence, the Jack Russell and Parson Russell are essentially the same breeds, but they have minor differences in their temperament and size in their breed standards.
3. Their Name was changed to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003
Before the American Kennel Club recognized the Jack Russell terrier breed, the Jack Russell Terrier people in the US already had their own registry, the JRTC of America.
The JRTC had stringent breed standards, and they didn’t receive the AKC recognition well because they didn’t think anything good could come from it.
The Parson Russell Terrier Association of the United States, formed by another group of fanciers became the AKC parent club for the dog breed. But since the name Jack Russell had already been trademarked by the JRTC of America, they couldn’t use the name.
The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1997 and later renamed to Parson Russell Terrier in 2003. As the original and feistier of the breed clubs, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America didn’t want or need AKC recognition of JRT.
As far as they were concerned, the whole show dog idea was terrible news. Their dogs came in a variety of sizes and appearances because they bred solely as working dogs. The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America, on the other hand, bred their dogs with a more standardized appearance.
The Parson Russell Terrier dog breed is ranked 92nd by the AKC.
Parson Russell Terriers generally live into their early to mid teens, with an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years
4. They Vary Widely in Size
Because different types of Parson Russell terriers were used for different terrains and purposes, they vary a lot in size. Their weight ranges between 13-17 pounds why their height ranges from 10-15 inches at shoulder length.
Parsons that stand between 10-12 inches are longer rather than tall; they are commonly referred to as Shorty Jacks. They resemble Dachshunds or Corgis more than the AKC-registered Parsons, who are more balanced.
5. They are Very Intelligent
Parson Russell terriers are very smart with a strong drive to explore everything around them. Even though this means that they can easily be trained, it also means that they require all-day mental and physical stimulation.
These dogs are not the type to sit around quietly in the corner pondering the finer intricacies of chasing rodents – these are dogs that will instead tirelessly seek out the rodents, find one, and give it a run for its acorns.
When left alone in the house with nothing to keep them occupied, they are more likely to wreak havoc than sit all day waiting for you to be back. Hence, due to their high intelligence, Parsons should be trained from an early age.
Owners of JRTs need to keep them entertained and interested at all times. In pop culture, Jack Russells are the most preferred canine actors on TV or in movies, which is a testament to their intelligence. They can learn complex routines and tricks easily as long as you make it fun for them.
JRTs are unequivocally high-energy dogs
6. They are High Energy Dogs
Like most terriers, the Parson is a very energetic dog breed. Hence, living with a JRT is in itself an exercise in patience. These dogs are outgoing, playful, and love having something to do.
When a Jack Russell isn’t hunting, he loves to work. Working for these dogs includes seeking out quarry ranging from moles and mice to traditional fox. And when they are hunting, that’s the only thing on their mind.
They are tenacious and can be challenging to live with. These dogs need owners committed to helping them channel their energy, single-mindedness, and intelligent into dog sports like terrier races, earth dog trials, or agility.
Provide a Parson Russell terrier with something to do but with close supervision. Without supervision, these fogs can trash or tear your house apart, looking for something interesting to do. Hence, make sure PRTs spend a significant amount of time everyday to burn off their energy.
Without enough exercise, they can be hard to manage. Take your Russell companion for runs or long walks. Make sure you have a fenced yard that is impossible for him to dig under, climb, or jump.
Not even an underground electronic fence can keep your Jack in the yard. Their desire to chase prey is stronger than the threat of a shock. When walking with a Parson, make sure to have him on a leash to prevent him from challenging other dogs, chasing other animals, or running in front of vehicles.
Hence, it is essential to give Parson Russell terriers about 30-40 minutes of vigorous exercise every day and plenty of play in the yard to keep him exhausted and out of trouble.
A Parson Russell Terrier is a dream for athletic owners
7. They Need Firm and Consistent Owners
Parson Russell terriers are not for the faint-hearted. These dogs are pretty feisty and require a firm and consistent owner.
If not provided with the precise direction and perfect handling, these dogs are prone to being dominant. Hence, they need empathic but clear pack leaders who can provide them with an appropriate environment for them.
Although they respond well to positive motivation in the form of praise, food rewards, and play, they can be very stubborn when faced with harsh corrections. Give your Parson rules and routines while applying the right amount of motivation and patience.
When paired with the right person, there is no limit to what a Parson Russell can learn. In order to be an excellent canine companion, they need a specific lifestyle.
If you could achieve this, a Jack Russell terrier can be the most rewarding canine companion. However, without proper boundaries, guidance, and routine, they become very unpleasant, and their behavior and temperament can be quite unpredictable.
Early socialization can make sure Jack Russels don’t get into any sticky situations
8. They aren’t Best for First Time Dog Owners
Parson Russells are small in size, and so they can fit in a lot of different homes. However, with their huge personalities and hefty egos, these dogs are not suited for first-time owners.
They are best suited for experienced dog owners, particularly those familiar with terriers, and know-how to provide for their needs. Terrier owners need always to be one step of their dogs’ thought processes in order to keep them under control and responsive to their commands every time.
With these dogs, you get 150 pounds of personality in a small dog’s body. They aren’t afraid of anyone or anything, and they love to assert themselves. They want to have all your attention.
They need owners and families who will be patient with them and who can firmly let the dog know that they can’t always do what they want.
9. They Require Proper Training and Early Socialization
Start training a Parson Russell puppy the day you bring one home. Even at eight weeks, a Russell puppy can soak up everything you teach him. Waiting until a terrier is older leaves you stuck with a headstrong dog.
Always use positive reinforcement because JRTs can’t handle negative reinforcement. Be much more pleasant when training a Parson Russell if you want to yield better results.
Also, give him a lot of positive interactions with people and other dogs when he is still in his puppyhood. They are rather dominant, territorial and possessive and so they need to be socialized with other dogs from when they’re young.
Early socialization will prevent future aggression towards other pets and dogs in the household. It helps them learn the parameters of appropriate behavior.
Jack Russell Terriers are easy care, but do shed some
10. They are Prone to Certain Health Conditions
Even though Parson Russell Terriers are generally healthy, they are also prone to specific health conditions. Based on Nationwide Pet Insurance Policyholder, Russell’s most common health conditions include:
- Skin allergies
- Ear infections
- Benign Tumors
- Eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts
JRT owners should take their dogs for routine checkups to keep an eye on the quality of their health. You should make the most of any defensive abilities to make sure your Jack has a healthier life.
11. They Need a High-Quality Dog Food Diet
Parson Russell terriers can suffice with 1.25 – 1.75 cups of a high-quality dog food diet every day, divided into two meals. Feeding Jack Russell terriers with the right amount of food with the right vitamins and nutrients are very crucial.
We recommend looking for breed or size-specific dog food formulas to make sure your Jack is getting what it needs. The dietary needs of JRTs tend to change as the pup grows older and continues to age.
Discuss with your vet the various needs of your Jack and create a feeding schedule that will keep your canine companion healthy at all stages of his life. Parsons also need fresh water throughout the day to avoid dehydration and maintain their health.
12. They Require Regular Grooming
Before you buy a Parson Russell, you should know that they shed a lot. In order to maintain a healthy coat, Russells need to shed. Therefore, be ready to give them regular grooming and brushing.
How often you’ll have to groom your JRT, and the manner of tools you have to use will depend on the type of fur your dog has. Parsons come in two coat types; broken and smooth, both with a double coat and coarse texture.
Some Parson Russell terriers have a rough coat, longer than a broken coat. Their coats never curl or wave. Both coat types require weekly brushing to remove loose and dead hair. When brushed faithfully, Jacks rarely need a bath.
Jacks with rough or broken coats should be stripped at least once or twice annually. Trim their nails once or twice a month and brush their teeth at least twice or thrice a week to prevent periodontal disease and tartar buildup.
Parson Russell Terriers can also be great companions for athletic owners
13. They are Fussy
Parson Russell terriers have a specific color, material, and taste preferences. Hence, Jack owners have to be careful when shopping for or trying out new things in the household, including food, scents, and beds.
They tend to have the “if I see it, it’s mine” mentality when it comes to toys. Therefore, Parson owners with kids need to keep them from going into the children’s toy box and instead provide the terrier with their own box of toys.
14. They Suffer from Small Dog Syndrome
Parson Russell terriers like to make their fearless personalities known to everyone, including strangers walking past them. They want to make it clear to people and animals around it that they are the boss.
They are not threatened by how big, or small other dogs are and neither are they scared of other animals, even horses, Jack Russells will always try to assert themselves.
15. They are Natural Ratters and Hunters
JRTs were initially bred to hunt foxes, and so they have a natural instinct to rat and hunt. Sniffing out small animals is, therefore, their superpower.
If your garden or backyard gets regular intruders or visitors of vermin or feline variety, it won’t take your Parson Russell long before they hunt and chase them out. Jacks stop at nothing trying to catch rabbits, squirrels, cats, or birds, and sometimes they may end up disappearing in a rabbit hole.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.