jack russell terrier with ball

Jack Russell

A Complete Breed Guide for Jack Russell Terriers


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski, BVSc (Hons) and last updated by Dr Gillian Hill, BVSc (Hons)

The Jack Russell Terrier is a much beloved pet, renowned for their intense energy and sprightly intelligence. Developed in England over 200 years ago to hunt foxes, the Jack Russell Terrier is a clever, independent, and quirky little dog. However, as loveable as they are, they can also be surprisingly difficult to train and manage, and need a whole lot of exercise and mental stimulation. In this breed guide, we will explore the history, characteristics, care, and training of Jack Russell Terriers, providing you with valuable insights into this spirited and lovable breed.

At a glance
Top toy recommendations
Health Concerns
Related Breeds
Further reading

jack russell terrier in grass

Jack Russell Terrier Facts

Breed size:

Place of origin:

Other names:



Parson Russell Terrier

Breed group:

Energy level:

Weight range:


Very High


Life expectancy:

Tendency to bark:

Height range:

13-16 years


20-38cm height to shoulder

Drool factor:

Social needs:

Coat length:



Short / Medium (smooth or wiry coat)

Shedding factor:

Overall grooming needs:


Moderate (seasonal)

Weekly brushing

White, white and tan, or tricolour

How big do Jack Russells get?

Jack Russells typically grow to be 20-38 cm tall at the shoulder and can weigh between 5-10 kg. Individual variation exists within the breed, so for the most accurate predictor of your puppy's expected adult size, take a look at their parents.

How much does a Jack Russell cost in Australia?

A Jack Russell puppy usually costs around $800 AUD, but can be up to $3000 if purchased from a reputable breeder. As with any breed, you should never buy a puppy from an online marketplace such as Gumtree or Facebook (find out why here!). Jack Russells and crosses are often available at animal shelters, so always check your local rescue centres first - not only will this likely be cheaper than purchasing a dog from a breeder, but you will be saving a life!

Do Jack Russells shed?

Jack Russells tend to shed in large quantities once a year when the weather starts to warm, and moderately during the rest of the year. Keep a vacuum and lint roller handy - especially if your pup jumps on the furniture! Regular hair brushing is essential, as is feeding them a top quality diet to keep their fur silky and smooth.

Are Jack Russells good pets?

With the right training, socialisation and exercise regime, Jack Russells can make the best pet you've ever had. They are affectionate, playful, and family-oriented dogs with highly entertaining personalities. Once properly trained, their intelligence can be used for sports or learning tricks. However, you should not underestimate just how high maintenance a Jack Russell is, and it's important not to adopt a Jack Russell unless you have enough time to dedicate to daily exercise and consistent training.

How long do Jack Russells live?

The Jack Russell lifespan is 13-16 years. As with any breed, they will live much longer if you feed them a premium quality diet, never let them become overweight, and keep their teeth in top condition!

Do Jack Russells bark a lot?

Jack Russells can be persistent barkers if they are not mentally stimulated. To reduce your Jack Russell's barking, ensure you train with positive reinforcement from a young age and reduce problem behaviours before they begin! Read our article on How to Stop Your Dog Barking for more info.

How do I choose a Jack Russell breeder?

When looking for a Jack Russell Dog, your options are to: a) adopt from a rescue (this is our top recommendation!) b) buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and selectively breed healthy traits and good temperaments. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Are Jack Russells good with kids?

Jack Russells are known for being great with kids due to their energetic, playful energy and their affectionate nature. In fact, children and Jack Russells can work in a symbiotic relationship, both effectively working to tire out the other. However, caution is advised around boisterous young children as the Jack Russell is small enough to be injured by well-meaning toddlers who view them as a toy.

Jack Russell History

The Jack Russell Terrier was developed during the mid-1800s in the south of England by a man named Parson John Russell. Russell's aim was to create a working terrier to hunt with hounds, flushing foxes from their dens so the hounds could chase them. Parson Russell selectively bred terriers for their agility, endurance, and hunting instincts. The result was a small, fearless, and energetic terrier.

Before long, the Jack Russell became a favorite of many sportsmen, particularly those who hunted foxes. By the 1930s, Jack Russells became known in the U.S.A., and several breed clubs were created with different opinions concerning the Jack's appearance and working ability. This is partly why there is so much variation in the appearance of the breed today.

Jack Russells gained popularity as working dogs on farms and quickly became beloved companions for their intelligence, loyalty, and spirited nature. Today, they are cherished for their playful personalities and are still used in hunting and as agility dogs.

Jack Russell Personality and Temperament

jack russell terrier running with ball

Jack Russells are happy, energetic, and intelligent. They have an extremely high energy level and a strong desire to work or hunt - this means they are most happy when they have a job to do. As they were developed as a baying terrier, the Jack Russell can be quite vocal and often they make good watch dogs.

Despite their small size, Jack Russells are confident and fearless, sometimes exhibiting a "big dog" attitude. They are extremely loyal and form strong bonds with their families, often becoming quite attached to their owners.

Due to their high levels of energy and intelligence, a Jack Russell requires a lot of mental stimulation and exercise, and can easily develop problem behaviours such as digging, barking, and destructive tendencies if their needs aren't met. Simply leaving your Jack Russell in the yard to 'amuse themselves' is not enough - at least one hour of exercise, plus some extra puzzles and games, is required each day.

Exploring with your Jack Russell can be a lot of fun - they will take great pleasure chasing crabs on the beach and playing fetch in the water. However, a leash is essential if walking in the bush in an area with snakes due to their tendency to chase moving critters.

Additionally, proper training and socialising are essential for a well-rounded and mentally healthy pup. It's recommended to start socialisation and firm training as early as possible to avoid bad habits. A Jack Russell can adapt to any lifestyle, when given plenty of attention, training and exercise.

Top toy recommendations for Jack Russells

The ideal toys for a Jack Russell should encourage interactive play and problem-solving to keep them mentally stimulated. Any toy that helps challenge their wits and keeps their mind busy is key - particularly puzzle feeders, fetch toys, and ball throwers!

Yours Droolly Entertaineze Treat Ball

Fill the this bouncy ball with some of your dog's kibble to slow their eating or to keep them occupied and out of mischief.

KONG Wet Wubba

Made with highly visible, fast drying neoprene, this special Wet Wubba is ideal for games of fetch in and out of water.

Chuck It Classic Long

An extra long ball thrower to help you launch your dog's ball further than ever before to satisfy those intense fetch cravings!

Paws For Life IQ Slow Feeder

This creative contraption doubles as a slow feeder and an interactive puzzle, keeping your dog entertained at mealtime!

Common Jack Russell Health Problems

jack russell lying in bed

Jack Russell Terriers are generally fairly healthy, partly due to their history of being selectively bred for their physical health and hunting ability, rather than cosmetic appearance. However, they can be prone to patellar luxation, deafness, glaucoma, and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease.


Deafness can occur in pure white Jack Russells, and can be detected from as early as four weeks of age. It is usually hereditary. If you believe your Jack Russell puppy is suffering from deafness, your vet can perform some tests to determine the extent of their hearing.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (LCPD) is a debilitating condition that primarily affects small dog breeds, including Jack Russell Terriers. It is a hip disorder characterised by the deterioration of the femoral head, the ball-shaped top of the thigh bone, due to an interruption in the blood supply to the area. This lack of blood flow causes the bone to become brittle and eventually collapse, leading to pain, lameness, and arthritis. It is often confused with hip dysplasia.

LCPD typically manifests in young dogs, between the ages of 4 to 12 months, and can affect one or both hips. Treatment options for LCPD include surgery to remove the affected bone and restore joint function, as well as pain management and physical therapy to improve mobility and quality of life. Early detection and intervention are crucial for managing LCPD and minimising long-term complications in affected dogs.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation refers to a condition where the dog's kneecap slips out of its normal position. It is often associated with skeletal deformities that are present at birth. Frequent dislocation of the kneecap can cause locking of the leg and pain in the joint. Dog owners will often notice their dog skip or run around on three legs, holding up the leg with the problematic patella. Luxation occurs when there is a structural abnormality or when a traumatic injury has affected the joint. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and avoiding rough exercise can help ease the pressure on the joint and reduce symptoms.

Jack Russell Diet and Nutrition

Jack Russell Puppies

Top food recommendations for Jack Russell Puppies

Nutrition for Adult Jack Russells

Although there are no specific feeding requirements for an adult Jack Russell, it is very important that you feed a suitable premium diet. This food needs to be age appropriate and meet all of their daily nutritional and energy demands. Most Small Breed Adult Diets from premium brands including Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Advance are suitable for Jack Russells. These scientifically-formulated diets also contain balanced levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for health and wellbeing.

Royal Canin Mini Adult Pouches

Designed with high palatability and scientifically balanced to support a healthy coat, this tasty wet food will keep your dog interested and healthy.

Advance Dental Care Small Adult

Perfect for small breed dogs, this super premium, Australian made food contains extra dental care ingredients to support oral care.

Black Hawk Lamb and Rice Small Breed

Black Hawk Lamb & Rice for small breeds is a great balanced diet free from wheat and corn, specifically designed for small breeds like the Jack Russell.

Wellness Petite Entrees

With natural ingredients and a tasty formula, this natural wet food is high in palatability and nutrition.

Breeds Related to the Jack Russell

The Jack Russell Terrier is part of the hunting 'Terrier' breed group, so the closest related breeds were bred for a similar purpose. In addition to the hunting Terriers, the Jack Russell is also frequently crossed with other breeds to create designer Jack Russell mixes.

parson russell terrier

Parson Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier is a close relative to the Jack Russell Terrier - in fact, both were bred by John Russell for the sport of fox hunting. With longer legs than the Jack Russell, the Parson Russell is swift enough to run with horses and fearless enough to flush a fox from his lair. They have slightly longer legs to the Jack Russell.

fox terrier with treat ball

Fox Terrier & Mini Foxie

The Fox Terrier is a small dog of approximately 5-7kg, available in two varieties: Smooth and Wire. The Smooth Fox Terrier has a smooth and silky coat while the Wire Fox Terrier is double-coated and has a rougher coat with longer fur on the body and face. Like the Jack Russell Terrier, they were also bred to hunt foxes. The Miniature Fox Terrier, or 'mini foxie' as it is known in Australia, is a smaller version which was bred for hunting vermin.

jack russell cross pug


The Jack Russell x Pug (also known as a 'Jug') is an increasingly popular designer breed which shares a lot of the Jack Russell personality traits. Known for having a semi-squished face from their pug side, but less deformed than the purebred pug's, they are a great option if you want a pug with less risk of the breathing difficulties. Read more about Brachycephalic Airway Disease in dogs like pugs.

Further Reading

Complete Beginner's Guide To Puppy Care

Premium Pet Food: Is it Worth It?

How to Spot a Good Breeder

Which Flea and Worming Product Does Your Dog Actually Need?