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All About Russell Terriers

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Russell terrier on a dark gray couch

Russell Terriers are energetic and charismatic dogs that usually have big personalities. Learn the history, attributes, grooming needs, and overall what it’s like to live with a Russell Terrier—is this breed for you?

About the Breed: What Is a Russell Terrier

As their name already hints, Russell Terriers are part of the terrier group. Though these dogs are fairly small in stature, they have boisterous personalities and don’t take guff from anyone. These dogs are intelligent and often have an agenda of their own.

With tons of energy, Russell Terriers prefer to be on the move and busy with activities. If you do not live an active lifestyle or often find yourself exhausted by the end of your workday, this dog may not be the best fit. As long as your Russell Terrier receives plenty of daily exercise, though, these dogs can do well living in an apartment.

Russell Terriers are kind-hearted pups that can make for a wonderful addition to your family. They are loyal, friendly, and fun.

They are known to get along well with other dogs but are fearless around breeds much larger than them. If they are raised in a household with smaller animals, there’s a chance that they can live peacefully together. However, Russell Terriers have strong hunting instincts and should never be left unsupervised around animals such as cats, rabbits, or gerbils.

Russell Terriers vs. Parson Terriers vs. Jack Russell Terriers

In the canine world, there are many dog breeds that appear to be nearly identical, so how can you tell them apart? The trick is learning their nuances. For instance, a great place to start in differentiating similar dog breeds is to look at their size. This is one main difference between the Parson Russell Terrier and Russell Terrier. Parson Russell Terriers typically stand 12-15 inches in height, while Russell Terriers are slightly shorter at 10-12 inches.

Some people identify these dogs by describing Russell Terriers and Parson Russell Terriers as variants of the Jack Russell Terrier. Dogs can also be classified differently based on geographic location. For example, in the United Kingdom, they recognize the two separate breeds as Jack Russell and Parson Russell Terriers. In the United States, the two breeds recognized are the Parson Russell and Russell Terrier.

Russell terrier resting on a dark teal couch under a dark teal blanket

Breed History

The Russell Terrier originated in England during the mid-19th century. Due to their temperament, personality, and never-ending energy, this breed was often used for hunting small game. Arguably the perfect, compact size, Russell Terriers could conveniently fit in small terrier bags on horseback, allowing them to ride alongside the hunters. Whenever the hunters would reach the fox holes, they would send the terriers in to flush out the game.

This breed is named after Reverend John “Jack” Russell, who was an avid hunter—he was also known as “The Sporting Person.” As the story goes, the Reverend’s milkman had a small white terrier with dark spots that would join him on his route. This adorable pup quickly caught the Reverend’s attention, and he ended up purchasing the dog. Little did they know, that this canine would later become the foundation for the present-day Russell Terrier breed.

Over time, Russell Terriers made their way to “the Land Down Under,” where Australians continued to develop the breed. Within a short period, these dogs also began to acquire fans in America, and as a result, their population in the States increased.


Russell Terriers are a small breed, and they typically weigh between 9-15 pounds. Though this is an average weight, each dog is unique, and some could weigh above or below this expected weight.

This breed’s waterproof coat can be course, smooth, or wire-haired. Though a short coat is most common for these dogs, you are still able to find long hair Russell Terriers. For coat colors, white is always the most prominent color, with their spots or patches being tan, brown, or black.

Russell Terrier Temperament

Although Russell Terriers are far from being un-friendly, feisty may be a better way to describe their temperament. These dogs can be considered little spit-fires.


A vital responsibility of any dog parent is training. It is highly recommended that you begin training your dog as early as possible—even puppies can absorb an impressive amount of information. Plus, it is essential that you start teaching your pal proper manners before they develop bad habits of their own.

Before adopting a Russell Terrier, there are a few things to keep in mind. The good news is that this is an intelligent breed, so they are capable of learning a large number of commands and tricks. The bad news is that they often choose not to listen and instead do what they please. Because these dogs are not the easiest to train, first-time dog parents should consider a different breed.

That said, even though it may take some extra time, work, and dedication, it’s still critical that you don’t become frustrated and give up on your pup’s training. Over time you’ll learn alongside your dog what makes them motivated and what rewards they love the most. Just remember, behind all of those talented Russell Terriers you see in movies, and television shows, are many hours of training.

Alongside training, it’s critical that you also socialize your dog. Socialization mainly entails introducing your pal to new people, places, sights, and sounds—having your dog interact with new environments. Socialization should also begin as early as possible and, just like training, should be continued throughout your dog’s life. This process is implemental in making sure your terrier is comfortable with new people and places.

Plus, dogs that are well socialized have a lower chance of developing anxiety, aggression, and behavior problems.

Russell terrier resting atop a dark gray blanket on a womans lap


Don’t let the short coat fool you—Russell Terriers are prone to shedding. Be prepared to run your sweeper multiple times a week and have a few lint rollers handy. To help keep the shedding under control, brushing your dog multiple times a week can help. These dogs do not require monthly baths, however, if yours finds a mud pile or something stinky to roll in, then a wash may be necessary.

Besides coat care, your pal’s nails will also need to be trimmed about once a month, though each dog’s needs are different. By purchasing a pair of dog nail clippers, you can easily take care of this grooming item yourself, or you can ask a local veterinarian or dog groomer for this service instead.

On a regular basis, you should check your dog’s ears and clean them out whenever they appear dirty. If you notice any unusual redness or a bad odor, that could be an indication that your dog has an ear infection. In that case, it’s necessary to schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Unless your four-legged friend requires any additional or special grooming needs, one of the only other grooming requirements is that you brush their teeth, ideally a few times a week. Be sure always to use dog-safe toothpaste.

Establishing a good grooming routine for your dog can help keep them healthy and happy. Be sure to introduce each new grooming item slowly and to use lots of positive reinforcement, encouraging your dog that these are good things. Some dogs may require a bit extra coaxing with treats until they are older and become more comfortable with each process. Just like training and socialization, your dog’s grooming routine should additionally begin at a young age and be carried on throughout their lifetime.

How to Groom a Parson Russell Terrier

The overall grooming requirements for a Parson Russell Terrier are practically identical to those of a Russell Terrier. The only major differences will be based on the type of coat your dog has. Different textured coats may require different brushes for grooming.

Do Parson Russell Terriers Shed?

The amount your dog sheds may also be dependent upon the type of coat they have, but no matter, you should still expect your Parson Russell Terrier to shed.


One of the most important parts of caring for a Russell Terrier is to provide them will plenty of exercise every day. These dogs enjoy going for walks, hikes, and runs, playing in the yard, learning new tricks, and participating in dog agility. Finding a game or activity that simultaneously provides physical and mental stimulation is even better.

If you are looking for a good workout buddy and accountability partner, look no further than the Russell Terrier—there are no rest days with these pups. Even when the weather isn’t the best, make sure you still set aside some time to play games with your dog inside the house. Unfortunately, some people adopt these terriers without realizing all that goes into taking care of them. When these dogs cannot burn off all of their extra energy, they are more likely to become destructive.

In addition to providing exercise, it’s critical that you feed your dog a nutritious diet. A dog’s food requirements can change many times throughout their life, so if you are ever unsure about which food is the best choice for your bud, talk with your veterinarian about recommendations.

Common Health Issues

The expected life span for a Russell Terrier is 12-14 years. Though this is the average life expectancy for dogs of this breed, the possibility still exists that your dog will live above or below this typical timeframe. A dog’s life span can be affected by many factors such as their diet, exercise routine, living environment, and whether they have any existing health issues.

Russell Terriers are relatively healthy dogs, though they can still be susceptible to some common health problems. Conditions such as cancer, pneumonia, hernias, or even epilepsy can affect any dog.

One of the best ways to keep your pet’s health a priority is to take them for annual check-ups with their veterinarian. These yearly appointments are an ideal time for you to bring up any concerns you may have about your dog’s overall health. Plus, these exams allow veterinarians to update your dog on any necessary shots.

If a health issue were to arise, regular appointments provide an increased chance that the problem can be diagnosed and treated early on. Though once a year is the recommended time frame for veterinary visits, never hesitate to schedule an appointment sooner, especially if you notice any significant changes in your dog’s behavior or health. Some health problems may require close monitoring as well.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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