There are many terrier breeds, each of them possessing their unique qualities from their not too distant relatives. It’s easy to be confused by the many similarities. Still, one should not overlook the sophisticated Parson Russell Terrier, which has distinguished itself as one of the standout terrier-breeds in recent years.
If you are an owner of the Parson Russell Terrier, then consider yourself lucky. You have inherited a life-long friend and a fierce companion. The Parson Russell will bring no shortage of whimsical joy to your home.
These dogs possess an abundant amount of energy and a keen mind, as were their ancestors, who were primarily employed as hunting dogs. While many have adopted a more domicile life, you can still trace their behaviors all the way back to the mid 19th century, where their namesake trained them.
Born in 1795, Jack Russell was a clergyman from Dartmouth’s English town who had a deep fondness for the old English terrier breeds. As an amateur hunter, Russell found this breed to make useful companions for hunting small game such as rodents, rabbits, and foxes.
The terrier had excellent tracking abilities and a strong instinct for finding and rooting out small woodland animals. Over the years, Jack Russell would continue to breed the dogs with great care, leading to several varieties of terriers to perform various working tasks.
What we refer to today as the Parson Russell began to dissociate from other terrier breeds around the early 1900s. The Parson breed developed a slightly narrower body, with more leg length and thicker, more abundant coat. These changes in the breeds’ characteristics allowed for the Parson Russell the ability to burrow deep for moles and badgers as the needs of hunters changed over time.
Pedigree and Defining Characteristics
Throughout the 20th century, the Parson Russell Terrier struggled to gain its own unique breed status. In 1990 it finally earned itself a distinction from the other fox terrier. It wouldn’t be until the year 2001 that the Parson Russell earned its own breed status, finally recognized by all the international Kennel Clubs in 2008.
The Parson Russell Terrier, much like many of the other terrier breeds, have grown smaller over the years due to their increasingly domestic existence. All Parson breeds share the same dominant trait of a mainly white coat with black or chestnut brown patches of fur around their heads and bodies.
Their coat is known for growing short, thick, and water-repellent fur. The Parson Russell has a slightly smaller height of around 12” to 15” and has a slim athletic build of 13-17 pounds.
Generally, these dogs are not very big, but their size is compensated by the disproportionate amount of energy they possess. The Parson Russell will require a high protein diet, especially in their early development, to ensure they have enough fuel to burn while they run and play.
It’s typically a good idea to provide puppies (up to one year) with more meals in a day consisting of at least 22% protein and 8% fat. As your Parson Russell Terrier grows, you should eventually wean their diet down to just one bowl a day, 18% protein and 5% fat.
Whether you feed your dog dry or wet food, you will want to make sure they are getting adequate protein to allow them to keep full and burn more energy throughout the day. Hard-boiled eggs, beef, lamb, and poultry are all great sources of protein you should try to inject into your Parson Russell’s diet.
Keep in mind that this breed of dog is not very big, meaning it’s easy for your dog to gain weight if it is overfed quickly or not receiving the right balance of proteins and carbs. To keep your dog healthy and fit, a leaner diet with fewer filler ingredients will yield the best results.
Play & Exercise
While the small size of the Parson Russell makes it an ideal house pet, you shouldn’t expect to keep this dog cooped up for too long without it becoming restless. Your Parson Russell will require a fair amount of physical activity to keep it engaged and satiated every day.
Frequent visits to an enclosed area such as a dog park would be a great way to let your dog burn off some of its inherent energy. If letting your Parson Russell off the leash is unrealistic for your situation, then you should at least allow it to be walked twice a day, although four times (around two hours) would be ideal for this breed.
The Parson Russell Terrier is incredibly talented athletically, despite its small and stout frame. While you are less likely to use them as hunting companions, you will find that their natural hunting abilities factor into their playtime. These dogs will quickly catch on to a game of fetch and will enjoy chasing after any ball, toy, or frisbee you fling over their heads.
You will find that your Parson Russell demands quite a bit of attention from you and will need to give them something to do if you are busy working on something else at home. Like most other dogs, they enjoy chewing on toys and working for treats. Giving them an allotted time for play and exercise every day will create a balanced and happy coexistence between you and your Parson Russell Terrier.
As you might have already gathered, this breed of dog is highly active and energetic, which can be great fun for those who already match this level of energy in their personal life, but it can also be exhausting for families who enjoy living a more relaxed lifestyle.
Suppose you have any ambitions for entering your Parsons Terrier in dog shows or athletic competitions. In that case, you will be delighted at how easily this dog will learn an agility course. Part of the reason terriers were bred in the first place was to capitalize on their intelligence. Terriers were liked for their ability to “out-think a fox” and this cleverness has not been lost in the Parson Russell.
Training your dog will require patience and, for best results, a good head start. Training your Parson Russell as a puppy improves your chances of having a well-behaved companion later on in life.
The most considerable challenge you will face with training your puppy is keeping their attention while training them each day. These puppies will be active and wanting to play, but the more time you spend teaching them necessary behaviors each day, the more likely they will stick long into their life.
For best results, aim for 50 minutes of training time throughout the day. They will become easily distracted if you spend too long in a session, so try for quick 10 to 15-minute bursts of training sessions while you have their full attention.
During these sessions, focus on basic commands and develop simple routine habits to create a strong foundation for discipline and understanding. Keep in mind that this particular breed of dog comes from a long line of instinctual hunters. While you may train your dog to be well-disciplined and behaved, you will occasionally find that these taught behaviors are at odds with their nature.
So, no matter how well-trained your dog may be, you should always keep your terrier on a leash when not in an enclosed area. All it would take is a small animal scattering across the sidewalk to send your Parson Russell on the hunt, and with their agility, they can be out of your sight in an instant.
In addition to their flight risk, you should be aware that as a small dog, the Parson Russell does not enjoy being handled too roughly, so if you have grabby children, inform them to be gentle around your dog.
You might discover that your Parson Russell Terrier can be a bit shy and timid in new environments or in the company of new people and animals. It’s essential to expose your puppy to as many different situations and interactions as possible.
Building this habit early on will make them feel more comfortable whenever they are outside the home. Exposing your puppy to many different types of big, small, active, and docile animals will also help increase their sociality.
While these dogs can be timid at times, it’s important to distinguish this from submissiveness. On the contrary, your Parson Russell can be entirely independent and dominant. You will be glad to know that your dog will quickly become attached to you and protect your family.
While having such a strong bond can be great for your relationship, it also means that your terrier might be stubborn at times and may even be over-protective of your family, leading to hostile behaviors.
The best way to handle these behaviors is by demonstrating a strong and dominant personality. The more rules you lay down for the Parsons, the more at ease they will feel in your home. They will accept their place in the “pack” and ultimately feel relieved that they are not solely responsible for protecting the household.
Taking care of your Parson Russell Terrier is a commitment that will take several years of attention and care, but you will find that it is undoubtedly worth it. The cost of raising this breed doesn’t differ significantly from other dog breeds of a similar size.
Yearly, you can expect to spend anywhere from $400 to $800 when it comes to feeding and taking your dog to the vet. Of course, there are other costs you will need to account for as well, such as leashes, toys, carriers, or crates.
Please make sure you have all of the required items on hand before you bring your Parson Russell home for the first time. Unfortunately, many families aren’t adequately prepared to adopt a pup of any breed, and the expenses can quickly add up. You’re off to a great start by doing your research; just be sure to budget for your new dog’s veterinarian care, too.
When it comes to grooming, your Parson Russell shouldn’t require too much attention. Terriers are a short-haired breed that doesn’t need much more than a quick daily brushing.
Other than this, you should expect to trim nails, clean ears, and brush teeth once a month to keep up their hygiene. A bath once every other month should be enough to keep the skin beneath their fur clean and healthy.
Finally, make sure to closely follow your vet’s recommendations when it comes to administering flea, tick, and heartworm medication.
Parson Russell Terriers are typically resistant and healthy dogs. A well-cared-for dog without any prior complications can expect to live to the age of 15 in human years.
To increase your dog’s longevity, stay active with them, and provide a healthy protein-rich diet. Towards the later stages of life, your dog will naturally become weaker and face mild to severe medical issues. Parson Russells are known for developing primary lens dislocation of the eyes, leading to eventual vision problems such as glaucoma.
Some Final Thoughts
You will be hard-pressed to find a more suitable pet for your home than the Parson Russell Terrier. If you are looking for a loyal and loving companion, then then the Parson Russel is perfect for you. Conversely, if you want that experience of raising a large breed dog but only have the time, money, and space for a smaller breed, then a Parson Russell may be a desirable tradeoff.
If your family is active, adventurous, and loud, then this dog is the one for you. There may be many different breeds of terrier dogs, and they all may have a lot in common, but ask any owner of the Parson Russell Terrier, and they’ll agree that this dog is unique. No matter what category you fall into, as soon as you bring your puppy or mature dog home for the first time, you can expect to have a rich, rewarding experience.