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rec.pets.dogs: Jack Russell Terriers Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/jackrussells
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Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below. 
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.  
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
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                           Jack Russell Terriers

     This file was authored by _Stephanie Davis_ in 1994, with various
     updates since the original version was distributed. Stephanie Davis
     is no longer on line; comments can be sent to Cindy Tittle Moore, who will make basic updates.
     Revisions made February 1997, with the help of Kathy Kemper:
     * Added rescue contact
     * Corrected several typos
     * Clarified BKC/UKC membership prohibition for JRTCA membership
     * Added information on AKC registration underway
     * Updated information on "True Grit"
     * Extensive updates to health section
     * Added Brown's new book
     * Updated TV commercial question
   I consulted the official JRTCA pamphlet and other materials from the
   JRTCA to help me in the writing of this FAQ. Do not insult me
   personally for items you don't believe to be true.
   PLEASE READ! I have had several people email me claiming that "my dog
   certainly doesn't exhibit the traits you list" or "geez, should I be
   worried that Muffy will turn into a cat killing monster?" etc... All
   dogs are different, and Jack Russells are no exception. Not all will
   hate cats, not all will be excellent hunters, not all will thrive in
   different climates etc. A lot of their behavior is learned or trained,
   so please do a good job of training your JRT. Enjoy your JRT, they are
   all special.
   _Copyright 1994 by Stephanie Davis._
Table of Contents

     * Table of Contents
     * Characteristics and Temperament
     * Frequently asked Questions
     * Health Information
     * History of the Jack Russell Terrier
     * Registries
     * Terrier Trials
     * Resources
          + Publications
          + Rescue
          + Jack Russell Terrier Clubs
Characteristics and Temperament

   The Jack Russell is a happy, bold, energetic dog; they are extremely
   loyal, intelligent, and assertive. Their greatest attribute is their
   working ability, closely followed by their excellent qualities as a
   companion. Unlike some modern breeds, Jack Russells have one type,
   hunting. Hunting ability is bred into them. It is their nature. The
   unique personality of this feisty terrier is rapidly gaining
   popularity, but they are not a dog for everyone, especially first time
   dog owners. While adaptable to to a variety of environments, they are
   first and foremost bred to hunt.
   These dogs come in three different coat types; smooth (recessive),
   broken (intermediate), and rough (coarse, longer straight hair,
   dominant over smooth). All coats shed, smooth coats shed the most.
   They are adaptable to most climates, and usually handle the cold fine,
   although some dogs will need a dog blanket or sweater if under 40 deg.
   Fahrenheit. The color of the coat must be at least 51% white, or all
   white. Black and/or tan markings are allowed. Height can be between
   10" and 15", with a proportionate body length. For showing purposes,
   terriers are classified in two groups, 10" to 12 1/2", and over 12
   1/2" and up to 15". Dogs should appear compact and balanced, always in
   solid, hard condition. Jack Russells have a short, upright tail, about
   4" long. The tail is cropped shortly after birth, and front dewclaws
   are removed.
Frequently asked Questions

   _What famous Jack Russell Terriers would I recognize?_
     "Eddie" on the television show Frasier. He is a rough coat. "Milo"
     from the movie "The Mask" is a smooth coat. The puppy in the RCA
     commercial. "Barkley" from the movie "Clean Slate" with Dana
     Carvey. More recent has been a terrier in an MCI commercial. Also,
     the Nissan commercial has a JRT in it, and there is a pizza
     commercial where a JRT and a shaggy dog lick sauce off a giggling
     child's face. The PBS show "Wishbone" features the JRT Wishbone.
   _How much should I expect to pay for a Jack Russell Terrier?_
     Most breeders are charging anywhere from $350.00 to $600.00 for a
     puppy. Don't forget all the other costs involved with owning a dog
     -- vaccinations, neutering/spaying, food, toys, crate, home
     improvements (better fencing), books, obedience classes (a must!),
     etc. You might be able to adopt a Jack Russell from Russell Rescue
     for a lower up-front purchase price.
   _Are Jack Russell Terriers really as energetic as they seem?_
     Jack Russell Terriers are very energetic dogs, with a big need for
     regular exercise. They are working dogs, and need to have a job,
     whether it be keeping your yard free of rodents (digging is normal
     and common, since they are bred to dig after quarry), chasing a
     ball, or going for a run or long walk with it's owner. Sitting on
     the couch peacefully all day is not in a Jack Russell's agenda.
     They require more of a time commitment than some breeds.
   _Because they are small, they seem ideal for living in an apartment.
   Will a Jack Russell be happy in an apartment situation?_
     Given the exercise requirements of the Jack Russell, a home with a
     large, fenced yard is more appropriate. They do not take well to
     inactive, sedentary lifestyles. However, if you are at home during
     the day or are able to provide regular exercise, it may work. They
     need a 5-6 foot high fence, since they are known to jump, climb,
     and even dig under fences. Many of the Jack Russells in the Rescue
     are there because the owner underestimated the attention
     requirements of the terrier. Author's note: I work 8 hours a day,
     and my JRT is home alone for this time. She does fine in a small
     dog-proofed room, and doesn't seem unhappy about her situation.
   _Will a Jack Russell Terrier cohabititate with my cat/small pet/young
     Cats and other small pets (rodents) will usually not work with a
     Jack Russell because these dogs are first and foremost hunting
     dogs. They see the cat or hamster/rat/guinea pig as prey (quarry).
     This is not true for all Jack Russells, and if brought into the
     household as a pup, most could be trained to live with a cat. Many
     Jack Russell owners are horse people. Jack Russells are not herding
     dogs, so the horse isn't of interest to them. Children under the
     age of six can be a problem, unless the child is taught how to
     properly handle the terrier. Having the natural assertive terrier
     characteristics, however, the Jack Russell will not put up with
     even unintended abusive behavior from a child. This should be
     carefully considered, particularly with children under six.
   _Are Jack Russell Terriers dog aggressive?_
     They can be very aggressive with other dogs (not just other
     terriers), and in certain cases, more than two terriers shouldn't
     be kept together unattended. It is very important that prospective
     Jack Russell owners understand this sometimes harsh part of the
     terrier's nature.
   _Can I train the hunting instinct out of my Jack Russell?_
     To be blunt, perhaps you should consider a different breed if you
     don't wish to have a hunting dog. Jack Russell Terriers can be
     difficult to deal with because they are true hunting dogs. They
     should be kept on leash when in rural/country areas, because if
     they take off after a ground squirrel or other quarry, they will
     not hesitate to dig and go underground. Terriers have been known to
     stay underground with their quarry for days, with no food or water.
Health Information

   Despite the fact that the JRTCA will not register any dogs until they
   are one year old and have passed a structured veterinary examination,
   hereditary defects do occur in the breed. Some occur because they are
   late onset, others because the genetic nature is recessive or
   polygenic which means the parents may be perfectly normal upon
   examination and yet produce affected litters.
   According to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, JRTs are
   afflicted with lens luxation. This is a displacement of the lens from
   its normal site behind the pupil and may result in elevated
   intraocular pressure (glaucoma) causing vision impairment or
   blindness. Lens luxation not associated with trauma or inflammation is
   presumed to be inherited.
   Legg-Perthes Disease also affects this breed, as it does many small
   breeds. It is very similar to hip dysplasia, however, instead of the
   acetabulum being shallow, necrosis is of the femoral head. This
   disease may be a simple autosomal recessive or polygenic (more than
   one gene involved) and results in painful hips.
   While those are the two most common diseases, the breed can also be
   afflicted with epilepsy, skin conditions (including allergies), and
   genetic deafness. The latter is associated with white coats:
   Dalmatians and some other white dogs have the same problem. A BAER
   test is necessary to rule out the condition. One may know that a dog
   can hear, but only the BAER test can prove whether the hearing is in
   both or only one ear.
   The JRTCA recently sent out a Genetics Disorder Survey (January 1997)
   to all members who have a registered kennel prefix. Its purpose is to
   help determine genetic problems and frequency of occurrence in the
   breed. The results will be published in _True Grit_, the club
   As in all breeds, there are good and poor breeders. Purchase a pup
   from someone who has completed BAER tests, eye examinations and hip
   evaluations on their breeding stock. This will improve your chances of
   a healthy pup.
History of the Jack Russell Terrier

   Jack Russell Terriers are a type, or strain, of working terrier; they
   are not purebred in the sense that they have a broad genetic make-up,
   a broad standard, and do not breed true to type. You will see
   different "types" of JRTs, from long-bodied, short, crooked legs to a
   more proportioned length of body and longer legs. This is a result of
   having been bred strictly for hunting since their beginning in the
   early 1800's, and their preservation as a working breed since.
   The Jack Russell takes its name from the Reverend John Russell who
   bred one of the finest strains of terriers for working fox in
   Devonshire, England in the mid-to-late 1800's. Rev. Russell
   (1795-1883), apart from his church activities, had a passion for fox
   hunting and the breeding of fox hunting dogs; he is also said to be a
   rather flamboyant character, probably accounting for his strain of
   terrier's notability and the name of our terrier today.
   John Russell maintained his strain of fox terriers bred strictly for
   working, and the terrier we know of today as the Jack Russell is much
   the same as the pre-1900's fox terrier. The Jack Russell has survived
   the changes that have occured in the modern-day Fox Terrier because it
   has been preserved by working terrier enthusiasts in England for more
   than 100 years. It is the foremost goal of the JRTCA that the Jack
   Russell continues in that tradition.

   The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) breed registry is one
   of the most unique registries in the world. It has been designed
   specifically to maintain the the Jack Russell Terrier as a healthy
   working breed, free from genetic faults and characteristics that would
   be detrimental to the breed. Unlike other registries which register
   entire litters at birth, each application for registration in the
   JRTCA is judged on the individual terrier's own merits; having
   registered parents does not automatically guarantee that a terrier can
   be registered. A terrier is not eligible for registration until it
   reaches one year of age and has attained its adult height, dentition,
   and other aspects considered for full maturity. Each terrier's
   application for registration must be accompanied by the following
     * Veterinary Certificate. A JCTRA Veterinary Certificate, designed
       specifically for the Jack Russell Terrier, must be completed and
       signed by a liscensed veterinarian stating that he has examined
       the terrier and found it to be free from inherited defects.
     * Pedigree. A complete pedigree, signed by the breeder (4
       generations are required as of July 1, 1993). The JRTCA will not
       accept any terrier that is inbred according to the JRTCA's
       inbreeding policy.
     * Stud Service Certificate. A stud certificate signed by the owner
       of the sire, verifying that they bred their stud dog to the dam of
       the terrier applying for registration.
     * Color Photographs. Clear photos, standing on a firm surface,
       clearly showing each side and the front of the terrier, are
       required in order to evaluate the terrier's general adherence to
       the breed standard.
   The JRTCA and the JRT Club of Great Britain (JRTCGB), along with the
   majority of the JR Clubs in the world, strongly oppose recognition of
   the Jack Russell by any kennel club/national all-breed registry. Most
   JRT owners, and all working terrier people, seem to be in complete
   agreement on this issue. The highest compliments the JRTCA receives
   comes from its registry. Those familiar with kennel club registries
   would say that they are proud to be associated with a registry that
   turns down dogs with genetic faults. Kennel club registries accept
   anything, and thus implicitly condone breeding from it. By turning
   down dogs with inherited defects, the JRTCA is doing a great service
   to protect the Jack Russell and keep out serious faults in the breed.
   The UKC accepted the Jack Russell Terrier for registration in 1992,
   against the advice of the JRTCA. The JRTCA views this as a clear and
   present danger to its efforts of preserving and protecting the Jack
   Russell Terrier, and in no way endorses recognition of the Jack
   Russell Terrier by the UKC or any other all-breed registry. All Jack
   Russell Terrier owners are asked to support the JRTCA in its efforts
   to protect and preserve the Jack Russell Terrier as we know it today,
   and not to support the UKC registration of Jack Russell Terriers. The
   JRTCA fully expects that in the future they will have to face further
   challenges as the Jack Russell Terrier becomes more and more popular,
   and trust that the JRTCA members, and all Jack Russell enthusiasts,
   will be equal to the task.
   The Parson JRT Club in England actively campaigned for and acquired
   British Kennel Club recognition for a terrier meeting a narrow portion
   of the JRT breed standard. This small group has only been in existence
   a few years and has formed their own standard including only a
   specific size and type which they claim was preferred by Rev. Parson
   himself. The BKC accepted the proposal, however, the JRTCA and JRTCGB
   will refuse membership to anyone belonging to The Parson JRT Club, the
   Jack Russell Terrier Breeder's Assoc., or who have JRT's registered
   with the BKC or the UKC.
   In the fall of 1996, the AKC accepted the JRT in its new Foundation
   Stock Registry. Dogs registered here cannot compete in AKC events. AKC
   officials state that this type of registry is a holding area for
   breeds so that they can obtain the numbers, registrations and
   statistics necessary to become fully recognized. The recognition
   process could take anywhere from two to twenty years but it has begun.
Terrier Trials

   Traditionally, the Jack Russell Terrier trial is made up of three
   divisions: conformation, go-to-ground, and racing. Obedience, agility,
   and search 'n' sniff are also being included more often in these
   Conformation classes are judged much like any other dog show. The
   winner is the dog that most closely matches the breed standard. In
   addition to conformation and movement, the dog is judged on
   temperment; as in all things having to do with Jack Russells, the best
   working dog is being sought.
   Go-to-Ground consists of wooden liners placed in a trench dug in the
   ground. They are made to resemble as closely as possible natural earth
   where a dog might encounter fox or other prey. At the end of the
   course is a cage with two or three rats. The terrier is judged on how
   quickly it it gets to the liners and finds the rats, and on how it
   "worries" its quarry. The judge wants to see the Jack Russell bark,
   growl, dig and whine.
   The Racing division is probably what first attracts and most excites
   both terriers and owner at these trials. A sanctioned track is at
   least 150 feet long, and is a straight course (sometimes with jumps
   added) with a starting box at one end and a stack of hay bales with a
   hole in the middle (the finish line) at the other. A lure (usually a
   piece of scented fur) is attached to a piece of string that is pulled
   along by a generator. The dogs are muzzled for safety because of the
   excitement. The first dog through the hole in the haybales is the
   winner--and the winner, despite the impediment of the muzzle, usually
   has the lure clamped firmly between its teeth.
   The JRCTA gives out three types of Certificates for working. The
   Natural Hunting Certificate Below Ground in the Field, the Sporting
   Certificate, and the Trial Certificate. The Trial and Natural Hunting
   Certificate can only be awarded to a terrier by a sanctioned working
   Although the JRTCA has not yet adopted rules covering obedience work,
   some trials offer obedience competitions. The individual trial
   officials can tell you the requirements for their events.

   _The Jack Russell Terrier -- An Owner's Guide to A Happy Healthy Pet_
   by Catharine Romaine Brown. Especially good for first time JRT owners.
   T.F.H. Publications has a book called _Jack Russell Terriers_.
   _The Complete Jack Russell Terrier_, by Brian Plummer. Great book on
   the hunting with JRTs, with training tips and more... The best book
   I've read.
   _The Making of the Parson Jack Russell Terrier_ written by Jean &
   Frank Jackson and published in England.
   The JRTCA has a bi-monthly newsletter called "True Grit." It has
   80-100 pages (this has changed with the format changing from 8.5 x 5.5
   to 8.5 x 11--new page length is 40 to 50) of information, including
   updates on what is happening in the Club and with JRTs worldwide with
   articles on veterinary medicine, breeding, and general interest. It
   also contains poems, humorous stories and advice and training of
   hunting, as well as listings of JRT trials throughout the country and
   shops which carry JRT items. The newsletter is available free only
   with a JRTCA membership.
   The majority of the dogs that end up in the Russell Rescue are
   unwanted simply for being Jack Russells by nature and behavior. Owners
   often find that they were unprepared for the care required for this
   feisty terrier; and did not understand the nature of the breed, and
   their instinctive desire to hunt. Owners are often gone all day, and
   therefore unable to provide the time, attention, and level of activity
   necessary to this active little dog.
   Consider a Rescue dog before a puppy... give a Jack Russell Terrier a
   second chance at a good terrier life!
   JRTCA Russell Rescue c/o Catherine Romaine Brown Humane Services of
   the JRTCA 4757 Lakeville Road Geneseo, NY 14454-9731
   Jennifer Carr - Rhode Island (401) 737-1041
   Patti Cranmer - New Jersey (609) 261-3251
   Conni Martin - Washington (206) 885-9858
   Paul Kimmerly - Kansas (913) 432-0989
  Jack Russell Terrier Clubs
   _Jack Russell Terrier Club of America Inc._
          P.O. Box 4527, Lutherville, MD 21094-4527
   _Jack Russell Terrier Club of Canada_
          Yvonne Downey, 242 Henrietta St, Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada,
          L2A 2K7
   _Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain_
          Chairperson Greg Mousley, Aston Heath Farm, Sudbury, Derbyshire
          England DEGS88
    Jack Russell Terrier FAQ
    Stephanie Davis, c/o

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