Upbeat, lively, inquisitive, and friendly, the jaunty Russell Terrier was developed by England’s “Sporting Parson” for use in foxhunts. The adorable Russell Terrier looks like a plush toy come to life but is an eager, tireless working terrier. These jaunty little fellows pack lots of personality into a compact, rectangular body standing 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder. Their dark, almond-shaped eyes and mobile V-shaped ears bring out the keenly intelligent expression’¿an endearing hallmark of the breed. All three coat types are mostly white with markings that are tan or black, or both. Russells move with a free, effortless gait that announces the breed’s innate confidence.
The Russell and Parson Russell terriers share a common heritage as fox-working dogs from the kennels of Rev. John “The Sporting Parson” Russell of the mid-1800s. Since the parson’s day, the lines of the two terriers have diverged and are now recognized as two distinctly separate breeds. Russells were bred to be swift enough to run with the hounds and tough but compact enough to go to ground and bolt prey.
The majority of Russell Terriers are happy, healthy little dogs. Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as patellar luxation (loose kneecaps), deafness, and eye disease, and are dedicated to preserving the genetic health of the breed by doing health testing on all their breeding stock.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Patella Evaluation
- BAER Testing
- Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) – DNA Test
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The Russell Terrier’s rough and ready appearance is easily maintained. Coats come in three types: smooth, broken, and rough. The dense, short, smooth coat can be kept looking great with an all-over rubdown with a soft brush or a hound glove once a week. The rough and broken coats will require going over with a brush or a dog comb weekly but are kept mostly natural, with minimal grooming. The Russell’s nails should be trimmed monthly, and his ears checked weekly for debris or excess wax and cleaned as needed.
The Russell Terrier is not a breed for a couch-potato family. High energy levels and a robust personality make this an excellent choice of breed for an outdoorsy family who takes lots of hikes, bike rides, and long daily walks. Finding games he loves to play will help keep his brain and his body exercised. A tired Russell Terrier is a good RT. With an almost limitless supply of energy, this makes a great companion dog for children who understand dogs. The breed has retained a strong prey drive so should be very well socialized early on to circumvent any problems that might result from that trait.
The first tool one must have when training a Russell Terrier is a good sense of humor. They are extremely intelligent and love to work on problems and play games. They bore easily, so training sessions must be kept entertaining if you want them to learn. They master tricks easily and love entertaining people by performing. They throw themselves into any job or activity with the same dedication they were bred to have for hunting purposes. They are great choices for canine sports such as agility, flyball, obedience, rally, and even lure coursing.
The Russell Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.