Russell Terrier – Everything You Need To Know

Russell Terrier Basic Information

  • Name: Russell Terrier
  • Size: Small
  • Height: Males: 10 to 13 inches & Females: 9 to 14 inches
  • Weight: Males: 12 to 17 pounds & Females: 9 to 15 pounds
  • Coat: Double layered, short and coarse
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
  • Color: White, Black and Brown
  • Energy: High
  • Origin: England
  • Activities: Hunting, Athletics, Agility, Obedience
  • Barking Level: Medium 
  • Shedding Level: Normal
  • Litter Size: 5 to 8 puppies
  • Group: Terrier Group
  • Breed’s Original Pastime: Hunting

Russell Terrier History

Rev. John Russell

The Russell Terrier is named after Rev. John Russell, a sporting person, who first developed them. Russell Terrier was developed in England during the 1800s as fox-working dogs. As Rev. John Russell loved fox hunting, he developed a breed that would run as fast as the foxes but are smaller in size to chase the foxes out of their hiding places. They were first developed in England, but further development was in Australia.

Initially, Russell Terrier was bred to run swiftly and hunt prey with hounds and be working dogs. Now they are classified as Terrier groups.  Though they are all named after Rev. John Russell, the Russell Terrier is different from Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell Terrier. They all have similar colors and shapes but they vary in size. 

From 2005 October, Russell Terrier had been in the Foundation Stock Service. They have also been recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are the 175th breed to be registered in the AKC. Russell Terrier holds 82nd position in the AKC among the 192 other dog breeds.

Russell Terrier Breed Overview

Developed primarily for hunting, Russell Terrier has a high drive for driving. Though they are small in size, they have energy similar to that of a big dog. Russell Terriers are lively, highly active, excellent companions and tireless working dogs. 

They are always alert and possess a hunting instinct. Their appearance adds to their alert look. Russell Terriers move around freely and they are naturally confident.

Russell Terrier has a mind of its own and might go on its way. Proper training and early socialization are required to ensure their proper behavior. Russell Terrier will easily be bored, so keeping them entertained is essential.

Russell Terrier Breed Pros and Cons 

HealthyHigh Prey Drive
Exceptional Guard DogTendency to Dig
High EnergyMay be aggressive

Russell Terrier Highlights

  • Russell Terriers tend to dig a lot that cannot be trained out of them. Therefore, training them to dig in a specific location will be helpful for you and the dog.
  • The backyards should be deeply fenced and checked regularly. Supervising Russell Terriers when they spend time outdoors is essential because of their high prey drive.
  • Training a Russell Terrier requires more time, energy, and experience. 
  • Russell Terriers are not suitable for apartment living because of their occasional barking habits.
  • Early socialization with other dogs and animals is recommended to avoid any aggressive behavior.
  • Russell Terriers are close to their family and are prone to separation anxiety if left alone for a longer duration.
  • Russell Terriers can jump on people and accidentally hurt them. So, proper training is necessary to avoid such behavior.

Russell Terrier Personality

Russell Terrier is a small, energetic breed with a high drive for hunting and prey. An average male Russell Terrier will stand as tall as 10 to 13 inches and weighs around 12 to 17 pounds. The females are relatively smaller with 9 to 14 inches in height and they weigh 9 to 15 pounds. For an ideal Russell Terrier, their height and weight should be proportional. They are rectangularly built with a mind of their own. Their coat color ranges from white, black, brown, fawn and it could be a mixture of two or three colors. They are always alert and very attentive. Despite their small size, they can work tirelessly. They are primarily employed for hunting, and now they are involved in athletics, rallies, and tracking. 

Friendliness Overview:

Affection Level                           High
Kid-FriendlyMedium to High
Strangers-FriendlyMedium to High 

Adaptability Overview:

Good for New Pet OwnersLow to Medium
Good for Apartment LivingMedium 
Sensitivity LevelMedium
Tolerates being aloneMedium
Cold ToleranceMedium to High
Heat ToleranceMedium

Trainability Overview:

Easy to TrainMedium to High
Prey DriveHigh
Tendency to Chew, Nip & Play-biteMedium to High
Tendency to Bark or HowlMedium to High
Wanderlust AbilityMedium to High
Attention/Social NeedsMedium to High

Russell Terrier Physical Features

Russell Terrier has a wide skull with the width reducing from the skull to the jaw making the jaw appear strong. They have short, wide muzzles and well-developed cheek bones.  The almond-shaped eyes of Russell Terrier are dark and prominent giving them an alert, attentive appearance. The color of the eye and the eye rim is black, so any other color other than black will be penalized in shows. The drooping, V-shaped ears are folded with the end pointing downward till the corner of the eye and stand straight when the dogs are alert. Pricked ears or semi – pricked ears will be penalized. The Russell Terrier has tight black lips, large teeth and has a scissor bite. Broken tooth, missing tooth, undershot bite, overshot bite must be disqualified. 

Russell Terrier has a strong, clean neck without any wrinkles reaching gradually to the withers. This appearance is essential for terrier work. The neck is of the right length for the Russell Terrier’s mouth to reach beyond its forepaws while working.

The topline of a Russell Terrier will appear leveled while the dog is in motion. They have strong, short, muscularly built loins. A small arch along the loin can be felt. This arching is due to muscling and won’t be visible. Moderately tucked up, the brisket should not reach beyond the elbow.

The structure of the chest is important for Russell Terriers for skillful terrier works. The small, tight, compressible chest has to be in oval shape with the same size as that of a human hand and doesn’t hang beyond the elbow. The ribs are set far from the spine and tapering on their side, forming the oval shape to the spine. 

The strongly boned front quarters look straight when viewed from the front and slightly curved when viewed from the side from the elbow to the toe. The depth of the body from withers to the brisket and the length of the forequarters from elbow to toe should be proportional. Non-proportional or benched legs will be disqualified. 

The Russell Terrier has strongly built muscular hindquarters. When viewed from the top, the width of the hindquarters and the width of the elbow are equal. When viewed from the side, the hindquarters look parallel to each other. The feet are of moderate size, oval-shaped and roughly padded.

The tail is set at a height that does not allow the spine to slope. The tail will face the ground except when the dog is alert or playful. When the dog is alert, the tail will erect straightly or in a curve facing forward. Most Russell Terriers have an undocked tail but docking is still an option. Docked or Undocked tail depends on the owner. A docked tail should be of the same level as the ear. 

Russell Terrier comes in three different coats: Smooth, Rough, Broken. In the smooth coat, the hair is soft, coarse and short. The rough coat has thick and rough hair growth. The hair must not be curly or wavy. In the broken coat, the length of the hair is medium. The texture of the hair is in between smooth and rough. All three coat types are double layered and protect the dog from any weather. The belly and the underside should not be groomed. The coat must be natural with minimal grooming. 

Russell terrier’s color of the coat ranges from white, black to tan. Any other colors will be penalized. White is the predominant color with black, brown and tan patches. The different colored patches can be of any percentage, but the dog must have 51 percent white colored coat.

Russell Terriers usually move freely with confidence. The same confidence should be exhibited in shows also. In the shows, the dog must move without a leash. While moving slowly, the dog must track parallelly but with increase in speed, the feet must converge towards the center.

Russell Terrier Temperament 

The ancestors of the Russell Terrier are used for hunting, so they naturally have a hunting instinct. They are spirited and well suitable for athletics. They are used for hunting and in sports like rallying. They love to run and be off the leash.

The Russell terriers have a mind of their own and love to conduct themselves. Their only disadvantage is their prey instinct. 

They are loyal to their owners and affectionate towards their family. However, a Russell terrier is not recommended for new pet owners.

Russell Terriers love to be indoors with their family. They can do well with a small, deeply fenced backyard to burn off their high energy. Their high prey drive can provoke them to chase after small animals or what appears to be prey. You can leave them off-leash only in properly fenced spaces.

Training a Russell Terrier as early as possible is essential. Training has to be consistent and fun. Russell Terriers are intelligent and can easily learn many commands and tricks if trained right.  In addition to training, socializing Russell Terriers with children and other dogs since puppyhood will help prevent any aggressive behavior.

Russell Terrier Exercise Needs

Russell Terriers are highly energetic and require a lot of exercise. A good Russell Terrier behavior is exhibited only when it is tired. They need long walks, exercise and training sessions to keep their energy level positive. Try out new games and training to keep them mentally stimulated. Socialize them with kids and other pets early and often to avoid any undesirable qualities.

They have the tendency to dig because of their inborn preying instinct. Train them to avoid any such behavior inside the house. Russell Terrier can adapt to any weather conditions and loves to be outdoors. If you plan on bringing home a Russell Terrier, you must have the energy, patience and time to match with their energy. If you love outdoor activities like running, walking or like to go on long drives, hiking, Russell Terrier is the best option for you. 

Russell Terrier Grooming

Russell Terriers need minimal grooming. They shed occasionally but the brushing varies for different coat types. The smooth and short-coated Russell Terriers only need to be brushed once a week. Russell Terriers with broken or rough coat need to be brushed once a week along with minimal grooming. Bath them only when it is needed. Nail trimming and regular ear cleaning is necessary to avoid any infections.  

Grooming Overview:

Amount of Shedding                  Medium
Easy to GroomMedium
Tendency to Drool & SnoreLow

Russell Terrier Health

Russell Terriers are a healthy dog breed. The breeders have to ensure that the particular dog they are breeding is healthy. 

Health Overview:

Basic HealthMedium to High
Weight Gain PossibilitiesMedium to High
SizeLow to Medium

Following are a few of the health issues that can affect the otherwise healthy Russell Terrier.

  • Patellar Luxation: Patellar Luxation is a painful condition in which the knee cap of the dog is not fixed properly in its position. Early symptoms are shown while running or walking, the affected dog might feel uncomfortable and kick its leg to set the knee cap back on its position. These mild symptoms and patellar luxation on any one leg can be easily treated with medication. Severe cases might require surgery to cure the dog.
  • Lens Luxation: Lens Luxation causes the lens in the dog’s eyes to move from its position due to the weakening of the ligament that holds the eye lens in place. It requires medical attention and can be treated with the help of a veterinarian.
  • Deafness: Deafness usually occurs in breeds with white coats. As white is the predominant color in Russell Terriers, they are susceptible to deafness. This is hereditary and can be prevented by not breeding dogs with hearing conditions.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a very painful eye condition that can affect dogs and humans. There are two types of Glaucoma – Primary Glaucoma and Secondary Glaucoma.  Some of the symptoms are pain, squinting, watery eyes, and redness. Glaucoma requires medical attention as it can lead to blindness. Regular health checkups are recommended to identify and cure glaucoma at an early stage.
  • Legg Calve Perthes: Legg Calve Perthes is a contortion in the ball of the hip joint. This condition is common in small breed types and can affect Russell Terrier also. Legg Calve Perthes must be treated immediately as it can lead to arthritis. Treatment ranges from medication to clinical surgery. 
  • Dental Disease: It affects 80% of pets by the age of two. It causes tartar build-up on the teeth, infection of the gums and roots, and in extreme cases, loss of teeth and damage to the kidneys.
  • Infections: The Russell Terriers are prone to certain bacterial and viral infections such as rabies, parvo, and distemper. The viral infection can be prevented by giving a vaccination based on the dog’s age.
  • Parasites: The Russell Terriers can be infested with worms, bugs, fleas, and ticks that can get into their systems through unclean water, contaminated soil, or bitten by an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted to you and your family. Symptoms include discomfort, pain, and even death.
  • Obesity: It is a significant health condition in Russell Terrier. Excess weight can cause joint problems, back pain, digestive disorders, and heart disease. The best way to prevent this lifestyle disease is a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and also decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

National Breed Club Recommended Health Tests for Russell Terrier:

  • BAER Testing
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • PLL DNA Test

Russell Terrier Diet and Nutrition

Russell Terrier needs good quality food with all the necessary nutrients. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the nutrition needs before feeding them good quality dog food or homemade food. The quantity of food depends on the size and age of the dog. Russell Terriers might get obese easily, so compensate the quantity of treats with their diet to maintain their weight. 

Russell Terrier Living Condition

Russell Terrier’s coat protects them from any weather. They are ideal for farm living. They could also adapt well to small apartments with a backyard. They are highly energetic, and so they must have an open field even as small as a backyard to run around.

Households with cats must avoid getting a Russell Terrier. Young Children can keep the Russell Terrier active, but they must not be allowed near toddlers below 6.

Did You Know?

  • Russell Terriers are bred to be working earth terriers
  • Russell Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers are three distinct breeds
  • Russell Terriers first originated in England but they were developed in Australia

Russell Terrier Club Recognition

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CET = Club Español de Terriers (Spanish Terrier Club)
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • IKC = Irish Kennel Club
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club

Adding a Russell Terrier to Your Family

Russell Terrier Rescue Groups: There are countless Russell Terrier in need of adoption and/or nursing, and there are several breed-specific rescue associations across the country that are listed below:

  1. Russell Rescue
  2. Russell Rescue Organization

These groups can provide proper guidance with respect to adoption, and if you aren’t sure which breed is right for you, foster care to test if the breed is a good fit for your home.

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