Some dogs are instantly recognizable for their distinct looks and much-loved personality; the Russell Terrier is one such breed.

Russell Terriers, which include the slightly larger Parson Russell Terrier, date back to the 1800’s. Energetic and lively, they were introduced to be fox working dogs by British Rev. John Russell, where their name derives.

Brief History

The Russell Terrier is, instinctively, a hunting dog, which was bred to compete with hounds. Its small versatile build, sprightly nature and small chest make it not only perfect for hunting, but also for underground work too.

It wasn’t until the Russell Terrier was introduced to Australia, that it became officially recognized by the Kennel Club, and eventually the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.

Physical Features

A small and muscular dog, the Russell Terrier has a medium-sized body and a sturdy athletic frame. Its flat skull, black nose and v-shaped ears form its distinctive features. Ideal for underground work, its short chest compliments its straight legs and short tail. Its predominantly white coat is often characterized by tan, black and brown markings. It can be smooth, rough or broken. Although controversial and often shunned, tail docking is optional, according to the American Kennel Club.

Average Height:

10-12 inches

Average Weight:

9-15 pounds

Life Expectancy:

12-14 years


Owing to its ancestry, this is a lively and spirited breed that thrives in the great outdoors. Active and energetic, with a strong work ethic, they are well suited to owners that also enjoy lots of physical activity. They love companionship, hunting and playing, and tend to be rather sociable creatures that require lots of attention.

This is also a very intelligent dog that is both inquisitive and headstrong. They are fast learners, that benefit from training and socialization from a young age. Occasionally they may appear snappy and are prone to loud barking if not trained.

It is important to ensure they are well managed from the onset to prevent unruly and problematic behavior.

While they are not great with small animals or cats, they do enjoy the company of larger animals, including other dogs and horses.

Special Needs

From a young age, the Russell Terrier needs training and ongoing management to ensure bad behaviors are discouraged.

Being a naturally curious dog, they can often dig up gardens and escape from homes. As such, you will need to safeguard their environment and keep a close eye on them!

This is very much an outdoor dog, which is not suited to apartment living. They require plenty of attention and exercise, particularly running around.

Good news for those who like doggy fashion; in the colder months they may need an extra layer to help keep them warm!

Possible Health Concerns

There are a few health concerns that are known to plague this breed. This includes heredity conditions ‘Patellar Luxation’ – the abnormal development of kneecaps, and ‘Legg-Perthes’ disease – the deterioration of the top of the femur, which in serious cases results in amputation.

This breed may also suffer from ‘lens displacement’ an inherited eye problem, sometimes caused by trauma, glaucoma and degenerative changes.

Finally, congenital deafness can be a concern, although a BAER test is the best way to rule it out.

It is always advisable to buy your puppy from a professional approved breeder, who can share their family history with you.


An energetic breed, your Terrier demands plenty of regular exercise and canine sporting activities. This dog also needs to be mentally stimulated for its overall wellbeing.

This is one breed that bodes well as a running, jogging or biking companion, with its boundless reserves of energy.

Specifically during the puppy stage (six months and under), Russell Terriers should have special exercise programs to help prevent hip dysplasia and other injuries related to sports and exercise.


Russell Terriers can be picky eaters and tend to favor certain foods over others. However, it is particularly easy to prepare home-cooked meals for them under veterinary supervision. They enjoy bits of salmon, beef or chicken with steamed veggies and quinoa.

If you opt for commercial food, this should be the highest-quality diet, rich in all the necessary nutrients. Crucially, these should be appropriate for their age, health and activity level, since some Terriers are prone to gaining weight.


The Russell Terrier is not particularly high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. A soft brush or hound glove is suitable for their coat. A comb should also be used, to keep their coat free of dried mud and matting.

But, since this dog is fond of running around in the dirt, you may need to bath it regularly to keep it clean and free from fungus and hot spots. Canine shampoos and conditioners should be used.

Nails need to be trimmed as and when needed, and ears should be cleaned frequently. Your Russell Terrier’s teeth should be brushed every day, with twice yearly visits to professional dentists.

The Russell Terrier is a plucky and smart dog, that is loyal and committed to its owner. Fun-loving and active, it also has a strong personality that requires due care and attention and lots of room for running around.

With the right owner and plenty of stimulation, it will be the best version of its self; but if left alone for long periods or not given enough attention or exercise, this breed is prone to barking and causing havoc in the house!

Nonetheless, this is a curious and confident dog that will thrive in the right home.


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