Parson Russell Terrier

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Parson Russell Terrier

14-18 lb
13-15 years
AKC Terrier
Best Suited For
Families with children, active singles and seniors, houses with yards
Friendly, bold, intelligent, independent
Comparable Breeds
Jack Russell Terrier, Pembroke Welsh Corgi
12-14 inches
Parson Russell Terrier Basics

Some lost and unfortunate people seem to be convinced that the Parson Russell Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier are the same dog. This confusion has gone on for too long and it’s time to set things straight. While, it may be similar to the Jack Russell Terrier, the Parson Russell Terrier is a breed all its own. It’s time that everyone finally stop making this mistake. Both breeds are wonderful and both breeds are unique.

In fact, the Parson Russell Terrier was distinguished as its own breed in 2003. But while the name is different, the essential look, temperament, and genuine qualities inherent to this breed have not been shaken in the slightest. This is a smaller dog with the bright and energetic personality that many expect from smaller dogs, with a high propensity toward playfulness and confidence. They are little sweethearts who brighten up every home.

But is a Parson Russell Terrier for you? There’s a good chance it is, considering how durable and flexible this breed can be. However, given how strong the Parson Russell Terrier’s personality can be, it’s only a recommended breed for people who understand dog training and what it means to behave like a leader with their dog. If you have experience in leading dogs, then you can unlock the great aspects of the Parson Russell Terrier’s personality and enjoy a cheerful friend. If not, you have to be careful or else the Parson Russell Terrier will start leading you!

To find out whether or not you’ll need to bring a Parson Russell Terrier into your home, keep your eyes glued to this page and scroll away. We are about to reveal everything that you could possibly want to know about this incredible little pup!

It may be similar to the Jack Russell Terrier, but the Parson Russell Terrier is a breed all its own.


Originally named after a Clergyman, the Jack Russell Terrier, as it was previously known, was a “game” dog that originally went after foxes. This required not only agility and smarts, but significant diggings skills, which many Parson Russell Terriers retain to this day. Because this was generally a working breed of dog, the original Jack Russell Terriers could have a great deal of size variance, depending on the jobs that they were expected to perform. Today, through careful breeding, that size variance has generally subsided and the Parson Russell Terrier has become a relatively smaller size of dog.

As it happens, the Parson Russell Terrier can still often be used as a working dog in situations like farms, stables, and can still be considered a good hunting companion depending on the type of game you’re after. It all comes down to careful training and socialization from an early age to ensure that your pup grows into the working dog that you are looking for.


The pedigree of the Parson Russell Terrier includes the Jack Russell Terriers of the 19th century, but many people also suggest that the modern breed has included ancestors like the Welsh Corgi (which is a smaller dog and could explain the modern breed’s stable, but small, size). It’s hard to say precisely how far back this lineage goes.

Although the name has changed from Jack Russell to Parson Russell, the essential breed of terrier has remained the same, especially considering the name change was only instituted in 2003. This name change has not come with a change in pedigree, and modern Parson Russells can still be considered to have the same essential pedigree as the Jack Russells that immediately preceded them. This is a new breed and while there is still some confusion about that, it’s time to finally recognize Parson Russells as their own unique doggo, independent of his forbearer.

Food / Diet

A very small dog means a dog that can easily pack on the pounds in a hurry, so it’s important to feed a dog protein to keep it full. Meat like hard-boiled eggs, poultry, beef, and even lamb all make great additions to their diet, especially incorporated into other ingredients snuck in for nutrition’s sake.

If you are in any way concerned about establishing or altering the diet of your Parson Russell, it’s always wise to check in with a veterinarian first. While dog food manufacturers and pet blogs provide useful feeding guidelines, they are still just guidelines and won’t necessarily apply to every dog. All dogs are different after all, each with their own needs. The only person qualified to to determine the specific dietary needs of your personal pooch is a vet. So always depend on their expertise before filling up your dog’s bowl with anything new.

The Parson Russell Terrier has a very strong and noticeable personality.


Generally considered to be confident and strong-willed, the Parson Russell Terrier will be receptive to training if you can demonstrate patient and effective leadership. It’s not difficult, however, to let the Parson Russell Terrier get under your skin and eventually find a way to win dominance over you, so be sure that you understand the principles of leadership before starting your dog on a training regimen. Rules and limitations will be important for the Parson Russell Terrier so that it understands it does not have permission to go everywhere in your home like you do.

You must establish yourself as the alpha in your relationship to get the training results that you crave from your Parson Russell Terrier. However, it’s important to do this with a soft touch. All training should be rooted primarily in positive reinforcement and treat-based encouragement. Relying too heavily on punishment and negative reinforcement is closer to abuse than training and will never get the results that you crave. Training any dog is a tremendous responsibility, so take it seriously. There’s no harm in enrolling your pup in a training school either. Not only will that make training easier for you, but it will help socialize your dog as well.


At a general weight of 14-18 pounds, this is quite a small dog; don’t let it bully you! Also, be sure that you feed it properly and understand that a small dog requires a similarly small diet.

Temperament / Behavior

The Parson Russell Terrier has a very strong and noticeable personality. When properly disciplined, this personality will be cheerful, energetic, playful, and confident. In short, everything that anyone could possibly want from a dog. The Parson Russell Terrier’s personality is a great combination for a true dog lover, which helps explain the special breed’s general popularity in the United States. It’s important that this dog have a strong personality, as this is indicative of it having a healthy personality for its breed. Over-aggressiveness and insecurity should both be avoided. This dog is also susceptible to developing the dreaded “little dog syndrome.” Nobody wants that, which is the primary reason to start training and socialize a Parson Russell Terrier as early as possible. Do not let those early and impressionable puppy days go to waste.

Common Health Problems

Generally, eye problems, deafness, and joint issues will plague this breed, especially joint issues that are generally well-known to be “small dog” joint problems, such as Legg Perthes. It’s important to maintain regularly scheduled checkups with a vet (especially as your dog ages into their senior years) to ensure that any potential health issues are identified and treated as early as possible.

Life Expectancy

A healthy dog in general, it can live in excess of 15 years, among the highest on the dog life expectancy spectrum.

Exercise Requirements

This dog loves plenty of space and requires a good amount of thorough daily exercise. A properly-exercised dog has had his chance to point his energy somewhere and this means it will generally have a more pleasant and balanced personality. If they don’t burn off their energy through productive exercise every day, they will find other ways to burn off their excess energy that won’t be quite as pleasant. This dog will enjoy a good open area like a park or even a country home, and can be both a city and country dog but will definitely require regular exercise in either case.

Outgoing and friendly, the Parson is tenacious in the field and affectionate in the home.


Says the American Kennel Club of this breed: “Outgoing and friendly, the Parson is tenacious in the field and affectionate in the home. No matter the venue, the breed is filled with energy, so he requires regular exercise and attention. Although good with children, he does not tolerate rough handling from toddlers.”


Minimal grooming with this dog is required, such as a little brushing with a firm brush. The coat is generally easy to take care of, and when these dogs are presented at shows the coat must be “stripped.”


These dogs should learn their boundaries from a young age, but should also be given the opportunity to explore and socialize with people and even other animals so that they don’t grow an unhealthy understanding of others.

Photo credit: godrick/Shutterstock

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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