Parson Russell Terrier

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parson russell terrier portrait
Meet the Parson Russell Terrier – the spirited and sassy bundle of joy that's all about charm and tenacity! With their boundless energy, quirky personality, and signature 'never back down' attitude, these little dynamos are here to prove that big adventures come in small, feisty packages.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Parson Russell Terrier is an ideal companion for active individuals or families who love outdoor adventures! If you have a zest for life, enjoy a good game of fetch, and don’t mind a little dog hair on your couch, this lively, intelligent, and affectionate breed could be the perfect match for you.


OFFICIAL NAMEParson Russell Terrier
BREED GROUPTerrier Group
HEIGHT13-14 inches
WEIGHT13-17 lbs
LIFESPAN13-15 years
parson russell terrier standing on grass
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The first thing you’ll notice about The Parson Russell Terrier is their compact size. Standing tall on their legs, yet sleek enough to squeeze into tiny spaces, these terriers typically measure between 13 to 14 inches at shoulder height.

Despite their petite stature, they are robust and athletic, built for both speed and endurance. A male Parson Russell Terrier is as tall as it is long, giving them an almost square appearance. This unique body structure enables them to keep pace with horses and dig into narrow burrows in pursuit of foxes – a testament to their hunting lineage.

Their heads are well-proportioned to their bodies, featuring a strong, rectangular muzzle and a well-defined stop. On top of their heads sit their ears, which are small, V-shaped, and drop forward close to the cheek. Their eyes are a dark almond shape, moderate in size, and often sparkling with mischief and intelligence.

One of the most distinctive features of the Parson Russell Terrier is their coat. It comes in two variants – rough and smooth. Regardless of the type, their coats are predominantly white, sometimes with black or tan markings.

The rough coat gives them a charmingly scruffy appearance, while the smooth coat lends a more refined look. Both coat types are dense and weatherproof, perfect for an active dog that loves to be outdoors.

The tail of a Parson Russell Terrier is one of its most expressive features. Set high and normally docked, it’s a flagpole of sorts, signaling their mood – wagging furiously during play, standing firm and erect when alert, or tucking under when they’re a bit unsure.

Overall, the Parson Russell Terrier is a bundle of dynamism packed into a small package. Its physical traits not only contribute to its unique appearance but also signify its fearless, energetic, and fun-loving nature.

parson russell terrier standing on wooden floor
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The Parson Russell Terrier is a delightful mix of high energy, intelligence, and affection wrapped in a small, furry package. They are often described as plucky and playful, bringing a spark of joy and excitement wherever they go.

One of the first things you’ll notice about a Parson Russell Terrier is their vibrant personality. They’re outgoing and confident, with an ever-wagging tail that signals their enthusiasm for life. Their bold nature can sometimes be mistaken for stubbornness, but it’s actually a testament to their independent spirit.

Their bright eyes are windows to a world of curiosity and eagerness. Always ready to explore, these dogs are known to be adventurous and fearless, never backing down from a challenge. Whether it’s a new toy or a new environment, a Parson Russell Terrier approaches everything with an unquenchable zest for discovery.

These terriers are also extremely intelligent. They quickly pick up on patterns and cues, making them excellent problem solvers. Don’t be surprised if your Parson Russell Terrier figures out how to open a latch or fetch a ball hidden under the couch. With their sharp minds, they love engaging in activities that stimulate their intellect.

Despite their independence, Parson Russell Terriers are incredibly affectionate and form strong bonds with their families. They thrive on companionship and enjoy being involved in family activities. They are known to be great with children, matching their energy levels and enjoying fun-filled playtimes.

However, it’s important to note that their friendly demeanor extends beyond their human family. Parson Russell Terriers are typically sociable with other dogs and pets as well. Their history as hunting dogs means they enjoy the company of others and are usually comfortable in multi-pet households.

On the flip side, their hunting lineage also means they have a high prey drive. This can make them a bit too enthusiastic when encountering smaller animals, so supervision may be necessary until they learn to interact gently.

In terms of their emotional sensitivity, Parson Russell Terriers are quite perceptive. They are often attuned to their owners’ moods and feelings, making them excellent emotional companions. They can sense when you need some cheering up and will gladly provide comfort with their warm presence and playful antics.

Despite their small size, Parson Russell Terriers have big hearts filled with love and loyalty. They are cheerfully devoted to their families, always eager to please and bring happiness.

parson russell terrier catching a flying disc
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Ideal Environment

The Parson Russell Terrier is an energetic breed that thrives in a lively environment. These dogs are perfect for active individuals or families who love to engage in outdoor activities. They are always up for an adventure, whether it’s a hike in the woods, a game of fetch in the park, or a fun day at the beach.

Physical Environment

While they love the great outdoors, Parson Russell Terriers are also quite adaptable to urban living. They can be happy apartment dwellers as long as they get a good dose of daily exercise and mental stimulation. However, they’ll definitely appreciate having access to a securely fenced yard where they can romp around freely.

One more thing to note is that Parson Russell Terriers are diggers by nature. If you have a cherished garden, you might want to designate a specific area for them to indulge their digging instincts without ruining your roses!

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to weather adaptability, Parson Russell Terriers are fairly resilient. Their dense double coat provides insulation in colder climates. However, remember to keep them warm during extreme cold, as they are small and might not handle very low temperatures well.

In hot weather, they are generally comfortable, but like all dogs, they can be prone to overheating. It’s crucial to provide plenty of fresh water, shade, and avoid intense physical activity during peak heat hours.

Ideal Owner

As for their human companions, these terriers do best with pet parents who are able to provide firm yet loving guidance. They’re intelligent and independent, which can sometimes translate to stubbornness, so a consistent and patient approach to their upbringing is important.

Other Pets

In terms of other pets, their sociable nature makes them generally good companions for other dogs. However, due to their strong prey drive inherited from their hunting days, they might chase smaller animals like cats or rabbits. Early socialization can help them learn to coexist peacefully with other pets.

parson russell terrier's face up close
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If you’re considering bringing a Parson Russell Terrier into your home, you’ll be pleased to hear that their grooming needs are relatively low-maintenance compared to many other breeds. However, like all dogs, they still require regular care to keep them looking their best and feeling their healthiest.

Coat Care

Let’s start with their distinctive coat. Whether they have a rough or smooth coat, Parson Russell Terriers are moderate shedders. A weekly brushing should suffice to keep loose hair in check and their coats looking tidy. For this, a slicker brush or a hound mitt works wonders. It helps remove dead hair and also stimulates the skin, distributing natural oils for a healthy shine.

Now, if your furry friend has a rough coat, you might need to strip it a few times a year. Stripping involves pulling out the dead hair by hand or using a stripping knife. It sounds dramatic, but don’t worry, it’s not painful for them! Stripping helps maintain the texture and color of their coat. If you’re unsure about how to do this, a professional groomer can help.

Bathing your Parson Russell Terrier doesn’t need to be a frequent event. These dogs naturally keep themselves quite clean. A bath every few months or so, or when they get particularly dirty, is usually enough. Always use a dog-specific shampoo to protect their skin’s pH balance.

Dental Care

Moving on to dental care, it’s essential for preventing bad breath and gum disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth at least two or three times a week is ideal. Use dog-friendly toothpaste and a soft toothbrush designed for pets. Dental chews can also be a great supplement to help keep their teeth clean.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget those nails! Depending on how active your Parson Russell Terrier is, nail trimming might be needed every few weeks. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. Be cautious not to cut into the quick, the sensitive part of the nail that can cause bleeding. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, a vet or groomer can assist.

Ear Care

Lastly, make sure to regularly check their ears for signs of infection, like redness, swelling, or bad odor. Clean them gently using a cotton ball dampened with a pH-balanced ear cleaner. Also, keep an eye on their eyes. Any discharge should be wiped away with a soft, damp cloth.

parson russell terrier running on the beach
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If you’re looking for a couch potato dog, the Parson Russell Terrier is not it! These lively little dogs are bundles of energy and require regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy.

Exercise Amount & Types

Expect to dedicate at least an hour or two each day for their physical activity. This doesn’t mean just letting them out in the yard; Parson Russell Terriers thrive on interaction and love to be engaged in play. Fetch, tug-of-war, or a good old game of chase will keep them entertained and help burn off their abundant energy.

Walks are another essential part of their exercise routine. A couple of brisk walks a day, coupled with some playtime, should be sufficient. However, because they were bred for hunting, they have an innate love for exploring and will enjoy hiking or jogging with you. They’re also known for their agility and speed, making them excellent companions for more strenuous outdoor activities.

Parson Russell Terriers are not just physically active but mentally sharp as well. They love challenges and mental stimulation. Puzzle toys, hide-and-seek games, or training sessions can keep their minds sharp and satisfy their need for mental engagement.

Dog Sports

Speaking of training, these terriers excel in dog sports due to their intelligence and agility. They are often seen participating in events like flyball, earthdog trials, and agility competitions. If you’re interested in these activities, your Parson Russell Terrier would likely be an enthusiastic partner!

parson russell terrier jumping at an agility trial
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Training a Parson Russell Terrier can be an exciting adventure filled with rewarding moments. These dogs are known for their intelligence, agility, and a dash of independent spirit, which certainly keeps things interesting.

Start training early on when you bring home a Parson Russell Terrier. Socializing your pup with various people, environments, and other animals is a critical first step. This early exposure helps them grow into well-rounded adults who are comfortable in different situations.

Next, begin with basic obedience training. Simple commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’ are a good starting point. Parson Russell Terriers are quick learners, but they also have an independent streak. It’s important to establish a firm and consistent training routine right from the start.

Remember, these dogs respond best to positive reinforcement techniques. They love praise and treats, so use these as rewards for good behavior. A harsh or punitive approach won’t work with these spirited terriers. Instead, patience, kindness, and consistency will yield better results.

Given their hunting lineage, Parson Russell Terriers have a strong prey drive. This means they might chase after small animals. Training them to respond to a recall command is vital for their safety. Also, when in open or unfamiliar areas, it’s safer to keep them on a leash.

These terriers excel in dog sports, thanks to their agility and energy. Consider enrolling them in activities like agility courses, earthdog trials, or flyball. These not only provide physical exercise but also engage their sharp minds.

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for this breed. Puzzle toys, hide-and-seek games, or learning new tricks can keep their minds active and satisfied.

House training should start as soon as your pup arrives home. Regular trips outside and praise when they ‘do their business’ in the right place will help them understand quickly.

parson russell terrier doing slalom at an agility trial
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Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Parson Russell Terrier the right diet is crucial to their overall health and well-being. These active dogs require a diet that can fuel their high energy levels and support their overall health.

What to Feed & How Much

When it comes to choosing their food, look for high-quality dry, wet, or raw food that meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The food should contain a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins are especially important for these active dogs, as they support muscle development and maintenance.

The amount you feed your Parson Russell Terrier will depend on their age, weight, and activity level. Puppies, who are growing rapidly, require more frequent meals – usually three to four times a day. As they grow into adulthood, this can be reduced to two meals a day. Always refer to the feeding guidelines on your dog food package as a starting point and adjust according to your dog’s needs.


Treats are a great tool for training, but remember to give them in moderation. They should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake to prevent obesity. Opt for healthy options like pieces of fruits and vegetables or specially made dog treats.


Hydration is another key aspect of their diet. Ensure your Parson Russell Terrier has access to fresh water at all times, especially after exercise or during hot weather.

parson russell terrier running with a stick in the forest
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Parson Russell Terriers are a generally healthy breed, full of energy and life. They have an impressive life expectancy of around 13-15 years when properly cared for. But like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Being aware of these can help you take better care of your furry friend. Here are common health issues associated with the breed:

Patellar Luxation: This is a knee condition where the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal location. It’s a common issue in small dogs and can lead to lameness or an abnormal gait.

Deafness: Some Parson Russell Terriers can be born deaf in one or both ears. Regular hearing checks can help detect this at an early stage.

Eye Conditions: These terriers can be prone to several eye conditions like lens luxation, cataracts, and glaucoma. Regular eye exams can help catch and address these issues early.

Ataxia: This is a neurological condition that affects coordination and balance. Symptoms usually appear between 6 weeks and 4 months of age.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This condition affects the hip joint and can lead to limping and muscle wastage. It usually occurs when the dog is a puppy.

Despite these potential health issues, remember, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in keeping your Parson Russell Terrier in good shape. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation are key to their well-being.

Regular vet check-ups are also crucial to monitor their health and keep them up-to-date with vaccinations. Your vet can provide personalized advice on nutrition, exercise, and preventative care to ensure your Parson Russell Terrier leads a long, happy, and healthy life.

parson russell terrier relaxing in an open field
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The Parson Russell Terrier is a breed with a rich history, closely tied to the charming countryside of England. The breed’s origins date back to the mid-1800s, when they were bred by Reverend John “Jack” Russell, a clergyman and hunting enthusiast from the south of England.

Rev. Russell aimed to create a breed that could keep up with horses during a hunt while also being small enough to chase foxes out of their burrows. The result was a lively, intelligent, and fearless terrier that quickly gained popularity among hunting enthusiasts.

Over time, the Parson Russell Terrier has made its way not only into homes around the world but also into popular culture. Perhaps the most famous Parson Russell Terrier is Moose, the canine actor who played Eddie on the hit TV show “Frasier.” Moose’s comedic timing and expressive face earned him a special place in viewers’ hearts and raised the breed’s profile significantly.

Despite their small size, Parson Russell Terriers have also made a big impact on the big screen. A Parson Russell named Uggie starred in the Oscar-winning film “The Artist,” showcasing the breed’s intelligence, agility, and charm.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Parson Russell Terrier in 1997. Currently, the breed ranks 121st on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds. While they may not be at the top of the list, anyone who has ever owned a Parson Russell Terrier knows just how special this breed truly is.

Parent Club

The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA) is the parent club for the breed in the United States. It’s dedicated to preserving and promoting the Parson Russell Terrier. While the exact founding date isn’t specified, the PRTAA has been instrumental in championing this energetic and intelligent breed for many years.

For more information about the PRTAA, including membership, breed standards, and upcoming events, visit their official website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Parson Russell Terrier’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

parson russell terrier puppy playing outdoor
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Bringing a Parson Russell Terrier into your home is an exciting decision! Before acquiring one, ensure your lifestyle matches their high energy and need for mental stimulation. If you choose to buy, always opt for reputable breeders who prioritize the health and temperament of their dogs.

Adopting a rescue dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience, too. Many Parson Russell Terriers are looking for their forever homes and could be a perfect match for you. The American Kennel Club and the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America (PRTAA) can assist with rescuing a dog, providing resources and connecting you with rescue organizations.

Remember, whether you’re buying or adopting, preparation is key. Make sure your home is puppy-proofed, and you have all necessary supplies like food, a bed, toys, and grooming tools. With preparation and love, your new Parson Russell Terrier will feel right at home!


What’s the difference between the Parson Russell Terrier, the Russell Terrier, and the Jack Russell Terrier?

While these three breeds share a common heritage and similar names, they are distinct breeds with differences in size, proportions, and breed standards. The Parson Russell Terrier is the tallest, bred for work that requires a longer leg length. The Russell Terrier is smaller and stockier. The Jack Russell Terrier, recognized by other kennel clubs but not the AKC, spans a wider range of sizes.

Is the Parson Russell Terrier a good pet?

Absolutely! Parson Russell Terriers make wonderful pets for active families. They’re friendly, intelligent, and energetic. However, they do require regular exercise and mental stimulation, so they’re best suited to households that can provide this.

Are Parson Russell Terriers rare?

While they’re not as common as some breeds, Parson Russell Terriers aren’t considered rare. They rank 121st on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds.

How smart are Parson Russell Terriers?

Parson Russell Terriers are highly intelligent. They’re quick learners and have a keen sense of their surroundings. Their intelligence, combined with their independent nature, can sometimes lead to mischievous behavior if they’re not adequately stimulated.

Do Parson Russell Terriers get along with other dogs?

Parson Russell Terriers can get along well with other dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized from a young age. However, their strong prey drive means they might not be suitable for homes with small pets like rodents or birds.

How much exercise do Parson Russell Terriers need?

These are active dogs that require plenty of exercise. Ideally, they should have at least an hour of vigorous activity each day. This could include walks, playtime, or participating in dog sports.

Are Parson Russell Terriers good with children?

Yes, Parson Russell Terriers can make excellent family pets and generally get along well with children. However, as with any breed, it’s important to supervise interactions between dogs and young children to ensure safety for both.

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