Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Parson Russell
Average Cost to keep/care for a Parson Russell
The Parson Terrier is native to the UK where they were originally bred to work alongside Foxhounds although today, these charming dogs are kept more as companions and family pets thanks to their kind and loyal natures. They can be rough or smooth-coated and are renowned for being alert, lively terriers that are never happier than when they are outside chasing down a new scent. As such, Parson Terriers are not the best choice for people who live in apartments or who lead more sedentary lives, but are a very good choice for anyone living in a country environment with large, secure back gardens for their dogs to roam around in whenever they can.
The Parsons Terrier shares a history with the Jack Russell with the Jack Russell we know it today having been bred by the Reverend John Russell in the early 1800's. He purchased a dog from the milkman when he was studying at Oxford which he used to create a terrier capable of running with Foxhounds yet able to flush out a fox when needed without killing their prey.
As time passed, dogs with longer legs were selected with the end goal being to breed longer-legged terriers that were more capable of keeping up with horses and Foxhounds and it is these dogs that were to become known as Parson Russel Terriers. Today, these charming little dogs have remained a popular choice with people both as working dogs and companions thanks to their alert and lively natures and their charming looks.
Height at the withers: Males 36 cm, Females 33 cm
Average Weight: Males 5 - 8 kg, Females 5 - 8 kg
The Parson Terrier is a small, compact dog that boasts a very alert and lively look about them. Their heads are wedge-shaped with dogs having a moderately broad, flat skull that gets gradually narrower towards their eyes. They have a shallow stop and neat muzzle with a black nose. Their eyes are almond-shaped and dark in colour which always has an intelligent, keen and alert look about them. Ears are nicely proportioned in relation to a dog's head and V-shaped. They drop forward with the very tip of the ears reaching the corner of a dog's eyes.
The Parson Terrier has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are muscular and clean being a nice length and widening at a dog's long, sloping and well laid back shoulders. Front legs are set well back under a dog's body and are straight and strong.
They are compact little dogs with a moderately deep chests and ribs that are set well back. Their backs are straight, strong and very flexible with these terriers having strong, slightly arched loins which adds to a dog's overall balanced appearance. Their back legs are well muscled, strong with nicely developed second thighs.
Their feet are compact with dogs having slightly arched toes and nice firm pads. Tails are moderately long which dogs hold straight again adding to the well-balanced look of these terriers. Their tails are thicker at the base but taper towards the tip and are set quite high which dogs carry high when they are excited or alert, but lower when they are at rest or relaxed.
When it comes to their coat, the Parson Terrier can either have a rough or smooth coat, but both are naturally coarse to the touch and lie close to a dog's body. They have a denser and closer undercoat which provides a lot of protection against the elements. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Parson is a lively, outgoing highly intelligent terrier and as such they need to be given a lot of daily exercise combined with a ton of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient characters. They thrive on being around people and resent being left on their own for long periods of time. If a Parson is left to their own devices, boredom soon sets in and this could lead to a dog developing all sorts of behavioural issues which includes excessive barking and separation anxiety. As such, they are a great choice for families where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house.
Their hunting instincts remain very sharp and as such if a Parson is allowed to roam around a back garden, the fencing has to be ultra-secure because if they find any weaknesses, these terriers would soon get out to go off exploring. They are also excellent diggers which means a Parson is more than capable of digging their way out of a garden or enclosure if the mood takes them. Parsons are also known to be barkers, more especially if they are left alone for long periods of time.
They are a very good choice for first time owners because they love to please which paired to the fact these terriers are so intelligent, means they are easy to train, loving nothing more than the one-to-one contact they get during a training session. With this said, they are not the best choice for people who lead more sedentary lives because a Parson is quite demanding on the exercise front.
Parson Terriers are known to be intelligent little dogs, but like many other terrier breeds, they can have a bit of stubborn streak in them. As such, their socialisation and training has to start early with dogs being introduced to new situations, people, animals and other pets as soon as they have been fully vaccinated. Their training has to be consistent and always fair because these little terriers respond well to being taught new things with a firm yet gentle hand. They do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training. With this said, owners need to pay particular attention to the recall command because Parson Terriers are known to turn a deaf ear if they pick up a more interesting scent when they are allowed to run off their leads.
Parson Terriers are known to be good around children especially if they have grown up together. However, any interaction between children and a dog should always be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with a child getting hurt or scared, albeit by accident.
Care has to be taken when a Parson comes into contact with any other small animals and pets because of their high prey drive. Even when they have been well socialised from a young age, the terrier in a Parson tends to get the better of them when they come into contact with small pets and other animals. They can be a little dominant around other dogs and in particular when they meet any other terriers so care has to be taken when out on a walk in a public place.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Parson Terrier is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Parson is known to suffer from few hereditary health issues, but the condition that seems to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Parsons need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Parson Terrier has a dense double coat, however, they are quite low maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good which is particularly true of smooth-coated dogs. Rough coated dogs need a little more coat care which involves having their coats hand stripped several times a year which is a task that's best left up to a dog groomer. This makes it a lot easier for owners to keep a dog’s coat tidy in between visits to a grooming parlour.
Both smooth and rough coated dogs shed throughout the year, but they tend to shed the most during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to keep on top of things. At other times of the year, a weekly brush is all that's needed to take out any shed and dead hair from a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Parson Terriers are high energy little dogs and as such they need to be given at least 60 minutes exercise a day. A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these lively and energetic terriers in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble. The Parson is an expert digger and they love nothing more than digging up a garden whenever they feel bored which another thing that owners need to bear in mind when they let a Parson run free in a back garden.
With this said, Parson puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a few problems later on in a dog’s lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because these are the sorts of things that do put a lot of pressure on their fragile and growing joints.
If you get a Parson puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Parson Russell Terrier, you would need to pay anything from £200 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Parson Terrier in northern England would be £18.12 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £37.94 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Parson Terrier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Parson Terrier would be between £50 to £70 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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