Cuidado Con Los Jack Russells!
May 15, 2003 4:50 AM   Subscribe

Bwah! Why can't I have a Jack Russell? Until yesterday, I had my heart set on a Jack Russell... [More inside.]
posted by Carlos Quevedo (26 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: MetaFilter as technical support line?

Then I read this comment of substrate's in my thread about a destructive rabbit. Something clicked. So I looked into what the web had to offer on this most enchanting of all breeds. And woe was me!

I live in an apartment; have one very large, fat, stupid, pathologically lazy and placid black Persian cat; no children; a lovely wife who likes everything tidy and ship-shape and an abiding desire to get an energetic, intelligent, loyal and tenacious dog. I.e. Nothing like my cat, Varandas.

But I had no idea that most breeds of dog who answer to that description are theoretically highly unsuitable; forbidden even: "The majority of the dogs that end up in the Russell Rescue are unwanted simply for being Jack Russells by nature and behavior".


What shall I do?
posted by Carlos Quevedo at 4:51 AM on May 15, 2003

Maybe if you post about it you'll feel better.
posted by jpoulos at 5:01 AM on May 15, 2003

It's like all those kids who watch the movie Aladin and then wanted a pet tiger... or something.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:03 AM on May 15, 2003

'When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, looks you crooked in the eye and asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail." '

ok, so maybe it's jack burton, not jack russel, but it's still funny, goddamnit, and damn you, big trouble in little china is the best film ever made, and if you've anything to say about it, i know this guy lo pan who can shoot lightning out of his eyes, just like rayden. so step the fuck off.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:08 AM on May 15, 2003

I had a jack russell for seven years; she had been given to an animal shelter by a homeless man who couldn't take care of her any more. They are such sweet dogs; it's not an understatement to say that mine changed my life. (She died last year of kidney failure.)

If you can take your jack russell for walks at least twice daily, preferably off the leash in a park or country area, you'll be fine. Ditto if you can give them attention throughout the day. Anything else will result in both a frustrated owner and dog; really they're only suitable for people who work at home.

But man, they're so wonderful. Highly intelligent and incredibly affectionate. (Also, how can you not love an animal whose instinct appears to be to roll in shit and then make a beeline for the nearest elderly person? No?)
posted by bwerdmuller at 5:11 AM on May 15, 2003

Go for the Jack Russell, Mr. Quevedo.

An aunt of mine has had an endless succession of delightful Jack Russell terriers, and I can vouch for their friendliness and good-natured acceptance with children.

They're energetic little rascals, but with a little room to breathe they're tops in my book, although my personal preferences lean toward bigger, and less vociferous hounds, a Jack Rusell is a spiffy little character with plenty of personality to boot.
posted by hama7 at 5:16 AM on May 15, 2003

Hey thanks bwerdmuller - I work at home, mostly. Will he kill my cat though? Even if I get him as a puppy?
posted by Carlos Quevedo at 5:16 AM on May 15, 2003

Couldn't say. Mine co-existed with a houseful of cats for a summer, but I think it was ... grudging, to say the least. (It's also probably where she got the condition that led to her kidney failure, so I'm a little grr about it too.)

A further note: many people dock their tails. This is absolutely not necessary, is animal cruelty, etc etc.
posted by bwerdmuller at 5:19 AM on May 15, 2003

this page apparently offers a long list of e-mails of people who rescue Jack Russells -- I guess they'll be more than happy to share their knowledge with you, Carlos.

may I also suggest these fine Usenet resources

you can also chat about dogs here

bu I understand that MetaFilter is a much funnier chatroom, right? by the way, I need a new pair of soccer shoes: the Adidas Predators look nice but I think white soccer shoes will get dirty too fast (they're also pretty expensive). maybe Diadora is a better, sturdier, less flashy choice. but they're heavier, too. what should I do about that, guys?

not to mention that I can't find my car keys, did any of you guys see them?
posted by matteo at 5:41 AM on May 15, 2003


it's already too late to have a jack!
posted by deathofme at 5:49 AM on May 15, 2003

You could always get a badger, instead.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:49 AM on May 15, 2003


I'll elaborate a bit on my sister's Jack Russel Terrier, though I'm not sure this will placate your concerns or send you into a panic.

Everything on the page you posted is true, but the important thing is that if you can keep your JRT occupied you can usually keep the destruction to a minimum. A bored JRT is like a bored teenager, you're just asking for trouble. When my sister got her dog it was just after our childhood dogs died and she broke up with her fiance (and more importantly I think, her fiance's dog). She just knew that Jack Russel terriers were cute and that they could be a handful. Well, both counts were true. The first couple of months were pretty trying on my sister but then I got her a few good books on training Jack Russel terriers (you know you've got a breed that's innately a good dog when they've got books explicitly written on training them, right? Right?!)

A lot of really bad habits had to be broken, she was an aggressive pup, even around people. She would play with people like she'd play with another pup if she had one to play with. Those razor sharp puppy teeth and dew claws hurt, but the first step was teaching her that she couldn't play with people unless she had something (other than the person) in her mouth. JRTs are really smart dogs so this did not take all that long.

Is she docile? Not really, I don't think a JRT can be docile, but she plays well now. When she was a couple years old my parents even bought a wirehaired dachshund from the humane society. Maggie adapted really well to this and they play together. My sister got married and her husband also had a dog of his own. A big Louisiana Catahoula (close to 100 pounds). They get along fine and play together as well. To give you an idea of what they mean by a big dog in a small dogs body their play usually consists of wrestling around together. The JRT at around 14 pounds is the dominant one.

They now have a little boy and the JRT adjusted to that as well. It took a while but she never snapped at my nephew, rather she was very sulky till she accepted the new pecking order. JRTs are possessive.

All is not always wonderful though. The JRT occasional brings my sister presents in the form of small animals that dared to wander in my sisters territory. If you leave her for a few days, even though its with my parents who she's grown up with, she gets revenge when you return. Usually it means something you rather enjoyed having will be chewed up (really not her fault - I realize that those inanimate objects attacked first)

I'm not saying get one, I'm not saying don't get one. I'm saying do your homework. When I buy a house I will get a dog, and I think it will be a JRT.
posted by substrate at 5:52 AM on May 15, 2003

My parents' Jack Russell died last month after 16 years of nonstop energy and affection. A lot of the problems listed on ring true, but I wouldn't have traded ours for anything. My mom wants something a little more mellow for their next dog, which I can understand, so she's getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
posted by dougb at 6:01 AM on May 15, 2003

Our family had one for a while... his favourite activity was to try and eat the cat. Seriously... but he learned his lesson between the cat scratching his eyes and some good obedience school. Once trained he was probably the most obedient dog I ever had the privelege of owning. Unfortunately, my parent's divorce and subsequent move to a smaller house in the middle of another city forced me to give him away to a farmer friend.
posted by FiveFrozenFish at 6:02 AM on May 15, 2003

They are very far from being an appropriate breed for just anyone (there are VERY high numbers of them in rescue, especially when compared to their overall numbers - this is not a coincidence). If you're not an experienced dog person, you probably don't want one: they are challenging to train (they often don't see the point and are not a working breed which has been bred to be motivated to work for a handler), they generally have a low bite threshold, they are very busy (give them a job or they'll invent one), they need LOTS of exercise (don't let their size fool you, they need more exercise than most far larger breeds), they are notorious cat killers (worse than retired racing Greyhounds, since Greyhounds are usually predictable with testing, either they're cat safe or they're not, JRT's will often be fine around cats for years and then suddenly switch on to the cat as prey), they are very independent (good traits for a dog bred to kill other mammals in their own homes, not good traits for a nice house pet in most cases) and thanks to their recent surge in popularity and the subsequent increase in less-than-ethical breeding choices, there are also some very serious temperament problems in more than a few lines (if you do decide to get one, research your breeder very thoroughly). There are many other breeds far less challenging than JRT's (they don't call them "Jack Russell Terrorists" for nothing), and you shouldn't have too difficult a time finding one which meets most of your requirements. It's a pet which will be with you for at least a decade (hopefully), I applaud your being responsible enough to do your research ahead of time, this is something far too few people do.

dougb, the Cavalier is one of the sweetest breeds you'll find (one breeder says that their only fault is that they have no loyalty whatsoever, they love everyone), they are plagued with Mitral Valve Disease, however, so again, pick the breeder carefully and insist on a health guarantee in the contract (good practice with any breed).
posted by biscotti at 6:11 AM on May 15, 2003

Or you could get my favorite breed, which is the bizarro world Jack Russell. Recommended for people who want a loving, placid dog with few needs other than food, water, love, and being allowed to lie by your side and do whatever activity it is you want to do at any given moment.
posted by vito90 at 6:13 AM on May 15, 2003

I had a Jack Russell for all of about a year.

The first link is no lie, once my job started becoming more demanding and required more of my time, and thus the dog getting less, it completely changed.

Almost within a month my Jack went from well behaved and well trained dog, to an entirely uncontrollable ball of destructive energy.

Beware =/
posted by Addiction at 6:22 AM on May 15, 2003

I remember my Jack Russell.
It was the most demented, over-energetic animal I have ever seen.
Taking it for a walk was easy. I just strapped the leash to my bicycle and let it pull me until I was tired.
If I pointed on the ground and said "dig", he made a hole.
posted by spazzm at 6:24 AM on May 15, 2003

carlos, put your cat on a diet. let me tell you what happens to fat, pathologically lazy cats: thier joints give out. it hurts to walk, so they walk less. it hurts to squat, so they don't. a cat who doesn't squat cannot contain it's urine within the confines of the litter box. this is the voice of experience speaking. put your cat on a vet approved (too much weight loss too fast can kill a cat) diet today.
posted by quonsar at 6:38 AM on May 15, 2003

At least Jack Russells don't try to stare out anything that moves like Kelpies or Border Collies. (They're all great dogs, but they're all very demanding.)
posted by GrahamVM at 6:57 AM on May 15, 2003

While many Jack Russells are wonderful dogs, you really need to heed the behavior descriptions. My former roommate got her JR when we were still sharing a house. Kelsey was just a pup and I can attest that he was never abused. However, even as a pup, he was extremely aggressive to children. Now that my friend has a 1yr old of her own, she's desperately trying to find a home for Kelsey because he refuses to share her with her son and continues to be aggressive to the boy. It's actually worse now that the child is walking.

To curb the destructive nature, he was crate trained and really felt his crate was his safe spot, his den until about 2 years ago. He no longer sleeps in his crate and only destroys his designated toys.

In all other ways, Kelsey is a great dog. If I didn't have a child myself, I'd take him from her.

Best luck in your dog hunt.
posted by onhazier at 6:58 AM on May 15, 2003

Regardless what breed of dog you get, it's vital to do your research beforehand and to understand at least something about canine behavior.

Dogs sort of assume every critter they meet in social situations is also a dog. Even a mutt from the shelter is, basically, a pack animal that wants to know where it stands in the pack and is going to look to you for guidance -- if you're going to be assertive and proactive enough to give it. If you're not wise enough to understand this and consistent enough to stick with it, you're gonna have a problem dog.

Interestingly, JRs have a lot of similarities to poodles, believe it or not: They're both field dogs, are intelligent as all get-out, and kind of high-strung to boot. A good owner, basically acting as a parent and leader, can have a rewarding relationship with either, but a stupid owner will make the him/herself, the dog, and everybody around them utterly miserable.
posted by alumshubby at 7:05 AM on May 15, 2003

I love my Tibbie. Knowing they aren't as energetic as JRT's make me wonder how I would have dealt with a JRT. "Tuffy" was a puppy from hell, attacking pant legs and nipping anytime I tried to pet him on the head.

Lots of patience, lots of walks and he is now a great dog, still Alpha though. We also have a Shih Tzu who has a wonderful temperament, but is on the submissive side.

Life with dogs is great. Good luck on finding the breed that is right for you. I highly recommend the Tibetan Spaniel as well as the Shih Tzu.
posted by Mondo at 7:08 AM on May 15, 2003

Several months ago I was considering a Jack Russell and while doing my research I stumbled across the page you linked.

I wound up getting a Golden Retriever and he's a great dog and good with our cat. One thing I've noticed when we're at the dog park is that the Jack Russell Terriers are stand-offish and don't socialize much with the other dogs ... which is a big drawback in my opinion, because it's fun letting your dog go off and run with the others.
posted by blamb at 7:39 AM on May 15, 2003

having had a jack russell mutt dog for 6 or 7 years, i'll have to second the suggestion that they are not good apartment dogs, they shit small, but they bark big, and need too much exercise for most single, working folks.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:46 AM on May 15, 2003

If the, uh, Parson Russell appeals, try looking further down the mania chain at other small terriers. Most of them share a similar impish charm and intelligence and some are more likely to tune themselves to your lifestyle. I love Russells but for me they are like precocious children -- a delight to be around but I'm always glad when they go home with someone else. Miniature Schnauzers are not my personal cup of tea but often seem to serve well in situations such as you describe. Norwich/Norfolk are damnably cute, as are my namesake. And ditto the diet recommendation for the cat. So easy to kill our pets with kindness.
posted by cairnish at 7:56 AM on May 15, 2003

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