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Dog Breeds: Jack Russell Terrier—The Sparkplug

Originally bred in the United Kingdom in the early 1800s by one Reverend John (Jack) Russell, these pint-size terriers were used as a small-game-hunting dogs because of their spirited, obedient and utterly fearless nature. Today's owner must be as strong-willed as the dog or this clever canine will surely take over. If they believe they are the leader of the pack, varying degrees of behavior problems will arise, including guarding, snapping, separation anxiety and obsessive barking.

Varying size

During the breed's hunting days, when they chased red foxes, owners said the size of a good Jack should be about the same size as a fox, in order to follow the fox down a hole! On the average, Jacks are 12 to 14 inches high and weigh 13 to 17 pounds. Their double coat of bristly, thick hair protects them from the elements, though the shorter-legged variety (similar to a pocket Beagle) often has smoother coats.

Lively character

Be sure to socialize the Jack and give it plenty of exercise. If left alone during the day without enough activity, chaos can ensue. Their hunter instincts make them susceptible to digging, chewing and barking. With children, socialized Jacks are friendly and generally kind but children should be taught not to tease or provoke the dog.

With the right pet parent, Jacks can really excel. They are highly trainable and can run obstacle courses, play fetch and perform impressive tricks—so impressive, they have appeared many times in film, on television and in print. Given the right home, Jacks can be a happy, devoted and loving pet.