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How Long Do Jack Russell Terriers Live? Average Lifespan, Data & Care

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

Jack Russell terrier dog with ears back

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Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

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The Jack Russell Terrier was developed in 19th century England to flush out foxes for hunting, and their big personality and irresistible face have also made them a popular pet. If you’re considering adding a Jack Russell Terrier to your family, you might be curious how long you can expect them to be in your life.

In this article, you’ll learn how long Jack Russell Terriers typically live and a detailed care guide to help you keep them healthy as long as possible.

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Jack Russell Terrier Average Lifespan

On average, you can expect a Jack Russell Terrier to live for 13 to 15 years. Some factors that impact your dog’s lifespan, such as genetics and inherited health conditions, are mostly out of your control. We’ll discuss what you can do to help your dog have a long lifespan, in the next section.

jack russell terrier dog lying in the grass
Image Credit: Teksa, Shutterstock

How to Care for Your Jack Russell Terrier for a Long Lifespan?

Feeding & Diet

What you feed your Jack Russell Terrier and, more importantly, how much you feed them will impact how long they live. Choose a nutritionally balanced diet appropriate for your dog’s life stage.

Avoid homemade diets unless they are formulated with the help of your veterinarian. These home-prepared meals often lack the essential nutrients your Jack Russell Terrier needs to stay healthy long-term, and they are particularly difficult to get right for different life-stages, where nutrient requirements can vary considerably.

Jack Russell Terriers are generally jaunty, active dogs but they will readily gain weight if fed inappropriately.  Obesity puts the dog at risk of numerous chronic health conditions that can result in a shorter lifespan, such as joint and back pain, cancer and heart disease. You can calculate your dog’s daily calories carefully with the help of your veterinarian. Remember to account for any treats you use during training sessions, too.

Environment

Jack Russell Terriers are notorious for digging, chasing moving objects, and ignoring commands. They need to be housed in a secure environment to prevent incidents like car accidents or getting lost that could shorten their lifespan.

Never let a Jack Russell Terrier run off-leash in an unfenced area. If your dog is a digger, consider adding a layer of buried wire inside your fence to prevent escape.

cream and white wire haired jack russell terrier dog
Image Credit: Reddogs, Shutterstock

Care

Exercise, socialization, and training are essential parts of any dog’s care, and Jack Russells are no exception.  A Jack Russell may become bored, destructive, and hard to live with without regular exercise. Unfortunately, some of these dogs may end up abandoned or surrendered to animal shelters, which generally leads to shortened lifespans.

Jack Russell Terriers are friendly but tend to be mischievous and independent. They have a high prey drive which will mean that they may see your hamster or cat as something to chase and eat.  You cannot train this prey-drive out of them, so they are better in a dog only household. Positive and early socialization will help your dog to be well-behaved around other dogs and people.

Training a Jack Russell can be an adventure, but without it, they will quickly take charge of your household and do what they want. Behavior problems, especially aggression, can shorten your Jack Russell Terrier’s lifespan.  It is a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified dog trainer with expertise in terrier breeds.

Breeding

If you don’t plan to breed your Jack Russell Terrier, talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering them. Intact male Jack Russell Terriers may be more likely to show aggression toward other dogs, wander off to find female dogs, and perform unwanted behaviors such as urine marking.

Unspayed female Jack Russell Terriers are at risk of reproductive health problems like pyometra (uterus infection), as well as unwanted litters of puppies.  Neutered female dogs also have a much lower incidence of mammary cancer, especially if they have been neutered before their first or second season.

three jack russell terrier dogs in a cafe
Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

Healthcare

Jack Russell Terriers are considered a healthy breed overall, but you should always buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who performs recommended genetic screenings to catch inherited medical conditions. You should always meet the litter at the home in which they’ve been bred so that you can assess the surroundings, their socialization opportunities and meet the mother dog (and preferably the father too, but this isn’t always an option).

Providing your dog with recommended preventative care such as vaccinations, parasite prevention, tooth brushing and wellness exams is important in the reduction of preventable conditions. As your dog gets older, they are likely to need more frequent vet visits to catch age-related health changes early.

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The Life Stages of a Jack Russell Terrier

Puppy

Jack Russell Terriers are considered puppies from birth until they become sexually mature, usually around 5–8 months old. During this stage, they need extra nutrition to support healthy growth, preventative health care (including vaccines and dewormers), and early socialization and training.  A puppy specific diet formulated for a small breed dog is appropriate at this point.

jack russell terrier puppy
Image Credit: Smit, Shutterstock

Junior

In 6 to 12 months, your Jack Russell will be in their “teenage” years. Dogs at this age may still be growing.  They will be filling out rather than growing upwards. Like human teenagers, they may start to push boundaries and become disobedient. Be patient and consistent with training during this life stage.

Jack Russell Terrier puppy in a yellow raincoat stands on the autumn foliage in the park
Image Credit: woodHunt, Shutterstock

Adult

Jack Russell Terriers are considered adults once they stop growing until age 7. They will need to switch to adult dog food and usually need to eat fewer times a day. Adult Jack Russell Terriers should still receive training and socialization even once they grow out of their teenage bad behavior.

jack russell terrier dog inside a travel carrier box
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

Mature Adult

After about 7 years of age, Jack Russell Terriers are considered middle-aged. They may need to see the vet more often or receive annual blood tests during this life stage. Some dogs may start to slow down but should still exercise frequently. Their metabolism may slow, so monitor their food intake and weight carefully.

young woman owner with her Jack Russell Terrier at home
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Senior

A Jack Russell is considered a senior dog once they reach the last quarter of their expected lifespan. For Jack Russell Terriers, this could be from 8 to 12 years old. Ask your veterinarian whether you need to switch to a senior dog food. Senior Jack Russell Terriers may develop chronic health conditions that require daily medication or special diets.

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Geriatric

Jack Russell Terriers, who beat the average and live over 15 years, are considered geriatric. Work closely with your vet to ensure your dog’s twilight years are comfortable and as healthy as possible.

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How to Tell Your Jack Russell Terrier’s Age

Before your Jack Russell Terrier reaches about 6 months old, their teeth can help you or your vet estimate their age. Once all the adult teeth are present, this aging method is less reliable. However, vets will still use the amount of wear or tartar on a dog’s teeth to get a rough estimate of their age.

If your Jack Russell Terrier has a dark face or muzzle, you can look for the emergence of gray hairs to help you tell their age. Dogs start graying at various ages, but you can generally assume that they are at least middle aged once lighter hair starts to appear.

Older Jack Russell Terriers may develop age-related changes to their eyes that can help your vet estimate how old they are. Senior dogs may start to lose hearing and muscle mass or display behavior changes. They may begin to move more slowly or have trouble getting up from lying down.

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Conclusion

Knowing how long your Jack Russell Terrier may live can help you understand the commitment it takes to own one of these dogs. However, it’s also essential that you thoroughly research the breed before falling for an admittedly adorable Jack Russell Terrier puppy. As charming as they can be, the Jack Russell Terrier is not the right fit for every household. Before committing to 13–15 years with a Jack Russell Terrier, ensure you are prepared.


Featured Image Credit: Lubo Ivanko, Shutterstock

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