These terriers are hunting dogs above everything else. They have all the required skills of hunting dogs: digging, barking, following a scent. These are NOT bad habits they are inbred in the breed. If you cannot cope with such habits, you should not have one. People who cannot cope with such habits will most likely give them up to rescue eventually. They are bred to "go to ground" -- to follow a scent, locate a quarry, and bark at it until someone digs down to them or the quarry bolts. If you do not provide an outlet for these natural hunting instincts, your terrier will invent new and interesting challenges to occupy its time and energy. They can become the "guardian of the world" or their family and may develop bad habits such as chasing cars, hunting birds, bugs or leaves, or endlessly digging in the soil.
These terriers are a big dog in a little body. They have a greater need for exercise than a much larger dog, and they have the mentality to match. They think that they weigh 150 pounds (ten times their average weight) and are fearless. Thus, they often challenge other dogs that are much bigger than they are.
These terriers are sometimes aggressive with other dogs. This Parson Russell variety of this terrier is well known for same-sex aggression and aggression towards other breeds of dogs. One should never permit more than two PRTs of opposite sex to stay together unattended. We can recount numerous stories of disastrous results of such folly. For example, one woman left four female PRTs at home in the house while she went shopping. When she returned home, she had three dead PRTs and one live one the six-month-old puppy of one of the dead bitches. Another person came home one day to an eight-year-old bitch who had killed and partially eaten her three-year-old daughter. The person put the bitch down after this incident, even though she was well-loved by the entire family and was her first PRT. It was devastating.
These terriers do shed regardless of what some people will tell you to sell you a puppy! All of the three coat types shed! Smooth coats shed the most, dropping hair continuously throughout the year. Rough coats maintain the guard and dead coat better, but require manual stripping several times a year to keep a neat look. The broken coat is intermediate between the other two types.
These terriers require firm, consistent discipline. They are extremely intelligent and continue to test their limits throughout their lives. These little guys typically train their owners before the owners realize what has happened! This ability to train their owners can include displays of aggressive behavior, such as jumping on them and growling at them when reprimanded. The owner must understand and properly handle this assertive nature!
Parson Russell Terriers can become very possessive of their owner or a favorite member of the family or what they consider to be their personal property. Some who are undisciplined exhibit aggressive protective behavior, which the owner must control from an early age or the dog will become unmanageable.
Parson Russell Terriers are commonly known to harass, injure, or kill cats, birds, rabbits, mice, rats, and other small pets, simply because they have such a strong natural hunting instinct. Raising a puppy with a cat or other small pet will not guarantee the cat's life-long safety! One woman had two cats and a PRT, who she left home while she went out for a while. When she returned, she had a dead cat and another severely injured cat that cost her a fortune in vet bills. She also had blood all over her home!
Parson Russell Terriers remain active their entire lives, which can be up to 18 years. I know one man who has an 18-year-old PRT right now. Their need for activity and desire to hunt continues their entire lives. Untrained and unsupervised PRTs, however, rarely experience such long lives.
Parson Russell Terriers require at least basic obedience training. The dog's life may depend on it! Even well trained dogs can be tempted to chase something that appears interesting to them. They may disappear into a hole while you are not looking. Taking a PRT off lead is always a dangerous situation, unless you are in a safe environment with secure boundaries.
These terriers need a securely fenced yard! These terriers will roam due to their hunting instincts -- even if left unsecured for only a few minutes! You can let them out every day for three years with no trouble and then, one day, your terrier may disappear and never come back. Cars kill many terriers when they dart into the street while pursuing squirrels, cats, rabbits, rats, mice, and other interesting prey. They can dig under, climb over, or even jump over many fences. Many can climb trees and any height of chain link fencing.
These terriers can be very destructive if left unattended and unemployed! Most behavioral problems are due to a lack of companionship, discipline, activity, and exercise. If you have only met perfectly well behaved terriers, then you have met the lucky ones who have owners who provide proper exercise, socialization, and training. These dogs are not for people who work long hours and want to leave them home alone during extended periods of time. That is not fair to the dog!
These terriers are country dogs. When they live in a city or suburban-type environment, their needs and instincts do not change. You cannot expect them to be anything other than what they are genetically bred to be -- a serious hunting dog. The terrier's owner must adjust the owner's lifestyle to satisfy the terrier's needs. The terrier must have a job to perform -- an outlet for their considerable energy and intelligence.
These terriers CANNOT live in apartments or condos. They need a great deal of exercise and outdoor activity. They are usually too loud for high-density living. They need sufficient room to run free off of a leash. Leash walking does not satisfy their boundless energy. Unless your schedule permits many hours at home and a lot of outdoor activity, with a safe place for the terrier to run, this is not the dog for you. Many rescues come from apartments, condos, or homes in which the owners work away from the home for long periods of time. This is not fair to the dog!
These terriers WILL NOT TOLERATE even unintended mistreatment from a child, so we do not recommend them for households with very young children. They will not put up with typical child handling, such as pulling of ears, tails, etc., or taking the dog's bones, food, toys, etc. These terriers are very assertive and demanding. If you have young children and don't have the time to properly socialize your terrier with your children, buy some other very patient breed!
These terriers ARE NOT like the doggie actors in movies such as "My Dog Skip" or in television such as Eddie on Frazier. Those dogs are professionally trained and handled and are obedient only for VERY short periods. You do not see them behind the scenes, but they are terriers through and through!
These terriers require a long-term commitment to obedience, activity, exercise, and entertainment. They can and will frustrate you, entertain you, and bring you great joy (when they're happy!) or great grief (when they are not happy!). If this type of dog does not appeal to you, then consider another breed.
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