FAQ: Grooming Jack Russell Terriers

I have no idea how (or when) to groom (coat, nails) my Jack Russell Terrier. Can you give me some tips?

Grooming Jack Russell Terriers

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I have no idea how (or when) to groom (coat, nails) my Jack Russell Terrier. Can you give me some tips on how to groom him?

Very few animals are exhibited exactly as nature has designed them, and the Jack Russell Terrier is one that can certainly benefit from some judicious grooming before arriving at his next show (or sitting on your couch at home). The Jack Russell is one of the few remaining breeds still capable of earth work, and as such, his coat is very important to the job he is bred for.

grooming toolsA correct JR coat is hard, dense and lies close to the body. In preparing JR's for exhibition, we should keep in mind the breed standard specifies, smooth without being sparse, so as to protect from the elements and undergrowth. In order to bring a terrier coat into good condition, the coat should be plucked or stripped at least six to eight weeks prior to the show. Plucking involves using a stripping knife, a course knife for the body, medium knife for the neck and shoulders, and a fine blade for head and ears. (Most pet supply shops carry stripping knives.) For those who are unfamiliar with the stripping process, the knife is grasped in the right hand, taking a few hairs between the thumb and knife blade, and giving a sharp pull. Dogs that have never been stripped before will take a little getting used to the process, so it's best to do a little each day instead of covering the whole dog in a short time. The knife should be held parallel to the dog's body to avoid leaving chop marks in the coat.

Be sure to talk to your dog while you are grooming him. If you don't say anything, but just pull hair, he will get bored and start moving around. If the dog resists grooming in one area, move to another; you can always go back. Nonetheless, try to develop a system to follow.

Where to Begin

Try to be methodical. First, brush or comb the entire dog. Then, begin grooming at the head and work your way down his body, leaving the sensitive areas (belly, anal area, and penile sheath or nipples) until last; when the dog has learned to trust you, he will be less nervous. If the dog gets fidgety, move to another area. To groom his face, pull the skin taut, firmly grasp a few adjoining hairs between your thumb and forefinger (or thumb and dull knife) and pull in the direction of growth.

Trimming Toe Nails

Toe nails need to be trimmed back, being careful not to cut through the nail quick. By removing small amounts of nail, you will see a small white dot in the center of the nail. If you remove more nail, you'll see a red dot that is the beginning of the quick, which is the blood supply to the nail. Stop at this point. If you accidently cut the quick the bleeding can be stopped with nail clotting powder (available from your veterinarian), corn starch or some cotton applied with pressure to the end of the nail. After the toe nails have been trimmed, use a small sharp scissor to round off the hair of the feet and trim the long hairs between the undersides of the pads and feet. (Toe nail clippers can be purchased at any pet supply shop.)


Grooming a rough or broken coated terrier for home is a much easier process. After a thorough combing with a slicker brush to remove loose hair and dirt in the coat, an electric clipper can be used to keep the coat at a convenient length. The clipping process is easier on an aged terrier than is plucking or stripping. While on the subject of electric clippers - in the interest of correctness, electric clippers should not be used on a terrier that will be shown. Clippers do not promote good coat texture, and they cause the coat to lift or curl away from the dog's body. A dresser comb may be useful to thin or shorten the hair by running it over the coat in a long combing stroke. (Dresser comb and blades available at pet supply shop.)

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