How to judge the Parson Russell Terrier?

How to judge Parson Russell Terrier


The Judges Education Committee for the Parson Russell Terrier Association of America would like to take this opportunity to both review and emphasize several fundamental aspects for consideration with our judges when judging the Parson Russell Terrier:

  • Grooming
  • Spanning
  • Proportions
  • Temperament

Grooming: The approved breed standard is specific in calling for the Parson Russell Terrier to be shown “in his natural appearance not excessively groomed.” This is expanded upon in the Coat section with the statement: “No sculpted furnishings.” “Excessive grooming and sculpturing” are specifically defined as a fault, which would include scissoring or clippering and/or excessive use of product such as sprays and chalk. The standard also states, “There is a clear outline with only a hint of eyebrows and beard if natural to the coat.” We ask that all judges are mindful of the clear descriptions within the standard related to grooming and all listed coat faults: Soft, silky, wooly, or curly topcoat; lacking undercoat; excessive grooming and sculpturing.

Spanning: Our standard provides clear direction on the importance of spanning in assessment of the breed and the procedure to complete. The chest must be easily spannable by average-sized hands. This is a significant factor and a critical part of the judging process. Spanning is a component of a breed-specific examination in our breed, and a dog cannot be correctly judged without completing this procedure. In addition to the description with our standard, the AKC produced a procedural video on spanning in collaboration with the PRTAA as well as the parent clubs for the Border Terrier and the Russell Terrier. We recommend all current and prospective judges to view the instructional video. The procedural video is hosted within the AKC Canine College.

Proportions: Understanding proper proportion in our breed can be tricky if one does not carefully study this section of our standard. Ideal proportion is described as, “The height at withers is slightly greater than the distance from the withers to tail, i.e. by possibly 1 to 1½ inches on a 14 inch dog.” A trap that we find some are falling into is focusing on height being slightly greater than the length without considering the measuring points and how that affects the overall outline and picture of the breed. Height slightly greater than length may lead some to look for a “cobby” dog in outline; however, our standard is specific in defining the measuring points for length as from the withers to the tail. When applied to the overall dog, this would result in an outline of slightly longer than tall when the front assembly is accounted for in profile.

While mentioning proportion, we would be remiss if not reminding that the standard does have height of under 12 inches or over 15 inches as disqualifying faults. If you question whether a dog is within the allowable range, the only proper way to determine is to measure.

Temperament: For the Parson Russell to function as a working Terrier, in addition to certain physical traits, he must possess a ready attitude, be alert and confident. The temperament section of the standard describes the Parson Russell as, “Bold and friendly. Athletic and clever. At work he is a game hunter, tenacious, courageous, and single minded.” A reluctant, shy, or frightened Parson cannot do the job they were bred to do. Shyness, defined in the standard as a fault, must not be confused with submissiveness, which is not to be faulted. Our breed is not to be sparred, as the desired response when sparring is not typical for the Parson Russell. Overt aggression toward another dog is a disqualification in the breed.

In the end, our desire is for the Parson Russell to remain as close as possible in form to their original function. At work, they are able to trail the hounds, and bolt and work European Red Fox, both above and underneath the ground. At home, they are to be playful, exuberant, and overwhelmingly affectionate.

We appreciate the thoughtful consideration for the points reviewed in this article, and our judges’ commitment to judge in accordance to the standard. If you should desire further information on judging the Parson Russell Terrier, or you are seeking education as a prospective judge, please contact any of our parent club approved mentors. The list of approved mentors is posted on the AKC website.


Thank you,
Mary Strom
Chairperson PRTAA Judges Education
PRTAA Vice President
By The Parson Russell Terrier Association of America

  • The Parson Russell Terrier Association is the American Kennel Club (AKC) Parent Club for the breed. This means that it is the responsibility and privilege of the PRTAA and its members to preserve the Breed Standard. Our members and breeders are available to anyone caring to learn more about this fine old breed of terrier. Membership in our club is not required for you to enter any PRTAA or AKC sanctioned events. Your dog must, however, be registered with the AKC. For those who do want to become more involved, see the membership information in this site or contact the PRTAA.

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