Terriers

Most terriers are small dogs. Because they were originally used to hunt, especially for vermin, they are energetic diggers. Their lively hunting nature also makes them prone to chasing anything that moves. Sturdy and muscular, terriers require a fair amount of exercise. In general, their temperaments are easygoing, and they adapt well to the sometimes-chaotic demands of city living.

Australian Terrier

Like most short-legged terrier breeds, this terrier's ancestors came from Scotland and England. Brought to Australia with early settlers, its rough-and-ready persona and all-around working skills were developed in the outback where it hunted, guarded the homestead, and even herded sheep. Small in stature at ten inches tall and twelve to fourteen pounds, and blue and tan or sandy in color, its rugged coat is maintained by weekly brushing and occasional hand-stripping to preserve its hard texture. Confident and affectionate, the Aussie terrier makes a great housedog and enjoys children. It needs frequent walks and backyard romps to keep it happy. This breed can be a bit stubborn, and its history as a ratter could cause problems if other house-hold pets include any members of the rodent family.

Border Terrier

Among the oldest of the terrier breeds, the Border was an all-around farm dog with the versatility to hunt badgers and otters as well as to guard the home and keep vermin at bay. Originating in the hardscrabble hill country between England and Scotland, it has adapted well to city life.

At ten inches in height and weighing eleven or twelve pounds, its coat is red to wheaten, grizzle with tan, or blue with tan. Its harsh dense coat should be brushed weekly and may be hand-stripped but should not be clippered. Affectionate and plucky, the dog's adventurous nature may cause it to wander, and it can show aggression to dogs it does not know but it makes a great family pet.

Boston Terrier

With its sleek coat and unflappable disposition, it makes an exceptional companion for older children and adults of any age. Grooming is minimal for this wash-and-wear dog that weighs under twenty-five pounds. It loves to play and have a daily walk.

Did Boston terriers really come from Boston?

Bred in the United States, this little gentleman of the dog world was developed in the city for which it was named for in the 1870s. The refined Boston terrier's ancestors were originally bred for pit fighting.

Bred from larger bulldogs and terriers, it exhibits none of the aggression of its fighting forbears but is confident enough not to back down when challenged. It does not do well with temperature extremes, being subject to heatstroke in hot weather and needing the protection of a coat or sweater in cold climates. It is easy to train and eager to please.

Cairn Terrier

Named for a pile of rocks used as boundary markers in the Scottish Highlands, this dog dates back 500 years in its native land. Those rock piles made perfect hiding places for foxes, badgers, and other wild creatures, and these scrappy terriers were dispatched by the Scottish lairds to dig in and kill such quarry. Sturdy and rough-coated, the cairn terrier needs regular brushing but should retain its trademark tousled look. Like their hunting ancestors, they still love to dig and will live happily in a busy household with children or as the devoted companion of a single adult.

Dandle Dinmont Terrier

This short-legged long-backed terrier hails from the borderlands between England and Scotland, where it was bred in the 1600s to hunt badgers and otters. Only eight to eleven inches tall and almost twice as long, it sports a fluffy topknot, tasseled ears, and large expressive eyes. Its silvery hair is part crisp and part silky and requires regular brushing and occasional hand-stripping. A bit stubborn and too independent to be a lapdog, the Dandie retains the personality of a tough little terrier but loves its family and relishes walks and outdoor play, especially with children.

Fox Terrier

Seen in two versions, smooth and wire, both were bred to be hunting terriers, carried on horseback to be set loose once the hound pack had cornered its quarry.

At sixteen to eighteen pounds and standing around fifteen inches tall, the fox terrier has remained unchanged since its heyday in England in centuries past. The smooth variety needs little in the way of grooming, but to maintain its rough coat, the wire version should be brushed twice a week and hand-stripped every few months. Many owners opt to have these handsome dogs clippered instead. Clean and lively, fox terriers like to bark. They love children and need lots of exercise to keep them occupied.

Lakeland Terrier

From the lake districts of northern England, this dog was bred to be a no-nonsense working terrier that went to ground after the fox and killed it where it lived. Also called the Patterdale terrier, its wiry coat comes in combinations of brown, black, and blue. It is groomed like the wire fox but has a distinct fall of hair between its eyes. Standing thirteen to fifteen inches in height, it weighs seventeen pounds. A down-to-earth dog that needs regular brushing, the Lakeland is good with children and has lots of energy and personality.

Manchester Terrier

This elegant black-and-tan dog comes in two sizes, both fitting our guidelines as small dogs. The toy version weighs seven to twelve pounds, while the larger weighs in under twenty-two pounds. Developed in Manchester, England, from the black-and-tan terrier and the whippet, this dog was a courser (racer) and a ratter par excellence. Its smooth glossy coat, intelligence, and watchdog tendencies make it a good choice for almost any situation, but the toy variety needs protection from young children.

Norfolk and Norwich Terriers

These little terriers are the same size, at ten inches in height and eleven to twelve pounds, with the drop-eared Norfolk terrier originally considered a variety of the erect-eared Norwich. Both are now separate breeds, with an identical history in England where they were farm dogs and hunters. Once they made it to the United States, they were used in packs to go to ground after prey after the foxhounds had done their job. When these happy little red-to-wheaten dogs are kept in natural coat, they need regular brushing and occasionally hand-stripping. They make good housedogs, are even-tempered with children, and can live happily in the city if frequently walked to burn off their terrier energy.

Parson Russell Terrier

One of the most active and exuberant of the terriers, this dog formerly known as the Jack Russell terrier is bred in both a smooth and rough-coated variety and is natural in appearance. It was bred for its narrow chest to fit into burrows, and enough leg and body length to run swiftly on the hunt. From twelve to fifteen inches in height and around twenty-five pounds, it is predominantly white, with black and/or tan markings. This bold and friendly breed is athletic and clever and can climb or dig its way out of just about anywhere. Around the house, it is playful, attentive, and affectionate but it so spirited that it will constantly test and surprise you.

Jack Russell terriers (recently renamed Parson Russell terriers) were used in the hunt, flushing foxes from their dens, and hunting and killing rats.

Scottish Terrier

Originally bred in the Aberdeen area, the Scottie is a strong-willed and energetic terrier that once employed its hunting skills against rats, foxes, and weasels, pursuing them into their burrows. Standing ten inches tall at about twenty pounds, it cuts a striking figure with its long beard, prominent eyebrows, sharply pointed ears, and alert demeanor. With its wiry topcoat and dense undercoat, the Scottie requires frequent grooming. One of the more dominant terriers, it needs a firm hand in training and is not always tolerant of children. It is adaptable to apartment living as long as it gets lots of walks.

Sealyham Terrier

The same height and weight as the Scottie, this stout-hearted dog originated on the estate of Captain John Edwardes in Sealyham, Wales, where it hunted everything from rats to polecats. Dignified in appearance with drop ears and a distinctive fall of hair cascading down its nose, the Sealyham enjoys people and has a great sense of humor. They do well in obedience training with owners who command their respect.

Although the Sealy makes a great companion, it is a willful dog that will not tolerate teasing or rough handling from children. Its weather-resistant double coat comes in white or white with lemon, tan, or gray markings on its head and ears. The Sealy's coat needs frequent brushing and professional grooming every few months.

Skye Terrier

Hailing from the Isle of Skye in Scotland's Hebrides Islands, this low-slung long-backed dog is a hard worker that dates back to the seventeenth century. Standing ten inches tall and weighing about twenty pounds, the Skye terrier was bred to be a ferocious hunter of vermin. It later gained popularity as a royal companion in Victorian England. Its flowing coat is parted down the middle of its back and falls over its eyes. Tough-minded with a need for outdoor romps and long walks, the Skye terrier makes a loyal companion that usually bonds to one favorite person. An excellent watchdog, it is not the best choice for families with small children.

Welsh Terrier

This black-and-tan terrier from Wales looks like a miniature Airedale, with the same kind of wiry coat that is hand-stripped for the show ring. Always a sporting terrier, it was bred as a ratter that also hunted badgers and otters. Weighing twenty pounds and standing fifteen inches tall, its legs were long enough to keep up with the horses and it could climb the rugged hills and swim the streams as well. This handsome dog is good-natured enough to be a great family pet and a lovable buddy for children, but its family should be able to match its love of play and high energy. As long as its exercise needs are met, the Welshie can live happily in any setting.

West Highland White Terrier

The Westie has been known by many names: Highlander, white Scottish terrier, Poltalloch terrier, and Roseneath terrier, after the estate of an early fancier, the Duke of Argyll. Like most terriers, it was bred to track, unearth, and destroy vermin, but its engaging personality and hardy character has made the Westie a prized companion as well. At ten to eleven inches tall and around twenty pounds, with its flashy white coat, dark eyes, black button nose, pointed ears, and round dish of a face, it looks the way it is: cheerful, curious, and plucky. It needs a good brush-out once a week. The Westie can be a trickster during training, and it thrives on toys, games, and outdoor fun to keep it from getting into mischief. Clean and friendly, it makes a great family pet in all situations.

  1. Home
  2. Small Dogs
  3. A Little More to Love
  4. Terriers
Visit other About.com sites: