There are many types of terriers, including those with smooth coats and those with wiry hair. Wire-haired terriers range in size, and most have a history as working dogs. That history, which includes the pursuit of vermin, offers both challenge and delight for owners.
Wire-haired fox terrier
The wire-haired fox terrier is an active and playful dog. That temperament allows this breed to excel in agility. Mostly white in color with black and tan markings, the wire-haired fox terrier was once placed in the same show category as the smooth-coated fox terrier. However, in 1984, the American Kennel Club (AKC) split the two into separate breeds. This dog’s wire coat sheds minimally. It’s friendly, confident and playful nature makes it an excellent family dog, and the wire-haired fox terrier does well with children. Unfortunately, these dogs can be diggers, especially when in pursuit of small animals. This is its natural instinct because the fox terrier originated in England and was used for chasing fox and other small animals.
Parson Russell terrier
Like its fox terrier cousin, the Parson Russell terrier’s coat can be wiry or smooth. This terrier also was bred specifically for pursing fox and flushing the prey from its den. Named after the Rev. John Russell of England, these terriers were christened “Jack Russell Terriers”; however, the parent club of the breed petitioned the AKC for a name change to “Parson Russell Terrier”. Extremely active and friendly, these dogs make great companions, but they need lots of exercise. They do not tolerate toddlers very well, so Parson Russells do best in homes without small children. They also do well in agility and obedience trials.
The Airedale terrier is another English breed that was used not only for rodent control but also for bird hunting and during wartime. In fact, this was one of the first breeds used for police duty, both in England and in Germany. According to the AKC, Airedale terriers of history looked quite different from Airedales of today and were known as Working, Waterside and Bingley terriers. Though known for its sweet disposition, the Airedale needs proper obedience training, and its intelligence makes this dog a quick learner. The Airedale is the largest of the terrier breeds, standing about 23 inches (58.4 cm). Its dense, wiry coat requires regular brushing and stripping, which removes old, faded hairs from a dog’s coat to allow the growth of new hairs; this is done either by hand or using a stripping blade. Airedales also do best with daily exercise.
The Border terrier originated in the area between England and Scotland, and, according to the AKC, may one of the oldest types of terriers from this region. It is considered active and agile with a determined spirit. Bred to pursue fox, the Border terrier can squeeze through narrow places in pursuit of its quarry. It is also adept at running quickly. All of these qualities make this wired-haired terrier excellent in agility and obedience trials, and its friendly nature makes the Border terrier a good family dog. However, a Border terrier needs a lot of exercise to keep it from getting bored, so providing regular exercise and obedience training is a best.
The Cairn terrier, also known as the Wizard of Oz dog (“Toto”), is a smaller wire-haired terrier, standing only 10 inches (25.4 cm) at the shoulder and weighing about 14 lbs (6.35 kg). It also has short legs, excellent for its original job of helping farmers find foxes and badgers in dens. “Cairn” refers to the rock dens which the terrier’s prey lived in; the dog wiggled into these areas and barked incessantly, holding the animal in place until the farmer killed it. Interestingly, the hair around the face of a Cairn resembles a fox. The wiry coat is weather resistant. Today these terriers are used in obedience, agility and tracking trials. They are very affectionate with their families but often chase smaller animals so an owner should always be aware of his dog’s location and would also do well to provide plenty of exercise and firm obedience training.
Another English breed, the Lakeland terrier dates back to the 1800s. Developed by farmers both for hunting and for preventing vermin from destroying property and herds, the Lakeland is a sturdy dog with a slight build that allowed the dog to get into small dens of foxes and other predators. Their natural instinct and ability allow Lakelands to excel at Earthdog events, in which various breeds of terriers and other vermin-hunting dogs compete to scent, find and dig tunnels containing rats placed in a cage at the end of the tunnel. The AKC sanctioned such events in 1994. The Lakeland terrier is an energetic and friendly dog, well-suited for people with an active lifestyle. Its wiry coat sheds minimally but does require regular clipping.
The Norfolk terrier is another small breed aggressive toward its prey, which originally consisted of rats. Small in stature and weight, standing barely 10 inches (25.4 cm) high and weighing less than 12 lbs (5.4 kg), this compact dog was considered a demon in the field. Yet, its love and loyalty toward its owners, and its ability to adapt easily, makes it a great little companion, whether a person lives in town or in the country. Originally, the Norfolk and the Norwich were considered the same breed. However, the Norfolk developed dropped ears, and in 1979 the AKC separated the two terriers into distinct categories. These little dogs do well with other dogs, and in their original jobs as rat hunters, the breed often worked in packs, not only ridding properties of rats, but also serving to hunt and pursue fox. The Norfolk’s wiry coat requires regular grooming, bushing, clipping, and stripping.
Like its cousin, the Norwich terrier was originally developed to serve as a ratter on farms. It was also used to flush foxes from their dens and to serve as family companions in the home. Today, they are still looked upon as friendly and loyal, doing well with both people and other dogs. They enjoy daily walks and should also be exercised in fenced yards for the Norwich enjoys chasing other, smaller animals. They need regular grooming as well.
The all-white, wiry-coated Sealyham terrier may be small in size, but big in heart! Its determined, courageous spirit helped it excel as a hunter of fox, badger and otter. Originating in Wales, the Sealyham was developed by breeding four types of terriers: the West Highland Terrier, the Wirehaired Fox Terrier, the Bull Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. Inquisitive and charming, this dog makes an excellent loyal and loving companion. However, like all terriers, the Sealyham needs lots of activity and various ways to keep its mind active and alert. These little dogs often participate in Earthdog events.
West Highland white terrier
Another nearly all-white terrier is the West Highland white terrier, otherwise known as the “Westie”. Considered an affectionate and happy dog, the Westie is devoted to its owner, and therefore, makes a wonderful little family dog and traveling companion. Its determined, confident nature helps this breed excel in conformation and agility events. The Westie’s coat is a combination of soft, dense undercoat and rough outer coat; therefore, it requires attention to grooming, including daily brushing and regular stripping and clipping.
The Scottie, or Scottish terrier, is usually black, brindle or wheaten in coat color. Another small dog, standing about 10 inches (25.4 cm) at the shoulder, this terrier is more broad and sturdy, often weighing about 20 lbs (9.08 kg). Known for being quick, alert and playful, Scotties require regular exercise, and their stubborn spirits warrant obedience training. Their hard, wiry coat requires regular brushing. The Scottie is a popular breed and is the only breed of dog to have lived in the U.S. White House three times, under Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and George W. Bush.
The Welsh terrier is a medium-sized dog that somewhat resembles the larger Airedale. Originally known as the black and tan Wire-haired terrier and the Old English terrier, this breed was most often used as a sporting dog, helping its owners hunt fox, badger and otter. A friendly, intelligent dog, the Welsh terrier does well with children and with other dogs, and therefore, makes a wonderful family pet. However, these dogs can be difficult to housebreak. Their wiry coat needs regular attention, including plucking, and the facial hair should be combed twice a week. Like most terriers, this dog likes to chase other animals, therefore, supervision is needed when the Welsh terrier is outside, and the dog should never be off leash except in an enclosed area.
Wire-haired terriers possess alert, determined personalities and need lots of exercise as well as attention, including regular grooming. These breeds, however, often make wonderful, faithful companions, especially for people with active lifestyles.