Energetic, Determined Working Dogs: The Terrier Breeds

Terriers are known for their unique personality, feistiness and energy. They were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin, so their high activity level and their spirited demeanor necessitate exercise and training. Additionally, while most terriers make good pets and many are small, making them great for apartments, some terrier breeds do not tolerate other dogs very well. Consider all these factors, explained in the following article, before bringing a terrier into your home.

There are 30 different breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as being part of the terrier group, and few terriers are part of the AKC’s toy group. Some dogs have wire-hair (see wire haired terriers) while others have smooth and soft coats. Most originated in England or Scotland, but a few hail from other countries, including Australia and America.

American Staffordshire
Also known as the Am Staff, this breed is quite protective of its human family. Possessing a short coat that requires little maintenance, this breed is a cross between the bulldog and a terrier breed originally found in England. The resulting breed was originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, also the Pit Dog, but it became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England. The breed made its way to American around 1870 and became known as the Pit Dog, the Pit Bull Terrier, and later the American Bull Terrier. When accepted by the AKC in 1936, the name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier to reflect a distinctive breed that was stockier in built; the Am Staff is a separate breed from the English breed, the Staffordshire Terrier.

The Am Staff stands 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) tall and usually lives 12 to 14 years. This dog is known for its loyalty and intelligence. During World War I, an Am Staff named Stubby earned the rank of Sergeant and is known as the most decorated dog of World War I.

Bull Terrier
This breed is noted for its loyalty and attachment to its human family. They also love children. Bull terriers do best in homes that have someone in the house constantly. Known for their sweet, loving, and playful personalities, these dogs do look menacing due to their muscular build. They stand 21 inches (53 cm) tall and weigh about 50 to 70 pounds (22.6 to 31.7 kg). Their short coats come in white or colored; some of the white-coated dogs also possess markings on the head.

Like all in this breed category, bull terriers highly benefit from obedience training, and they require daily exercise. They often live 10 to 14 years.

The Bull Terrier originates in England. Various crosses of bulldog and terrier existed during the 1800s and were popular as sporting dogs. The white bull terrier was developed by James Hinks, who lived in Birmingham, England. He is said to have been created from crossing his own white bulldog with bulldog-terrier crosses and possibly dalmatian and greyhound. During this time the breed was called White Cavalier. The breed became known as good show dogs and excellent pets. The bull terrier breed was recognized by the AKC in 1885. During the early 1900s, bull terriers were back-crossed with brindle-colored Staffordshire Terriers to produce a colored variety of bull terrier. Today the breed comes in two colors: white and colored.

Bull terriers tend to greatly enjoy toys, especially balls and games of fetch. They are known to love outdoor activities of all types, so they make good companions for hikes and jogs.

An interesting point about this breed: they do not bark unless there is a good reason to do so. Therefore, when a bull terrier barks, something is amiss.

The short coat requires minimal grooming.

Cesky Terrier
A relatively new breed to the AKC, the Cesky terrier was recognized in 2011. Developed in the Czech Republic during the late 1940s, the breed was created by a man named Frantisik Horak, who worked as a geneticist, to hunt in packs in the forests of Bohemia. He bred a Scottish terrier with a Sealyham terrier to obtain the breed known as the Cesky terrier. In 1950, this breed became part of the Czech Terrier Club.

Known for its alertness, the Cesky has been used to hunt a variety of animals and birds, including fox, rabbits, ducks and pheasants. It is a well-muscled dog with short legs. It is considered one of the national breeds of Czechoslovakia.

The Cesky is loyal toward its human family members but wary of and reserved toward strangers; therefore, frequent socialization is needed for this breed. Like its other terrier cousins, the Cesky requires plenty of exercise, and a secure backyard is highly recommended. This breed is known to be a digger, so watch those flower beds!

A fairly small dog, this breed stands 10 to 13 inches (25 to 33 cm) tall and weighs 16 to 22 pounds (7 to 10 kg). There was a ban on exporting the breed for many years, but it became very popular in Scandinavia and can now be found throughout Europe as well as in Canada, Australia, Canada and the United States. The breed first came to America during the late 1980s.  Grooming, generally clipping and brushing, is needed for this dog’s coat so it’s not difficult to maintain.

Dandie Dinmont
This unique-looking dog possesses a long, low body, a fluffy head of hair, and a tail that looks like a curved sword. They are longer than they are tall. Small in size (8 to 11 inches – or 20 to 28 cm – tall and 18 to 24 pounds – or 8.2 to 10.8 kg), the Dandie’s personality is that of a large dog: confident, intelligent and independent in nature. Soft-coated with little shedding, the usual colors of this breed’s coat is considered pepper or mustard. The Dandie should receive a daily brushing. The double-coat needs to be stripped regularly

The breed has been around since about 1700, originating in the border area between England and Scotland, and was popular with the wealthy and with gypsies during its history. As with most terriers, this breed is meant to hunt and capture vermin but was also used to catch otters and badgers. The breed’s popularity grew even more after Sir Walter Scott wrote about them in 1814; the breed’s name comes from a character in Scott’s writing. Queen Victoria once owned a Dandie. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1886.

Although affectionate and loyal towards its owner, the Dandie is aloof with strangers and can be strong-willed. The breed is also known to be good with children. It can do well living in the city as long it receives daily walks and other forms of exercise.

There are two varieties of this breed: the toy (weighing up to 12 pounds or 5.4 kg) and the standard (between 12 and 22 pounds or 5.4 to 10 kg). Both possess a longer, whip-like tail and a short, sleek coat that is black and tan in color. The breed is known for its neatness; Manchesters tend to groom themselves, like cats.

Developed in England, this breed’s lineage is the black and tan terrier, the oldest known breed of terrier. Manchesters hunted rats and other small vermin, an ability still prevalent in the breed today. Rodents are prey to these dogs and when in the field or backyard, they are avid hunters.

Intelligent and eager to learn, Manchesters need solid, positive training as is the case for most terriers. They are not known to be barky dogs, but they are known as good watchdogs and are very loyal to their owners. They are at home on farms or in cities, especially with consistent exercise. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1886 (toy) and 1887 (standard). Until 1959, the Manchester terrier and the Toy terrier were registered as separate breeds; since then, two varieties in one breed have been recognized by the organization. The difference between in the varieties, besides size, is the shape of the ears. The toy variety doesn’t have cropped ears.

Miniature Bull Terrier
Similar to the Bull Terrier in color, except in size, this breed is noted as the “spokesdog” for both Target stores and Busch beer (“Spuds McKenzie” ad campaign). Bull terriers were once used as fighting dogs, but now possess a gentler, playful personalities.

Miniature bull terriers range in size from 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35.5 cm) and are considered sturdy and muscular. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1963 in the “Miscellaneous Class” and fully accepted as a breed in 1991.

Although the breed is good with children, some dogs can be too energetic for smaller children. These dogs need plenty of exercise and should not be around other non-canine pets, especially pocket pets like hamsters and guinea pigs.

With a short coat, this dog is easy to groom and requires only the occasional brushing.

Known for their energy and intelligence, they are also independent-minded but good-tempered enough to respond to positive training.

Parson Russell
The coat of this breed can be wire-haired or smooth and is often white, white with black or tan markings, or tri-colored.

This breed was as a hunter of fox by the Rev. John Russell in England during the mid-1800s. It’s personality is one of eagerness, confidence, alertness, and endurance. This breed is often found at stables or performing at  agility and obedience trials. It was once known as the Jack Russell Terrier.

These dogs are very friendly and affectionate toward people but do not tolerate rough handling; therefore, it might not be the best breed in homes with small children. Filled with energy and perseverance, regular exercise and attention are required. The Parson is a clean dog breed and doesn’t need a lot of bathing.

Like many terriers, this is a smaller breed of dog, standing about 13 inches (33 cm) tall and weighing 13 to 17 pounds (6 to 7.7 kg). It was recognized by the AKC in 1997.

This is an American dog breed, developed by the crossing of many types of dogs, including various terriers brought over from Europe as well as beagles, whippets, and Italian greyhounds. From about 1910 through the 1930s, this was one of the most common types of farm dogs in the United States, used for ratting and hunting other vermin and varmints.

Known as an active, playful, intelligent and trainable dog, the rat terrier excels agility and obedience; these events make great exercise outlets for this energetic breed.

A compact and sturdy dog, the rat terrier comes in two sizes: Miniature (10 to 13 inches tall or 25 to 33 cm tall) and Standard (13 to 18 inches or 33 to 46 cm tall); this breed weighs from 10 to 25 pounds (4.5 to 11.3 kg).

The breed’s short, smooth coat comes in a variety of pied patterning: large patches of one or more colors combined with white. Those colors include black, brown, red, apricot, fawn, tan, and lemon. The coat sheds seasonally and requires frequent brushing.

Rat terriers enjoy people, particularly their human family, and are loyal companions. They may be reserved with strangers.

This breed is newly recognized by the AKC, becoming eligible for registration in June 2013. They may live longer than 15 years.

This dog is considered a strong, hardy, skilled and dedicated working terrier that finds vermin under ground. Like some other terriers, the Russell’s coat may be wire-haired or smooth and is weather resistant. It is mostly white with tan or black, sometimes both. It’s coat requires minimal attention, just regular brushing and the occasional bath. This breed is somewhat new to the AKC, being accepted in 2012, and is also known as the Jack Russell Terrier.

The Russell’s personality if one of confidence, courage, and playfulness. It is also known to be very intelligent and loyal. With boundless energy, this breed requires an active family that spends lots of time outdoors. They excel at flyball, agility, and earthdog events.

The Russell originated in England and was further developed in Australia. Another small breed, this dog generally stands 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) at the shoulder and weighs 11 to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kg). These dogs usually live 12 to 15 years.

Although part of the AKC’s toy group, it has the alert, inquisitive nature of terriers and is closely related to the Australian terrier.

This breed was developed in Australia by breeding English Yorkshire terriers with Australian terriers. Though small in stature, 9 to 10 inches (23 to 25 cm) tall and weighing 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or less, these little dogs require lots of attention and plenty of exercise; many love to play fetch! They are considered friendly, fun-loving dogs. Its long, silky, straight coat requires daily brushing.

The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1959. They usually live 11 to 14 years.

This elegant dog is somewhat rare but is also one of the oldest terrier breeds. It originated on the Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland and was used to destroy farm intruders, such as badgers, fox and otter. Today’s Skye terriers often participate in obedience, agility and tracking trials and some are used in pet therapy.

They are loyal and loving toward their humans. A dog named “Greyfriar’s Bobby” epitomizes the dedication of this breed. Bobby guarded the grave of his master, Constable John Grey, for fourteen years until he died at the age of sixteen, after which a statue was erected in Edinburgh in his honor. Queen Victoria had a fascination for these little dogs, helping the breed to become popular during the 1800s. Many royals owned Skyes throughout the years. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1887.

The sky terrier possesses a long, double-coat with hair over the face. The coat must be brushed frequently every week to avoid uncomfortable mat; trimming is also necessary to keep the hair from dragging along the ground.

A Skye is a medium-sized dog with short legs, a long body, and a large head, maintaining most of its original look. It stands only 9 to 10 inches (23 to 25 cm) tall and weighs 35 to 45 pounds (15.8 to 20 kg).

Smooth Fox
This breed originated in Britain during the 17th century. Known for its keen nose, incredible eyesight, and great stamina, the smooth fox terrier was used to drive fox and other prey from underground dens. The breed maintains its energy and determination and is a fierce digger. Therefore, yards and gardens can be readily destroyed.

The breed’s linage is thought to include crosses of the old English terrier, smooth coated black and tan terriers, bull terriers, greyhounds and beagles. The smooth-coated variety and its cousin, the wire-haired fox terrier, were originally in the same AKC category; the breeds became separate in 1984. The AKC recognized the breeds in 1885.

Smooth fox terriers preceded their wire-haired cousins in the show ring by 15 to 20 years and were first classified with sporting dogs, a tribute to their incredible nose, remarkable eyesight, and strong stamina in helping to drive foxes from their holes.

The coat color of the smooth variety is usually white with black or tan markings. Its smooth coat is easy to maintain.

Known as a friendly, active, and playful breed, the smooth fox terrier is highly trainable and excels in events like agility. It is also a good breed for families with children and serves well as watchdogs. U.S. President Herbert Hoover had two fox terriers.

The smooth fox terrier stands less than 15.5 inches (39 cm) at the shoulder and weighs only about 18 pounds (8 kg).

Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
This dog of Ireland shares lineage with other Irish terriers, such as the Kerry blue and the Irish terrier. Whereas those dogs were owned by the wealthy, the soft-coated wheaten terrier was the poor man’s dog, serving as an all-purpose farm dog: patrolling and protecting the farm, ridding the landscape of vermin, herding sheep, and even serving as a hunting companion.

This breed tends to be less obstinate than other terriers but, like all terriers, they are more active than many other dog breeds, and require daily exercise. They are adaptable and relational, and therefore, fare well in cities or rural areas and with children.

The rich, soft, silky coat sheds minimally, but a Wheaten needs regular grooming to keep its wavy coat mat free.

The breed is fairly new to the United States, first being brought over during the 1940s but still not gaining popularity for more than 15 more years. It was recognized by the AKC in 1973. A sturdy, stocky dog, the Wheaten stands 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) tall and weighs 30 to 40 pounds (13.6 to 18 kg).

Staffordshire Bull
This smooth-coated dog is noted for its great strength despite its size. It’s believed these dogs originated from bulldogs and mastiffs, all of which were used for the bloodsports of bull and bear baiting as well as dogfighting. Originally called “bulldog terriers” and “bull and terrier”, the Staffordshire bull terrier developed during the 1800s in Staffordshire, England in order to produce a smaller, faster dog by breeding bulldogs with a small terrier similar to the Manchester terrier. The Staffordshire terrier weighs between 30 and 45 pounds (13.6  to 20.4 kg) and stands 14 to 16 inches tall (35.5 to 40.6 cm).

This breed is considered active and agile and needs regular exercise. The dog’s strength and determination require an owner with a firm, but gentle, presence and solid training.

Its smooth coat comes in a variety of solid colors, including red, fawn, white, black, blue, or brindle. Coat care is minimal, only requiring a weekly brush.

A breed of great courage and intelligence, the Staffordshire terrier is also obedient and affectionate. It is known to be good with children and very loyal. In addition to a family companion, this dog participates in show, obedience and agility events. This breed was recognized by the Kennel Club of England in 1935 and by the AKC in 1975.

This tiny little dog has been recognized by the AKC since 1885 and are considered part of the Toy group instead of the Terrier group. The breed originated in Yorkshire, England, where they were used, as were many terrier types for ratting, but these small dogs worked in clothing mills. They eventually became companion animals for those of high society, a fact which holds true today. They can live up to 16 years and are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.

These dogs are very adaptable to surroundings, travel well and are suitable to apartment life. Despite their working heritage, Yorkies as they are called, require far less exercise their terrier counterparts. They weigh 4 to 7 pounds (1.8  to 3.2 kg). Their long, silky coats require daily brushing and regular grooming and come in colors of black and gold, black and tan, blue and gold, and blue and tan.

Terriers come in all shapes and sizes, from muscular and sturdy to small and short. With the proper family, training, and attention, these willful, active dogs make wonderful and loyal companions.

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