It’s six o’clock, and Foxy, my Russel terrier, is up and ready! It’s time for his morning walk, and he won’t take no for an answer! He is currently eyeing me as I peek my head out from under the covers.
Terriers were originally bred to hunt rats, foxes, badgers and moles. They are natural diggers, pursuing their prey even underground. Bull terriers were bred to use in blood sports but this practice has since been banned. All terriers have a fun but stubborn temperament in common.
But what differences can you expect from breed to breed, and how well will these dogs fit in with your living situation? Let’s unfold the different options you have with this breed.
History Of the Terrier Breed
The story of the terrier breed begins in England. Many terrier breeds pay homage to their place of origins, such as the Airedale terrier, the Boston terrier, or the Yorkshire terrier.
In the eighteenth century, terriers were crossed with hounds to improve their hunting instincts further. They became hunting companions, bringing down bigger prey like foxes and the ferocious badger.
As working dogs, they were an excellent choice for farmers as these intelligent dogs were able to hunt down rats and other rodents and even foxes that could destroy the crops, and they made for good guard and herd dogs, to boot.
All Bull terrier types were bred to participate in blood sports. Thankfully these cruel sports are illegal today. These dogs were brave and loyal, and in the era of dogfighting, they were often the dog of choice for their courageous spirit and tenacity.
Bull terriers’ muscular bodies and intimidating jaws remain as a legacy of their past. The body of the Terrier is especially suited to its original function: to dig, hunt, and kill. The smaller breeds will pursue prey even underground with their paws especially adapted to burrow into the earth.
Today, the Terrier is an excellent choice for a companion or family pet, with many varieties suitable as watchdogs. They also make beautiful show dogs and keen participants in dog sports.
Dog Sports That Terriers Excel At
Because terriers are such intelligent, fearless, and tough dogs, they make for excellent sports dogs. Participating in these sports will satisfy your dogs’ innate need for physical and mental stimulation that they need to be happy.
Terriers are more challenging to train, but it is highly recommended that you instill at least basic obedience training because their fiercely independent and stubborn streak may lead to destructive behavior if left unchecked.
The American Kennel Club accredits all the following sports. Let’s look at which sports each terrier breed may excel in.
Terriers And The Rally Game
The American Kennel Club uses the Rally game to test the teamwork between you and your pup. You and your dog will need to navigate a course with 10 to 12 signs indicating a skill your dog will need to perform. This mainly consists of basic commands such as “Sit,” “Rollover,” etc.
Now, terriers generally have a mind of their own, so working on your Terrier’s obedience will be somewhat tricky but well worth the effort as it will improve your day-to-day life with each other.
Terriers That Excel At Speed And Agility
Fast CAT, or coursing ability test, is all about speed and agility. In this test, dogs chase a lure for a 100-yard stretch, with the winner claiming ultimate bragging rights. This is a relatively new addition to dog sports but is becoming a firm favorite amongst dog owners.
This test will come naturally to terriers, whose instincts make them a natural at this fun game. The Jack Russel can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and stand out in the Fast CAT category.
Scent Work And Terriers
Dogs are challenged to lead their owners to a hidden scent. The Scent work test is an excellent way for owners to let the canine take the lead. Scent work has been used to instill confidence in a dog, but terriers are never in short supply in this area.
The Scottish Terrier is known for its keen sense of smell. The Terrier has a history of being crossed with Hounds, who have an excellent sense of smell, which terriers have inherited.
Farm Dog Sport And Terriers
As you may have guessed, the Farm dog test takes place on a farm. This test helps to assess the general conduct of its participants while operating in an environment of distractions. The ability to have self-control and overall confidence are at test here.
Terriers that are excellent farm dogs include the Airedale Terrier and the Jack Russel. All terrier breeds will require rigorous training for this test, especially the feisty Jack Russel, as they have a very playful personality.
Terriers That Can Be Easily Trained For Trick Dog
There are five categories of tricks you and your dog can claim a title for, namely: AKC Novice Trick Dog, the AKC Intermediate Trick Dog, the Advanced Trick Dog, the AKC Advanced Trick Dog, the AKC Trick Dog performer, and the AKC Trick Dog Performer.
The Manchester Terrier is relatively easier to train than other terrier breeds and has a great attitude. This Terrier has a strong need to stay busy; teaching them to stay focused by performing a task or command helps keep them mentally and physically active.
Terriers That Excel At Earthdog
The Earthdog contest is expressly set up for dogs who like to dig and hunt, which gives the Terrier (especially the short-legged variety) a chance to shine. Live rodents are used in the test, but no animals are harmed as they are safely caged.
The Earthdog test is not a competitive event, and your dog will be able to get a score according to its merit. Games like this are an excellent release for terriers as they instinctively know how to hunt underground.
The Earthdog competition was explicitly formulated for the Dachshund and 28 terrier breeds. The short-legged terrier varieties excel at this sport as their natural digging and hunting abilities are top-notch.
Different Types Of Terriers
The word “terrier” is directly translated from the Latin word “terra,” which means “earth,” and their jobs were originally to dig for vermin such as rats, gophers, or badgers. These terriers were trained to stand side by side in war times with their humans.
The instinct to hunt and dig has not been lost to all modern terrier descendants. They are independent and intelligent and do not require the supervision or direction of their humans to do what they do best!
Any terrier you invite into your home will have these instincts intact and all of the energy accompanying their innate hunting skill. The modern Terrier can be informally subdivided into three categories according to size and function.
Lets’ have a look at some popular breeds in each category.
The long-legged terriers are similar to their short-haired counterparts in that they, too, enjoy hunting down vermin. They are a lot more versatile than the miniature Terrier and were used on farms to not only hunt foxes and badgers but could herd sheep, retrieve objects and act as guard dogs for their household.
The other difference between short-legged and long-legged terriers is that the structure of their legs is different. The long-legged Terrier has straight legs with forward-facing feet. This is because they dig above the ground.
The short-legged terriers have feet that point outwards; they are burrowers, and their diminutive size allows them to find prey deep inside tunnels.
Airedale terriers get their stately name from their origins in the Aire of England, and they are indeed stately, standing 23 inches tall. These are the largest of the terrier breed, and on average, males will weigh between 44 to 50 lbs, and females weigh between 40 and 47 pounds.
This is quite a distinctive-looking dog with a medium-length, wiry, double coat that gives it the appearance of a fuzzy teddy bear. They are super friendly and require loads of love and attention.
The long skull, little triangular ears, and small eyes are trademarks of this breed. It has a thick, long neck that slopes down into the flat shoulder blades and a short, muscular back.
Its coat is generally black, grey, tan, or cream, with a deep chest and tiny, rounded feet with straight legs. Besides being cute, the Airedale terrier has an intelligent look on its face.
Please do not take this lovely animal home with you if you do not intend to spend time with it for a few hours every day. You will need ample space to accommodate your new friend, and a larger home with a backyard is advised instead of an apartment.
A word of advice, a bored Airedale terrier will amuse himself by digging holes in your garden if you don’t give it enough attention. They are not very vocal unless alarmed, making them excellent guard dogs.
Jack Russel Terrier
The Jack Russel, also known as the Parson Terrier, is one of the most popular terrier breeds, and they are the heroes in many Hollywood blockbusters, such as Milo in the 1994 film, The Mask or Jack in the 2011 film, The Artist.
Jack Russells were bred as working dogs, hunting foxes, raccoons, and woodchucks. They cannot be left alone for extended periods without becoming destructive and very vocal with incredibly high energy.
These loyal and friendly dogs prefer the company of their family and do not easily get along well with other smaller pets, such as cats, as he will view them as prey. Households with younger children should instead wait until the kids are older before welcoming a Jack Russel into the family.
With a high energy level, this little Terrier packs a punch when it comes to confidence, and they are known to be territorial, therefore a good choice if you need a guard dog.
Jack Russells weigh between 14 and 18 pounds and stand between 9 and 15 inches tall. They are considered low maintenance in terms of grooming, but they have many significant health concerns that you will need to look out for.
Major health concerns include Patellar Luxation, Cataracts, Glaucoma, Legg-Calve Perthes Disease, Subaortic Stenosis, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Canine Cushing’s Disease.
You would be forgiven for mistaking the Bedlington terrier for a lamb! If you are looking for an exciting companion, look no further as this breed is an exemplary athlete and a loyal companion with a brave and spirited temperament.
One of the most notable traits of the Bedlington is its very distinct appearance. You may notice that older Bedlingtons have grey, blue, liver, or sandy coats, even though they had dark brown or black fur as puppies.
As an adult, its rugged coat has a texture similar to lint. This is because they have the dominant greying gene, which causes the fur to turn grey as the puppies mature. You will need to groom your Bedlington regularly to avoid the coat growing out of control.
As mentioned earlier, the athletic capabilities of this breed are remarkable and will make an excellent companion to anyone who is highly active. They excel as swimmers and love to play in the snow. As runners, they not only possess speed but endurance as well.
These high-energy dogs are perfect if you wish to participate in dog shows, conformation shows, or dog sports. These dogs have a mild and gentle temperament when it comes to children.
This versatile dog will expect your love and devotion, and they display a jealous and aggressive nature around other dogs. Even though it has remarkable physical strength, intelligence, and a fighting spirit, they make quiet house dogs.
Bedlingtons are very headstrong and will not back down from a challenge. As with all terrier breeds, it has a natural hunting instinct and will hunt down any small critters in your backyard.
This incredible range of talents and abilities make the Bedlington very versatile, and they will adapt to being a housedog, a hunting companion, or a sports companion. This sturdy dog breed has few significant health concerns inherent to its species. The top concerns are old age, urological, kidney problems, and copper toxicosis.
Reproductive issues, eye problems, and heart murmurs are known health concerns for this terrier breed. They will likely be part of your family for the next 13 to 18 years and are known for their longevity.
Short-Legged Terriers or Toy Terriers
Short-legged terriers are tenacious little creatures, so don’t let their size fool you! With a powerful jaw and front quarters and ample flexibility, they are built to pursue small rodent prey, even underground in burrows.
Despite their diminutive size, they have loads of courage, tenacity, and stubbornness. These dogs are persistent and tend to be rather loud. Their independent, alert, and intelligent natures will keep you on your toes.
With proper care, training and socialization, most terriers can make good family dogs and get along well with children. Do not expect them to be lapdogs, though. They are very well suited to a family with an active lifestyle and will be keen to accompany their humans on any adventure.
The standard for the Australian Terrier breed was established in 1896 by the Australian Terrier Club. It was developed from species such as the Dandie Dinmont, Skye, Scottish, Yorkshire, and Manchester Terriers.
Australian terriers excel at agility, obedience, and overall cuteness! This terrier breed is not too vocal but will bark when needed, making them excellent watchdogs.
Even though Australian terriers have long, shaggy coats, they are surprisingly low-maintenance dogs as they do not shed too much. A good brush once a week, trimming the toenails once a month, and a bath every other week will take care of their grooming needs.
This little Terrier has a medium to high level of energy and, much like its other terrier counterparts, will require physical activity. A daily walk and playtime at home should be all that is necessary to fulfill its needs.
This little beauty stands only 10 to 11 inches high, and because of their size, they are well suited to apartment dwellers and bigger families. Their cheerful, playful personalities make them excellent companion pets.
If you’re searching for a good family dog that can get along well with kids, the Cairn Terrier will be a good match. They are good-natured and amiable; however, make sure that you teach your younger children not to be too rough with this little dog because, although highly tolerant, it will not tolerate very rough play.
The breed standard colors for this Terrier include black, brindle, cream, gray, gray brindle, red, red brindle, silver, cream, and black brindle. They stand only 10 inches high, but they do not lack energy.
As a family dog, this breed of Terrier is more willing to cuddle up for a quick snuggle but at the same time will be keen for ample playtime. Its nature is loyal, curious, and alert, with its little ears, often perked up in attention.
Because of their size, these dogs will readily adapt to apartment dwellers and those with larger households. As a first-time dog owner, these tiny terriers will give you all the love and loyalty you crave but remember that they still possess the stubborn, independent streak of their terrier ancestry.
Basic obedience training is recommended as they can wreak havoc if they do not receive enough attention and physical exercise. They are also fond of barking excessively.
A well-bred Cairn Terrier has very few major health concerns, with flea allergies, Patellar Luxation, and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease being the top concerns to look out for. You will also have to keep tabs on their weight, ensuring that they adhere to a well-balanced, nutritional diet.
Bull Type Terriers
The Bull-type terriers were bred in the 18th and 19th centuries when blood sports were popular. This disgusting practice where animals fight for betting and entertainment is now outlawed, but the bull terrier remains a legacy.
A Bull Terrier is a cross between a Bulldog and a terrier, and you can identify them by their large heads, strong, muscular bodies, and impressive jaws. The modern, well-bred bull terriers have loads of confidence coupled with a stable and amicable temperament.
American Staffordshire Terrier
Also known as an Am Staff, Pitbull, and Yankee Terrier, these beautiful, loving dogs have the unfortunate plight of suffering from the abusive and illegal practice of dogfighting. For this reason, you will need to acquaint yourself with breed-specific laws that have been implemented regarding the bull terrier breed.
Despite their horrific history, these dogs are calm and well behaved around their owners and make for excellent guard dogs. They are instinctively protective and loyal by nature.
The words “sweet and shy” can describe the Am Staff’s personality. With a gentle and loving nature, they enjoy spending time with the family, even though they are wary of other dogs. However, this is not a good choice if you are a first-time dog owner, as this breed will seek a strong, confident leader to follow.
Obedience training, at least an hour of daily physical exercise, and lots of love and attention are recommended. Also, set aside some time for weekly grooming. Even though this breed has a short-haired coat, it sheds often and collects dirt and grime.
You should pay attention to their dental needs as they pick up more bacterial infections than other breeds. A good brush once a week should keep their mouths healthy.
Many apartment dwellers find that the American Staffordshire Terrier adapts well as long as provision is made for adequate exercise and mental stimulation.
American Staffordshire Terriers are heavy, weighing between 40 to 50 pounds, with a sturdy, muscular build and strong jaws and tight lips. They are generally resilient, healthy dogs but watch out for heart problems.
Minor health concerns include Patellar Luxation, Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, Hypothyroidism, and bladder stones. Doing occasional thyroid tests, blood and urine screens, and x-rays will help catch any problems early on.
This cross between a Bulldog and an Old English Terrier also goes by the nickname “White Cavalier,” as they were a firm favorite of well-to-do English gentry. This handsome, muscular breed has a distinct look with all the confidence and swagger to match.
They were initially bred as work dogs and excelled at ratting, guarding, and herding. The modern Bull Terrier still retains these abilities but is mainly sort after as a loyal companion.
The breed standard for this dog is a robust and muscular body, catlike feet, and powerful hindquarters with moderately long front legs. Perhaps the most distinct feature would be the shape of its head, which closely resembles a football.
They have a glossy, short-haired coat that requires minimal grooming. A quick weekly spruce-up to remove dirt and loose hair should be sufficient.
You will fall in love with the bull terrier’s winsome personality as they have a rather funny side while retaining the stubbornness and independence of its terrier origins.
Even though they are amicable and good-natured, they are not recommended for families with small children, as they don’t respond well to rough play. They have a strong need to be close to their humans, making for great indoor pets.
Be careful of adding a Bull terrier to your household if you already have other, smaller pets, as you will find that bull terriers tend to dominate. Early socialization and training are best for these intelligent pups.
If you are the athletic type, your bull terrier will make a great running companion and double as your guard dog as you jog around your neighborhood. They will require at least an hour a day of physical activity to keep them adequately stimulated.
Whichever terrier breed you choose, you can be sure to have a loyal, intelligent, active dog that will challenge and entertain you with its stubborn, independent nature. There are many varieties to choose from among the terrier breed that you will likely find a match suited to your lifestyle and personality.