Terrier Dogs

I was asking my technician from Lakeland Pest Control about how safe my treatment was for my Terrier and decided to write about the breed. One of the most popular types of working and pet dogs in the world. Terriers are a diverse group of dogs that descended from a small selection of early ancestors. Now relatively redundant in terms of work, the terrier is a hugely popular pet all over the world.


Terriers originated on the British Isles and were a product of man’s evolving needs. Compared to hounds, terriers are a relatively new type of dog. The original purpose of almost all of the early terriers was to control pests such as vermin and foxes. Specimens with high prey drives and tenacity were favored by those that used them for work. The term ‘terrier’ is derived from the Latin ‘terra’ which means ground – this is a reference to the work of the terrier, which would ‘go to ground’ chasing its quarry.

Some of the most popular terriers around the world today include the Border Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and the Parson Russell Terrier. Nowadays, many breeds are considered to be terriers, but that are not part of the original terrier group. For example, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which has common ancestry with many terriers, is descended from terriers and bull breeds. Bull Terriers were created when fighting dogs and terriers were crossed to give the larger bull breeds more courage and gameness. Since then, the breeds have developed into popular pets as well.

Terriers as we know them today are descended from European hunting breeds. The terrier type became established during the early 1800s, around which time there were two types of terrier. One with long legs and one with short legs.

Terriers are typified by their formidable courage and gameness. They are born with latent desires to chase prey and to tackle it. In the domestic environment, this instinct translates into playfulness, cheekiness, and on occasion raises the need for a firm and dedicated trainer.


Terriers possess what is called the “terrier temperament”. It’s hard for novice people to handle. Lots of energy, high prey drive, very independently minded, nippy, and destructive. These dogs are not for everyone. Some terriers, especially larger ones, are more laid-back, and that is something to talk about if they differ from the norm. Most terriers need to have their coats stripped. Most terriers have course coats and short hair. Many terriers have facial garnishes like beards or eyebrows. All terriers were bred to hunt small prey – but the prey they were bred for differs. Rat terriers were bred to hunt rats, while I believe West Highland White Terriers were bred, in part, to hunt rabbits. The size of the terrier is a good indication of what they were bred to hunt. Terriers don’t usually suffer as much from ear infections. Even terriers with floppy ears have an ear that is more triangular and sits higher up than most floppy-eared dogs, and because of their short coats, they don’t usually have fur restricting the airflow to their ear canals. Terriers are not usually a versatile dog. They are very obsessive over things that come instinctual to them but are not always “team players”, so they can be hard to train for dog sports. Many terriers hate the water because their coats are not designed to get wet constantly. Many terriers do not need to be bathed frequently. Despite this, terriers can be outstanding at “disc dog” because it feeds their natural prey drive and they are extremely fast, and agile. Terriers are insanely brave – to a stupid degree. This quality was necessary for hunting certain small game that is extremely aggressive, like rats. Most dogs are afraid of rats – terriers just see food. Unlike many dogs, terriers are extremely adept at hunting. They can catch squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, or your neighbors’ cat, and they can kill them. Not all dogs are this skilled so you don’t have to be as vigilant in protecting small animals from their predation. Do not try to catch a terrier. They are like a bar of soap. Terriers should never be off-leash in an area that is not fenced in. They can bolt, refuse to come when you call and go missing for a very long time. They tend to chase cars, bark at mailmen. If you hate how depressing the news is, train your terrier to fetch the paper because they will most certainly “edit it” before they give you the best pieces…that are left.

Breeds of Terriers

There are 31 breeds of terriers in total. The type of terrier that will suit you best depends entirely on your needs and lifestyle. Here are the top 10 most popular breeds of terriers.

  1. Airedale TerrierThis type of terrier dog is often described as smart, friendly, and confident. Airedale terriers tend to have gentle demeanors but will protect themselves if threatened.
  2. American Staffordshire TerrierPhysically, the American Staffordshire terrier is both muscular and nimble. Personality-wise, this type of dog is cheerful and intelligent.
  3. Bedlington Terrier – This type of terrier is known for being able to run quickly and over great distances. The lithe dog is dignified and soft — in both coat and manner.
  4. Border TerrierUnlike many other terrier breeds, the border terrier is bred to run in a pack. This makes it friendly and cooperative with other species of animals — except for rodents.
  5. Bull TerrierThis handsome breed of dog is long in body and strong in build. Bull terriers can be imaginative and mischievous, and require plenty of exercise for both their mind and body.
  6. Dandie Dinmont Terrier Dandie Dinmont terriers are more reserved than other terriers when it comes to barking or interacting with strangers. However, they tend to be affectionate with their pack leaders.
  7. Irish TerrierThe Irish terrier is a bit of a daredevil. This bold, curious, and adventurous species is always ready to play, explore, and chase.
  8. Jack Russell TerrierOriginally bred to hunt foxes, the Jack Russell terrier is energetic and willful. This breed of terrier works better with more experienced dog parents since training can be quite challenging.
  9. Norfolk TerrierNorfolk terriers are balls of energy. This type of dog can be an engaging playmate who is always eager to run after a ball or play tug-of-war.
  10. Rat TerriersAs the legend goes, President Theodore Roosevelt gave the species its name after his own rat terrier solved the White House’s rodent problem. Rat terriers are born escape artists and may play mischievous tricks if you don’t keep them occupied with exercise and play.

Care is important.

For a high-energy dog like a terrier, getting exercise is very important. There are a host of benefits of your terrier’s exercise including improved bone, joint, lung, and heart function. Getting exercise also releases some of the pent-up energy that terriers accumulate daily. Releasing that energy results in a dog that rests better and is less anxious. Many behavioral and emotional problems, in addition to physical problems, stem from not getting enough exercise. You may also find getting your dog active is a good way for you to get active as well.

The most obvious source of exercise is a daily walk or walks. Some terriers live in homes with doggie doors or a fenced-in yard where they are just let out to do their business. While this is very convenient, you may be missing out on getting your dog exercise and sharing some good bonding time. Taking the time to go on a walk with your dog lets you do both. Twice a day does the trick for many terriers and their owners.

Games are another great way to get your dog some exercise. The game of fetch is a tried and true classic – just make sure to go for distance rather than height when throwing. A high jump coupled with an awkward landing can make for an unintended injury. Seek is another good game. 

Food for your terrier presents a staggering array of choices, but taking the time to find a good diet for your dog will pay big dividends in the long run. Avoiding food allergies and additional trips to the vet can help offset any additional cost of providing your pooch quality food. Good additional sources of information on what to feed your dog include your local pet supply store, pet groomer, and of course veterinarian.

For anyone who either owns a terrier dog or is thinking of getting one, it’s important to know the characteristics. While extremely friendly and playful creatures that exude positivity and energy, they can be a bit of a nightmare as well. For those expecting the kind of dog that poses you no problems or concerns, you might be a touch surprised when you finally get to play with a terrier!

So, to help make sure you can best understand your furry new friend, let’s look at the typical terrier dog characteristics. While every dog is different, most breeds have some rather standard traits that, over time, tend to show up one way or another.