A Look at the Feisty and Fun-Loving Terrier Dog Breed

by Amy DeYoung

Did you know Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and guard barns? Learn more about this feisty breed that never backs down from a challenge! 

When you hear the word ‘terrier,’ you likely picture a few different types of dogs, but did you know there are actually 31 recognized terrier breeds? And that doesn't even cover the terrier mix breeds we know and love! 

These dogs are spunky, energetic, loving. They make wonderful family dogs and benefit from lots of playtime or a job to perform. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and guard barns and their family’s home, making them feisty dogs that won’t back down from a challenge! 

Read on to learn more about terriers, their breed-related health issues, care recommendations, and much more. 

What Are Terriers? 

A terrier is any type of dog initially bred as a farm dog that hunted vermin, like foxes, rats, and badgers. 

During the eighteenth century in England, there were two recognized terrier breeds: long-legged terriers and short-legged terriers. 

Today, The American Kennel Club recognizes 31 different dog breeds as part of the ‘Terrier’ breed group. Some of the most popular terrier breeds include the Miniature Schnauzer, Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and much more. 

AKC Recognized Terrier Breeds

  • Airedale Terrier
  • American Hairless Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Australian Terrier
  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Cesky Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Irish Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Minature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer 
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Rat Terrier
  • Russell Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Smooth Fox Terrier
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Wire Fox Terrier

Physical Traits

Terriers come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and more. They tend to be smaller dogs that are energetic and quick on their feet. However, the Airedale Terrier is an example of one of the bigger, grander types of terriers. 

Most terriers are lean with deep-set eyes, longer heads, and strong, square jaws. 

Terrier breeds designed for chasing vermin underground, such as the Russell Terrier, have shorter legs. In contrast, terriers bred to guard homes and hunt above ground typically have squarer proportions. 

Behavioral Traits

If you are looking to make a terrier part of your family, it’s important to know that you’ll need to be determined to match your terrier’s stubbornness. Due to their breeding, these dogs are naturally stubborn, alert, independent, and have a strong bite. 

Nearly every terrier breed is known for being feisty and stubborn, so they aren’t always the easiest dog breeds to train. However, their high intelligence and curiosity make them fast learners if they feel like learning, so incentivizing your terrier with special rewards, like a treat, can make a massive difference during training. 

All terriers are vocal due to their natural inclination to confront and chase vermin, so don’t be surprised if your dog expresses itself whenever someone comes by the door! 

Early obedience training is crucial to help your terrier understand when it is and isn’t okay to bark and to avoid destructive but natural behaviors, like digging or biting, to protect themselves or loved ones from a ‘threat.’

One thing is for sure - you’ll never be bored with a terrier, between their feisty, mischievous personality and endless hijinks! 

Terrier Breed-Related Health Issues  

Most terrier breeds have small jaws, increasing their risk of dental problems like overcrowded teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease. 

The Veterinary Centers of America even estimates that over two-thirds of dogs over three years old suffer from periodontal disease. This painful dental disease occurs when the tissues around the tooth are inflamed. Infections and tooth loss can occur if left untreated, making regular brushing and dental exams essential for terriers. 

Terrier breeds are also known to have a greater risk of allergies, whether to things in their environment or food. Pet parents may be able to address these allergies with a change in their pup’s food or by substituting different products, such as using unscented cleaning products, around their terrier. 

Another common terrier health issue is patellar luxation, which occurs when the kneecap ‘pops out’ of place. At first, this may only cause your dog to skip a step before the kneecap returns to its normal position, but over time, a dog with patellar luxation can develop arthritis, joint pain, and lameness. It may even cause serious injuries like torn cruciate ligaments. 

Unfortunately, patellar luxation is one of the most common canine orthopedic conditions, with 7% of all puppies being diagnosed with it. However, it’s believed to be even more common in smaller dog breeds, like Scottish Terriers and Yorkshire Terriers. 

Depending on the severity of the patellar luxation, anti-inflammatory prescriptions, joint supplements, physical therapy, diet change, and surgery may be recommended by your terrier’s vet. Weight management is hugely important for reducing the chances of developing patellar luxation and other conditions. 

Terrier Dog Breed

Terrier Breed Care

Grooming Recommendations

Grooming recommendations will vary depending on the type of terrier you have. 

Many terrier breeds have short, low-maintenance coats, such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Smooth Fox Terrier, which only require brushing a few times a month to maintain. 

In contrast, long-haired terriers, like the Skye Terrier or Scottish Terrier, have luxurious, thick coats, so you’ll need to account for plenty of time to “strip” their coat regularly or have them groomed professionally to maintain a characteristic appearance.  Long-haired terriers also shed much more, so be prepared to vacuum several times a week and keep a lint roller handy for your clothes. 

Health Recommendations

Like all dog breeds, terriers reap many benefits when their weight is within a healthy range. Weight management can help terriers avoid patellar luxation or limit its severity if they develop it. 

Consult with your veterinarian to learn how much you should feed your terrier, as this will vary greatly based on their age, size, activity level, and current weight. Alternatively, use our feeding calculator to get an estimate of how much to feed your dog. 

Exercise Recommendations

Terrier breeds need a job or plenty of playtime to keep their energy levels in check so they don’t become destructive. 

Nearly every terrier breed needs at least one to two hours of fun exercise a day to keep them happy, entertained, and lean. Many terriers love brisk walks, chasing after a ball or frisbee, or vigorous playtime like tug of war. 

They also benefit greatly from mental stimulation, so plenty of puzzle toys, games, and even a window to watch all the action from are great ways to engage your dog mentally. 

Terrier Nutrition

Terrier dog breeds have medium to high energy levels and need plenty of nutrient-rich food to support their health. Terriers are also more prone to allergies, which can include symptoms like an upset stomach, itchy skin, sneezing, ear infections, coughing, and diarrhea. 

Some dog allergies and food sensitivities can be dramatically improved by changing your dog’s diet to all-natural, human-grade food with no artificial or synthetic ingredients. An excellent choice is Sundays all-natural food, which is gently air-dried, picky-eater approved, and needs no prep to serve. 

Perfect for any pet parent looking for high-quality, delicious food for their spunky terrier!  


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