The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is one of the oldest and most unique of all terrier breeds. Originating in Scotland, these short, long dogs are trimmed into a unique, almost lamblike coat for the show ring. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is the only breed of dog in the world to be named after a fictional character, the Scottish huntsman, Dandie Dinmont, from Sir Walter Scott’s 1814 novel, “Guy Mannering”. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is also considered as a rare breed, regularly ranking towards the bottom of registration numbers both in the United States and United Kingdom.
The early history of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and most other terriers, remains a mystery, as these dogs existed long before written records of dog breeding were kept, and they have long been dogs of the common man. It is clear that the vast majority of terrier breeds originated in the British Isles, and that terrier-type dogs, if not the modern breeds, have existed in England, Scotland, and Wales for many centuries. The word terrier comes from the French word ‘terre’ and the Latin ‘terrarius’; both meaning earth or ground. The name is believed to derive from the original purpose of these dogs which was to chase foxes, badgers, rabbits, and other vermin down holes and to either chase them out or fight and dispatch them down there. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word terrier has appeared in writing since at least 1440, but possibly entered the English language with the Norman Conquest in 1066. This means that terrier-types have existed in the British Isles since 1440 at the absolute latest, probably since 1066, and possibly long before that.
The earliest archaeological evidence of terriers comes from the area around the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall constructed in 122 AD, by Emperor Hadrian to separate Roman-controlled Britain from Celtic-and-Pictish-controlled Scotland. Hadrian’s Wall is very close to the modern Borderlands region; a hilly and largely rural area, encompassing the River Tweed, located in the Eastern part of the Southern Uplands. Roman-age finds include two very distinct varieties of dog, a medium-sized coursing dog which probably closely resembled the modern Whippet, and a short-legged, long-bodied type that probably closely resembled a modern Dachshund or Dandie Dinmont Terrier. This implies that as early as the Roman Empire, Britons had created a system where a large hunting breed would pursue quarry such as a fox into its burrow and a short-legged breed would then pursue that quarry out of the burrow and towards the hunters. Without the use of genetic tests, it is impossible to definitely connect these ancient dogs with modern terriers; however, a connection is possible and perhaps even likely.
Although it is impossible to determine when terriers first developed, it is almost certain that they originated in the British Isles; as do almost all of the earliest references to these dogs. How terriers were first created will probably always remain a mystery, but it is most likely that they were selectively bred for centuries from native British dogs.
For many hundreds of years, terriers served as the working dogs of the common man. These tenacious little dogs were tireless hunters and killers of vermin such as foxes, badgers, rats, and mice. Without these dogs, farmers would have suffered far greater losses from predation, disease, and pest overpopulation. Their small size not only allowed them to pursue game down holes and into burrows, but also made them considerably less expensive to keep. As a result, even the poorest of farmers could afford to keep a terrier or two. Primarily located in or around agricultural areas, terriers were bred almost entirely for purpose for many hundreds of years. Farmers would only breed those dogs which proved most useful for their intended purpose, and cared little about appearance.
Terriers became much more important and socially prominent as a result of the enclosure movement. Initially, most of British agricultural land was held by an entire village to use freely among its residents, land held in such a way was known as the Commons. By the end of the 16th Century, abuse of communal lands and the greed of the nobility led to vast areas being fenced off and privately owned. This was devastating to many poor farmers who were then forced to move to cities, or to woodlands which were almost all chopped down. Fields which had once grown crops were now open grazing lands for sheep. This led to increased populations of foxes, badgers, and rabbits, and the rise of fox-hunting as a sport of the nobility.
As the sport of fox-hunting increased in prestige, it led to the creation of specialized breeds more suited for this purpose. This began with the English Foxhound in the late 16th century and by the end of the 18th century, English Foxhound breeders had begun to keep studbooks, which led to the formation of early kennel clubs. Similarly, the breeders of terriers during this time also began to more carefully breed their dogs according to type as well as purpose. In Scotland and Northern England, some of the earliest known distinct terriers to be created during the time were the Skye Terrier of the Highlands, the Fell Terrier, and the Scotch Terrier (a different breed than the Scottish Terrier). Records of these dogs coincide with the emergence of the English Foxhound, dating back to the late 1500’s. There is, however, much mystery surrounding the ancestry of all three, particularly the Scotch Terrier which has long been extinct.
The first written record of a distinct terrier breed to be bred for appearance as well as purpose comes from the aforementioned novel “Guy Mannering”, by Sir Walter Scott; which was essentially a travel novel about hunting excursions in Northern England and Scotland. One of the novel’s characters was a Scottish farmer named Dandie Dinmont. Living in the Borderlands region, Dandie Dinmont was said to be very proud of his six carefully bred terriers, all of which were either named Pepper or Mustard depending on the color of their coats. A very popular novel at the time, the type of terrier owned by Dandie Dinmont, which up until that point did not have a distinct name, became known as the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. This means that the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was one of the first terrier breeds to be bred according to some standard. Although Sir Walter Scott’s writing was fictional, much of what he wrote was based heavily on fact. Dandie Dinmont (the character) was based on the real-life James Davidson, who owned a number of Dandie Dinmont Terriers, all of which were named either Mustard or Pepper. Although the dogs owned by Dandie Dinmont were fictional, some of the first organized terrier breeding programs were actually being conducted in the area described in the novel, and had resulted in the breed Sir Walter Scott described. Author Vero Shaw, notes the role Sir Walter Scott played in popularizing the breed in his work of 1913, “The encyclopaedia of the kennel: a complete manual of the dog, its varieties…”:
“Although beyond all doubt Sir Walter Scott accomplished much in the way of popularizing the Dandie Dinmont terrier by the references made to them in the pages of 'Guy Mannering,’ the breed possesses so many admirable characteristics, conspicuous amongst which are courage and a delight in hunting vermin, that it must always have been a favourite with all who love a good terrier. Hence the large number of friends and admirers the Dandie Dinmont possesses in this and his own country, though, as is only natural, he is in greater request north of the Tweed than he is in England.”
Placing the novel aside, the original stock used to develop the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is largely disputed; however, most agree that the breed originated from dogs owned by Willie “Piper” Allan, a resident of Northumberland, very close to the Scottish border and the northernmost ceremonial county in North East England. Allan, a noted sportsman who bred terriers to hunt otters possessed dogs that were so efficient at the task that local nobility was known to borrow them. When Allan passed in 1779, his son James took control of their care and breeding. Most of the dispute about the Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s origin comes from the fact that no one knows what breed or breeds of terrier the Allans used to create their dogs.
Most theories believe that the dogs descended from crosses between Skye Terriers and Scotch Terriers, and indeed these dogs do closely resemble the long-bodied Skye Terrier. Others believe that the Dandie Dinmont is descended from the Border Terrier, itself a descendent of the Fell Terrier. Some believe that the Dandie Dinmont is a mixture of many different terrier breeds and random bred terriers. It is possible that the original dogs were any mix of terriers, and that later breeders added additional lines. However, the many appearance similarities between the Skye Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont certainly suggest a close relationship between the two breeds.
James Allan not only continued to breed his father’s dogs, but he distributed them to other terrier fanciers who helped to further develop the breed. One such dog was named Old Pepper, who was sold to Mr. Francis Sommer, a resident of Town Yetholm in Scotland. Another early Scottish fancier of the breed was James Davidson. These dogs remained essentially unknown outside of the Borderlands until, the publication of “Guy Mannering”. Davidson was not only the basis for Dandie Dinmont the character, he was also the first person to document the breeding of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and is considered to be the father of the modern breed. Davidson breeding program primarily used dogs of the Allan family, but also added in dogs owned by the Anderson and Faas families, and possibly others as well. Most early Dandie Dinmonts were primarily hunting terriers, and were skilled at pursuing foxes, otters, badgers, weasels, and other game and vermin. Notable 19th century canine authority and author John Henry Walsh gives credit for the breeds creation to the aforementioned James Davidson in his 1879 book, “The dogs of Great Britain, America, and other countries”:
“The Dandie Dinmont breed of terriers, now so much celebrated, was originally bred by a farmer of the name of James Davidson at Hindalee, in Roxburghshire, who, it is generally believed, got his dogs from the head of Coquet Water. There was also a good strain at Ned Dunn's at Whitelee, near the Carter Bar. Those who have investigated the subject are inclined to think that the Dandie Dinmont is a cross between the Scotch terrier and the Otterhound, or, as I believe, the Welsh harrier, which is identical with the latter.”
The popularization of Guy Mannering made the Dandie Dinmont Terrier quite desirable and breeders throughout the early and mid-1800’s sought to improve the breed. They did so by mixing in other terriers. John Henry Walsh, better known as Stonehenge, postulated that Dachshund blood was added in during this time. However, contemporary breeders vigorously denied this, and the breed’s long body and short legs can be found in several British terrier breeds. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier itself was used to help develop the Bedlington Terrier.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier reached the peak of its popularity and numbers right around the time that the Kennel Club was founded in 1873. The unique appearance of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, as well as its connection to Scott’s writings, made the breed a popular show dog at the time. On November 16, 1875, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (DDTC) was founded in the Scottish Borderlands. At the time this was only the third known club for dogs anywhere in the world, behind the Kennel Club itself and the precursors to the modern English Foxhound clubs. The clubs first president was Lady Melgund, and the first Vice-President was E. Bradshaw Smith. Other founding members were noted breeders Hugh Dalziel and William Stachen, along with William Wardlaw Reid who was responsible for writing the first breed standard. The first club show was put on in 1877, and continues to be put on until the present day. Dalziel, also an author wrote of the breed in his “British dogs; their varieties, history, characteristics, breeding, management and exhibition” of 1879:
“Had Sir Walter Scott not written "Guy Mannering" there would never have been a breed of dogs known as Dandie Dinmont terriers ; had he not created for us that big, burly, honest Liddesdale farmer, with his terriers and his grews, what an unknown quantity of temper would have been directed into other channels, and what fountains of printer's ink would have been saved ! There is no class of fanciers so quick to take up a quarrel, or who would fight it out with such tenacity, as those who affect the Dandie ; they seem to partake strongly of the pugnacious character of their pets, and, being mostly Scotchmen or Border men, are always ready to " argue the point.
“Although Mr. Davidson fixed the character of these dogs for us, it has never been said of him that he created the breed, and how they were first produced must remain a matter of speculation ; but that he is a manufactured article, and not a true terrier, I think there can be no doubt, and no theory I have heard broached seems to me to have so much evidence in favour of its correctness as that of " Stonehenge," given in his book " The Dog," published in 1859, namely, a cross with a low-legged Scotch terrier with the otter hound or rough harrier. The Dandie Dinmont muzzle is too massive and square for a terrier, and in that feature, and unmistakably in the size, shape, and set on of his ears and the carriage of his stern he shows the hound cross.”
The first Dandie Dinmont Terriers brought to the United States arrived from Scotland in 1886 for the purpose of being shown in dog shows. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first registered the breed in the Terrier Group later that same year. The first recorded Dandie Dinmont Terrier champion in America was ‘King ‘O The Heather’, a Scottish import that captured the championship in 1893. In 1918, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also recognized the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. The first American-born Dandie Dinmont Terrier to become a champion ‘Auld Pepper ‘O The Ark’, did so in 1931. In 1932, American fanciers formed the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of America (DDTCA). Founding members included Mrs. Bird, Miss Esther Bird, Mrs. J.B. Scott, Miss Katherine White, Miss Katrine Vietor, and Mr. R. Stockton White, who became the club’s first president.
A lot had gone right for the breed, it had become established throughout the United Kingdom and in the United States, it had breed clubs in both locations, but regardless of its proliferation, by the end of the 1800’s, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was rapidly losing popularity to other breeds. World War II was alos very damaging to the breed. Many kennels were shut down due to the war, and breeding was substantially curtailed. Although the Dandie Dinmont Terrier did not become extinct as some breeds did, its numbers were severely reduced. Although it is impossible to get accurate numbers, it is unlikely that the Dandie Dinmont has ever attained population numbers equal to those the breed possessed before World War II.
Although the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is likely still capable of being a hunting dog, very few, if any, members of the breed are now used for this purpose. Almost every Dandie Dinmont Terrier alive today is either a companion animal or a show dog. Unlike similar breeds such as the Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and Scottish Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont has never become a popular pet in America. This breed remains popular as a show dog, which is probably the breed’s most common use and its saving grace. In fact, a greater percentage of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s population is comprised of show dogs than almost any other breed.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier also remains very rare around the world. In 2006, the Kennel Club recognized the Dandie Dinmont Terrier as one of the rarest breeds of dog native to Britain, and placed the breed on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list, meaning that the Kennel Club considers the Dandie Dinmont Terrier at some risk of extinction. According to the AKC registration statistics in 2010, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier ranked 164th in total registrations, ahead of only the Harrier, American Foxhound, and English Foxhound. During the past decade, no more than 200 Dandie Dinmont Terriers were registered in either country in any single year, and both countries experienced several years where fewer than 100 Dandie Dinmont Terriers were registered.
Of those few people who know about the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, almost all know the breed for its unique appearance. These dogs are very low to the ground, with very short legs, and long bodies. Additionally, their traditional show cut is quite unique, with a large poof of hair on the head and balls of fur at the end of the ears.
These dogs are definitely small, but are not as tiny as some of the toy breeds. Both males and females should be between 8 and 11 inches tall at the shoulder. These dogs should be much longer than they are tall. However, they should be one or two inches less than twice as long as they are tall, not including the tail. Dandie Dinmont Terriers in healthy, working condition typically weigh between 18 and 24 pounds, although some will weigh slightly more or slightly less.
This breed has a head typical of a British Terrier. The head is large, but not severely disproportionate to body size. The muzzle is short, but not too short, and is very strong. These dogs have large, round, hazel eyes, which give off an intelligent expression. The ears of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier are low-set on the head, and drop down. These ears are quite thin and taper to a relatively sharp point.
The unique coat of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is one of the breed’s defining characteristics. These dogs have a double-coat over most of their bodies, with a soft undercoat and a hard outercoat. This allowed the breed to work in harsh conditions. Unlike most terriers, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier does not have a wiry coat. The hair of the head should be very soft. The tips of the ears share this soft hair, which extends approximately two inches from the tip. This distinctive ear fur often does not show up until these dogs are two years in age. The fur on the underside of the dog is softer than that on the upper side. The hair on the dog’s legs is similar to that on the body, although the hair feathers on the back side of the front legs only. The hair on the bottom of the tail also forms feathers.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier's color and markings are almost as important as the breed's coat. All Dandie Dinmont Terriers should have considerably darker fur on the top of their bodies than on the lower portion of their bodies. Additionally, the top half of the tail is significantly darker than the bottom half of the tail. Only the two colors that were present in Dandie Dinmont’s dogs are permissible in the modern Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Pepper and Mustard. Pepper ranges from a dark, bluish black to a light silvery grey, with intermediate shades being preferred. Mustard ranges from reddish brown to pale fawn. Dandie Dinmont Terriers are allowed to have some white on the chest but not on the feet.
Although initially bred to be a determined hunter, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier also has a long history of breeding primarily as a companion and show dog. As a result they exhibit the temperament characteristics of both hunting dogs and companion dogs.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is known for being extremely loyal and affectionate with its owner. However, as with many other Terriers they tend to be one or two people dogs, and do not particularly care for the company of strangers. Although Dandie Dinmont Terriers do not typically show the outright aggression towards strangers common to some terrier breeds, they are rarely friendly and commonly nervous. In common with most other terriers, Dandie Dinmont Terriers have a somewhat deserved reputation for being snappy and quick to bite. This is especially so when they feel threatened.
Although Dandie Dinmont Terriers can be socialized to the point where they are accepting of children, they do not have a reputation for being good with children, particularly small children. Terriers in general do not appreciate rough-housing, and even the bumbling movements of children. They will regularly respond to this with growling, snapping, and sometimes biting. Also, these dogs were bred to ferociously stand their ground in the face of small animals, and tend to do so with young children. If you want a watch-dog for an older family, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier may be an excellent choice. If small children will frequently visit your home, this may not be the best breed for you.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is not the best breed to have around other dogs. Although this breed does not show nearly as much dog-aggression as most other terriers, they tend to be very dominant and almost always stand their ground. They will do so with almost any dog, no matter how large. Although proper socialization and training helps, it cannot eliminate this breed’s fundamental instincts. If you are looking to introduce a dog into a home with pre-existing canine companions, you may want to look elsewhere. It is definitely not advisable to keep two dogs of the same gender if you have a Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and keeping two male dogs is almost asking for trouble.
Dandie Dinmont Terriers are not advisable to keep around small pets. These dogs have a strong prey drive, and will be driven to attack and kill hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, and rabbits. Proper socialization and training will make most Dandie Dinmonts eventually accept most cats. Just remember, a Dandie Dinmont Terrier which will not bother a cat it has known its entire life may endlessly bother a new cat which you bring into your home.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is an intelligent and highly trainable dog. They are known for being one of the smartest of all terrier breeds, and can compete in agility and obedience competitions. However, the breed is also known for being independent and sensitive. These dogs will learn, and learn well, but owners must be careful in how they train them. Training methods should be heavily rewards based, as harsh techniques such as yelling will likely result in nervous, snappy dogs. Also, dominance must always be asserted over this breed as they will tend to take control.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier tends to be very relaxed when in doors, and does not require much exercise outside either. A regular walk and frequent opportunities to play will satisfy most Dandie Dinmont Terriers. However, this does not mean that a Dandie Dinmont Terrier can have no exercise at all. If insufficiently exercised, this breed has a tendency to become nervous and snappy.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a propensity to suffer from Small Dog Syndrome. This happens when owners do not discipline a small dog as they would a large dog, because they either seem less dangerous or cuter. This can lead to small dogs acting as if they own the world, and are the masters of everyone and every thing in it. Dogs which suffer from Small Dog Syndrome tend to be aggressive, dominant, out-of control, and rarely show respect for personal boundaries. Dedicated training will prevent the development of Small Dog Syndrome.
Dandie Dinmont Terriers are often very excitable, and usually express this excitement vocally. Although, these dogs will not let out the long baying howls of a hound, their yips can be quite high pitched and loud. If not properly trained or exercised, many Dandie Dinmont Terriers will become noise-making machines, and may cause noise complaints.
As is the case with most terrier breeds, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier has substantial grooming requirements. These dogs regularly need their coats stripped. While some owners choose to do this on their own, most choose to take their pets to professional dog groomers. As these dogs need professional grooming several times every year, potential owners must take this expense into account. If the breed is to be kept in the traditional show cut, a substantially greater amount of work must be done. However, these dogs are known for being very, very, light shedders. Some claim that they do not shed at all. This makes the breed an excellent choice for owners who are either allergy sufferers or cannot stand the thought of dog hair being all over everything that they own.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a relatively healthy breed, with an average life expectancy of 11 to 13 years. There are very few breeders of this dog, and almost all are dedicated to allowing only the healthiest animals to reproduce. Additionally, this breed has always been rare in the United States and has not been subjected to the questionable mass breeding practices suffered by some breeds. However, the small population also makes it very difficult to accurately assess what medical dangers the breed is susceptible to, as even a few cases of a condition will appear statistically anomalous in the general population.
One medical problem which the breed most frequently suffers from is back problems. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s elongated back is vulnerable to slipped-discs, breaking, chronic pain, and many other issues. It is very important to be careful when playing with these dogs to prevent injury. It is of the utmost importance to carefully monitor these dogs’ diet and weight, as overweight dogs are considerably more likely to develop back problems than those which are of healthy weight.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Other health problems which have been known to appear in Dandie Dinmont Terriers include: