The Terrier Group has a variety of gutsy and courageous breeds, bred to hunt and take on equally feisty prey. These are generally small, spirited dogs with an attitude to match their ability as a capable hunter. Some breeds, like the Parson Russell Terrier, are eager to go to ground to flush out fox, badger, rats, or other small quarry from their underground dens. The 2013 American Kennel Club’s most popular dog list has five members of this group catching the attention of dog lovers, and gaining in popularity. Because these breeds have a big attitude in a small body, they need an owner who can take control and be a strong and fair leader.
Three on the list are from the bully breed type of dogs, and subject to breed specific laws despite evidence showing these unfair and discriminatory laws are costly to enforce, attacks innocent dogs, punishes responsible owners, and ineffective. Bully breeds have gained in popularity because of their people-friendly temperament. It’s crucial to make sure your bully breed, or any dog regardless of breed, is well socialized with people, other dogs, cats, different environments, and situations; along with proper training so you can keep your pet under control. However, as long as BSL laws remain on the books, make sure to check with your city and state before adding a bully breed to your family. Sadly, if BSL exists where you live, your dog can be taken by authorities, and has a high risk of being put down, even if he’s done nothing wrong. It’s very difficult to fight a misconception, fear, and BSL laws.
Bull Terrier originated in Britain as a dog fighter, a past that is still casting a dark shadow on today’s dog, far removed from his original purpose. Early in 1850, a selective breeding program was initiated to remove the more aggressive nature of the breed, transforming the Bull Terrier into a family friendly dog that earned the reputation as “the White Cavalier,” which referred to difference between the Bull-and-Terrier dogs of the time. It was at that time when the Bull Terrier name began to be used. This breed was selectively bred to defend home and family, and not be the one to provoke aggression. The Bull Terrier, described as a clown in the dog world, is a breed that loves to play, enjoys being with his family, and gets along well with other pets in the family. He’s earned the nickname, “the kid in a dog suit,” because of his friendly personality. This breed has moved from 79 on AKC’s most popular dog list to number 51 over the last ten years.
Miniature Bull Terrier is essentially a smaller version of the Bull Terrier. The mini size is around 28 pounds for females, and 35 pounds for males. The average weight for the standard Bull Terrier is around 45 to 55 pound for females, and 55 to 65 pounds for males. At the shoulders, the smaller dog stands 10 to 14 inches, and the standard Bull Terrier stands 21 to 22 inches. Bull Terriers and Mini Bull Terriers are described as being courageous extroverts that can win you over with his feisty, friendly, and happy personality. Both breeds are also excellent ratters. A well trained and properly socialized Bull Terrier makes a wonderful therapy dog. The Miniature Bull Terrier has seen their popularity rise from number 132 to 126 over the last decade.
Norwich Terrier is one of the smallest breeds in the Terrier Group, but don’t let his small size fool you. This dog is every bit as feisty and scrappy as any from this group, bred to hunt rats around farms and homes. He was promoted to fox hunting when it was discovered this small dog would go to ground to flush fox from their den. This is an excellent breed for participating in various dog sports, including agility and Earthdog trials. Before WW II, the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers were considered one breed, but were separated into two distinct breeds after the war. The only difference between the two is in the ears. The Norwich has prick ears, and the Norfolk has drop ears. The breed standard is similar for both dogs. The Norwich has moved from 102 in 2002 up to the 92 spot in this years list of most popular dogs.
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is considered one of the oldest breeds of Ireland, but the breeds’ early history is a mystery. However, the Wheaten shares a common history with another Irish dog breed, the Kerry Blue. According to legend, after the Spanish Armada was sunk off the coast of Ireland, blue dogs from the ships swam to shore and found a welcoming party of terriers with soft wheaten coats waiting for them. This medium sized dog, also known as the “poor man’s wolfhound,” was an all around farm dog used by tenant farmers to control vermin, hunt small prey and go to ground to flush out fox and badgers from their dens, herd livestock, and guard the farmer’s home and land. The Wheaten was developed with the tax man and British law in mind. In the early years of Britain, only nobility and people in the upper class could own hunting dogs. Fishermen and poor farmers who had to rent their homes and land were forbidden to own hunting dogs. It was unlawful to own a dog over 19 inches at the withers, and have a value over five pounds. The wealthy were the only people who could afford to own a dog with an entire tail because a tax was levied on dogs with a whole tail. To get around that little tax problem and the law, tenant farmers kept dogs that couldn’t be readily recognized as a hunting dog, were under 19 inches tall, and under five pounds – with docked tails. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier sits at number 53 today in popularity, up from 56 in 2002.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier has its origins in Britain during the 1800’s. A dubious reputation, forced on him and other bully breeds by people, continues to cast a dark shadow over this courageous, intelligent, people and kid – friendly dog. Despite rumors and myths to the contrary, the Staffie is trustworthy, and loves being around people. Once known as “the Nanny Dog,” the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has proven his reliability as a therapy dog, and in competitive dog sports like agility, obedience, and flyball. Like other Terrier breeds, the Staffie can be dog aggressive, tenacious, willful, a freethinker, and can be hard to train for a first time owner. This is a breed that needs a confident and responsible owner who understands the value of treating a dog with compassion, understanding, patience, respect, and consistency. Because of his people-friendly temperament, the Stafford has moved up to number 76 on the most popular dog list – up from number 91 a decade ago.
Pictured: Colored Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier and Bull Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy.
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