The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small terrier-type breed of Scottish origin. It has a very long narrow body with short legs similar to a weasel, a curving topline, large expressive eyes and a distinctive silky topknot perched on the top of the head. It has pendulous ears set well back on the head that hangs close to the cheeks with a very slight projection at the base that tapers to a point. The ears typically measure 7.5-10 cms and are of the same colour as the body coat, which comes in two colours: pepper or mustard. In a pepper dog, the ears are covered with soft, straight, dark hair while a mustard dog’s ears have the same mustard colour but a bit darker. The ears also have a thin feathering of light hair with the same colour as the topknot. However, this feature only appears when the dog reaches the age of two years. The body of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is long and muscular with a well-developed chest. The neck is equally muscular, having developed from hunting larger animals. The hind legs are longer than the front legs. It has a rather short tail that’s thick at the root and tapers off to a point and normally carried a little above the body level. The weatherproof coat ranges from dark bluish black to light silvery grey (pepper) and from reddish brown to pale fawn (mustard). Both colours are adorned with a profuse silvery white topknot. The average height of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is between 20-28cms at withers with an ideal weight of 8-11kg.
During the 17th century, the ancestors of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier were hunting dogs sent to ground to hunt badgers, rabbits, foxes and otters in the border county of Scotland and England. The early development of the breed is attributed to the Border Terrier-type (or Scottish Terrier and Skye Terrier cross) dogs owned by Willie Allan of Holystone in Northumberland during the 18th century. These dogs were well-known for hunting otters in the area but were relatively unknown outside of the borders until 1815 when novelist Sir Walter Scott published “Guy Mannering” after spending time in the area. In his novel, Sir Walter included a fictional character named “Dandie Dinmont” who owned terrier-type dogs named “Pepper” and “Mustard”. Incidentally, the “Dandie Dinmont” character was partially based on the real life farmer Mr. James Davidson who also owned terrier-type dogs aptly named “Pepper” and “Mustard” after the colour of their coats. Coincidentally, these dogs are descended from various sources including the dogs of Willie Allan. Davidson kept a meticulous record of his breeding and is widely accepted as the father of the modern Dandie Dinmont Terrier. When local readers of the novel recognised that the fictional character was James Davidson, they teased him by calling him “Dandie Dinmont”, and from this name came about the name of the breed.
Today, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier can be rarely seen working in the field, but still makes an excellent companion dog. It is highly intelligent, determined, sensitive, affectionate and dignified, gentle with children and a good watchdog. It is relatively quiet compared to other breeds of terrier but it is very independent-minded. It is notorious for digging, owing to its natural instinct to go after small game that burrows below the ground. It can be trained to get along well with cats, especially if it is socialised with other animals at an early age. However, being a hunting terrier with a strong prey drive, it cannot be trusted with small animals like hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and similar pets.
Even with a calm nature, the Dandie still needs to be trained for obedience. Although quite intelligent, this breed sometimes has a stubborn streak which can make training a challenge. Training should start as early as possible in the life of the dog to be successful later on in some of the critical areas of training such coming to heel, stopping to bark when commanded, potty training, and being calm towards strangers. The best training method is consistent, motivational, positive reinforcement techniques and never harsh training which will only make the Dandie more stubborn. Good behaviour should be rewarded with praise or food treats.
Grooming requirements vary depending on the owner and whether the dog is utilized as a working dog or as a house companion dog. In general, brushing the crisp topcoat and soft undercoat on a weekly basis to get rid of loose dead hairs is mandatory. Brushing not only brings the coat to a pristine condition but also promotes good blood circulation. The coat will also need to be hand-stripped every six months to encourage the growth of new hairs.
The Dandie Dinmont is generally a healthy breed with no known serious health problems mainly because of responsible breeding. However, minor health issues affect the breed like all other dogs. The long narrow body profile of the Dandie Dinmont makes it prone to spinal problems like spinal disc herniation which can lead to paralysis in its most severe form. Hypothyroidism, primary closed angle glaucoma and Cushing’s syndrome are also known issues in some dogs. It is also has a higher risk of developing canine cancer compared to other dogs. Given the proper care, a Dandie Dinmont Terrier can live between the ages of 11 to 13 years.
This breed is fairly inactive indoors and needs a moderate amount of exercise which makes him a suitable breed for an owner who lives in either a city or countryside home. A quick walk around the corner on a leash will give the Dandie his required daily exercise. It will also enjoy playing in the garden provided that the garden is well-secured because its instinct to chase prey might kick in anytime.
Like most terrier breeds, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is not great with small children. It has a strict territorial instinct and toddlers can get bitten if they invaded its territory. Older children who knows how to handle a dog properly will go quite along well with the breed. The Dandie Dinmont is not inclined to bark in a sharp, shrill way compared to other terriers, but it is one of the most dog-aggressive breeds, particularly of the same sex. His original purpose to hunt small animals makes him unsafe with rabbits, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs and other similar pets.