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Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 9, 2021

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small purebred from the United Kingdom and was bred to hunt badger, otter and vermin. While it has the usual tenacity all terriers are known for it is one of the more reserved types and as such is sometimes called the gentleman of terriers. It is identified as a vulnerable breed by the English Kennel Club because of its low numbers today.

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier at A Glance
Name Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Other names Hindlee Terrier
Nicknames Dandie
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Small
Average weight 8 to 24 pounds
Average height 8 to 11 inches
Life span 11 to 13 years
Coat type Silky, medium
Hypoallergenic Yes though you should always visit before buying to test for reactions just in case
Color Grey, white, silver, yellow
Popularity Not popular – ranked 177th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair – needs 40 to 80 repetitions before it learns a new command
Tolerance to heat Good – can live in warm or very warm climates but nothing too hot or extreme
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle cool climates but nothing too cold and certainly not extremes
Shedding Low – does not leave a lot of hair around the home if any
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to slobber or drool
Obesity High – prone to weight gain so watch its food intake and exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high maintenance – brush two to three times a week
Barking Occasional to frequent – does bark and training to stop on command is a good idea
Exercise needs Moderately active – needs daily walks and some play
Trainability Moderately hard to train – experience really does help
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good to very good though experience with terriers can help
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization – can have strong prey drive
Good with strangers Good with socialization, may need supervision
Good apartment dog Very good due to size as long as you still get it out each day for exercise
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy – some issues can include hip dysplasia, eye problems, Cheyletiella mites, back problems and epilepsy
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and medical insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $535 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, grooming and basic training
Average annual expenses $1140 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Several including the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Rescue Group
Biting Statistics None reported

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s Beginnings

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s beginnings date back to the 17th or 18th century and it comes from the border area between Scotland and England. It is thought in its breeding were the extinct Scotch Terrier and the Skye Terrier. It was bred to hunt badger and otter so it had short legs so that it was more able to go to ground but it could also hunt creatures like skunk, rabbit and weasels. Farmers also used it for hunting vermin and it was a dog that gypsies also kept. More information about their origins is not known though there is some suggestion that in the early 1700s there were dogs owned by the Allans of Holystone and they were also involved in the Dandie’s development.

The head of the Allan family was Willie Piper Alan. He enjoyed various sports including keeping dogs to hunt with. The story goes that he was hired by Lord Ravensworth to get rid of otters from a pond on his estate. When Allan’s dogs were successful the Lord tried to buy one of them but Allan said no. However when he died his son took over the breeding and sold one to Mr Francis Sommer just across into the Scottish side of the border.

Beyond the border area not much was known about the dog but then it was written about in 1814 in Walter Scott’s book ‘Guy Mannering’. The name of the breed actually also comes from that novel in which there was a character called Dandie Dinmont. It is the only dog still today that is named after a fictional character. Scott had spent time in the area the Allans were and had much admired the dogs. There was also a farmer there called James Davidson who owned terriers, bred them and in fact is thought of as the father of the modern Dandie Dinmont Terrier. In 1873 the Kennel Club was formed and in 1875 the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club started. It is said Queen Victoria, an avid dog fan, also kept Dandies.

New Lease on Life

It is not known exactly when this breed made its way to the US though it was recognized by the AKC in 1886. As with many dog breeds the advent of the two world wars had a very severe impact on the Dandie and its numbers dropped significantly. Kennels were destroyed, food was rationed and manpower was focused elsewhere. After World War I there was an attempt to raise the numbers again and a number of large kennels were established. However then World War II happened and dogs and kennels were destroyed as there was no-one to care for them and no resources again.

After the second world war breeders again dedicated themselves to the breed being saved around the world. However it remains today to be a breed that is rare and considered at risk of becoming extinct. The English Kennel Club as labeled the Dandie Dinmont Terrier as a Vulnerable Native Breed. There are less than 300 puppies being registered each year. In the US that number is around 150 a year. It is ranked as 177th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small dog weighing just 8 to 24 pounds and standing 8 to 11 inches tall. It has a tail that is long, tapers and is shaped like a scimitar. The dog is nearly double its height in length and has short legs though its back legs are longer than its front ones, bred and developed to be able to go to ground after its prey. Its neck is powerful and its body strong, but because of how it is low set stairs, and big jumps could be an issue. Its dewclaws are usually removed and its coat is a mix of soft hair and hard though not wiry hair. Its length is about 2 inches and there is a silky topknot on its head. Common colors are dark blue to silvery grey or red brown to light fawn. Usually puppies are born with darker coats that lighten as they mature.

It has a large head covered in silky soft hair and a deep muzzle. The nose is fairly large and its lips are dark. Its eyes are wide set, large, dark hazel and round. It has pendant ears that are set low, hang close to its cheeks and are 3 to 4 inches long.

The Inner Dandie Dinmont Terrier


This is an alert breed so should bark to let you know if someone is trying to get in or already has, but it is not known for its high protective instincts so cannot be relied upon to act in your defense. It can be owned by new owners but it has to be said experience with dogs especially terriers specifically will help. This dog is an intelligent breed, it is also loving and loyal to its owners, somewhat sensitive, but also can be independent, tenacious and aggressive. With the right owners it is relaxed in the home and then becomes more bold and outgoing when outside.

Dandies make great companion dogs for people who want a small dog with a big personality. It is lively and brave, happy and social. It can develop small dog syndrome though if too spoiled and treated like a baby. It needs to know its place and needs owners to be in charge, otherwise it can be loud, snappy and hard to control. It would only be like that though if it has not been raised properly, Dandies are not naturally like that. It can also suffer from separation anxiety as it does not like to be left alone for long periods of time. Around strangers it is reserved but when introduced and with socialization it can be good with them.

Some owners find its barking leans more towards occasional but most say like all terriers it is a barker and that will need training to control. It is not an overly demanding companion dog but it will want to dog holes in the yard so have a space for it where that is allowed. It is a confident dog but not high strung and not looking for a fight, though it would not back down if it was challenged.

Living with a Dandie Dinmont Terrier

What will training look like?

Training terriers is not an easy process and while the Dandie may be a chilled terrier, they can still have moments of stubbornness and willfulness and its training too can be a challenge. Patience and perseverance will be needed and this is one of the reasons the breed is not best suited for the first time owner. Experienced dog owners and terrier owners will find the process somewhat easier as they know how to go about it already. Be firm and make it clear you are the pack leader and be constant about your leadership. Use praise, encouragement, treats and such to motivate and reward your dog. It is a sensitive dog so being heavy handed or harsh with it will just lead to it being more obstinate. Avoid making sessions too long, boring or repetitive as the dog will become bored and lose interest. Make sure you start socialization as soon as you have it home. It will grow into a happier, more well rounded and trustworthy dog.

How active is the Dandie Dinmont Terrier?

Dandies are a fairly active breed and need daily exercise, play opportunities and mental stimulation to prevent it becoming bored and destructive. It can live in an apartment thanks to its size but it does bark and it likes to have a yard so a home with even a small yard would be preferable. As well as a couple of 20 to 30 minute walks a day it would enjoy time somewhere safe for it to go off leash, be free, and play with you. It would be fine if socialized and trained in dog parks where it can also socialize. With its low set and long body it is not a dog that can jog with you when you go biking or jogging, but it will still want to play and active. Always make sure when out walking it stays on a leash as it will chase small critters or anything that catches its eye that moves!

Caring for the Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Grooming needs

Dandie Dinmont Terriers need a moderate to high amount of grooming and care. It does not shed a great deal so is good for owners who do not want a lot of loose hair around the home. It will need professional grooming or trimming and clipping from you. It should be brushed two to three times a week and it will need plucking at least a couple of times a year. If you want a show dog look that will take hours of work and will be done more often. Keep in mind if you choose to clip or trim instead of stripping that will change the texture of the coat. The hair on top of its head will need more frequent care to keep it out of the dog’s eyes. The hair in its ears should be plucked and the long feathering it has will need scissor trimming too. Only bathe when it really needs one to avoid damaging the oils it needs in it skin.

It will need its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week to keep them free of tartar and plaque and have better breath! Its ears should be checked for infection signs once a week, things like redness, inflammation, discharge for example. You can also give them a weekly clean, by wiping them with either a damp cloth or cotton balls moistened with a dog ear cleanser solution. Never insert anything into them. Its nails need to be clipped when they get too long as well. You can do this yourself as long as you do your homework and get the right tools. Or you can have a vet or groomer do it for you. Take care not to clip too low down where the quick of the nail is as dogs have blood vessels and nerves there. If you clip or nick there it will hurt the dog a lot and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

This dog will eat about ¾ to 1½ cups of a dry dog food a day, split into two meals. It is really a good idea to spend a little more for a good quality brand, or even on a top quality brand. Cheaper brands are made up of fillers and are a lot less nutritious. How much exactly can vary from one Dandie to another depending on its size, metabolism, activity level, build and age.

How is the Dandie Dinmont Terrier with children and other animals?

The Dandie Dinmont is a good dog around children, especially with socialization and if raised with them. It can be energetic and playful with them and then it can also be affectionate and loving towards them. It is best with older children as terriers are less tolerant of toddlers and young children who have a tendency to tug, pull and startle with loud noises or tease. Make sure children are taught how to touch kindly, that teasing is not acceptable and things to avoid like taking its toys or food.

This is a terrier bred to be a hunter as all terriers are. It is therefore going to have those chase instincts especially around smaller animals. If raised with cats it might be accepting of them, but if it sees strange ones in the yard it will go after them. Likewise smaller pets like mice or hamsters will be seen as prey especially if they are running away from it! With other dogs it can get along well with them as long as it is well socialized and trained. It can be scrappy if it is being challenged it will not back down. It is more likely to have issues with a dog of the same sex.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Life spans of this dog range from 11 to 13 years but there are several health issues it faces that prospective owners should be aware of. These include eye problems, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, obesity, back problems, Cushing’s syndrome, cancer, and hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

Records and reports of dogs attacking people in the US and Canada and causing bodily harm over the last 35 years do not mention the Dandie. It is not a common dog anyway so its mention would be less likely, but despite that it is also not a dog prone to attacking people anyway. However that does not mean you can assume it never would. Any dog no matter its history, size or breed could attack someone given certain situations or stressers, or even just having a bad day. There are things a good owner can do to help less those odds, and that includes good training and socialization, nourishment and stimulation and giving it the attention and exercise it needs too.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

For a Dandie Dinmont Terrier puppy of pet quality from a good breeder prices are going to be around $800. For something from a top show breeder for a show quality dog that price is likely to be double or even triple the cost. As this is a rare breed so there are fewer breeders to be found that are decent, it is probable you will have to be put on a waiting list. Remember there are about 100 puppies being registered a year for this breed. The ever popular Golden Retriever registers over 60,000 puppies a year. This is a huge difference. While waiting may be difficult once you have your heart set on this breed it is worth the wait to get a good and healthy dog from a breeder who is knowledgeable and does not mistreat their animals. Avoid pet stores, puppy mills and back yard breeders. Rescues and shelters are unlikely to have purebred Dandies but if you are willing to adopt it is still worth calling around. You could also allow for having a mixed breed Dandie in your life!

Once you have found your dog you will need to buy some items for the home. A crate for example, carrier, leash and collar and perhaps some other things, and this will cost about $200. Once you have your dog or puppy you also need to take it straight to a vet from some tests and procedures. The vet will give it a physical, some shots, spay or neuter it, micro chip it, deworm it and do some blood tests. This will cost about $280.

Then there are the ongoing costs to having a pet that you are responsible for. It will need feeding, and that food needs to be of a good quality as it is better for the dog. A good quality dry dog food plus dog treats will cost around $145 a year. Basic essential health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups, along with pet insurance is going to be about $460 a year. Then miscellaneous costs like toys, grooming, basic training, miscellaneous items and license are going to cost about $535 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of $1140.


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The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a robust, lively and happy dog, very unusual looking and very expressive. You will not have to deal with a lot of hair but there will be barking, and extra thought and care needs to go into looking after a dog that is low to the ground and long as it can easily hurt its back over the smallest things. Allow it a bench or stool when getting up onto the couch with you for example and be careful if you are carrying it how you let it jump down. Also keep in mind if you are going for a terrier type dog you are getting a breed that will be independent and stubborn sometimes! With the right home and owners though the Dandie will be very loyal, loving and spirited at times. It could be an excellent companion for single active owners, couples or families with older children.

Featured Image Credit: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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