Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Norfolk Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

Norfolk terrier

The Norfolk Terrier is a small purebred terrier, in fact the smallest working terrier from the United Kingdom. It was bred to be a ratter and vermin hunter and was used both alone and in packs to hunt. It was a variety of the Norwich Terrier which is why it is also called the Drop Eared Norwich Terrier. Norfolk is a county in England and Norwich is a city there.

The Norfolk Terrier at A Glance
Name Norfolk Terrier
Other names Drop-Eared Norwich Terrier
Nicknames Norfolk
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Small
Average weight 11 to 12 pounds
Average height 9 to 10 inches
Life span 13 to 15 years
Coat type Wiry
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Black and tan, red
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 134th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair to average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle even hot weather but not extreme heat
Tolerance to cold Very good – as above but with cold climates
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair left around the home if any
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity High – prone to weight gain so measure its food and treats and make sure it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing Low to Moderate – some time will be needed, brush at least twice a week
Barking Occasional – some barking so having a command to control it may be useful but it is not constant
Exercise needs Fairly active – will need daily exercise opportunities
Trainability Moderate – experience would be useful here
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Good to very good – but will need help with the training
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Good to very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization – sees small animals as prey
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Very good due to size but barking could be an issue
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for short periods
Health issues Somewhat healthy – prone to a few issues including hip dysplasia, vaccination sensitivity and patellar luxation
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $495 a year for grooming, basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1005 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $2,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Norwich and Norfolk Terriers Club of America
Biting Statistics None reported

The Norfolk Terrier’s Beginnings

The Norfolk Terrier before the 1960s was seen as a type of Norwich Terrier, one having pricked ears and one having folded ears. The Norwich Terrier was bred in the late 19th century and had various names including the Cantab Terrier and the Trumpington Terrier. Just before World War I a Frank Jones also had a hand in their refinement. He used a Cairn terrier and Glen of Imaal Terriers and crossed with Market Harborough, Cambridge and other Norwich terriers. The result was a small, brave and sturdy dog that was recognized by the AKC in 1932 as the Norwich Terrier. As well as being used as ratters around farms and such, they were also used in other vermin hunting like fox. Being small this terrier could get in and out of the dens easily to flush out the foxes. In some countries as well as being companions today they are still used as working dogs.

Jones sold his dogs as Jones Terriers and that is how they came to the US. Then on 1904 when asked the name of the breed he called them Norwich Terriers. In 1936 the AKC also recognized the Norwich Terrier. The original standard for the Norwich Terrier included prick ears and drop ears varieties. But mating the two types together led to the offspring having an unattractive ear that did something in between. This was a problem now that it was recognized. The Drop Eared Norwich Terrier (or Norfolk Terrier) saw a decline in popularity and then with the arrival of World War II, at a time when all breeds suffered, this one nearly disappeared.

New Lease on Life

After the war breeders stopped mixing the two types and in 1964 the Kennel Club in England separated the two and renamed the drop ear type as the Norfolk Terrier. In 1979 the AKC also separated the two types and recognized them as two different breeds. With several generations now past both breeds are more distinct in their looks apart from just the ears. There is some suggestion too that these two dogs may always have been two breeds just with very similar looks and that they should never have been classed as one in the first place. In the US the Norwich Terrier Club of America had a name change to the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club of America. In 2007 they then voted to split into two different breed clubs. Today the Norfolk Terrier ranks as 134th most popular registered purebred by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Norfolk Terrier is a small dog weighing just 11 to 12 pounds and standing 9 to 10 inches tall. It is a sturdy dog though not a really delicate one with a medium sized tail that is set high, straight and has been commonly docked until recently now that many countries have outlawed that practice. It has short legs and is a little longer than it is tall. Its topline is level and its legs are straight and end in round feet with toenails that are black. It has a double coat, the under cost is soft, warm and downy and the top coat is wiry, hard, straight, close to the body and a 11/2 to 2 inches in length. Common colors are wheaten, grizzle, red, and black and tan. In the US standards small black markings are allowed but not white, however that does not affect anything if this is a companion dog. Around the neck the coat is thicker as it is at the throat and the bottom of the ears. This is a shaggy looking dog.

It has a slightly rounded head that is wide between the ears and has a strong wedged muzzle that tapers. The hair on the head is shorter but it has long whiskers and eyebrows. Its eyes are oval shaped, dark and have black rims. Its ears are dropped, rounded and small and hang close to its cheeks.

The Inner Norfolk Terrier


The Norfolk Terrier is a great watchdog as it is alert and will bark to let you know someone is breaking in. It is not an especially protective breed though so is unlikely to act to defend you, and being so small of course is not likely to scare off anyone. It is a dog that new owners can own with some homework and commitment. It is an occasional barker but being a terrier in some cases that can move towards being more frequent so a command to stop it should be part of its training. However it is certainly not as yappy as most terrier breeds.

It is a very loyal dog but it is a very sensitive dog too so harsh treatment, and loud and tense environments are not ideal for it. It is social, loving, independent, brave and has the potential for some aggression. When strangers are around it is reserved until it gets to know them. It wants to be a part of all family activity and is not a dog to be left outside. It loves to have company and wants you to be around all the time and loves attention. It has energy and a great zest for life, it loves to play especially with balls and likes to be busy. It does like to dig and needs both physical and mental stimulation. It is important it is treated as a dog not as a spoiled baby as this can lead to small dog syndrome. If your dog is anxious, jealous, destructive, hard to control and snappy these are signs of small dog syndrome, not of a well bred and raised Norfolk.

Living with a Norfolk Terrier

What will training look like?

Training the Norfolk Terrier can be moderately difficult, it bores easily so hates repetition and it has an independent side. It can be bossy and will try to be the pack leader so it needs you to make it clear that you are the one in charge not it. Experience can make things go a bit easier, it is smart so the key is to keep sessions short, avoid being overly repetitive and make sure things are kept fun and interesting. Be prepared to be patient and make sure you are completely consistent. Use a positive approach with treats, praise and encouragement used to motivate and reward it.

Extending the basic training into some other area like Earthdog trials or agility is a good way to keep it mentally and physically healthy. As with many small dogs housebreaking may prove to be difficult so persevere and keep to a schedule. Avoid physically punishments or harsh scolding, being sensitive it will not actually get it to be any better. Make sure that it gets early socialization and has exposure to different people, places, situations, sounds and animals so it learns to know what is normal and what reactions are acceptable.

How active is the Norfolk Terrier?

Norfolk Terriers are well suited to apartment living given their size, as long as you can control its barking and you get it outside at least a couple of times a day. It will get some of its activity needs from indoor play. This is a fairly active dog but it is small so it is easy to give it what it needs. It should be taken for a couple of daily walks that are 15 minutes long each, or one longer walk of 30 minutes. It should then be given opportunities for ball play and off leash time somewhere safe. A large yard for a small dog would work, there are some dog parks too that have sections for smaller dogs. Even when it is indoors it will not be a huge couch potato, it likes to explore, play and so will need plenty of toys. If there is a yard too keep in mind that it loves to dig, protect what you need to or offer a place where digging is allowed. Make sure the yard is also well fenced in. and that when out walking it is on a harness or leash as it will take off after small animals if they cross its path.

Caring for the Norfolk Terrier

Grooming needs

The Norfolk has moderate grooming needs to keep it in good condition. It sheds a low amount so is good for people who do not want to be cleaning up a lot of dog hair each day. Its wiry coat will need hand stripping a few times a year at a professional groomer especially if it is a show dog, but if you are keeping it as a companion you can opt to have it clipped as long as you do not mind the texture of the coat changing. It is a shaggy looking dog even when it is looked after. Brush its coat two or three times a week using a metal comb or slicker brush or it can become quite matted. Only bathe it when it really needs one to avoid drying out its natural oils. Some consider it to be a hypoallergenic breed but if that is a main concern have the person with the allergy visit before buying.

Its ears should be checked weekly for infection signs like irritation, wax build up, redness, discharge and such. To avoid infection give them a wipe clean using a warm damp cloth or ear cleanser and cotton ball. As they are droopy ears you should also dry them out after a bath or when they get wet. Never use a cotton swab or insert anything into the ear canal. It could hurt the dog and cause damage. Since small dogs can be prone to problems with its teeth take care of them by brushing regularly, at least two to three times a week, if not daily. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long using proper nail clippers made for dog nails. Take care not to cut into the quick of the nail where the nerves and blood vessels are, this will lead to bleeding and pain.

Feeding Time

Try to feed your dog a good to excellent quality dry dog food as it is far more nutritious for them. A dog of this size will need around ½ to 1 cup a day split into at least two meals. How much exactly can vary depending on its metabolism, level of activity, age, size and health. Norfolks are known to be very food motivated and will happily eat anything. This makes it prone to obesity so take the time to measure and track its food and treats and avoid giving it table scraps.

How is the Norfolk Terrier with children and other animals?

In general it is a good idea to take care with terriers when around children and other pets. However the Norfolk is one of the less dominant and aggressive terriers and it does get along very well with children, it is just better with older ones mainly because of its size. Small children could accidentally hurt it as they have not yet learned properly to be careful when they play and stroke. This dog is possessive of its toys too, and small children will not respect that! Make sure you teach them how to do these things and how to be kind to animals. So it is a good idea to have it in homes with children of around 10 years or older. They can play together, it will be affectionate towards them especially when raised with them and well socialized.

With that socialization and when raised with them it can be friendly to other pets and being pack animals with other dogs too. However with other strange small animals it will be aggressive, bark at them and even try to chase them as it does have its hunting instincts. Do not bring home an adult Norfolk if you do not know how well they have been socialized and you have small rodents as pets at home.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of this dog is 13 to 15 years and there are several health issues that can come up with this dog to be aware of. These include heart problems, patella luxation, eye problems, back problems, dental problems, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, skin problems and vaccination sensitivity.

Biting Statistics

In reports that focus on dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in North America over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Norfolk Terrier, though it is unlikely in this area of the world since they are less common. However even if there were more around, there is still not a high chance of there being issues with aggression towards people. Saying that, this is not because of its size, the fact is any dog regardless of build and breed has the potential to have an off day, or be provoked into it. Early socialization, training, having it well exercised, stimulated, fed and loved are all things a good owner can do to reduce the risk.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Norfolk Terrier puppy being uncommon is not a cheap dog to opt for. From a decent breeder you can expect to pay around $2000, and if you choose to use a top show dog breeder that price goes up even more! It might be tempting to go for something cheaper if you see it, from a backyard breeder or puppy mill sourced option but resist that. It is always best to use experienced and decent breeders for the sake of your dog and its health, and to stop funding from going to people who are at best ignorant and at worst cruel. In some cases it is possible to use shelters or rescues to give a dog a chance at a new home. With uncommon breeds finding purebreds is less likely, but always consider a mixed breed as an option. They can be just as loving and rewarding. Adoption fees will range between $50 to $400 and medical needs like deworming and neutering or spaying are usually done already.

If not already taken care of by the shelter or breeder there are some medical needs that will need to be dealt with. This means when you have the puppy you should take it to a vet straight away. It will need things like a physical exam, blood tests, shots, deworming, micro chipping and spaying or neutering. These will cost about $260. It will also need some items at home like a crate, carrier, harness or collar and leash, bowls and such. These will cost about $120.

Yearly costs are another aspect of being a decent pet owner. It will need about $75 spent on a decent quality dry dog food and dog treats. Another $495 for miscellaneous costs like grooming, basic training, miscellaneous items, toys and license. Then just basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention, check ups and pet insurance is going to be at least $435 a year. This gives an estimated yearly starting cost figure of $1005.


Looking for a Norfolk Terrier Name? Let select one from our list!

Norfolk Terriers are small but full of energy, personality, loyalty and have a mind of their own. This is not going to be just a lap dog though it does love its cuddle time and is affectionate too. It will want lots of play time, to be with you and the family, to be active outside and mentally stimulated. If you are ready for a terrier temperament in a small dog that is what you will get. It does not shed a great deal but does need some professional attention for grooming if you want to keep its coat in its wiry state. It is also best not in homes with small children and will need early socialization and training so that it is not too wary around strangers and can get along with other small pets at home.

Featured Image Credit: PhotoDanis, 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.