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Patterdale Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

Patterdale Terrier lounging

The Patterdale Terrier is a small dog from England bred to be a working dog and used specifically to hunt vermin and foxes which are seen as vermin too by farmers and such. It was bred in the North of England and is also known as the Black Fell Terrier. It is popular in Britain and Europe because it is attractive, versatile, adaptable and a good working dog and companion. It is not as well known in the US but its numbers are slowly growing there. It also does very well at various canine sports such as agility, terrier racing and Flyball. It has a life span of 11 to 13 years.

The Patterdale Terrier at a Glance
Name Patterdale Terrier
Other names Black Fell Terrier
Nicknames Patterdale
Origin England
Average size Small
Average weight 11 to 13 pounds
Average height Up to 12 inches
Life span 11 to 13 years
Coat type Short, rough or broken
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black (seen in most of them), red, tan, liver, bronze, brown
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Average to good
Tolerance to cold Average to good
Shedding Moderate – some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not particularly prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Low – not prone but a good idea to still measure food and exercise well
Grooming/brushing Average – brush twice a week
Barking Occasional – some barking but should not be constant
Exercise needs Moderately active
Trainability Moderate – experience helps
Friendliness Very good
Good first dog Low – is best with an experienced owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good to very good with socialization – supervision recommend with children under 7
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate – has a high prey drive for smaller animals socialization is essential
Good with strangers Good with socialization but wary at first
Good apartment dog Moderate – size is fine but it does best with a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – okay with short periods alone but not long ones
Health issues Somewhat healthy but a few issues which can include eye problems, deafness, injuries while hunting, diabetes and allergies
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 $195 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $705 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Patterdale Terrier Dogs for Adoption and Rescue, Rescue Remedies, MQH Patterdale Terriers, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Patterdale Terrier’s Beginnings

The Patterdale Terrier is credited to a hunt master called Joe Bowman from the North of England in the Ullswater region around the Lake District. In the south of England foxes, who were seen by farmers as vermin, were then hunted partly on horseback as a sport because the land was better for it. There they used dogs that were good at digging to reach in burrows and dens. In the north though the terrain was rocky so not easy to dig into, and harsh and so they needed a dog that could handle these conditions when hunting and driving away foxes there.

In the early 1900s Bowman used line breeding and various Norther terrier dogs to develop the Patterdale including Border Terriers. Up there much of the farming was sheep farming and foxes would try to grab them. They needed a dog that would chase their prey and cause them to bolt from rocky crevices, making them visible to the hunters following. As well as being good for fox hunting they were also to control the badger population.

New Lease on Life

It is believed it came to the US in the late 1970s where it was successfully used against foxes too but also other local wildlife like the groundhog and raccoons. In 1993 fanciers formed the Patterdale Club of America but it has never been as popular in the US as it remains in the UK, especially in the North of England still. There in 2004 the use of hard dogs to hunt foxes though was made illegal. It is actually not recognized by the Kennel Club in England as it is viewed as more of a type of working dog than a specific breed. In the US it was recognized by the UKC in 1995 but is not recognized by the AKC.

Patterdale Terrier

The Dog You See Today

The Patterdale Terrier is a small dog weighing 11 to 13 pounds and standing up to 12 inches in height. It actually looks quite alike a miniature Labrador Retriever but with stubbed tails. It is a balanced and compact dog and the focus on its breeding is all about its working ability, getting though small spaces, flexibility, stamina and endurance. Its head is square shaped and strong and its muzzle tapers. Its eyes are wide, brown and medium sized and its ears are v shaped and hang down folded.

The coat of this dog can be smooth, broken or rough. Smooth coats are smooth and the hair is stiff and coarse to touch when lifted and it falls right back into place when released. The broken coat is longer than the smooth coat and it can have slightly longer hair around the face that gives it the look of having a bear, bushy eyebrows and a mustache. Rough coats have the longest coat with even more prominent facial hair. All of them have a dense and short undercoat. Common colors are black, red, tan, browns and a rare blue, and brindle.

The Inner Patterdale Terrier


The Patterdale is an energetic, bold and clever dog much like most other terrier types in fact. It is an alert dog and makes a very good watchdog that will give a bark to let you know if there is an intruder, a bark that often surprises new owners with how deep it is for a small dog! It barks otherwise occasionally but that can become frequent if it is allowed to develop small dog syndrome. This is where owners are not firm enough with it and allow it to rule, which is when it can get yappy, destructive and hard to live with.

Its hunting instincts are strong and it loves to be outdoors but this has made it an independent dog which means it can be strong willed and stubborn sometimes. With a firm but fair owner though it will be affectionate, laid back, and can form very close bonds. If you have given it enough stimulation it will be happy to cuddle in your lap at the end of the day when it is relax time. When it is hunting it is tough, driven and has high energy levels. It is bred to be an intense dog so if it is not getting the level of work and activity it needs it can be too much for most homes to deal with.

Living with a Patterdale Terrier

What will training look like?

Training this breed is moderately hard, it is intelligent but it has a mind of its own and that means it can get stubborn, wants to do things its way or not at all and needs patience and firm handling. Consistency is key, be confident and in make it clear you are in charge. Use positive training techniques like rewards, treats, encouragement and praise. Early socialization is important so that it can grow into being a better version of itself. Some can be tricky to socialize though so that is going to take some time and patience also. Introduce it to various places, people, situations and animals and teach it what responses are appropriate.

Patterdale Terrier

How active is the Patterdale Terrier?

The Patterdale Terrier is an active dog that has a lot of energy and will need plenty of exercise and mental challenge each day to be happy. It is best if being kept in its original purpose but if not make sure it gets two good walks a day, play time with you, interaction and some off leash run time somewhere safe. This is not an inactive lap dog that is happy with a little play and then lazing on your lap all day. It has more energy and physical and mental needs than many small dogs, as most terriers do. Its size means it could live in an apartment but really it does best with a yard to explore in and dig where it is allowed. Expect to give a minimum of 30 minutes a day, usually it is happy to have more.

Caring for the Patterdale Terrier

Grooming needs

The Patterdale varies in how easy it is to maintain and groom depending on the coat type it is. The smooth coat is easy to look after being shorter and can be brushed once or twice a week. The other types may need a bit more care. Shedding is average so expect some hair around the home that will need to be cleaned up too. Only give a proper bath when it needs one using a dog shampoo to avoid damaging its natural oil and drying its skin.

It should also have its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week using a toothbrush and toothpaste for canines. The Patterdale’s ears should be checked for infection weekly and wiped clean at least once a week. There are solutions for cleaning dog ears. Its nails should be clipped when they are long, but be aware that bleeding and pain can be caused by people who cut too low.

Feeding Time

This dog will eat between 1 to 1¼ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much it needs exactly can vary from one to another as things change like size, metabolism, activity level, age and health. Make sure you provide it with water and that it is changed for fresh when possible.

How is the Patterdale Terrier with children and other animals?

Patterdale Terriers are quite child friendly but supervision is a good idea when the children are younger than 7 years old. Socialization is needed and it does help to raise them together. It will happily burn of energy with older children and play with them and can also be loving and affectionate towards them. Children should be taught how to touch and approach it properly and children under 7 should be supervised. With its high prey drive it is not good with other pets but with socialization it can get along with other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 11 to 13 years the Patterdale Terrier is a healthy breed but there are some issues to be aware of such as eye problems, hip dysplasia, Patellar luxation, diabetes, hunting injuries and allergies.

Biting Statistics

When reading reports of dog attacks against people causing bodily harm in the continent of North America over a span of 35 years, the Patterdale Terrier has not been mentioned. While it may not be a people aggressive dog, like any breed there is the potential for something to happen. Make sure you have a dog you can properly look after. Give it the exercise and mental challenge it needs, the socialization and basic obedience training it should have and the attention and care it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Patterdale puppies from a decent breeder will cost around $800. Some if from a top breeder can go double that, and possibly more. Be thoughtful about where you buy from, there are a lot shady breeders, so called backyard breeders, some pet stores and puppy mills who have little to no knowledge and often care very little about the welfare of the dogs. There is always the great option of adopting one from a shelter or rescue for $50 to $400. There is the advantage there of having some of the initial medical needs already done for you.

When you have your terrier puppy or dog home there are some items you will want to get it like a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and so on. These will cost something like $120. Then initial medical needs need to be organized if they have not already been done. Things like getting it neutered or spayed, micro chipping, dewormed, blood tested, vaccinated and having a physical exam by a vet. These will cost about $260.

Yearly costs are the next cost factor to understand. These will include a good quality dry dog food and treats for a year for a cost of about $75. Medical needs for basic care like shots, flea prevention and check ups and pet insurance will come to around $435 a year. License, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous items will cost another $195 a year. This gives a total starting annual figure of $705.


Looking for a Patterdale Terrier’s Name? Let select one from our list!

A Patterdale Terrier is not an easy companion dog to own and look after. It was bred to be a working dog and is driven, highly energetic, stubborn, independent and spirited. It does not like to be alone for too long, but it is also not an overly vocal terrier, it is very loving and affectionate when it does get enough exercise and gives great cuddles when it is time to relax.

Featured Image Credit: JD, 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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