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Sealyham Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021
The Sealyham Terrier is a small purebred from the United Kingdom, specifically Wales whose origins start in the mid 19th century. It has also been called the Pembrokehsire Terrier, the Cowley Terrier, the Welsh Border Terrier and then spelled differently, the Sealy Ham Terrier. Fans affectionately call it the Sealy and claim the experience and joy of being a Sealy owner will ruin you for any other dog breed! It was bred originally to hunt small game like badger, otters and foxes and was named after the estate of the person who developed them, but today the few that are still around are mostly show dogs and companions.
The Sealyham Terrier at A Glance
Name Sealyham Terrier
Other names Welsh Border Terrier, Cowley Terrier, Pembrokeshire Terrier and Sealy Ham Terrier
Nicknames Sealy or Sealies
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Small
Average weight 18 to 24 pounds
Average height 10 to 12 inches
Life span 11 to 15 years
Coat type Dense, water-repellant, wiry, soft, hard
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Usually white or cream, some have markings that are black, yellow, brown, blue
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 155th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair to average – understands commands with 40 to 80 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Good – can live with very warm climates but nothing very hot or extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can live in very cold climates but not extreme ones
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair to clean up around the home
Drooling Moderate – may be a little drool and slobber but not a great deal
Obesity Average – can gain weight if overfed and under exercised
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly, will need some professional care
Barking Occasional to frequent – usually not as frequent as other terriers though it does have a surprisingly deep bark
Exercise needs Somewhat active – good breed for somewhat inactive owners as it does not need large amounts of exercise
Trainability Moderately easy for those with experience, harder for those without
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Very good though training will need preparation for
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization does have strong prey drive to small animals especially rodents
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization as can be reserved
Good apartment dog Good – can adapt to apartment living but does best with access to a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but some issues can include eye problems, back problems and deafness
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 pet treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for basic training, license, toys, miscellaneous items and grooming
Average annual expenses $970 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations Several including the American Sealyham Terrier Club
Biting Statistics None reported

The Sealyham Terrier’s Beginnings

The Sealyham Terrier was developed in the mid 1800s by Captain John Edwards in Sealyham House Pembrokeshire, Wales, using breeds such as the Wirehaired Fox Terrier, the Dandie Dinmount Terrier, Bull Terrier, Corgi and West Highland White Terrier. It was bred to go to ground after critters such as the otter, the badger and the fox. It was bred to have a white coat so that it could be distinguished from the prey when they both came out of the hole. The estate where John Edwards bred them had a lot small game like that so from 1850 to 1890 he developed the terrier to be hardy, fearless and quick, able to quarry the prey and then keep up with the hunters on horses and the hounds when they gave chase. </p >

When Edwards died in 1891 others continued to refine and breed the Sealy. In the early 1900s it was entered into its first dog show and in 1908 the Sealyham Terrier Club of Haverfordwest was started by some Welsh fanciers. In 1910 the Kennel Club of England recognized it and a year later the AKC recognized the breed too. The American Sealyham Terrier Club was formed in 1913. In the early 1900s the Sealyham Terrier reached high popularity, they did well in shows and were popular as companions too. After the first world war they saw another surge in popularity when it became a favored pet of the rich and Hollywoods finest, from Bogart, to Taylor, Bette Davies to Cary Grant. In the UK famous Britains like Agatha Christie and the Royal family owned one or more. </p >

New Lease on Life

In the 1920s there were over 2000 puppies registered with the Kennel Club. However this popularity lead to some poor breeding practices which is what often happens with dog breeds. With problems came a drop in popularity and a large drop in its numbers. In 2006 with the ban on tail cropping it became harder for farmers to pull the terrier out of animal dens so its used as a working dog was impacted upon. In 2008 only 43 were registered with the Kennel Club. It has been placed on the Vulnerable Native Breed list and is one of the most endangered native breeds in Britain. Reason for the decline is blamed on the fact it is no longer being used as a working dog, the rise in popularity of designer breeds and missed opportunities for spreading the word. </p >

In 2009 a Sealy won Best in Show at the famous dog show in Britain, Crufts. Usually this is a great thing for a breed, it increases awareness and interest in them. In this case though the show was not televised as there had been news covered before about the cruelty exposed amongst some show breeders. In 2011 Country Life, a magazine there started a campaign to save the breed, putting it on its front cover and breeders continue to work on improving its numbers and popularity. In the US it is ranked 155th in popularity by the AKC. </p >

The Dog You See Today

The Sealy is a small dog weighing 18 to 24 pounds and standing 10 to 12 inches tall. It is low to the ground and strong with a level back and it is as long as it is tall. Its tail is set high and is docked in countries like the US where that practice is still allowed. However else where like the UK and much of Europe tail docking is illegal and its natural like an old badger haired shaving brush. It has a double coat, the under coat is thick and soft and the outer coat is weather-resistant, wiry, harsh and of medium length. It is commonly white with some markings like tan or lemon or badger markings around the ears and head. </p >

The Sealy’s head is broad and long and in proportion to the rest of it. The skull is a little domed and its muzzle has a bushy beard hanging from it with a squared jaw. It has large nostrils and its nose is black. The hair on its face is longer than the rest of its coat. Its eyes are oval shaped, set wide apart and are deep and dark. Its ears hang down and are wide with tips that are rounded. They fold forwards and are held against the cheeks. </p >

The Inner Sealyham Terrier

Temperament

Sealyhams are good dogs for new owners but they can be a bit stubborn and the training will need some work and possible some professional help. It is an alert dog so makes a good watchdog who will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. It is brave and bold though and will bark at everything so training to try and control that some will be needed. It is not as rowdy or as feisty as some terriers but is is still a terrier, loyal, willful, vocal, some aggression, cheerful and spirited. </p >

With strangers they tend to be wary until they know them. With family and owners though they are loving, affectionate and sassy. It is a sensitive dog so needs to be in a home where there is not a lot of tension and arguments. Key to it being happy and behaved is that it gets good exercise and has strong leadership from its owners. Treat it as a dog and set rules or it will develop small dog syndrome and become snappy, destructive, vocal and difficult to live with and control. </p >

It is a dog that needs to be part of family activities and will want to be close to you. If you are going out it would prefer you take it with you! It can be very amusing and makes a great companion. It is not high strung and can relax when indoors more than other terriers and is happy to cuddle on your lap. It is a friendly dog and outgoing, it views itself as an equal member of the family and expects you to see it that way too and treat it that way. </p >

Living with a Sealyham Terrier

What will training look like?

Training Sealies is not especially easy, as it i s an independent thinker so it will be a gradual process and it takes patience, consistency and perseverance. It is important to be a clear and firm leader, always in control, always sticking to the rules you set. Be calm and insistent but avoid negativity like scolding or physical punishment. Being sensitive these would not work anyway. If you bend the rules even once it will take advantage and see that as an invitation for it to become pack leader. Start training as soon as you bring it home and use praise, treats, encouragement and rewards as a way to motivate it. Make the sessions interesting and fun and keep them short so it does not disengage from boredom and you can retain your calm authority. Keep in mind that its sense of humor can mean it will try to find a mischievous way to twist the command. It also loves an audience so will try to make you laugh as a way to get out of it. </p >

As well as obedience training you will need to house train your Sealy too. As with most small breeds this can be difficult, being small it is a lot easier for them to sneak off and pee under a table say. Stick with it though, set a schedule that allows it to go very regularly and stick to it, and crate training can really help this process. Early socialization is another important thing to ensure your dog grows to be a trustworthy and confident and happy dog. Expose it to different people, places, sounds, situation, animals and so on so it learns to get used to them, it learns proper responses and its wariness around strangers does not become something more aggressive. </p >

How active is the Sealyham Terrier

Sealies are not as active as many terriers though it does still need some regular walks and play. It is known as the terrier couch potato. Being only somewhat active it means owners who are not as active themselves or ones that are not able to commit to a lot of time for activity for whatever reason, can consider this breed as one suited to them. It is small enough to live in an apartment and can do so if it gets daily walks still. It is calmer indoors than other terriers too but it does still bark and that would need controlling with training in an apartment and all those close neighbours. If there is a yard though it would enjoy it, it likes to explore and play and dig! Make sure it is well fenced though as if it escapes it will be off after whatever catches its attention. As well as taking it on a couple of walks a day it needs play time and some off leash run time. This dog can be taken to a dog park as long as it is well trained and socialized. </p >

Caring for the Sealyham Terrier

Grooming needs

The Sealyham Terrier needs a moderate amount of grooming and maintaining but is low shedding so there is not a lot of hair around the home to clean up. However being a low to ground dog means it does pick up a lot of debris and dirt from the ground so it does get dirty and will need cleaning and brushing often. Because of its wiry coat it will need hand stripping by a professional groomer at least a couple of times a year to maintain it. If it is not a show dog it can be clipped but that does affect its texture and the shedding may increase as the hair will fall out to the floor rather than staying trapped in its coat. Brush two to three times a week and only bathe when it is really needed. </p >

Its ears should be checked weekly for infection signs like a build up of wax and irritation. Clean them once a week too using a dog ear cleanser and cotton balls and a damp cloth. Wipe the areas you can reach easily, never insert anything into the ears as it could do damage and hurt them. Its nails will need clipping when they get too long, as it is doubtful they are active enough to wear them down naturally. There are proper dog nail clipping tools to use, and take care not to cut too close to the quick of the nail, there are nerves and blood vessels there and if cut it would cause bleeding and hurt them. Small dogs can have dental problems so it is also important to brush them at least two to three times a week. </p >

Feeding Time

This breed will need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. The amount a dog needs can vary from one to another depending on its size, metabolism, level of activity, age and health. Make sure you measure the food and it gets daily exercise as it can become obese. Always make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times. </p >

How is the Sealyham Terrier with children and other animals?

Sealies are good with children, they will play with them and are affectionate towards them, it does help with socialization and with being raised with them. This is a breed better with older children who are more considerate and and know how to touch and play nicely. Because Sealies are possessive of their toys and food that can make them snappy of young children do not respect that. This will need to be controlled with training. With other pets when socialized and if raised with them it is accepting of them in the home but it was bred to be a hunter and can still see strange small animals as prey to chase. Most terriers are dog aggressive and the Sealy is too but less so than many of its cousins. It is more aggressive to dogs it does not know and to ones that are the same sex. It too will pick a fight with a larger dog so may need protecting from itself and supervision. </p >

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Sealyham Terriers have a life span of about 11 to 15 years and are fairly healthy but there are some issues to be aware of. It can have back problems, deafness, eye problems, dental problems and obesity. It is also facing a problem with such low numbers of not enough genetic diversity. </p >

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people causing bodily harm in the last 35 years in the US and Canada, there is no mention of the Sealyham Terrier. It is not a people aggressive breed and is rare so the chances of it being involved in such an attack are lower. That being said all dog owners need to know and accept that any breed has the potential to become aggressive given different situations, provocation or lack of socialization, or even just have a bad day. Make sure you choose a dog you can give the attention and care it needs, exercise it, mentally stimulate it, love it and spend time with it. Socialization and training are also important in lessening the chances. </p >

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Sealy puppy will cost about $1500 as it is not common and breeders are hard to find. You would need to make sure you find a trustworthy breeder and this cost would go up for a top breeder of show quality dogs. Less than 75 new puppies are being registered (a Golden Retriever sees over 60,000 puppies a year). Avoid using breeders that cannot be trusted, the last thing you should want to do is fund ignorant or deliberately cruel breeders. Rescues and shelters are another option to check out, though the chances of finding even a mixed breed Sealy are slim. However if you are not wanting a show dog and are looking for a companion this is a very good option. You might find the perfect new best friend and you are then giving it a chance at a new forever home. Adoption costs between $50 to $400. </p >

Once you have found the dog you want you will need to get some things for it and have some medical needs dealt with. Items will include things like a carrier, crate, bowls, collar and leash. You can expect to pay around $120 for these. Health needs will include things like shots, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering, a physical examination and blood tests. They will cost about $260. </p >

There are also yearly ongoing costs to be dealt with such as feeding it, keeping it healthy, maintenance and so on. Pet insurance and basic health care needs such as check ups, flea and tick prevention and shots will cost about $435 a year. A good quality dry dog food and treats will cost about $75 a year. Grooming, license, toys, basic training and miscellaneous items will cost about $460 a year. This gives a total of $970 a year as a starting figure. </p >

Names

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The Sealyham Terrier is a robust and spunky dog but is not as fierce or active as many terriers and enjoys a cuddle and some chill time inside too. It needs to be a part of the family and is affectionate and very loyal. It does not shed a great deal but does need a certain amount of attention in terms of grooming and looking after its coat. It is independent minded and it does have a strong prey drive. It is also bold around other dogs and wary around strangers so early socialization and training are important. It can be clownish and make you laugh, it offers companionship and is adaptable too. </p >


Feature image credit: Ricantimages, 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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