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Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 9-10 inches
Weight: 11-12pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Coloring: Black, Grizzle, Red, Tan or Wheaten with or without dark points. There should be no white markings.
Area of Origin: England
Similar Breeds: Affenpinscher, Brussels Griffon, Cairn Terrier and Norwich Terrier.

History and Origin:

The Norfolk Terrier’s ancestors were developed for their compact frame and overall small size which made them ideal for seeking out and dispatching rats and other rodents. The breed started being developed in the 1920s with the standards we know today except that the ears were up for debate as to whether they should be pointed or floppy.

In 1932 the breed was recognized as a type of Norwich terrier as the standards for the ears had not yet been set and other than that the two breeds were exceptionally similar. Despite their similarities, however, the Norwich and Norfolk terriers started becoming two very different dogs in their personalities. Where the Norfolk terrier remained very much an independent and driven working dog, the Norwich terrier became a dependent family companion requiring much more attention than the Norfolk terrier needs or wants.

It was not until 1964 that the Norfolk was distinguished as a separate breed due to their floppy ears as opposed to the Norwich terrier’s pointed ones after the standards for the Norwich terrier were set to having pointed ears and a group of people campaigned to have them recognized as two different breeds.

The Norfolk Terrier was recognized by the AKC in 1932 as a Norwich terrier and a separate breed in 1981.

Personality and Temperament:

The Norfolk Terrier is a robust little dog that fears neither man nor beast. They are fond of being with their people and require a fair amount of human interaction while not losing their independent nature. With proper socialization and training, this dog is incredibly loyal and does well with children, other dogs and cats.

In all, this is a happy, playful dog that, while somewhat needy, makes a good little companion and does well in almost any environment with any family dynamics. There is one exception to this rule. This dog has not lost its hunting instinct through the generations and still makes a formidable foe for any rodent. As such, pet rats, hamsters, gerbils etc. are considered fair game and significant effort should be spent to ensure the two are never alone in the same room together, even caged. Assuming a barrier is adequate for these dogs could be a fatal error in that these dogs were bred to find nests, dig them up and/or squeeze into the smallest locations to obtain their quarry.

Without proper socialization, this dog can quickly become quite a handful. They are not only prone to aggression, but also boredom, barking, and small dog syndrome. These dogs, however, are rarely nervous or cowardly and should they display these traits, they should be carefully retrained.

Despite these dogs being wonderful family dogs, a note should be added to say that like all dogs, these dogs should not be left alone and unattended with small children. Accidents can happen and the child, the dog, or both will end up hurt. To prevent this, a little supervision is required and the household should continue on without incident.

Exercise & Training:

Despite the Norfolk terrier’s small size, they are still a terrier and have fairly high energy level. They require a fair amount of exercise, and it is suggested that they have 2 half hour walks a day.

These dogs also thrive with a large backyard where they will tirelessly play fetch while running around with the children.

These dogs are incredibly willing to be trained; they just do not seem to be the quickest to learn new concepts and ideas. Plenty of repetition, praise, and consistency are incredibly important as well as a fair amount of patience.

As mentioned above, these dogs can be quite determined and potentially aggressive. As such it is very important to train them when they are young and to set firm rules to ensure a happy and peaceful life with you and your pet.

These dogs also do not do well being left alone for long periods of time and may let you know this by digging into things such as couches, carpets and even walls. This is why exercise and training is highly important and if you are required to be away for a portion of the day, crate training or doggy day care may be options you should consider.

These dogs do very well with sports such as agility, obedience and tracking. They are very fast and since they are very people-oriented, they will thrive with the extra attention they will receive in these sports. It is also a great way to spend weekends with the family as even older children can get involved and learn unique and useful dog handling skills.

Grooming:

The Norfolk terrier is easy to care for in that all it really requires is a good brushing once a week to ensure there are no mats and that the dead and dirty hair is removed. A bath should only be given when the dog is dirty and they should never be trimmed as their hair will lose its characteristic texture and color. During their weekly brushing, their nails should be checked and trimmed down.

Twice a year, Norfolk Terriers should be hand-stripped. It is common to seek out a professional groomer for this task, yet should you choose to do it yourself, there are a few tips to remember:

  • Start with the head.
    • Make sure the muzzle and jaw lines are tidy. Remove long or stray hairs.
    • Clean the hair around and inside the ears so they are folded neatly.
  • Move onto the body.
    • Make sure the hair falls into one line, stray hairs are not welcome.
  • Check the front.
    • Hair should not be all over the place. Make sure the hair is all shaped correctly to complement your dog.
  • Do not over groom.
    • The Norfolk terrier is not a poodle, it is a terrier. As such, they are designed to be somewhat scruffy and without such, they lose their characteristic look.

Health and Wellness:

The Norfolk terrier is a very robust little dog and does not get sick often, this unfortunately does not meant that they are free from potential genetic issues. With regard to aggression, with proper screening of the parents, Norfolk terriers are much less likely to be aggressive than most small breeds and are known for their positive attitudes and friendly dispositions with children, dogs and cats. As far as major medical issues, many of these issues that can be associated with the Norfolk Terrier can be tested for and with selective breeding do not show up often, however, screening is always advised. The main concerns that a Norfolk Terrier has regarding their health are:

  • Cataracts
    • Cataracts can be genetic and cause cloudiness to the dog’s lens. Usually affecting both eyes, this disease does not usually show up until the dog is over 3 years old. Parents can be tested for this prior to breeding to avoid the chances of this.
  • Collapsed Trachea
    • Collapsed trachea is a condition in which the dog is unable to swallow correctly. There is no cure and often it requires the owner to assist the dog with feeding in a special chair so that the food does not get stuck in their throat. There is no set age this develops and will require a veterinarian’s care to help treat it. This can be screened for prior to breeding and dogs that have this in their lines should not be bred.
  • Hip Dysplasia
    • Similar to a patellar luxation, only involving the hip. This is a very painful condition and may do as little as cause the dog to be stiff in colder weather or as severe as to require surgery or permanent paralysis. Parents can be screened for this prior to mating and any should any indications be present; these dogs should not be bred.
  • Hypothyroidism
    • A condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine which can cause a large number of symptoms such as hair loss, hyperactivity, obesity and seizures while left untreated. While is no cure, just as with human hypothyroidism, this can be easily and successfully managed with the assistance of a qualified veterinarian and daily medication.
  • Ichthyosis
    • A condition that some Norfolk Terriers are born with causing them to have darkened scaly skin. The hair will also appear oily and the skin flaky and may or may not accompany hair loss. There is a genetic component and simple screening will reduce the possibility of this affliction being passed on.
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease
    • This condition usually affects the area between the front and hind limbs. Symptoms include weakness or paralysis and can be very painful. This rarely will appear on dogs younger than 3-5 years old and usually not until they are nearing 6-8. There are genetic tests to check for this prior to breeding.
  • Lens Luxation
    • This is an exceptionally painful genetic disorder which causes the lens to move to the wrong position in the eye and can quickly cause blindness. This can be tested for with DNA testing to see if a dog is a “carrier,” “clear,” or “affected.”
  • Mitral Valve Disease
    • This is somewhat different in a Norfolk Terrier than in other breeds. Norfolk Terriers are known to have a “silent” version of Mitral Valve Disease (MVD). This occurs when a dog appears healthy yet has significant thickenings in the mitral valve. The usual sign of MVD is a murmur and if the dog does not display one, they are listed as being free of MVD. Unfortunately, Norfolk Terriers have shown that they do not always display this murmur despite having MVD once checked via an ECG. This is currently being studied further to understand why it displays this way in the Norfolk Terrier and what can be done to prevent this.
  • Patellar Luxation
    • A genetic issue where the kneecap slips out of the groove, which may be as simple as an occasional limp or severe enough to prevent the dog from ever walking properly even with surgery. This is something to be aware of as both of the founding breeds carry this known issue.

As with any breed, an ethical breeder’s goal will be based upon breed improvement. This includes eliminating potential hereditary issues such as some of the above, maintaining breed standards and ensuring dogs of lesser quality do not continue in the gene pool. If all breeders followed these rules, there would be less health issues with purebred dogs than mixed breeds.

Unfortunately, due to some unethical breeders who want to save some initial cost and do not properly screen their dogs, this is not always the case. Purebred dogs from ethical breeders do have fewer health issues, yet these “breeders” will breed any two of the same breed and will not perform the required health checks and often these dogs are riddled with genetic faults. These dogs cannot be registered with the AKC and if, by some chance, they are able to pass the AKC screening and do register the dogs, their license and their dogs registrations will be revoked upon investigation.

Interesting Facts about the Norfolk Terrier:

  1. As these are working dogs, scars are not a disqualification on this dog as they are routinely acquired while ratting
  2. Out of the true working terriers, the Norfolk terrier is the smallest along with the Norwich terrier.
  3. The Norfolk terrier has not always been this breed’s name, they have been called: Cantab terriers, Trumpington terrier, and Jones Terriers.
  4. Due to the fact Norfolk terriers do not shed much, their love of people and trustworthy nature, these make wonderful service dogs and are often brought to retirement homes much to the joy of the residents.

Organizations dedicated to the Norfolk Terrier:

As the Norfolk terrier is still uncommon in the United States, the only breed-specific rescue is run through the Norfolk Terrier Club.

Breeds Similar to Norfolk Terrier Dogs:

Breed Information Norfolk Terrier

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