Dandie Dinmont Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A close-up of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

Arco Petra / Getty Images

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier's distinctive appearance and calm, collected demeanor make him stand out among the terrier group. Characterized by a silky puff of hair on the top of their head—also known as a topknot—an elongated body, and short legs, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is often referred to as the "gentleman" of the terrier group, thanks to his calm personality.

Due to their compact size, temperate personalities, and low-to-moderate exercise needs, Dandie Dinmont Terriers can thrive in both apartments and larger homes.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Terrier (AKC)

SIZE: 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder

COAT AND COLOR: Silky coat in two main color varietals: Pepper and mustard. The pepper varietal ranges from bluish black to a dark silver, while mustard ranges from reddish brown to light fawn that can appear white in certain spots on the body. The fur on the Dandie Dinmont's legs and feet is typically darker than the rest of her coat.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Affection Level High
Friendliness Moderate
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Moderate
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness High
Energy Level Moderate
Trainability Low
Intelligence Moderate
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Moderate

History of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Originating in the Cheviot Hills that create a border between England and Scotland, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was originally bred to hunt otters, badgers, and pests, like rats and mice, some time during the 1600s. Although there are conflicting origin stories and theories, it's commonly believed that Dandie Dinmonts were the result of breeding Scottish Terriers with Skye Terriers, or Otterhounds and rough-haired terriers.

Despite their hundreds of years of history, Dandie Dinmont Terriers weren't given their unique name until the 1814, when Sir Walter Scott published his book Guy Mannering. The book featured a character named Dandie Dinmont, who owned several terriers named Pepper and Mustard—after their coat colors.

After Guy Mannering was published, Dandie Dinmonts gained popularity among European royalty, like King Louis Philippe and Queen Victoria. It's commonly believed that during these years of growth, Dandie Dinmonts were bred with Dachshunds, resulting in their unique, elongated physiques.

Dandie Dinmont Terriers were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886, and remain the only officially recognized breed named after a fictional character.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Care

Although Dandie Dinmonts are working dogs, their coats require regular maintenance. You can expect to clip their coats with scissors every four to six weeks to maintain the unique shape and appearance. Dandie Dinmonts should also be brushed several times per week with a soft brush to remove any mats or tangles. Even though a Dandie Dinmont's coat is higher maintenance that other terriers, they don't shed very much.

In order to prevent plaque build-up that can lead to gum disease and bad breath, it's important to brush your Dandie Dinmont's teeth at least two to three times per week—but every day is preferred. If you're not sure how to brush your Dandie Dinmont's teeth properly, your veterinarian or groomer can show you some easy techniques.

Like other terriers, training a Dandie Dinmont requires persistence and patience. Plus, Dandie Dinmonts are highly intelligent, so they can become bored easily. Be sure to keep training engaging and interesting by incorporating playtime and challenges for your dog. In true terrier form, Dandie Dinmonts are prone to digging, so it's important to train against digging or create a designated digging area in your yard.

Because Dandie Dinmonts have calmer personalities and low-to-moderate exercise requirements, they can thrive in smaller spaces, like apartments, as well as larger houses with yards. Aim for a few walks every day, or two 20-to-30-minute blocks of playtime each day to keep your Dandie Dinmont properly exercised. It's important to note that Dandie Dinmonts should never be allowed off-leash in an unfenced area. They have extremely strong hunting instincts, and will chase after birds, squirrels, and other animals if given the opportunity.

Overall, Dandie Dinmont Terriers are highly intelligent, but lower energy terriers that are extremely adaptable to their surroundings. Expect to be hands-on during their obedience training and prepared for holes in your backyard. Dandie Dinmont Terriers may be the "gentlemen" of the group, but their terrier instincts can sometimes take over!

Common Health Problems

As with any dog breed, Dandie Dinmonts are susceptible to certain health conditions, but that doesn't mean that every Dandie Dinmont will develop them. Although ethical breeders take steps to reduce their litters' risk of developing health concerns, it isn't a 100 percent guarantee.

If you're considering adding a Dandie Dinmont to the family, or already own a Dandie Dinmont, you should be aware of the following health issues that are common among the breed:

  • Spinal issues: Due to their elongated bodies, Dandie Dinmonts are more susceptible to spinal injuries and issues. Dandie Dinmonts should avoid jumping off high surfaces, and family members should practice care when picking them up.
  • Cheyletiella Yasguri Mites: All dog breeds can contract Cheyletiella yasguri mites, but Dandie Dinmonts are reportedly more susceptible. Look out for red, itchy, scaly skin, and mites on the surface of your dog's skin or coat. Fortunately, these mites are easily treated with prescription medications from your vet.
  • Glaucoma: This condition is characterized by pressure on the eyeball, which can lead to blindess. If your Dandie Dinmont has symptoms like squinting, rubbing, or tearing of the eye, contact your vet ASAP.

Diet and Nutrition

Like any dog, your Dandie Dinmont's nutritional needs depend on their age, activity level, size, and metabolism. Generally, most Dandie Dinmonts should eat between one cup and one and a half cups of high quality, high protein food twice daily.

Remember: Overfeeding your Dandie Dinmont can result in canine obesity, which can cause a host of health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. If you're unsure how much to feed your Dandie Dinmont, talk to your vet. They'll be able to recommend the right type and right amount of food for your dog.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Is the Dandie Dinmont Terrier right for your family? Before bringing any dog home, it's important to do your research—and ensure their training, grooming, and exercise needs fit your family's lifestyle. And if you're buying a dog from a breeder, it's absolutely vital to ensure they are responsible and ethical, and take every effort to produce healthy litters.

If you're interested in learning about other dog breeds similar to the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, be sure to check out: