Norwich Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

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

norwich terrier posing in green grass

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The Norwich Terrier is an affectionate and curious dog named for their hometown in England. Standing at just 10 inches tall, the "small but mighty" Norwich Terrier is a cute and cuddly breed that also happens to be a courageous and seemingly fearless little dog that was bred to hunt vermin like rats.

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Weight: 12 pounds

Height: 10 inches

Coat: Hard, wiry, and straight

Coat Colors: Red, wheaten, black and tan, or grizzle

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Norwich Terrier

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

History of the Norwich Terrier

The Norwich Terrier was originally bred as one of many varieties of terriers that were designed to help control Britain’s rodent population. But in addition to their skills as being "ratter" dogs, the Norwich Terriers were often called upon to serve on foxhunts in packs. They were also bred to be more sociable and affable than the typical terrier, which tend to be more independent. The Norwich's pricked-ear shape is also a distinguishing physical characteristic.

As a working terrier hailing from East Anglia, the Norwich Terrier is believed to be a cross between small Irish Terriers with other short-legged terrier breeds. Once known as Cantab Terriers, these hardy little dogs proved themselves useful on the hunt and in the stable yard, as well as at home where they made playful and fun-loving family pets. One of the smallest of the working terriers, the Norwich is both sturdy and stocky, and historically the breed’s small size coupled with its larger teeth proved to be an asset when chasing game down tight passageways.

The Norwich Terrier has been famously associated with Cambridge University; in the 1870s and 1880s, ownership of these particular dogs actually became something of a fad among undergraduates. The students acquired the dogs from a livery stable on nearby Trumpington Street to serve as both cuddly pets as well as dorm-room ratters--and thus the breed also became known as "Trumpington Terriers." It's believed that one of these dogs, whose name was Rags, came into the possession of a stableyard owner in the town of Norwich. Rags was bred and is today considered the grandfather of what ultimately became the Norwich Terrier. A more recent "famous" Norwich Terrier was Winky, who appeared in the movie Best in Show and was played by a real-life show champion.

The breed’s American history didn't begin until in 1914, when a British man named Frank “Roughrider” Jones bred a dog named Willum (from descendants of Rags). Willum was exported to Philadelphia and became the breed’s cornerstone in the United States for the cheerful, prick-eared terriers. In the United States, the dogs actually came to be known as the Jones Terrier by breed devotees, even after the breed was formally recognized by the English and American kennel clubs in as the Norwich Terrier in the 1920s.

There wasn't a lot of uniformity in the breed until 1923, when a breed standard was accepted by the English Kennel Club. In fact, Norwich and Norfolk terriers remained so closely related that the AKC didn't even recognize them as separate breeds until 1979. The name included both the drop-eared and prick-eared varieties until that time.

Norwich Terrier Care

The jovial and alert Norwich Terrier has strong hunting instincts, and they are both inquisitive and energetic. As such, they do require a fair amount of exercise for the sake of both their mental and physical well-being. It's important that they are provided with plenty of playtime in a fenced-in yard, and walks should always be done on a leash because it will be hard for them to deny their innate desire to chase small animals.

Norwich Terriers have a double coat made up of a harsh (yet practically weatherproof) outer coat, while their soft undercoat insulates their tiny bodies from the heat and cold. Needless to say, this breed will require regular grooming. Wire coats that are cared for properly by hand-stripping will retain a beautiful shine and rich colors; the process requires removing older outer hairs and the excess undercoat so that new hair can come in. Because clipping or scissoring cuts the colored tips off, their coat's natural color will fade and the texture will also soften. Learning to hand-strip (or finding a groomer who is willing to do so) is an important consideration for potential Norwich Terrier owners.

Overall, the Norwich Terrier is a happy-go-lucky dog that's both loyal and affectionate. They're adaptable and make ideal family companions. They are moderately friendly with other pets and should thus be trained and socialized properly in order to properly develop their friendly and outgoing personalities. Because they're so spirited, they are usually eager to please and respond well to training. These dogs are also successful in performance and companion events, including barn hunt, agility, earth dog, and obedience.

norwich terrier running on pavement
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Common Health Problems

The Norwich Terrier is an overall healthy breed, but they have been associated with health conditions such as hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, epilepsy, and upper airway syndrome, a respiratory condition that unfortunately remains poorly understood. This breed is also especially prone to developing plaque and tartar, so diligent dental care will be necessary.

Diet and Nutrition

The Norwich Terrier should perform well with a high-quality commercially or home-prepared (under veterinary supervision) dog food. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. As with all breeds, treats should be given in moderation and their diet should be controlled in order to avoid weight gain or obesity-related issues.

Pros

  • Great family dogs

  • Useful rodent hunters

  • High trainability

Cons

  • Tend to shed

  • Require regular grooming

Where to Adopt or Buy a Norwich Terrier

Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Norwich Terriers that are in need of a forever home. National rescue organizations such as the Norwich Terrier Club of America can be a helpful source of information to help you find your new best friend.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do your homework when choosing a dog breed. Talk to other Norwich Terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and their care. There's a variety of dog breeds, and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

If you’re interested in learning more about similar dogs, consider these other terrier breeds: