Welsh Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

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

Welsh Terrier standing in a meadow

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The spunky Welsh Terrier was first bred to chase and trap prey like foxes, badgers and vermin for local hunts and farmers in harsh rural Welsh landscapes. The breed still retains many of the character traits that appealed to owners hundreds of years ago. They are full of character but are perhaps not the best choice of breed for a novice dog owner.

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Height: Up to 15.5 inches

Weight: Up to 23 pounds

Coat: A dense, hard and wiry coat, with a soft and short undercoat

Coat Color: Tan and black markings, but shading can vary

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Welsh Terrier

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

History of the Welsh Terrier

While exact dates are unknown, the Welsh Terrier is regarded as one of the oldest of the terrier breeds. Originating, as the name suggests, in Wales in the United Kingdom, there are references to black and red terriers as far back as the 15th century.

In the 18th century, this type of dog became more popular with hunters and farmers in the rugged, mountainous regions of Wales. They would chase foxes, otters, rodents and badgers. It takes a courageous, tenacious and robust dog to try to dig an aggressive badger from their set, and these dogs were certainly up to this task.

By the 19th century, the Welsh Terrier was becoming more popular across the country, and the breeding lines of this rather scruffy looking dog were refined to introduce them to the show ring. In their early days, they were simply classified as an Old English Terrier, along with several other terrier breeds.

The Kennel Club specifically recognized the Welsh Terrier in the UK in 1887, and it was around this time that the breed began to be exported to the United States.

They are still relatively rare, but those that fall for the charms of this feisty, characterful breed fall hard. JFK owned a Welsh Terrier called Charlie, and Clement Attlee, one of the UK's Prime Ministers, was also a fan.

Welsh Terrier Care

The Welsh Terrier is certainly not a dog for the faint-hearted novice owner. They have huge personalities and can be challenging if they don't receive the right socialization and training. They are also, however, fun-loving, happy and full of life.

They still retain a lot of typical terrier working traits and have bags of energy that needs to given an appropriate outlet. They need plenty of daily exercise and mental stimulation around the house to prevent problem behaviors from surfacing as a result of boredom.

Welsh Terriers tend to have assertive personalities, so, while some may love other dogs, they don't always hit it off with them. You will need to do careful introductions, especially if you are introducing them to a multi-dog household.

While it is not unheard of for a Welsh Terrier to live alongside a cat, their prey drive means that this can sometimes be a challenge and they would be best suited to a home without other small furry animals.

Their hunting instincts also mean you will likely have to work hard on achieving a solid recall, and they should not be let off the leash in areas where they will have the opportunity to chase.

Welsh Terriers are known for sometimes being prolific diggers - again a throwback to their working days. If they have this characteristic, you may need to work on training them out of this habit. Alternatively, you could provide them with a sandpit or other designated area where they can have an outlet for this passion.

While they are not as vocal a dog as some terriers, they do have a propensity towards alert barking. If this is allowed to get out of control, it can be a hard habit to break. Doing some training early on to reward more appropriate behavior can be helpful.

Welsh Terriers are a highly intelligent breed known for being excellent problem solvers. This can mean they can get up to mischief and make their own amusement if you don't make sure they are suitably stimulated.

They can also be stubborn and strong-willed. They do respond well to positive training, though, so just make sure you come armed with plenty of patience and lots of treats!

Welsh Terriers can live alongside older, respectful children well. They have a playful and loyal nature. Their assertive traits, however, mean that they may not be best suited to a home with very young children unless interactions are closely managed. They can be prone to resource guarding and may even chase at the heels of small toddlers.

If you are looking for a 'velcro' dog, you are not likely to get that in a Welsh Terrier. They can form strong bonds with their family, but they are not overly affectionate, and they do often retain a spirited independence.

Welsh Terriers have a low maintenance grooming regime. Although no breed is truly non-shedding, they are about as close as you can get. This also makes them attractive to owners with allergies.

They will just require a brush out once a week and a clip or hand-strip occasionally to keep the coat in check.

Puppy Welsh Terrier with chew
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A Welsh Terrier doing a jump at agility
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A Welsh Terrier with two paws up on a log
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Common Health Problems

Welsh Terriers are generally considered a hardy breed, and it is not unheard of for them to reach the ripe old age of 18. As with other long-established breeds, they can also be prone to certain inheritable conditions.

Always select a reputable breeder that has performed appropriate health screens on prospective parents. Some of the inheritable conditions that it is worth being aware of include:

Primary Lens Luxation (PLL): This condition usually starts to occur around middle age, and it is progressive and can lead to eventual blindness. It is caused by the breakdown of the fibres that hold the lens in place. There is a PPL test that is recommended for breeders to have done on prospective parents.

Primary Glaucoma: This condition is caused by the reduced ability to drain fluid from the eye, and it can cause pain and eventual blindness. Glaucoma in Welsh Terriers is often associated with an abnormality in the eye called Goniodysgenesis which is suspected to be inherited. There is a test that can be performed to identify this abnormality.

Allergies: The breed can be more susceptible to developing environmental or food allergies. If you notice that your dog has itchy or dry skin or hot spots, then it is worth seeking advice from your vet. You may need to conduct an elimination diet to understand if your dog has any particular food allergies. Medication and other management techniques may be required to help deal with environmental allergies.

Diet and Nutrition

Welsh Terriers, as with every dog, should be fed a high-quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet.

Because they can be more prone to food allergies, it is worth sticking with simple ingredients and only introducing new foods one at a time, to allow you to monitor them for any adverse reactions.

Pros
  • Well-suited to an active and outdoorsy family

  • Minimal shedding

  • Full of personality and can be playful

Cons
  • Can have a high prey drive

  • Can have an independent and assertive nature

  • Can be prone to alert barking

Where to Adopt or Buy a Welsh Terrier

If you have decided to take on a Welsh Terrier puppy, you should do your research to find a reputable and ethical breeder.

Because they are not the most common breed, you may have to be prepared to go on a waiting list or travel further afield to secure a puppy.

A good place to start your search would be through the Welsh Terrier Club of America.

There are also lots of deserving terriers in shelters across the country in need of adoption. Don't rule out offering a forever home to a Welsh Terrier, or similar breed. It can be a hugely rewarding experience.

Pop by your local shelter or you could check out WTCares, a Welsh Terrier-specific rescue organization

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love terriers but want to consider some other similar breeds, you could also look into:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you will find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.