Welsh Terriers are medium-sized dogs from Wales with hard, wiry coats along with distinct tan-and-black markings, long faces, and small ears. These spunky dogs were originally bred to chase and trap prey like foxes, badgers, and vermin for local hunters and farmers in harsh, rural Welsh landscapes. The breed still retains many of the character traits that appealed to its owners hundreds of years ago. Welsh Terriers are full of character, but potential adopters should be aware that these dogs are best suited for experienced owners.
Height: 15 inches
Weight: 20 to 22 pounds
Coat: Dense, hard, and wiry outer coat with a soft undercoat
Coat Color: Tan and black
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Temperament: Independent, energetic, friendly, alert, confident, courageous
Characteristics of the Welsh Terrier
The Welsh Terrier is not ideal for the faint-hearted or novice owner. They have huge personalities, which can be challenging to manage without early socialization and training.
These dogs are known to be free spirits rather than companion dogs. They can form strong bonds with their family, but they are not overly affectionate, and they often retain independence. On the contrary, they are also fun-loving, happy, and full of life.
Welsh Terriers are highly intelligent and excellent problem solvers, but they can get into mischief and make their own amusement if they aren't stimulated. They can live alongside older, respectful children thanks to their playful and loyal nature. Their assertive traits, however, mean that they aren't usually suited to homes with young children unless interactions are closely managed. They can be prone to resource guarding and may even chase at the heels of small toddlers.
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History of the Welsh Terrier
While its exact origin year is unknown, the Welsh Terrier is regarded as one of the oldest terrier breeds. Native to Wales, 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 in the rugged, mountainous regions of Wales among farmers and hunters of foxes, otters, rodents, and badgers. It takes a courageous, tenacious, and robust dog to dig an aggressive badger from its sett, and this breed was certainly up to the task.
By the 19th century, the Welsh Terrier became more popular, and the scruffy-looking breed was refined for the show ring. In their early days, these dogs were simply classified as Old English Terriers (along with several other terrier breeds). The Kennel Club recognized the Welsh Terrier in the UK in 1887, and it was around this time that the breed was exported to the United States.
Welsh Terriers are still relatively rare, but those that fall for the charms of this feisty, characterful dog often become enthusiasts. U.S. President JFK owned a Welsh Terrier named Charlie, and U.K. Prime Minister Clement Attlee was also a fan of the breed.
Welsh Terrier Care
Because of its origins in hunting, the Welsh Terrier requires plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. This breed has relatively simple grooming needs, but training can be more complicated when it comes to obedience, socialization, and recall.
This breed still retains working traits from its origins, and Welsh Terriers have plenty of energy that needs an appropriate outlet. Provide at least an hour of daily exercise and plenty of mental stimulation to prevent problem behaviors from surfacing as a result of boredom.
These dogs are known for sometimes being prolific diggers—another throwback to their working days. While this is a fun way for your dog to get its energy out, it can become an issue if it happens regularly. Some owners provide sandpits and other designated areas in the yard to give Welsh Terriers an appropriate outlet for this passion.
Welsh Terriers have a low-maintenance grooming regime. They just require a brush out once a week and a clip or hand-strip occasionally to keep their coats in check. Like all dog breeds, it's also important to trim the nails and brush the teeth routinely.
Although no breed is truly non-shedding, their double coats hold in most excess hair. This makes them an attractive hypoallergenic dog for those with allergies.
Welsh Terriers are intelligent dogs, but they can also be stubborn and strong-willed. It's best to use positive training methods with this breed; be prepared with plenty of patience and treats.
These dogs often have assertive personalities, so while some may love other dogs, they don't always hit it off. Plan for careful introductions (especially in multi-dog households). Some owners find success raising Welsh Terriers in homes with cats, but their high prey drive means they're best-suited to homes without other small pets.
These hunting instincts mean that teaching a solid recall is especially important. This breed should not be let off-leash outside of a safely enclosed fence. Training should also be focused on managing alert barking, as your Welsh Terrier is likely to be vocal.
Common Health Problems
Welsh Terriers are generally considered a healthy breed, and it is not unheard of for them to reach ages as old as 18. But like many purebred dogs, they're also prone to certain inheritable conditions.
Always adopt from a reputable breeder that has performed appropriate health screens for PLL and primary glaucoma on prospective parents. Common inheritable conditions for Welsh Terriers include:
- Primary Lens Luxation (PLL): This eye condition usually occurs around middle age, eventually leading to blindness. It is caused by the breakdown of the fibres that hold the lens in place.
- Primary Glaucoma: This painful condition, caused by the reduced ability to drain fluid from the eye, also leads to blindness. Glaucoma in Welsh Terriers is often associated with an abnormality in the eye called Goniodysgenesis, which is suspected to be inherited.
- Allergies: The breed is susceptible to developing environmental or food allergies. If you notice itchiness or hot spots on your dog, consult your vet. An elimination diet can rule out specific food allergies, and medication can be provided for environmental causes.
Diet and Nutrition
Welsh Terriers, as with every dog, should be fed a high-quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet. This breed typically needs about a cup of food per day, but to avoid too much weight gain, talk with your veterinarian to determine a feeding schedule for your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.
Because they can be more prone to food allergies, opt for foods with simple ingredients. Introduce new foods one at a time and monitor your dog for any adverse reactions.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Welsh Terrier
If you're interested in adopting a Welsh Terrier, it's helpful to start your search with breed-specific rescues or by checking local shelters. Offering a forever home to a Welsh Terrier or similar breed can be a very rewarding experience.
Welsh Terriers are a rare dog breed, so it's common for prospective owners to join waiting lists or travel to find puppies. If you're set on adopting a puppy, start by researching responsible breeders that perform medical tests on litter parents and provide their dogs with a safe, comfortable environment. This breed can be more expensive than others, typically costing between $1,000 and $4,000 for a puppy (with some prices ranging higher depending on pedigree and availability).
These resources for breeders and rescues are a helpful place to begin your search:
Welsh Terrier Overview
Well-suited to an active and outdoorsy family
Full of personality and can be playful
High prey drive
Independent and sometimes assertive nature
Prone to alert barking
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
If you love Welsh Terriers and are interested in similar breeds, check out:
There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there that can join your family. By doing your research, you can find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you!
Is a Welsh Terrier a Good Family Dog?
Welsh Terriers are unique family members for the right people, offering fun antics and spunky personalities in daily life. However, this breed is typically independent and doesn't always do well with young children, being best-suited for experienced owners.
Do Welsh Terriers Bark a Lot?
Welsh Terriers are prone to alert barking, meaning they let their owners know when unusual circumstances or strangers are present. Your dog may benefit from training against excessive barking during puppyhood to discourage bad habits in the future.
Do Welsh Terriers Shed Hair?
While no dog is truly hypoallergenic, Welsh Terriers are considered a hypoallergenic breed thanks to their very low-shedding nature. Their double coats are soft underneath and coarse on the exterior, usually catching stray hair before it falls.
"Welsh Terrier Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/welsh-terrier/.