Breed of the Week: Norwich Terrier

This week we’re taking a look at one of the smallest of the terrier breeds, the Norwich Terrier, not to be confused with the Norfolk Terrier.

That’s not to say the two aren’t related.  In fact, the Norfolk Terrier was, for some time, said to be the drop-eared variety of the Norwich Terrier.  In 1964, the British Kennel Club separated the prick-eared and drop-eared varieties into two different breeds and, in 1979, the American Kennel Club followed suit.  The Norwich Terrier originated in England as a ratter and, in fact, didn’t have a breed standard they were bred to.  Meaning, there was no specific description of this breed that breeders needed to adhere to.  The development was thought to include many terrier breeds, like the Irish Terrier.

Irish Terrier
Irish Terrier

Norwich Terriers were later used alongside Foxhounds when hunters realized the smaller Norwich Terriers could be used to flush foxes out of their dens which were too small for Foxhounds to crawl into.

Fox hunting


Today, although they are still used as hunting dogs, there are many that are also kept as pets, though they will gladly protect their owners’ yards from vermin intruders.  As a family pet, Norwich Terriers are affectionate and love everyone they meet.  They are happy, active little dogs that require at least a couple vigorous 10 to 15 minute walks on a daily basis.  Without this exercise, one might find their Norwich Terrier barking incessantly, digging holes in the back garden, or trying to bolt out the door/gate every time it’s opened.  Although they’re often no more than 12 pounds, Norwich Terriers are working dogs and need a job to do to keep them happy and out of trouble.  For this reason, many owners enter their Norwich Terriers into competitions, such as obedience and agility trials, rally, and earthdog trials.

Norwich Terriers thrive on human companionship and should not be left alone for long periods of time each day.  If they are to be at home without their human companion, it would be best to have another dog or two or some dog-friendly cats for them to play with and to keep them company.

As a terrier breed, Norwich Terriers have a high prey drive and should never be let off leash in an area without a fence as they become extremely single-minded and may get hit by a car while chasing a squirrel.  Rabbits, ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, rats, and mice will often be classified as prey by these driven little dogs, although with socialization they can co-exist quite peacefully with other little dogs and cats.

Digging dogAs can be expected of a terrier, these dogs are diggers.  Do not discourage the behavior as it will most likely be a lesson in futility.  Rather, teach them to only dig in a certain area, like a certain section that’s blocked off from other parts of the garden, and discourage them from digging in any other area.  This gives them a place to do what they do naturally.

Training should be firm and consistent, though not harsh.  This is a breed that is independent and may be a little difficult to train, but with consistency and plenty of positive reinforcement, they will learn to obey pretty quickly.

The Norwich Terrier has a double coat, a hard, wiry, straight top coat and a softer, more insulating under coat.  They do not shed a lot unless one decides to clip their fur rather than strip it – an action that requires pulling out the dead top coat by hand or by using a stripping tool.  To maintain the integrity of the coat, it should be stripped twice yearly.

The coat of the Norwich Terrier can be any shade of red, grizzle (a mixture of black or red hairs with white hairs), wheaten (pale yellow or fawn), or black and tan.

Alert and sensitive to their surroundings, Norwich Terriers will alarm bark if they sense anything off, but they are not usually constant barkers like other terriers.  If they are constantly barking, it’s likely they’re bored or aren’t getting enough exercise.  They will bark at strangers that approach their home, but as soon as they know the stranger is no threat they can, and often do, become immediate friends.  They are driven, intelligent, and assertive and should never be aggressive or overly shy.

If you are interested in purchasing or adopting these affectionate little guys, please do your research!  Those that aren’t familiar with the characteristics of a terrier breed often find they are more than they bargained for.  These dogs are affectionate, but they are also independent-minded and will undoubtedly test boundaries.  They are also diggers and some people may find this characteristic of terrier breeds to be a deal breaker.  However, if you’re looking for a fun, active little pooch with character and drive, this might be the breed for you!

Fun Fact:  The Norwich Terrier is a relatively rare breed due to the difficulty of breeding, small litter sizes (most litters only have 1-3 puppies), and the need for a Cesarean Section at the time of birth.

Do you or have you owned a Norwich Terrier? Please tell us about him/her in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

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