by: Mark Ransome
The Terrier Group includes those small but lively terrier breeds that were developed (mainly in Great Britain) to hunt small burrowing animals such as badgers, foxes, otters, rabbits and rats. The terrier often had to follow the prey underground and therefore, except for the Bull and Airedale Terriers, most terriers are small and stocky with short legs. These are feisty and energetic dogs that have little tolerance for other animals including other dogs. Of course these small dog breeds have been domesticated and make good pets but they are still fairly active and require firm handling. Many breeds like the Airedale, Bull, Fox and the Parson (Jack) Russell Terriers do best with experienced owners. The top 10 most popular terrier breeds in the US according to the American Kennel Club 2005 registrations are discussed below and their registration rank is included in brackets. It is interesting to note that the top six most popular terriers are all low-shedding dog breeds that are said to be hypoallergenic when properly groomed.
1. Miniature Schnauzer
Minis (#10) are lively, pleasant and playful with expressive personalities. These loyal and devoted small dogs want to be totally involved in all family activities and love to go for walks. Most Minis are good with children but are a little too small to be a toddler's pet. They will generally get along fine with other family pets although they are terriers and can be feisty toward other dogs. Early socialization and obedience training will help with controlling excessive barking and a reluctance to walk on leash. This breed can be taught fairly easily and can even excel at advanced obedience competitions.
2. West Highland White Terrier
The West Highland White (#32) is cheerful, bold, assertive, courageous, inquisitive and has a great deal of personality. This small white dog needs to get involved in everything that is happening in the home. The Westie is easier to handle and friendlier than many other terriers but still needs his daily walks and play sessions. Westies will try and dominate dogs of the same sex but otherwise get along better with other dogs and cats than most terriers. The Westie still has its hunting prey drive and shouldn't be let off leash except in a fenced enclosed area. The Westie is very possessive of its toys and food and doesn't like to be handled by young children.
3. Scottish Terrier
The Scottie (#40) is a small dog breed with a jaunty and distinctive appearance. The Scottie is brave, alert, proud, confident, loyal and dignified. While friendly and playful as puppies, the mature Scottish Terrier can be stubborn at times. Therefore it is important to start socializing and obedience training the Scottie while it is a puppy and continue through adolescence. Scotties love to play, so make sure you add play and rewards to your training. The Scottish Terrier does best with older children.
4. Cairn Terrier
The Cairn Terrier (#41) is one of the smallest of the working terrier dog breeds. These terriers are bold, spirited and inquisitive but are also somewhat independent-minded. The Cairn is intelligent, affectionate and eager to please its master. This breed is easily trained and likes to do tricks although they may be the tricks that he - not you - wants to do. Cairns do well with older children and love to play games. These Terriers demand lots of attention but will provide you with hours of entertainment in return.
5. Airedale Terrier
The medium-sized Airedale Terrier (#52) is larger than most Terriers and has an even temperament and sweet disposition, although some Airedales can get into fights with other dogs. This terrier is dignified, patient, loyal and intelligent and makes a great companion dog that loves to play with children. The Airedale should be supervised with young children as it may be too boisterous for them. Airedales can be trained to a high level as anything from a guard dog or watchdog to a seeing-eye dog. Airedale puppies are playful and exuberant and obedience training should be started early and re-enforced through adulthood by a knowledgeable owner.
6. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
The Wheaten Terrier (#59) is cheerful, active, busy, playful and affectionate. The Wheaten is independent and self confident but also fairly intelligent and eager to learn. Wheaten puppies should be socialized early with children, other dogs and strangers. The breed is fairly easy to train if you can get their attention. Wheatens get along fine with older children but can be too playful and assertive with young children. Wheatens are much more sociable than most terriers but will still need obedience training to control their active and assertive nature.
7. Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier (#62) or 'Bullie' is a lively and powerful dog. Bull Terriers are fearless, assertive, comical and mischievous. This large breed is loyal, affectionate and loving and can make a good family pet. Bullies are probably too exuberant for small children but will do fine with considerate older children. Bull Terriers need lots of attention and may not be the best choice for the city unless they are involved in lots of family activities. These dogs can be quite strong willed and are difficult to train. The breed needs early socialization when they are puppies and on-going obedience training. Male Bullies, especially those which haven't been neutered, can be extremely aggressive with other male dogs and even other pets.
8. American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire (#63) is usually calm and friendly with an air of self confidence; this powerful medium-sized breed is active, playful, affectionate and relatively easy to train. The Am Staff loves playing with older children but is too boisterous for young children. However this dog is fearless and is not to be trusted around cats or other dogs. The Am Staff has powerful jaws and will destroy any toys you give it to chew. This breed needs early socialization to other dogs and strangers and on-going obedience training. The Am Staff is the largest of the three breeds generally referred to as Pit Bulls. The other two are the American Pit Bull Terrier which is not registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier which is registered with the AKC. In the past, these breeds were all bred to be fighting dogs. Now that this activity is illegal, these pit bull breeds have an undeserved reputation for fighting. This is a dog for an experienced owner and prospective buyers should also check their local area bylaws and also their household insurance to see if there is any restriction on this breed of dog.
9. Parson Russell Terrier
The small-sized Jack Russell Terrier (#72) is known as the Parson Russell Terrier in the U.S. The Parson (Jack) Russell is the most energetic, fearless and athletic of all the terrier dog breeds. The Parson Russell demands full participation in the family activities with lots of physical and mental challenges. If the Jack Russell gets too little exercise and companionship, then this cheerful little dog will get bored and become destructive. The Parson Russell can be very aggressive towards strange dogs and even other family dogs. The Parson (Jack) Russell needs a lot of early socialization while a puppy and adolescent to curb aggressive behavior. These strong-willed Terriers need lots of early and on-going obedience training to ensure the owner and not the dog is in charge. The Parson Russell gets along well with older children - especially those that will play ball or Frisbee with him.
10. White Fox Terrier
The small-sized Wire Fox Terriers (#76) are one of the liveliest and most energetic of all the terrier breeds. The two varieties, the Wire haired and the Smooth, differ only in coat type. These Terriers are very intelligent, curious, cheerful and love their families. The breed has so much energy that it will play and chase a ball or Frisbee for hours on end. Fox Terriers make great playmates for older children but still retain their hunting instincts and shouldn't be left alone with small pets. These Terriers should be kept on their leashes when being walked. The breed has a stubborn streak and socialization and training should be started when they are puppies and continued into adulthood.