Defining the terrier group by the look of the dog may not be as easy as you think. Most of us think of terriers as having wiry hair but not all terriers in this group share this trait – Consider the Bull Terrier, for example, which has a short dense coat. Another difficulty is that all kennel clubs do not agree on which dogs belong or don’t belong in the terrier group. For example, the United Kennel Club (UKC) in the United States includes the Jack Russell Terrier but the American Kennel Club (AKC), also in the United States, does not.
So what defines a terrier? The origin and occupation of the breed play a large part in defining the terrier. Most terrier breeds originated in Britain and the surrounding areas. Terriers were bred to track down and pursue prey from their holes or lairs. In fact, the terrier group gets its name from the Latin word, terra, which means earth. The character of a terrier, however, is its most defining trait. But note that the terrier’s character is probably what made the original occupation of terriers so successful. For a dog to be able to pursue animals from the ground, they had to be brave and tenacious. As a result, most terriers are defined as being courageous, feisty, and relentless, often to the point of being single-minded and head-strong. Terriers generally do not tolerate other dogs and have a tendency to fight. (This particular trait is what unfortunately makes the American Pit Bull Terrier be used in illegal and inhumane dog fighting.)Terriers range in size, most having a wiry coat which requires special grooming. They tend to be vocal dogs and are well-known for being eager and alert, as well as intelligent. Dogs in this group include the American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Fox Terrier (Smooth), Fox Terrier (Wire), Airedale Terrier, Irish Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, Skye Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Border Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and more.
This article was inspired by a customer who saw our ad for PetAutoSafety.com in the Metro Pet magazine in Kansas City. She has two very lively Cairn Terriers who will not hold still while in the car, making it very dangerous for her to drive since the dogs provide a huge distraction.