Terrier types: 10 terrier dog breeds you might not know about

Terrier dog breeds
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Terrier dog breeds get their name from the Latin word “terra” meaning earth. This is because these dogs were originally bred to hunt vermin underneath and above the ground such as foxes, badgers and raccoons. 

This is perhaps one of the reasons that Terriers love to dig and are so determined. They are feisty, playful and enthusiastic pets and, while these high-energy, often stubborn dogs can be a handful, if you socialize them young and train them properly, they make entertaining, obedient and loyal pets. 

This intelligent, protective breed is not only a wonderful companion, but they also make great watchdogs. The American Kennel Club recognizes 31 different Terrier types, but these are just a few of our favorites. 

1. Airedale Terrier

Airedale Terrier

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Known as the “King of Terriers,” the Airedale is the largest Terrier breed with males standing 23 inches (58.42 centimetres) at shoulder height with tan and black markings and a thick, wiry coat. The Airedale Terrier was originally bred in the Aire River Valley region of England to hunt otters and water rats, but they have many talents. 

They were one of the first dogs used by the police in Great Britain and they even served as messengers during World War I. Today, these smart and gentle dogs make ideal family companions that are determined to protect. They can be stubborn though so make sure they get enough exercise and obedience training. 

2. Border Terrier

Border Terrier, one of several wiry dog hair breeds

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Measuring 13-15.5 inches (33-39.37 centimetres) at the withers, the Border Terrier is a small to medium sized dog. This tough working terrier was bred in Cheviot Hills near the border of England and Scotland. 

They were used to drive foxes out of their holes during hunts in the 18th century, but the breed has adapted to live in the city as well as the countryside. Friendly and affectionate, Border Terriers make great family pets as they are playful and good with children if well trained. Their wiry coat means they’re not high maintenance and won’t need a lot of grooming, but they do need exercise as they have lots of energy.

3. Bull Terrier

mistaken for Pittbulls

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Nicknamed the “clown of dogs”, the Bull Terrier is playful, funny and mischievous. A cross between a Bulldog and a Terrier, the muscular dog was once used for bullbaiting during the 18th century thanks to having the strength of the former breed and the determination of the latter, but today they are an affectionate, endearing family dog who wants to be involved in all of your activities. 

They love children, but need early socialising and daily exercise to be around kids. Bull Terriers not only have a unique look with their long, egg-shaped head, but they have lots of personality. 

4. Cairn Terrier

Terrier dog breeds Cairn

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Do you remember Dorothy’s dog Toto in The Wizard of Oz? Toto was a Cairn Terrier. The breed gets its name from the cairns or small stacks of rocks in the Scottish Highlands. As early as the 1600s Cairn Terriers were used to flush out rodents, foxes and badgers from the cairns. 

These curious critters still love to chase small animals and dig up the ground. The tiny dogs, which measure 11-12 inches (27.94-30.48) tall and weigh from 14-16 pounds (6.35-6.8kg), are known for their tenacity. They may be small, but they have bundles of personality. Their friendly, sweet nature and loyalty make them wonderful companions. 

5. Jack Russell Terrier

How to stop a dog stealing toys: Two Jack Russell Terriers fighting over a toy

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The Russell Terrier was originally bred during the 1800s by a vicar and fox hunter called John “Jack” Russell. Developed to hunt foxes, this breed is full of energy and determination. They may be small in size, but they have big personalities and definitely don’t act their size. 

This lively dog is most suited to experienced owners as they can be a challenge to train because of their energy levels. They are fun and easy-going pets, but they do need to get enough exercise and interactive play. 

6. Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer lying on bed with front paws outstretched

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You may not realise that the Miniature Schnauzer is a Terrier, but it is. This feisty, energetic breed was developed in the 19th century by German farmers to help with vermin control, but today this friendly companion dog is just as happy on your lap as it is out on long walks. 

They may be small in size but they’re not afraid of anything. The Miniature Schnauzer makes a wonderful family dog as long as it is socialised from an early age. They’re not only fun dogs, but their small size makes them easy to carry and they don’t shed much. 

7. Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier

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This dog is not only a Monopoly piece! Nicknamed the Scottie thanks to its Scottish origins, this small, muscular, wiry-coated dog was bred as a working dog and pest controller. Today, while their bravery and powerful bark makes them excellent watchdogs, they are mainly kept as companions and show dogs. 

The Scottish Terrier is intelligent, independent and confident. They can be stubborn, a challenge to train and they may not be suited to families with younger children or other pets, but they also make friendly, loyal pets. 

8. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Hypoallergenic dog breeds - Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier lying on couch

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One of the largest Terriers, this versatile Irish farm dog was used as a watchdog as well as for vermin control and livestock herding over 200 years ago. Known for its soft, silky coat, surprisingly the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is not a big shedder. 

While they are not one of the most popular Terrier breeds, if you’re looking for a friendly and devoted pet, this is the dog for you. They’re also great with kids as they’re playful, fun-loving and adore adventure. 

9. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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The Staffie suffers from a bad reputation, but really they are just misunderstood. The byproduct of breeding between the Bulldog and Terriers, these muscular dogs were originally bred for dog fighting in the 19th century after bull and bear baiting was banned. 

However, they were bred to attack other dogs and not their owners. This means that as long as they are socialised early and trained correctly, they make calm, loyal and protective dogs. Despite their reputation as dangerous dogs, they can actually make wonderful family dogs and were once referred to as “nanny dogs” because of how they cared for children. However they may not get along with other dogs. 

10. West Highland White Terrier

West Highland Terrier

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During the 1600s Colonel Malcolm of Poltalloch decided he would only ever have white dogs when he mistook his dark coloured terrier for a fox. This is how the West Highland White Terrier or Westie, as it is affectionately known, came to be.

 Like many other Terriers, this small dog is feisty and energetic. It was also used for vermin control in Scotland. As a companion, this iconic breed is sweet and playful, but it also makes an effective watchdog thanks to its loud bark. 

Zara Gaspar
Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language.  Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities.  A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.