Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Dandie Dinmont Terriers are small, intelligent and determined dogs that were bred for hunting. The breed is currently listed as being a vulnerable native breed with the UK Kennel Club due to their low numbers. They are described as being exceptionally ‘game’ and love chasing things. Today, they are largely kept as companions and can adapt to different types of lifestyles if they are exercised enough. They have a distinctive long body and short legs with a weasel-like appearance.

The breed can have a strong character and is more appropriate for families with older children. Training and socialisation from a young age is essential to avoid development of unwanted behaviours, such as digging. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a fairly healthy breed with a life expectancy of around 12-13 years, but it can still suffer from some health problems.

About & History

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small terrier that is classed as a vulnerable native breed by the UK Kennel Club. The breed was first developed in the border country between Scotland and the north of England where they were used to hunt otters and badgers. This particular type of the breed was first referenced around 1700 and were bred by the Allans of Holystone. However, the breed was little known outside the immediate area until they gained their current name of the Dandie Dinmont after being featured in a book called Guy Mannering written by Sir Walter Scott in 1814. The book featured a farmer who kept these terriers and he was called Dandie Dinmont and since then the breed has been known as such.

The dogs in the book were known as Pepper and Mustard in reference to the colour of their coats, and these descriptions still remain today when referring to the breeds coat colour. In 1875, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club was formed and it is one of the oldest breed clubs in the world. After it rose to popularity the breed became a popular dog for hunting but as with many breeds numbers were severely affected during World War II. Today the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is one of the most vulnerable native breeds in Britain. With work to promote the breed numbers have risen slightly, but it still remains endangered.

Despite its hunting roots today the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is largely kept as a companion. The breed has its own tartan presented to it in 2014 by the Duke of Buccleuch.


Dandie Dinmont Terrier Large Photo

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has two coat colours originating from the original names used to refer to the colour of their coats that are recognised for registration with the UK Kennel Club:

  • Mustard – Ranges from a red brown to pale fawn colour
  • Pepper – Ranges from dark blue black to light silver grey colour

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a distinctive physique with a long, low body, strong stock legs and a weasel-like appearance. The breed should stand at 20-28 cm at the withers and the overall body length should not be greater than twice the height to the withers, and should ideally be 2-4 cm less. The breed should weigh from 8-11 kg. The Dandie Dinmont should have a strong, muscular neck leading to well-angled light shoulders and extremely strong front legs with plenty of muscle and bone. These should be wide set to allow the chest space between them. The body should be long, but strong and flexible with the back low at the shoulders and arching up towards the hind end before dropping down again. The back legs are slightly longer than the front legs and also strong. The tail should be short and thick, measuring around 20-25 cm in length.

The breed has a strong head, which is proportionate to its size. The skull should be wide, with a domed forehead leading to a powerful muzzle with a muscular jaw. The muzzle should be 3/5 the length of the skull. The mouth should be formed by strong jaws and teeth, and a regular scissor bite. The eyes are distinctive and relatively large and low set, but with a bright, game expression. Ears should be thin, low set and hang close to the cheeks with a covering of soft fine hair.

The Dandie Dinmont should move with a powerful gait with plenty of impulsion and strength. The movement should also cover plenty of ground, appearing free and fluid.

Character & Temperament

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is an intelligent, affectionate and determined little terrier, which is generally a little calmer and less head strong than some other terrier breeds. Despite this they are still persistent and can have a strong character.

They are better suited to families with older children and young children should always be supervised. The Dandie Dinmont is independent and does not typically suffer from separation anxiety. Although they are not typically used as guard dogs due to their small size, they will bark and try to protect their territory.


The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is quick to learn and is generally eager to please, however, they can also be independent and prone to distraction. Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation are the keys to ensuring they remain focused and interested. Due to their hunting roots, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier can be prone to chasing other animals, which can make recall a problem in certain situations.

It is important to start training from a young age before any bad habits develop. The breed can be prone to some problem behaviours, such as digging, chewing and barking if not properly managed. It is a breed that is therefore more appropriate for dog owners with previous experience. If the Dandie Dinmont has adequate access to outside space, house training is not normally an issue.


The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has an average life span of around 12 to 13 years of age. It is classed as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club with no specific points of concern. Despite this, it can still suffer from some of the following health problems:


Although not mandatory, the Kennel Club recommends regular eye testing for the breed as it can be prone to primary closed angle glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused by fluid that builds up in the eye causing an increase in pressure.

This affects sight and is painful. Primary closed angle glaucoma is caused by one of the ligaments to the eye becoming enlarged, which causes the intraocular pressure to increase.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IDD)

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a long back and short legs which predisposes it to back problems. The intervertebral discs in the spine degenerate quicker than in other non-chondrodystrophic breeds and this can cause IDD. IDD eventually results in pain and paralysis and in most cases requires surgery, depending on the severity.

Not all dogs recover and surgery is not always successful. Ensuring dogs do not become overweight, are given plenty of exercise and avoid stairs and jumping off beds and sofas can help reduce the risk of IDD.

Cheyletiella Mite Infestations

Cheyletiella is a type of mite that can, in theory, affect any breed, but the Dandie Dinmont Terrier seems to be more sensitive to them than some other breeds and their presence may provoke an allergic reaction.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a small breed that is active and needs about an hour of walking a day. As with all dogs, it is ideal if some of this time is spent off the lead, but not essential. Despite their small size, it is important that the Dandie Dinmont is kept busy with plenty of mental stimulation as they have a liking for digging and can be prone to resorting to this if they become bored.


The Dandie Dinmont has a distinctive coat that is formed from two layers. The undercoat is soft and the topcoat is harder but not wiry. There is softer feathering around the legs and tummy and the hair along the back appears to ‘pencil’ due to the combination of the two coats.

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier needs regular brushing but does not shed its coat, which makes it a very clean dog to have around the house. The breed requires stripping once to twice a year to maintain its coat in good condition.

Famous Dandie Dinmont Terriers

Some examples of famous Dandie Dinmont Terriers include:

  • The Dandie Dinmont Terriers – Pepper & Mustard – from Sir Walter Scott’s book, Guy Mannering, after which the breed was named
  • Queen Victoria also owned several Dandie Dinmont Terriers
  • Famous owners of Dandie Dinmont Terriers include: Agatha Christie, Sir Alec Guinness and Sir Edwin Landseer
  • There is a Clyde paddle steamer, a locomotive, a tobacco and a whisky blend named after the breed


Due to the breeds low numbers, there are no well known cross-breeds.

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