Patterdale Terrier

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Patterdale Terrier

A sturdy and small, energetic breed of dog, the Patterdale Terrier originates from the north of England. A keen hunter, they were first developed to protect the local sheep from foxes and other potential predators. Traditionally selected for their courage, speed and tenacity, breed members today have retained many of their ancestor’s traits.

Their personality is sparky and sweet, and they generally adjust well to living with other animals, as well as children. Always on the go, they benefit when provided with an active lifestyle and can truly excel in a number of sporting disciplines.

About & History

The Patterdale Terrier is often referred to as the quintessential 'Fell Terrier’. Fell Terriers are described as working dogs with long limbs and include the Patterdale, as well as the Lakeland, or more generally, the 'Red Fell Terrier'. The ‘Fell country’ is an area in the north of England, where this type of dog first originated.

As with other Fell Terriers, Patterdale Terriers have always been bred according to their ability to hunt and their personality, rather than their aesthetic appearance. Traditionally, these terriers would hunt foxes and vermin, and would often work in packs. They would usually hold their prey in place, waiting for their masters to arrive, though would sometimes kill it; particularly if it attempted to escape.

Patterdale Terriers are said to have been initially developed by a breeder called Joe Bowman in an area called Ullswater in England at the approximate start of the 20th century. They were developed out of necessity to protect livestock, such as sheep, from predators, including the red fox. Several terrier type dogs were consciously bred together (likely today’s Border Terrier and Lakeland Terrier), and the result was so pleasing to Joe Bowman that he continued breeding them and named them ‘Patterdales’.

In 1995, the United Kennel Club officially recognised the breed – though they have still not been accepted by the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club in their home country and are considered by them to be a ‘type’ rather than a breed.

In the UK, the 2004 Hunting Act banned the use of all dogs from hunting animals, such as foxes and hares – the Patterdale Terrier included. Nowadays, this breed can be seen within family homes, as well as competing successfully in events, such as agility and flyball.


Patterdale Terrier Large Photo

Unlike with many pure breeds, the Patterdale Terrier does not conform to strict physical standards, and breeders will instead focus on their working ability. In spite of this, most members of the breed are easily recognised. They will typically be small, measuring from 25 to 40cm. The average Patterdale Terrier weighs between 5 and 7kg, though some breed members are much heavier than this.

Traditionally, their small stature, as well as their narrow chest, would have allowed them to squeeze into tight spaces when hunting. They must be fit and have an athletic body shape. While well muscled, they must also be flexible and speedy. In some countries, working Patterdale Terriers will have their tails docked – a practice that is falling out of favour internationally.

Their double-coat provides them with some weather-proofing, protecting them from the wet winters of the Lake District. Coat type varies among breed members and may be described as ‘smooth’, ‘rough’ or ‘broken’. ‘Smooth’ coated individuals have the shortest coats of all, while ‘rough’ coated dogs have an overall long coat that is thick. Those with a ‘broken’ coat fall somewhere in the middle, and typically have longer fur on their face. A number of colours are acceptable, including:

  • Black
  • Red
  • Black & Tan
  • Liver
  • Blue
  • Brindle

Character & Temperament

As with other Terrier breeds, Patterdale Terriers are mostly rambunctious, full of life and fun to be around. While often described as ‘hard work’, when socialised well from a young age they can make very pleasant family pets and are loving and affectionate with those they trust. Their high energy levels and confidence can be testing for some owners, and when placed in inappropriate homes where they are not exercised enough, they can often become difficult to manage.

They tend to get on well with other animals and children if used to them from a young age, though have maintained a very high prey drive, so caution is advised around smaller animals. Digging and barking can become problematic behaviours in some breed members. These issues can largely be avoided by providing the dog with plenty of alternative things to do, and ensuring they are exercised sufficiently.

Patterdale Terriers make good watch dogs as they are always alert. Despite their size, their bark can be surprisingly loud, and makes a good alarm for any home. Separation anxiety has been reported in a number of Patterdale Terriers. Indeed, the close bond that they often develop with their owners can be a double-edged sword.


Photo of Patterdale Terrier puppy
Henri0800 /

Smart, vibrant and enthusiastic, the Patterdale Terrier is always keen to participate in a training session; sometimes too keen for their own good! They can, at times, be easily distracted, but are generally very biddable and keen to learn and please their master.

Off-lead work is possible, but care must be taken if in the vicinity of any prey animals, as they may prove so tempting that any recall training is instantly forgotten.


As is true for many dog types that have been bred for purpose, the Patterdale Terrier tends to enjoy good health and longevity, with many living well into their early teens. Breed members may be more predisposed than the average dog to the following issues:

Eye Issues

A variety of eye conditions can be a problem for this breed, and may include conjunctivitis, glaucoma, primary lens luxation and cataracts. At the first sign of any eye problem (ocular discharge, cloudiness, redness or irritation), a dog should be brought to a veterinary clinic for an eye exam. Eye injuries (such as corneal ulcers) are not uncommon, particularly in those of the breed that work.

Patellar Luxation

This is an orthopaedic condition that many Terrier types are prone to. While for some dogs this will only cause a minor inconvenience, others can be severely affected and may even require surgery to correct the problem.


This is an endocrine condition that results when there is an insubstantial amount of thyroid hormone available to the dog. Clinical signs that result can include weight gain, lethargy and poor skin and coat quality. A blood test can diagnose the disease, and the good news is that it will respond well to medical management in most cases.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The exercise needs of this breed must not be under-estimated. While they may be a small dog, they require a staggering amount of daily activity to keep them satisfied. Several long walks or jogs should be supplemented with access to the outdoors and sporting activities if possible.

Bred for their stamina, it is rare to fully tire a Patterdale Terrier out. Due to this, they are best suited to a rural household where they can run outside to their hearts content. Despite their small size, they should not be confined to small living quarters, but instead, should be provided with plenty of space to roam, both indoors and out.


The Patterdale Terrier is naturally a low maintenance breed of dog when it comes to grooming, regardless of coat type. They benefit from once to twice weekly brushing to help remove dead fur and distribute the oils along their coat. If not worn down when outside, their claws will need to be clipped at home (or by a professional) every few months.

Brushing their teeth is an essential task which should be introduced to them from a young age. While any dog can develop periodontal disease, smaller dogs are more susceptible.

Famous Patterdale Terriers

Chip the Patterdale Terrier was in the winning team for the 2012 British and European Flyball championships. His cleverly named club is called ‘Tails we win’. Additionally, Bingo is said to have been the first ever example of the breed and was owned by Joe Bowman.


Most recently, there have been a number of Patterdale Terrier crosses developed, including:

  • Patterbea – Cross between a Patterdale Terrier and Beagle
  • Patterjack – Cross between a Patterdale Terrier and a Jack Russell Terrier
  • Patterpoo – Cross between a Patterdale Terrier and a Miniature Poodle
  • Chatterdale – Cross between a Patterdale Terrier and a Chihuahua

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