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12:53 AM   April 18, 2015
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The Dandie Dinmont

This breed is arguably the gentleman of the terrier group.
By Eve Adamson

Courtesy of Mary Bloom
The curvy, low-slung, mustard- or pepper-colored Dandie Dinmont terrier is almost twice as long as tall and sports a poofy bouffant hairdo unlike any other terrier breed.  One of the rarest terriers (the Dandie ranked 148th out of 157 breeds according to American Kennel Club registrations in 2007), this unusual-looking terrier isn’t so unusual in behavior. It chases small animals, barks at intruders and thinks for itself. It may or may not tolerate cats, dig holes in the garden or squeeze through a chink in the fence. It is cautious with strangers but devoted to its family, and is so smart that it tends to train the humans in its life before they train it.

In other words, it’s all terrier. The Dandie’s big dark eyes exude wisdom, as expressed in an old Scottish saying: “A Dandie looks at you as though he’s forgotten more than you ever knew.”  

Stranger Than Fiction
The Dandie Dinmont terrier is the only breed named after a fictional character, Dandie Dinmont, in Sir Walter Scott’s 1814 novel, “Guy Mannering.” However, the fictional Dandie Dinmont may have been modeled after an actual man named James Davidson, whose terriers were all named either Pepper or Mustard, and closely resembled today’s Dandie Dinmont terriers. At the time, the breed went by many names, including Catcleugh, Hindlee and Pepper and Mustard terrier.  Not until Sir Walter Scott’s novel’s publication did the breed take on the name Dandie Dinmont’s terriers, now shortened to Dandie Dinmont terrier.

The breed originated on the border between Scotland and England in the 18th century, where it excelled at catching and killing the vermin, including otters, foxes and badgers, that plagued farmers. Probably related to the Skye and cairn terriers, the Dandie Dinmont has a weather-resistant double coat and is long and low with a curved back, allowing it to follow vicious vermin into a den and back out easily if necessary. The Dandie has strong jaws and big teeth to help finish the job.

Shopping List

  • Crate or kennel for housetraining and safety
  • Soft bedding for the crate or kennel
  • Medium-size dog bed
  • Collar with ID tags
  • Medium food and water bowls, preferably ceramic or steel
  • High-quality dog food
  • Healthful treats
  • Natural bristle brush or pin brush
  • Steel comb
  • Blunt-tipped grooming scissors for trimming head, muzzle, legs, underbody and feet (or contact information for a professional groomer)
  • Stripping knife for body coat
  • Nail trimmer for medium dogs
  • Mild, hypoallergenic dog shampoo without chemical sudsing agents
  • Flea-control product
    Toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs
  • Safe chew toys
  • Stain and odor-removing spray for housetraining accidents
  • Dandie Dinmont terrier books 
    Contact information for local dog-obedience instructors
When dog shows became popular in England and America, breed clubs formed and wrote breed standards. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club formed in 1875 and the members wrote the original breed standard, which is almost the same today as it was then. Few Dandie Dinmonts hunt vermin today (other than the occasional backyard squirrel). Instead, most live as laid-back, independent and affectionate family companions.

Dandie Stats
Long-bodied and short-legged, the Dandie Dinmont should be about 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh a hefty 18 to 24 pounds. Dandies have strong large heads and big round, dark eyes with wide-apart, low-set ears about 3 to 4 inches long. The ears are groomed to sport fluffy tassels on the tips. The Dandie’s topline (the line in profile from the neck to the base of the tail) is low at the shoulder, then curves down and back up over the loin, then drops off again, giving the Dandie a curvy silhouette that contrasts with the more square or rectangular look of most other terriers.

Because of their extra-long backs, Dandie Dinmonts can be prone to intervertebral disk disease, which can cause spinal disk ruptures and paralysis. They may also develop glaucoma. However, many Dandies live long, healthy lives of 11 to 13 years.

Lower in energy than some terriers, Dandie Dinmonts make good housemates. Their caution around strangers and alert senses make them excellent watch dogs. The independent Dandie can be challenging to train, but early socialization and obedience classes can help pet owners and Dandie Dinmonts learn a common language.   

Dandie ’Do
The Dandie Dinmont’s distinctive coat may be pepper (gray or silver) or mustard (light cream to brown) and requires twice-weekly brushing and combing. To maintain the proper crisp texture, which comes from an intermingling of silky-soft and hard wiry hairs, the body coat should be hand-stripped, either with a stripping knife or the fingers. This time-consuming process involves pulling dead coat out by hand, since the Dandie Dinmont does not shed. In addition, the silky topknot, tasseled ears, fringed muzzle, legs, underbody and feet need to be trimmed with scissors to shape them and eliminate too-long or stray hairs.

For many pet owners, the Dandie’s grooming needs are too time-consuming, so they take their pets to professional groomers for clipping and shaping. Although clipping rather than stripping will soften the coat texture, that’s just fine for dogs that won’t be competing in dog shows. Dandies also benefit from weekly nail clipping and daily tooth brushing, as well as plucking or trimming of excessive inner ear hair.

Breed Traits

  • Active outdoors
  • Intelligent
  • Independent
  • Loyal
  • High prey drive
  • Alert watchdog
The Dandie Dinmont also does things with its people, including taking walks outside, running in the dog park or just hanging around at home. Less active than some terriers, Dandies are usually well-mannered house pets, as long as they get enough exercise. However, because of their instinctive prey drive, they can’t be trusted off-leash outside of a safely fenced area. If they see a squirrel, they might run across the road. And because they are so low to the ground, they can be difficult for drivers to see.

Dandie Dinmonts, like most terriers, can be aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same gender. However, they are just as likely to get along well with other dogs, especially those of the opposite gender. Much depends on the individual and how well the owner socialized it as a puppy. Dandies like children who treat them with respect, but might nip if they feel cornered or harassed.

Although Dandie Dinmonts can be hard to find, fans appreciate their laid-back attitude, independence, loyalty, playful nature and terrier fire, all rolled into one uniquely coiffed, bright and genuinely gentlemanly package. <HOME>

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