Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Other names: Dandie, Hindlee Terrier, Charlie’s Hope Terrier, Mustard & Pepper Terrier
‘The gentleman of the terrier family,’ ‘the world’s oldest terrier,’ ‘Scotland's forgotten breed’ – the Dandie Dinmont Terrier has quite the reputation to those in the know. But it nearly came to nought as the breed dwindled towards extinction as recently as 2015-2016, before staging a mighty, yet incomplete, comeback. He’s long, very long like a sausage dog, covered in a double coat of which the top layer is not quite wiry, and he’s capped by a top-knot of silky hair like a little old lady. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is really quite a fabulous fellow and it’s difficult to see how he has become such a troublingly rare breed.
Key facts about the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
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Origins and history
We know of the Dandie from as far back as the year 1700, although he would not get his name until the 19th century, when novelist Sir Walter Scott created a character (in his novel “Guy Mannering”) based on the real life dog breeder James Davidson ; the character was named Dandie Dinmont, a farmer, and it is whispered that every modern Dandie can trace his lineage to Davidson’s real life terrier, Old Ginger.
In fact, Old Ginger has his own statue at Selkirk, where the dog was born. It’s possible the breed originated as a cross between a Scottish Terrier and a Skye Terrier.
The Dandie prevailed admirably over the years, his unique appearance aptly matched by his status as the only dog breed named after a fictional character ; Louis I of France had two of the fellows at his feet, and in 1875 the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (DDTC) was founded – today it is the third eldest breed club in the world.
However, by the turn of the latest century, the Dandie was in trouble, with barely two-dozen pups being registered per year (way below the 300 required to surpass ‘vulnerable’ status).
Thanks to campaigning efforts by those such as breeder Paul Keevil, pup numbers have risen modestly without reaching safety. The kennel building where Old Ginger was born is being restored as a Dandie ‘discovery centre’ and work is being done to raise the profile of this rather unknown dog who suffers from fashionability rather than any practical or aesthetic drawback.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 3 - Terriers
Section 2 : Small sized Terriers
Physical characteristics of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Female : Between 10 and 12 in
Male : Between 10 and 12 in
Female : Between 18 and 24 lb
Male : Between 18 and 24 lb
Pepper (dark blue-grey with silver-white topknot) or Mustard (reddish brown-pale fawn with cream-white topknot and darker feet/legs).
Type of coat
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier's hair is medium length.
Double coat : soft, lint-like undercoat and crisp (not wiry) overcoat. Feathered legs and a silky topknot.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier's eyes are dark hazel.
His long body and arched back soar past front legs that are little more than elongated feet before coming to a surprising conclusion : a bouffant hair-do (or ‘top-knot’) on his head. The Dandie’s seductive eyes are large and round and set quite far apart. His ears are pendulous and hang low, giving him the look of distinguished archivist. His black button nose caps a muzzle that barely got started. While he is proportionately built, that fabulous hairdo and beard add inches to his head, giving the impression that it has been swapped for that of a darling old man. While Robert Smellie’s famous painting of the breed appears to be somewhat naive and caricatured, it is a peculiar paradox of this breed that its appearance heeds Smellie’s description yet retains a sense of dignity at the same time. A dandy, indeed.
Good to know
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is rare among dog breeds for having his own tartan : a black and yellow variation given him by the Duke of Buccleuch.
The Dandie is a very affectionate, loving, and placid companion.
Despite his serious countenance, the Dandie enjoys play and can even become mischievous on occasion. Life needn’t be dull with a Dandie, since he loves to put on a show or to be entertained.
As terriers go, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is rather a calm one. He can dial down his energies indoors, but will be ready to go full pelt when playing or working outdoors.
He’s an intelligent chap, but like so many of our wayward geniuses his intelligence should not be mistaken for conformism ; he will use his intelligence in sometimes surprising ways and not always as you would like him to.
The Dandie was bred as a hunting dog : tenacious and courageous, he still has the instinct to go to ground, and it is a foolish mouse who crosses the threshold of even the most modern of his kind. His ancestors were not unaccustomed to dealing with badgers and otters.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Neither especially wary not gregarious among unfamiliar faces, you can expect the Dandie to be polite, no more and no less, until familiarity has flourished.
As with most terriers, the Dandie prides himself on his independence. While loyal and respectful to his owners, he will regularly defer to his own initiative, much as he must in the hunting fields.
Behaviour of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
His tolerance for solitude is moderate. Leave him too long and he will treat your slippers like his ancestors treated so many innocent otters.
Easy to train / obedience
The Dandie is intelligent and keen to learn. However he can also be a bit stubborn and wilful. So an easy ride is not guaranteed.
The Dandie has a rich, deep bark that matches his outfit if not his size; he will not use it unduly, except in the case of being left alone for longer than he can tolerate.
Tendency to run away
The main risk is that his hunting instincts should coax him from home. He likes to give chase to small, darting animals, and is expert at (and perfectly shaped for) worming his way through spaces that his human comrades assumed would surely hold him.
He should only become destructive if poorly trained or left by himself for too long.
Greedy / Gluttony
This smart little fellow is not especially prone to weight-gain, but should be carefully observed if deprived of his regular exercise regime, if he is neutered, and/or as he approaches old age.
While he’s a placid fellow during ordinary daily life, the Dandie will soon show his ferocious side if he feels his family is under threat. His bark is that of a bigger dog, and his bite is that of a dedicated hunter, so despite his less-than-moderate height he can prove quite the deterrent when called upon to defend his master’s property.
Aside from occasional stubbornness during training, the Dandie makes for a fine first dog – docile, engaged, and manageable. But a first-timer should only opt for this breed if they are confident they can provide an appropriate and disciplined education for the little terrier.
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Dandie Dinmont Terrier in a flat
As a small fellow who can keep his cool between four walls, the Dandie is a fine flatmate – so long as he is treated to adequate daily excursions.
Need for exercise / Sporty
His short legs, although they reach all the way to the floor, will do many times the work of a taller hound’s legs on a half-hour walk ; twice daily, with an opportunity to stretch out to full speed, this length of workout will do just fine.
Travelling / easy to transport
Calm and compact, the Dandie makes an excellent travel companion.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier and cats
As long as he is raised with cats, there should be no problem with them in the home. However, beware that he may instinctively give chase to unfamiliar moggies outside the home. Household pets smaller than cats do not stand much chance with him in the building.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier and dogs
He’s a sociable chap and will be just fine in the company of other dogs as long as he is acclimatised to their company from his youth.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier and children
The Dandie is generally recommended for older kids, but should be fine with younger ones as long as he is used to being with them from when he is a pup and understands the occasional finger-in-eye incident is not cause for complaint.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier and the elderly
An elderly person who can provide the Dandie with his modest daily exercise requirements and who can stoop low enough to pat the little critter should find a more than adequate companion in this breed.
The average price for a Dandie Dinmont Terrier dog is approximately £1000.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier can cost around £25 - £35 per month to feed and maintain.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier requires his dead hair to be stripped a couple of times each year, plus daily brushing, and the regular nail-clipping and ear maintenance afforded to most dog breeds.
Shedding is moderate.
Nutrition of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Good quality dog food divided between 2-3 meals a day should keep the Dandie satisfied and healthy.
Health of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Strong / robust
Trust his facial expression, not his size : this is a hardworking and durable little fellow.
His tolerance for the heat is so-so ; as with any dog, give him plenty of shade and water and don’t leave him unattended in a car.
He’s Scottish, after all. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier doesn’t mind a bit of weather, though he does not expect to be kept outdoors overnight.
Tendency to put on weight
The Dandie does not particularly tend towards obesity, so long as an appropriate dietary and exercise regime are maintained.