The Norwich Terrier breed standard
From the abbreviated Norwich Terrier breed standard: "The Norwich Terrier is spirited and stocky with prick ears and a foxy expression... eager to dispatch small vermin... has good bone and substance and an almost weatherproof coat. Ideal height should not exceed 10 inches at the withers... weight approximately 12 pounds. Coat is hard, wiry and straight. Colors are all shades of red, wheaten, black and tan or grizzle. Temperament is described as gay, fearless, loyal and affectionate." See the Official Norwich Terrier breed standard for a complete description.
Is a Norwich Terrier right for me?
The Norwich Terrier is a small but sturdy dog, not fine boned like many of the toy breeds of similar size. They are happy, inquisitive, intelligent and energetic, and sometimes quite independent. They have a delightful sense of humor and a variety of quirks that make them very charming. Of the almost 30 AKC recognized terrier breeds, the Norwich Terrier is the smallest of the working terriers, and is described by those who know them best, to have the softest temperament of the terriers. The Norwich Terrier does however have all the tenacity, feistiness, and attitude of his larger brethren.
Norwich Terriers were bred to hunt vermin in packs and many have a high prey drive. The cute squirrels and rabbits that visit your yard are prey to a Norwich Terrier and if they catch one, they will kill it. Homes with pets such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs etc., are not a suitable home for a Norwich Terrier.
Grooming a Norwich Terrier
Norwich Terriers are a double coated breed, having a soft, undercoat and a thick wiry guard coat. This type of coat sheds dirt and water easily but does take some work to keep it properly maintained. The coat is not soft to the touch. A Norwich Terrier in proper coat can feel somewhat like a Brillo pad, so if you love the feel of a soft coat, this isn't the breed for you.
The wiry coat is maintained by pulling the dead coat, a process known as "stripping." Stripping a terrier coat is not difficult, but it is time consuming. If you prefer to hire a groomer, you may find it challenging to find a groomer who can or will strip a terrier coat correctly, and it can be costly. My suggestion is to try grooming your dog yourself. If you are gentle and patient, it can be an excellent bonding time for you and your dog. Also, with regular grooming sessions, you'll get to know your dog's entire body and thus can be immediately alerted to any changes, bumps or areas of sensitivity.
There are two ways of stripping your Norwich. Stripping can be done on a regular basis whereby only the longest hairs are pulled. This is called "rolling the coat." Rolling the coat is my preference as it keeps shedding to a minimum and the dog always looks neat and tidy. I do this procedure about every other week, but some do it less frequently. The other method is to strip your dog completely a few times a year. In this scenario, the coat is allowed to grow out, then the entire guard coat is pulled, leaving only the undercoat. It has been my experience that when the coat is left to grow out, the dog sheds more. Norman's coat is easy to groom and he enjoys our grooming sessions, so I keep him in a rolled coat. Sooner doesn't enjoy grooming so I strip her down completely twice a year and let her grow out between stripping. No matter which method you choose for regular upkeep, I recommend brushing the coat several times a week, and bathing as needed. I "spot clean" my dogs daily.
As your Norwich ages, the skin loses elasticity and the stripping process can become painful for him. At that time, I stop stripping the coat and will use clippers and scissors instead. This means that the coat will lose its rich color and harsh texture, but the comfort of the dog is paramount. An excellent reference for Norwich Terrier grooming can be found on the Wildgoose Norwich Terrier website.
Finding your Norwich Terrier
There are some truly fine breeders of Norwich Terriers. These are people who love and respect the breed, who health test their dogs before breeding, and who breed for good health and temperament. In other words, they breed to the official breed standard. On the other hand, there are some unscrupulous types who breed dogs who have known health problems, such as Upper Airway Syndrome (UAS), epilepsy, structural problems, allergies, and disagreeable temperaments. Then there are some who are so deceptive they cross breed Norwich Terriers with Cairn Terriers and charge the unwitting public for the price of a purebred Norwich Terrier. Buyer beware!
A good start
A good place to start your search is the Norwich Terrier Club of America. Not only can you learn more about the breed from those who live with, show, and breed their dogs, but you can get contact information for hobby breeders who choose to abide by the national club's Code of Ethics. You can also visit the AKC website for more breed information.
I would encourage anyone who is looking for a Norwich Terrier, to attend AKC sanctioned dog shows. You can meet breeders and their dogs there and ask questions about the breed. Since Norwich Terriers are still a fairly rare breed in the U.S., you may not have the opportunity to see one in person in your neighborhood, so attending a show would be a great place to get acquainted. Prior to attending a show, see if you can set up an appointment to speak with some of the breeders after they have finished showing their dogs. Responsible, caring breeders are happy to answer your questions and help educate you on their breed. They will give you an honest assessment of the breed and help you to know whether or not it is a good match for you and your family.
Some hallmarks of a reputable breeder
Here are just a few hallmarks of a reputable breeder but just like anything else – do your research!
The breeder's number one goal is to improve and strengthen the breed. They not only breed to the official standard, which includes correct temperament, but they breed for excellent health.
The breeder's dogs are registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) which maintains the registry for purebred dogs in the U.S., they sanction dog events, and they teach about responsible dog ownership. Canadian breeders' dogs are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). Both of these registries assure that your dog's pedigree is legitimate.
The breeder shows his/her dogs to their championship in conformation shows. A dog that is "finished" means it is as close to the standard as possible when judged against the standard. A finished champion's name is denoted with a "Ch." prefix.
The breeder rigorously health tests their dogs for hips, knees, elbows, and eyes before breeding. Some breeders scope their dogs for possible Upper Airway Syndrome (UAS) related problems as well. Test results are posted on the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) website.
Each breeding is planned for the express purpose of improving the breed. The breeder carefully studies pedigrees and selects the best prospect to achieve their set goal. The breeder has potential homes lined up for any puppies that may not be suitable to be kept and included in their breeding program.
Some breeders require a non-refundable deposit for a puppy. Personally, I would not agree to such terms. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control (health or financial hardships for example). How could a breeder who has a puppy's best interest at heart force you to forfeit money or force you to take a puppy when you are facing a hardship?
The breeder rigorously screens prospective homes for suitability and placement. Expect to be asked detailed questions about your home, family and previous pets. Walk away if you are not asked these and other questions.
The breeder invites a prospective owner to visit their home and see their dogs. The breeder may give you specific guidelines before you come over, especially if he/she has puppies or young dogs.
The breeder offers a health guarantee.
The breeder offers a contract that includes a stipulation that if for any reason the purchaser can no longer care for the dog, the dog will be returned to the breeder. This indicates a life-long commitment to any dog they helped bring into the world.
If the puppy is going to a show home, the breeder agrees to mentor the new owners.
A responsible breeder will not require a non-fundable deposit on a puppy. If a prospective buyer changes their mind for any reason, forcing them to either lose money or take a puppy they really do not want, is not putting the puppy's best interest first. If a prospective buyer were to suffer a financial or a health crisis, forcing them to lose money or take a puppy into an unstable situation is not putting the puppy's best interest at heart.
Are you ready for a dog?
Having a dog is a big responsibility to say the least. If your current lifestyle is one of long days at work, family activities in the evenings and weekends on-the-go, a dog may not be the right pet for you right now. Dogs are pack animals and being left alone for long periods of time is not good for them. They get lonely and bored and this can cause them to act upon their frustrations, resulting in behavioral problems. When you arrive home after a long day at work, your dog will be ready for fun with you. Are you willing to provide him with the exercise and play time required to keep him happy and healthy? Would you be willing to hire a reliable professional to check on your dog during the work day? If not, your dog will be alone most of the time so what's the point in having a dog? What about vacations? Paying for a safe place to board your dog can be expensive. If you plan to travel with your dog, please remember that not all vacation spots are pet-friendly. Leaving your pet in your hotel room or car is not advised. Last but not least, there are costs associated with having a dog. While some are shocked at the price of a well-bred Norwich Terrier, it's nothing compared to what it will cost to feed and provide health care for the remainder of his life.
There are many things to think about, and I highly recommend that you consider all angles. Take an honest assessment of your lifestyle and make the right choice for you, your family, and any dog you may be considering.
Responsible breeders and responsible pet owners are not the reason we have overcrowded shelters and unwanted dogs. Irresponsible breeders who do not properly screen potential homes, and irresponsible pet owners who do not carefully consider pet ownership are to blame!
Photo of Ch. Ma-Ya Sarum Sooner or Later "Sooner" (upper left courtesy of Geri Gentile, Sarum Norwich Terriers