What to Know About Bedlington Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 02, 2022
7 min read

Terriers are hardy little dogs with big personalities. The Bedlington terrier is no exception. Its unique appearance and affectionate nature have endeared it to people for over a hundred years. Like other terriers, they started out as working dogs. However, they have transitioned to become docile pets. These days, you're unlikely to see a Bedlington terrier working in the outdoors and more likely to see them snoozing on a carpet.

Bedlington terriers are a healthy and energetic breed. Unlike some purebred dogs, they have few genetic abnormalities. They love exercise, so they're ideal for active owners who enjoy running or hiking. If you're interested in show dogs, Bedlingtons are an American Kennel Club recognized breed with many show-quality coat colors. You'll find an enthusiastic community in the Bedlington Terrier Club of America, which has been a member of the AKC since 1936.

Key Bedlington terrier information includes their characteristics, care requirements, and health needs. Before bringing one of these adorable dogs into your home, learn how you can be the best possible owner for them.

One of the most notable Bedlington terrier characteristics is their light-colored coats, which are so curly they resemble sheep wool. Some Bedlingtons have pure white coats, while others have dark gray saddle markings, and still others are a pale sandy or liver color. Bedlington fur contains a mix of soft hairs and stiff, springy hairs. The stiff hairs are often described as having a crisp appearance and texture.

Bedlington terriers shed very little, which makes them a good choice for pet owners with allergies. In fact, they are ranked as one of the top hypoallergenic dog breeds. Dog-lovers with allergies can celebrate having a wonderfully soft dog who won't set off an allergic reaction.

Bedlington terriers have sloped, pear-shaped heads and arched backs. Their most distinctive feature is their floppy ears, which have fluffy tassels on the tips. To meet the breed standard, they should have narrow skulls with topknots on top of their head. The average Bedlington terrier size is small, with a weight of 17 to 23 pounds. They stand between 15 and 17.5 inches tall. The Bedlington terrier lifespan ranges from 11 to 16 years.

The typical Bedlington terrier personality is energetic, friendly and affectionate. Despite their small size, they move quickly when they want to. They have a unique springy gait that can rapidly transform into a run. They tend to be friendly and are known for forming strong protective bonds with their loved ones. They also get along well with other pets.

You should brush or comb your Bedlington terrier’s fur weekly. Their coats should be trimmed every two months. You can take them to a professional groomer or learn to give them a haircut yourself. As with all other dogs, their nails should be trimmed whenever they grow too long. Similarly, their teeth should be brushed daily.

Due to the lively Bedlington terrier temperament, they need plenty of exercise. However, since they're small dogs with correspondingly short legs, a long walk for them is a short walk for most people. Games of fetch and regular walks will burn off their excess energy. If frequent walks aren't feasible for you, try giving your terrier a puzzle feeder or other interactive toys

Because Bedlingtons tend to be intelligent, they benefit from mentally stimulating training courses. Many Bedlingtons excel in agility courses thanks to their small size and speed. They are eager to please, but can be stubborn. Obedience training is recommended to enhance their easy-going nature and to give them a good outlet for their mental energy. They respond well to praise and food rewards. With a little training and plenty of attention, they grow into obedient and well-behaved little dogs.

Bedlington terriers are a healthy breed. The Bedlington terrier lifespan is longer than average compared to similar purebred small dogs. According to a 2004 survey conducted by the U.K. Kennel Club, one Bedlington lived 18.4 years. As long as their owners follow proper Bedlington terrier care practices, these dogs can live long and happy lives.

All dogs need routine veterinary care, including preventative care like vaccinations. Follow a vaccination schedule to immunize your Bedlington against common illnesses like distemper and rabies. The rabies vaccine should never be skipped and in many places, it is legally required. 

Since Bedlington terriers are food-motivated dogs, you should watch out for overeating. Feed them high-quality food tailored to their age group. Good food in combination with exercise will prevent them from gaining too much weight. Try rewarding good behavior with praise and affection, rather than treats.

One of the few serious Bedlington terrier health issues is copper toxicosis. Copper toxicosis is a genetically inherited condition that causes copper to build up inside cells. If the condition goes untreated for too long, it causes neurological problems and liver damage. There are three types of copper toxicosis. In the asymptomatic form, the dog accumulates a higher than average amount of copper in its cells, but not enough to cause serious health problems. The chronic form occurs over a long period of time as copper slowly builds up, eventually causing fatal liver disease. The fulminating form is the one rapid type of copper toxicosis. It can cause death within a few days, but it usually only occurs in young dogs.

Because copper toxicosis is genetic, pet owners can test for it before symptoms begin. You can order a copper toxicosis DNA test through UC Davis or ask your dog's breeder for their health records to see if they have already been tested. The national breed club also recommends that Bedlington terriers undergo a cardiac exam, ophthalmologist (eye) evaluation, and patella (kneecap) evaluation.

Bedlington terriers are a popular breed for families with young children. Before bringing home a Bedlington, teach your children to pet dogs gently. Remind them not to pull the dog's tail or bother it while it's trying to sleep. Once the child understands how to behave, let them spend supervised time with the Bedlington. After they get to know each other, they'll become good friends.

Like other terrier breeds, Bedlington terriers were originally bred to hunt small animals. Although they are now more commonly kept as pets, some of them have kept this hunting instinct. If you plan to use your Bedlington as a hunting companion, it will make an enthusiastic and trainable ally. However, they should still not be allowed off leash in wilderness areas. You don't want the dog to go chasing after a skunk. If you want a pet rather than a hunting dog, redirect their prey drive using dog toys, treats, and other things that they can safely chase.

Bedlington terriers make good watchdogs. This makes them great at alerting their owners to potential danger, but they can also be anxious around new people. Let your Bedlington spend lots of time interacting with new people in calm, safe environments. When you invite friends over, let them give the dog treats so that the dog will form a positive association with new people. The more you socialize your dog, the friendlier they will become.

The history of Bedlington terriers begins in the English mining town of Bedlington. The dogs were originally bred in this town for killing vermin, especially the rats that plagued the coal mining pits. Their agility and trainability made them excellent ratters. Dandie Dinmont terriers provided some of the early breeding stock, and the two terrier breeds remain closely related. Whippets were added to the gene pool to give the Bedlington terrier extra speed and their characteristic arched back.

When people realized how talented Bedlingtons were at hunting vermin, they started taking them on hunts as retrieving dogs. Sadly, their toughness caused some people to use them for another purpose: dogfighting. They were pitted against each other for sport, and though the dogs fought bravely, many died. Thankfully, the U.K. now has strict bans against dogfighting.

In the early 1800s, Bedlington terriers were still considered a working man's dog. However, a gentleman in Bedlington named Lord Rothbury became fascinated by these tough little terriers. He began breeding them himself. His dogs became so famous that people started referring to Bedlington terriers as Rothbury's terriers or Rothbury's lambs (because of their sheep-like fur). Although the name has fallen out of favor, Rothbury is credited with popularizing the breed.

Gradually, Bedlington terriers became more popular as pets, rather than working dogs. They were bred to keep their fierce loyalty, but lost some of the aggression they had possessed as hunting and fighting dogs. Modern Bedlington terriers are much more docile than their predecessors. A few working Bedlington terriers still exist, but the majority are show dogs or household pets. This comfortable end to their story is exactly what these feisty little terriers deserve.