What to Know About Dandie Dinmont Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 20, 2022
6 min read

Dandie Dinmont terriers have the look of a lapdog but the heart of a hunter. In their land of origin, near the border between England and Scotland, local farmers prized them for their ability to "go to ground" after farm pests. This older breed is a good fit for modern pet lovers who have limited space even those who have no pests to kill.

The Dandie Dinmont is small, about the same size as Scottish terriers but considerably larger than breeds like chihuahuas and Yorkies. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard, Dandies should be 8 to 11 inches tall at the top of the shoulders. Their weight should be from 18 to 24 pounds. Dandies are low-slung but athletic and move with an easy gait.

Many characteristics of the Dandie Dinmont aren't quite what you would expect. Terriers usually have a silhouette made up of straight lines. Dandies are a symphony of curves. From the round eyes and fluffy dome of their head, the eye travels to their gently curving topline, ending at the arc of the tail. 

Dandies' coats are unique as well. The body hair is a mixture of soft and "hard" hair, creating a penciled effect, as if the darker hairs have been drawn on. Their ears, legs, and tail are lightly feathered. Soft hair covers the Dandie's underside, but the Dandie's topknot is the silkiest hair of all.

Dandie Dinmont lovers don't describe their dogs as brown or gray. Instead, Dandies come in pepper or mustard, the official AKC colors. Pepper describes a color ranging from bluish-black to silvery gray. Mustard ranges from reddish-brown to fawn. In the case of both coat colors, the topknot is white and the legs are a light brown. The shading creates an effect very pleasing to the eye. 

Dandies are small in stature, but they have the character of a bigger dog. The breed standard describes their temperament as dignified, independent, reserved, and intelligent. They also have a deep baritone bark that suggests a larger breed.

The Dandie Dinmont terrier is a long-lived breed with a life span from 12 to 15 years. 

Dandie Dinmont terriers need regular grooming even though they don't shed. They need daily brushing to keep their hair from matting. If you find a mat, gently pull the hairs apart with your fingers until the knot is gone. You can also use a grooming tool called a matt splitter. 

It's easy to miss knots around the top of the legs, so double-check that area. 

Most Dandie owners periodically have their dogs groomed by a professional. Grooming mostly involves trimming and shaping. The aim is to enhance the breed's natural appearance, not to alter it.

To keep your Dandie in tiptop condition, hand-strip the coat a few times a year. Strip the coat by brushing through it with your fingers and pulling out one or two loose hairs at a time. It's a time-consuming process. Some groomers will do it for you. 

If you want your Dandie to have the classic show-ready look, don't use clippers. Clipping can change the texture and even the color of the coat, and it may never return to its original condition. 

Some grooming tasks are important for the health of your dog. Be sure to:

  • Check the ears regularly and clean them if they look dirty. 
  • Trim the toenails about once a month.
  • Brush your dog's teeth daily.

Dandie Dinmonts need a moderate amount of regular exercise. This can come in the form of a walk or outdoor play. Keep them on leash because they may take off after a squirrel or other prey. Their hunting instincts are still strong. 

With their short legs and low-slung bodies, they don't make good jogging companions, but chasing a ball or toy is good exercise for Dandies. Getting outdoors regularly provides stimulation that they can't get indoors.

Feed your Dandie high-quality pet food. Like many small dogs, Dandies can easily become overweight. Don't overdo the treats. Your veterinarian can answer questions about your dog's weight and nutritional needs.

Your dog needs to see a veterinarian at least once a year. Puppies and older dogs need to go more often. Your vet will tell you how to protect your pet year-round from fleas and ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites.

Your vet can tell you what vaccinations your dog needs. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends these core vaccines:

  • parvovirus
  • canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis)
  • rabies
  • distemper

Dogs that are at high risk of being exposed to other diseases, such as canine influenza, may need non-core vaccines. Your vet can advise you.

Dandie Dinmont terriers are a vigorous breed. The following conditions have been documented as affecting them, but they are rare. It is unclear whether they are more common in Dandies than in other breeds. 

  • Lymphoma, a form of cancer
  • Epilepsy 
  • Eye problems, especially glaucoma

Dandies may be at risk for disk disease because of the length of their bodies.

Is this versatile little dog a good match for you? Consider these issues before you decide.

Do Dandie Dinmont terriers make good family pets? Dandies love to be with their families. They are affectionate, loyal, and devoted. 

Are they good with children? Dandies are patient with children and enjoy playing with them. After all, children are on their level!

Do they get along with other pets? Dandies are usually good with other dogs. Two male dogs in one household could be a problem. Dandies are natural hunters. Don't trust them around pets like ferrets or rabbits. 

Do they bark excessively? Dandies have an impressive bark, but they are usually quiet and calm companions.

Are they good watchdogs? With their alert nature and their big bark, Dandies are good watchdogs but will typically be fine with your guests. 

Are they easy to train? Dandies are smart but not always easy to train, thanks to their independent character. 

Do they shed? Dandies don't shed. That makes them good choices for people who are sensitive to pet hair. People with asthma or severe allergies should probably not have indoor pets.

Do they drool a lot? Dandies drool very little. 

What else is good about Dandie Dinmont terriers? Some owners like Dandies because they are portable. You can pick them up easily if you need to, and they are a good size for cuddling.  

The Dandie Dinmont terriers originated in the England-Scotland borderland. They were mostly owned by Romani families, who trained them to hunt weasels, otters, foxes, rabbits, badgers, skunks, and similar creatures. Their Romani owners kept the breed pure and sometimes rented them out to local farmers. By the 1700s, they were a recognized breed, although not under their current name. 

In 1815, Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel titled "Guy Mannering." A character in the book, Dandie Dinmont, owns six of these terriers. He famously declares they "fear naething that ever cam' wi' a hairy skin on't." The book created a huge demand for the terriers and led to their being known as Dandie Dinmonts. 

Other interesting highlights of Dandie Dinmont history include:

  • Dandies are the only breed named for a fictional character.
  • Early Dandies were known as peppers or mustards according to their color, and these became the official names for their coat colors.
  • A Dandie appears in a 1770 portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, a prominent painter of his day.
  • Queen Victoria of England and King Louis Philippe of France both owned Dandies.
  • Sir Walter Scott owned and bred Dandies.
  • England's Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club, founded in 1875 and still active today, is one of the world's oldest breed clubs.
  • Dandies are the only breed of dog allowed to wear an official Scottish tartan.
  • The AKC recognized the breed in 1886. 
  • Today, the Kennel Club classifies Dandie Dinmont terriers as a vulnerable native breed because their numbers are so low.