What to Know About Norfolk Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 13, 2022
6 min read

The Norfolk Terrier is a small, cute, sturdy working dog bred from the terrier dog. People used these dogs for killing rats and chasing foxes in the early 20th century. An English horseman called Frank "Roughrider" Jones originally developed the Norfolk Terrier. Over the years, this dog breed has been referred to as the "Jones Terrier" by sportsmen across America.

Norfolk Terrier size

Norfolk Terriers are one of the smallest types of working terriers and are described as "demons" for their size. They grow to a shoulder height of about 9 to 10 inches. Norfolk Terriers are small, with substantial, hardy bodies.

Both male and female Norfolk Terriers grow to a maximum weight of about 11 to 12 pounds.

Norfolk Terrier physical characteristics

The Norfolk Terrier is a low, keen dog with a slightly round and broad head. This breed has some distance between its forward-dropping ears lying close to its cheeks. The eyes are oval-shaped and either black or dark brown. Norfolk Terriers have an alert expression.      

The Norfolk Terrier has a tight-lipped mouth and a strong jaw and teeth. The teeth are quite large and have a perfect scissor bite. That means that their upper teeth overlap closely with their bottom teeth. This dog breed's neck is medium-length and muscular. They have a compact body, good bone structure, and substance.

Norfolk Terriers have short, straight front legs and a clean, laid-back shoulder. They have a level topline and look short from the back and longer at the shoulders. Their hind legs are powerful and muscular, with a well-turned stifle (back-leg knee) and low-set hocks (ankle joint) that give them a lot of propulsion power. That also means that the Norfolk Terrier walks smoothly, with the back legs following the tracks of the front legs.

Their feet are round, with thick pads. Norfolk Terriers carry their medium docked or undocked tails erect and level with the topline. Their tails may be left undocked to increase their balance. The tail should stay straight, taper toward its tip, and be thicker around the root. This breed of dog should carry its tail jauntily and should not be too gay (high).

The Norfolk Terrier's coat lies close to its body and is straight, hard, and wiry. It gets longer and rougher around the neck and shoulders but shorter and smoother on the head and ears, except for the whiskers and eyebrows. The coat can be different shades of red, including tan, black, grizzle, wheaten, or deep red. This dog's coat is weatherproof.

The male Norfolk Terrier should have two testicles that descend fully into the scrotal sac (the skin that holds the testes).

Norfolk Terrier lifespan

The Norfolk Terrier can live for about 14 to 16 years.

Norfolk Terrier personality

Some of the Norfolk Terrier's outstanding characteristics are being lively, curious, energetic, courageous, intelligent, and self-sufficient. They are very sociable despite being strong-minded characters.

The Norfolk Terrier wasn't bred to be a lap dog and will need regular, varied physical exercise. Norfolk Terriers are quite inquisitive and love walks.

Norfolk Terriers are always ready to move around and will make every moment less dull. Try giving special care to your Norfolk Terrier, especially if you live in a city setting. Always make sure you have them on a secure leash when leaving a fenced yard or on a walk.

While the Norfolk Terrier is a good watchdog that will notify you by barking when a stranger is around, they're not guard dogs. Their friendly nature dominates when it comes to their behavior.

Norfolk Terriers are considered to be good natural hunters. Try giving yours some opportunities to go out and investigate things when they want to. If you do so, always make sure it's in a safe and secure area. Despite these outdoor tendencies, the dog is more of an indoor dog.

Norfolk Terriers love staying indoors but with access to an outdoor yard. The yard doesn't have to be big. This small dog can survive outdoors in temperate and warm climates.

Norfolk Terrier temperament

Norfolk Terriers are cute, sturdy, adventurous dogs that love cuddling. They may look toyish, but they are fearless and hardy working dogs. Norfolk Terriers do well in packs despite being bred from the terrier, which is known to be quite independent-minded. Because of that, they make excellent earthdogs for hunting foxes.

Norfolk Terrier coats require regular maintenance like clipping, brushing, and combing. Consider clipping the coat about two times every year to avoid coat shedding. Try to avoid cutting off too much fur. 

This dog's coat also needs stripping to get rid of dead hairs. Consider stripping every few months.

Always remember to keep your dog's nails short. Norfolk Terriers also need regular teeth cleaning and daily brushing.

It's crucial to know what health conditions your dog breed is likely to get. To avoid some of these conditions, try to ensure that their parents get screened. Also, find out all you can about the medical history going back to the puppy's grandparents before adopting them.

Always remember to ask the breeder what health tests they do or have already done.

Norfolk Terriers are prone to conditions like:

  • Hip dysplasiaThis occurs due to development issues that cause laxity in the hip joints. It eventually leads to arthritis.
  • Luxating patellas. The kneecaps slip out of place temporarily.
  • Lens luxation. The eye lenses dislocate.
  • Cataracts. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy and opaque.
  • Glaucoma. Pressure within the eye increases.
  • Skin issues. This includes various mild-to-severe skin conditions.


It's vital to take your dog for vaccinations to avoid potentially deadly conditions. Getting vaccinations for these preventable conditions may require you to make regular vet visits for several months and then go for booster shots or titers for the rest of your dog's life. While that may seem inconvenient, it's worth it for your pet's health.

Your Norfolk Terrier will need vaccines to protect against rabies, distemper, adenovirus, and parvo. There are other vaccines that your pet may need based on their lifestyle. Your vet is the best source to discuss any recommended vaccines.

Norfolk Terriers have big hearts. These small dogs don't pick fights and are quite lovable. They make good companions and even get along with the family cat and other pets, especially if they grew up together. 

These dogs will treat you, your family, and your other dogs as their pack and will generally get along with every family member in a household. Their size and friendly personality make them good with kids when trained and socialized.

While this dog breed is good with children, you should always keep an eye on your kids when they interact with any dog.

Another upside of owning a Norfolk Terrier is that this dog is portable. Due to their size, you can take them with you to many places. It also won’t cost a lot to feed them.

Norfolk Terriers are quite independent and smart. They can be a bit stubborn if not given proper obedience training and socialization. This breed is naturally a hunter, with a strong prey drive. This means that they may be dangerous to other smaller pets like hamsters and ferrets. For this reason, you shouldn’t let your Norfolk Terrier off their leash if you’re not in a fenced area.

Norfolk Terriers are less likely to drool than other dogs, so that’s not something you’ll have to worry about. This dog will also play with you only when you want to play with them. They’re highly adaptable dogs and love to have a daily routine.

The Norfolk Terrier was first developed by Frank Jones in the early 21st century. This dog breed was recognized and given the name "Norwich Terrier" by the Kennel Club of England in 1932. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1936.

There used to be two variations of the Norwich Terrier — the prick-ear (ears up) and the drop-ear (ears down). In 1964, the Kennel Club declared them two different dog breeds. The AKC then followed in 1979. The prick-eared dog kept the name Norwich Terrier, while the drop-eared dog got the name Norfolk Terrier.