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He might be small, but the Bedlington terrier packs a lot of personality into his little frame. This is an adaptable, affectionate (without being too clingy) dog who loves being the center of attention—and that's a good thing, as the the rare breed's distinctive, lamb-like appearance and mohawk hairdo will draw a lot of eyes.
Bedlingtons are fabulous with owners of all ages and energy levels, but not quite so amiable with their fellow canines. Although he'll probably be fine with (and maybe even a little in awe of) the family cat, small outdoor animals will likely arouse his terrier spirit: After all, hunting and chasing is in his DNA. And though Bedlingtons are quick to bark when someone pulls in the drive, they're just as fast to befriend a stranger once introduced.
Did Mary have a little lamb, or did she have a Bedlington? They look so similar, it's hard to say! That narrow Bedlington terrier head shape with a profuse topknot (which is lighter than the rest of his body) paired with the triangular, tasseled ears and lithe, curvy body makes this small dog breed a serious showstopper.
"Most people fall in love with the Bedlington appearance before they know anything about the breed," says Jacquelyn Fogel, president of Cedar Creek Pet Resort. She's bred, shown, groomed, and trained Bedlington terriers for 26 years, and in that time she's learned just about everyone has an opinion on the breed.
"They either love him or hate him," she says. "Of course, most people will say that he looks like a little lamb, and some have gone so far as to ask me if he's really a dog. Lack of hooves aside, they really are an amusingly different-looking dog. In general, people who own Bedlingtons love the look with the shaved face, ears and tail, and the ear tassels."
Why such an unusual trim? Fogel says no one knows how the Bedlington's style evolved, exactly, but parts of the 'do could be beneficial for a breed that was bred to hunt vermin in the chilly northern U.K.
"Tassels and abundant hair on the foreface can protect the dog from injury from angry prey, and the down-like fur keeps them warm when they hunt or go into the mines," she says.
Some Bedlington terrier characteristics, like their innate friendliness and the fact that they will alert everyone in hearing distance to a stranger walking down the street, might seem a bit contradictory.
"Bedlingtons are fabulous early warning systems," Fogel says. "They will bark like crazy when a car comes up the driveway or a visitor comes in the door, but as soon as they are introduced, they become your best friend. And the next time you walk in the door, the cycle starts over again."
As with all dogs, Bedlingtons respond best to positive reinforcement training. To curtail his barking, carry treats in your pocket when you know your Bedlington will soon meet a stranger. The barking will end quickly when you reward them for being quiet. If you focus on teaching him when it's appropriate to exercise his vocal stylings, he can be a pretty quiet little pup who loves playing with his toys—especially those with squeakers, which he'll joyfully destroy—instead of confronting the doorbell.
Affectionate yet independent, the Bedlington isn't a needy, in-your-face-demanding-belly-rubs kind of pup, but he loves to follow his people around and be involved in whatever they're doing. Although he's an active, athletic dog who can run like the wind, he needs less exercise than other members of the terrier group. This is not a breed that constantly needs a job to do and can be happy with a daily walk.
These happy-go-lucky pups adore people of all ages, Fogel says, "from tiny babies that they feel a need to [watch over], to seniors who find their soft coats comforting to pet."
As with any breed, all children should be taught to respect the Bedlington's boundaries, and young children should be supervised with any dog. Bedlington terriers also consider indoor cats as friends, especially if they're raised with them, although small animals outdoors might rile up their feisty terrier soul.
Sweet as he is with his people, the Bedlington may not do well with unfamiliar canines and would probably enjoy a life as the only pup at home.
Whether you're a couch potato or outdoor enthusiast, the Bedlington will be keen to keep you company. This breed excels at all kinds of activities, both organized and informal, so don't hesitate to get him involved in whatever sounds fun to you—hiking, biking, Earthdog tests, flyball, agility, rally dog, you name it. He's even great in water and loves to go for a swim! As long as he gets to participate in activities with you, he'll be one delighted dog.
"Bedlingtons are great dogs to walk outdoors with because they seldom stray too far, and they almost always return immediately to a call," Fogel says. "Of course, walking on lead in a congested area is the best idea, but on rural properties they love to run big circles around their property."
These dogs love their people and are great with everyone from kids to seniors—and people love them, too, for their clownish antics, soft coat, and sweetly curious demeanor. Bedlington terriers tend to get along well with family cats, although it's wise to remember they were bred to chase smaller animals. Start socializing your Bedlington terrier puppy early on so he can do well as he grows up, no matter the situation.
He may enjoy the company of pups he's raised with, but Bedlingtons are often scrappy with dogs they don't know. Keep him on a leash when walking him in any canine-crowded areas, and supervise him around other dogs. That being said, Bedlingtons are easily crate trained, Fogel says, and don't mind resting in a crate even if another dog is loose.
While many consider the Bedlington terrier "hypoallergenic," you shouldn't mistake his shed-free status for a low-maintenance coat. Those curls must be trimmed every six to eight weeks, and DIY might not be an option unless you're exceptionally handy with the clippers.
"The current trim is one the most intricate trims of all regularly groomed dogs, though most pet owners prefer a shorter version," Fogel says. "The coat is the softest of any breed, and it is very unforgiving for even the most skilled groomers."
You'll also need to comb or brush him once or twice a week, but—good news!—even though staining around the eyes, mouth, and feet of lighter-colored Bedlingtons is fairly common, frequent baths are not recommended, as they can turn his soft fur coarse. Keep nails short enough to avoid clicking on the floor, get him on board with teeth brushing early, and use those weekly combing sessions as an opportunity to keep an eye out for any changes in his skin or coat.
When it comes to training, Bedlington terrier dogs are all about the rewards. Praise, play, and treats as positive reinforcement will make training this bright dog a treat itself.
"Channel your terrier's prey drive by using toys as a reward," Fratt says. "Teaching a young terrier to look at, then look away from a prey animal in exchange for food or a toy can help keep walks manageable."
Barking is another common terrier behavior that Fratt warns against accidentally rewarding. "Unless you want your dog to bark when he wants to go outside, reward your dog for calm behaviors and 'saying please' instead of barking," she says. "Yelling at a barking dog rarely helps in the long run, so it's best to keep your cool and understand that barking is normal for dogs."
When given appropriate channels for his instincts, quality time with his people, and at least a little exercise each day, the Bedlington terrier is a happy pup who's easy to live with—just so long as you're comfortable with the grooming commitment.
The Bedlington terrier is a generally healthy breed that's both muscular and flexible, and it's not uncommon for them to live even longer than their impressive 11–16 year lifespan. Still, there are a few things potential owners should be aware of.
"They have some potential eye issues, so a CERF eye examination (or OFA eye certification exam) is important for Bedlington terrier breeders to be doing ... and a Bedlington owner should make sure to get regular thorough eye exams as part of their health checks," says Maggie Brown-Bury, DVM, past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Veterinary Medical Association.
There are also some diseases Brown-Bury sees in the breed that can't be certified against, including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, epilepsy, allergic skin disease, and Cushing's syndrome. "They are not highly represented for any of these diseases," she says, "but these are conditions an owner should be aware of."
In addition to being the most distinctive-looking member of the terrier group, the Bedlington can also boast its status as having the oldest, non-broken pedigree of all purebred terriers. Their lineage can be traced way back to a dog owned by Squire Trevelyan in the English town of Netherwhitton (near Bedlington) in 1782. Breeding records were not well kept at that time, but it's believed that some of the breeds included in the Bedlington's creation included the otterhound, the whippet, the poodle, and perhaps the bull terrier. About 40 years later, the dogs were bred in the town of Bedlington and the breed gained its name.
But the Bedlington didn't come to be because Englishmen in those days wanted a lamb lookalike; they wanted a hunting companion who exhibited stamina, courage, loyalty, and determination. Those traits just happened to come in a graceful, charming, and remarkable-looking package.
Hunting wasn't the only use for the Bedlington terrirr back then. In nearby Northumberland, a mining shire, the dogs had a number of other jobs, including coal mine ratters and varmint killers. However, it wasn't long before the British elite began to take notice of the Bedlington and realized he was loyal, loving, and achingly stylish to boot, and thus the Bedlington quickly found himself in stately manors and the show ring.
England's National Bedlington Terrier Club formed in 1877, and the American Kennel Club registered its first Bedlington nine years later as its 25th breed. Since then, the Bedlington has remained a beloved, if relatively rare, pet on both sides of the pond.
- This pooch has his own sports team! The Bedlington Terriers Football Club is based in Bedlington, U.K. Although the North League team itself has existed since 1949, they didn’t take on the Terrier mascot until 1980. These days, after home goals, you’ll hear the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” and see signs referring to the locker rooms as “kennels.”
- The town of Bedlington has park benches shaped like the terrier.
- Many of the adult Bedlingtons you see may look white (or at least light in color), but Bedlington puppies are born black or brown, and their coat lightens as they age.