Hailing from England's Lake District, Lakeland terriers have made their way across the pond (and around the world) to become lovable, lively family pets. These small-but-mighty dogs—often called by their nickname, "Lakies"—were originally bred to hunt foxes on sheep farms in northwest England near the Scottish border. But today, they make stellar companion animals.
Lakeland terriers are small, agile, hardy, and confident, which are just some of the many reasons why this breed is so beloved among enthusiasts. They're still relatively rare in the United States, but likely to catch on even more as people discover this bold, affectionate breed with twinkling eyes and bearded chins.
"They're loving toward their people, very playful, independent, very smart, and adaptable to a variety of environments," says Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
Petite in size, Lakeland terriers are smaller than many of their terrier cousins. This breed typically stands 14–15 inches tall and weighs around 17 pounds; as with many breeds, females may be slightly smaller than males.
Lakeland terrier colors and patterns are diverse, including black, black and tan, blue, blue and tan, grizzle and tan, liver, red, red grizzle, wheaten, brindle, grizzle, and liver and tan.
They have thick double coats that consist of a hard, wiry outer coat and a softer undercoat. Most owners keep their Lakeland terriers' coats trimmed shorter on their head, ears, chest, shoulders, and behind the tail; they leave the rest a bit longer. The Lakeland terrier's face is easily recognizable, too, thanks to his distinctive beard.
These dogs have small, V-shaped ears that fold forward on top of their heads. Their eye color can run the gamut from dark hazel to warm brown to black, and Lakies are often described as having a mischievous look in their eyes. They have small, black nose tips.
Loving, confident, and cheerful, Lakeland terriers make wonderful companion animals. Though they're small in stature, Lakeland terriers have big personalities that make them fun to be around.
They're highly affectionate toward their human families and relatively open to meeting new people. That said, Lakeland terriers are also always on alert and prepared to tell their owners—loudly—whenever someone pulls into the driveway or walks up to the front door.
Like others in the terrier breed group, Lakies' spunky, playful personalities and high intelligence levels make them an ideal fit for more experienced pet parents. These dogs make great family pets, but they do best with owners who can set clear boundaries, commit to regular training sessions, and offer lots of mental and physical stimulation.
"To put it mildly, terriers are not for the faint of heart," says Linda Simon, MVB, MRCVS, consulting veterinarian at FiveBarks.
Because they were originally bred to hunt foxes lurking near sheep farms in England, Lakeland terriers have a high prey drive and are not the best fit for families with other small mammals as pets. Although, they may get along well with some cats—especially those they've been raised with since they were puppies. But these dogs may chase their feline family members, so pet parents should always supervise interactions between Lakies and cats.
Though Lakeland terriers are highly affectionate toward their family members, they can be left alone for periods of time as long as they've had a chance to exercise and burn off some steam first. In their ideal world, though, Lakeland terriers would be able to spend all of their time around their humans, so this breed is a great option for people who work from home or who have flexible schedules.
Lakeland terriers are very smart and eager to please their human parents, which can make them relatively easy to train. That said, their big brains also mean they can become bored easily, so be sure to keep training sessions short and stimulating.
Lakies can quickly learn new behaviors with rewards and positive reinforcement, such as high-value treats, words of encouragement, petting, and toys. They love learning new things, too, so help keep your Lakeland terrier engaged throughout his life by constantly introducing different cues and tricks to your training sessions. Puppy kindergarten and adult training classes are also a great way to provide your pup with stimulation and new challenges.
"These dogs are best for experienced dog owners that can invest in early socialization and training with a trainer who understands terriers," says Wooten. "They are food-motivated but don't like to do the same thing over and over."
Falling somewhere between lazy couch potatoes and rambunctious Tasmanian devils, Lakeland terriers are relatively energetic and benefit from regular exercise and playtime. This can include long walks with plenty of opportunities for sniffing, playing games, swimming, hiking, running, and more. Lakies also enjoy solving food puzzles and playing with interactive toys that challenge their sharp minds.
"With daily exercise, these dogs can be mellow around the house," Wooten says. "These dogs enjoy long walks, and adult dogs also enjoy jogging with their caregivers. They like it best when they have a chance to run daily."
With plenty of regular exercise, Lakeland terriers are adaptable dogs who can live anywhere, from urban condos to sprawling farms. But keep their high prey drive in mind, and be sure any yard or play area where the Lakeland terrier will be allowed to roam is securely fenced. Always keep these dogs on leash, too, as Lakeland terriers are inclined to chase after small neighborhood animals.
Thanks to their hardy, weatherproof double coat (no rain gear needed here!), Lakeland terriers need some special care and attention when it comes to grooming. Like some other terrier breeds (the Norwich terrier, for one), these dogs require a unique grooming method called hand-stripping or hand-plucking. As the name suggests, this technique involves carefully pulling out older hairs to allow new ones to grow in.
With patience and plenty of practice, Lakeland terrier owners can learn how to hand-strip their dog's coat themselves. Or, to save time and energy, there are also groomers who specialize in hand-stripping. Though the Lakeland terrier breed standard calls for hand-stripping, some Lakie parents choose to simply trim or clip their dog's coat instead.
Weekly brushing can help keep a Lakeland terrier's coat from developing mats and can help get rid of excess hair that falls out naturally (when they shed, their hairs tend to get stuck in their coat rather than falling away from their body). Lakeland terriers also benefit from regular baths and nail trims—whether with a clipper or a grinder—to keep them looking, smelling, and feeling their best.
And because Lakies drool and shed minimally, they're a good choice for people who like to keep a super tidy house.
With great nutrition, plenty of exercise and stimulation, and regular checkups at the vet, Lakeland terriers can live up to 12–15 years. This breed is exceedingly healthy and has very few, if any, breed-specific health conditions. In fact, according to the USLTC, no health defect affects more than 1 percent of the Lakeland terrier population and, as a result, the organization does not require its member breeders to screen their dogs for any health conditions.
Lakeland terriers are healthiest when they eat appropriate amounts of high-quality dog food that's designed for their age level—puppy, adult, or senior. The serving recommendations on the dog food container are a good place to start, but a knowledgeable veterinarian can also offer advice on how much to feed a Lakeland terrier based on the individual dog's size, exercise levels, and other factors. Owners should remember to account for treats in their dog's daily calorie intake—like all small- and medium-sized dogs, Lakeland terriers can become overweight if they eat too much or don't get enough exercise.
To ensure that Lakeland terriers have white, healthy teeth, it's important for owners to brush their pup's teeth regularly, preferably every night before bed. A veterinarian can also recommend whether or not a Lakeland terrier needs professional teeth cleanings and how often to schedule these appointments.
Originally developed in the Lake District of northern England in the 1800s, this breed helped British farmers keep their sheep safe from foxes, especially during lambing season. These working dogs had an important job to do, according to the USLTC: track down foxes in their dens.
Not only did this make them incredibly intelligent and resourceful, but Lakeland terriers also became courageous and brave. Their weatherproof coat and stamina for covering long distances across tricky terrain made them great working partners to hard-working farmers and ranchers.
The breed made their way across the pond and the American Kennel Club recognized Lakeland terriers in 1934.
- Lakeland terrier? Airedale terrier? Welsh terrier? Lakeland terriers are sometimes confused with other breeds because they look so similar. But if you spot one of these dogs on the street, you can usually tell them apart by their size. Airedales tend to be much larger than both Lakelands and Welsh terriers. In the Lakeland terrier vs. Welsh terrier debate, Welsh terriers also tend to be larger than Lakelands (though still smaller than Airedales).
- Throughout their illustrious history, Lakelands have also gone by a few other names, including Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Fell terrier.
- These pups have many terrier relatives, including Welsh terriers, wire fox terriers, border terriers, Bedlington terriers, and Dandie Dinmont terriers.