Norwich terriers are the epitome of a big dog in a little body. Spunky and smart, these terriers are all attitude wrapped in wiry fur. And while their can-do and outgoing personalities make for some funny stories, their willfulness is best suited for experienced dog owners—especially when it comes to training, which must be consistent.
But if you meet their mental and physical needs, Norwich terriers are loving pets who have nothing but heart-eyed adoration for their pet parents. You'll be their favorite person in the world.
With their scruffy, sturdy bodies and ears always perked up at attention, it's hard to resist the adorable lure of a Norwich terrier dog. As a small dog breed, Norwich terriers stand no more than 10 inches at the shoulder and weigh 12–14 pounds. Their slightly fox-like face and bright, dark eyes reveal their super smarts and spunky personality. They're the smallest working terriers and look a bit like a stocky, muscular Yorkshire terrier.
Like Yorkies, Norwich terriers have a coat with a tan base that commonly fades to black, though you can also find red, wheaten, and grizzle (a combo of wheat and black with no set pattern) coats, too. But unlike the silky smooth hair of a Yorkie, the Norwich terrier's fur is wiry, hard, and nearly weatherproof—it developed to protect these vermin-hunters from outdoor hazards. And despite their infrequent shedding (with the exception of seasonal coat blows), Norwich terriers are not considered hypoallergenic.
The Norwich terrier's pricked ears are a defining trait, distinguishing them from their close cousins: Floppy-eared Norfolk terriers. In fact, the two dogs were both considered Norwich terriers by the American Kennel Club until 1979, when they were split into two separate breeds.
Despite being small, the spunky Norwich terrier has a personality fit for a dog four times his size. They're happy, bouncy pups with a silly sense of humor, and aren't afraid to tell you exactly what they want.
"They're bossy; they're very opinionated," says Pam Nichols, DVM, president of the American Animal Hospital Association. "They just want to tell you what to do and you to do it … if they could organize your schedule for you, they would do that."
Because Norwiches are so outgoing and willful (the official breed standard describes them as "fearless"), Nichols says they might not be best for first-time dog owners. To be on their best behavior, these terriers need consistent positive reinforcement training by someone with experience. Otherwise, those little paws might walk all over you.
"If you let them bark, and by that I mean you don't make it stop immediately, that habit becomes a crazy habit," Nichols says.
The good news: Norwich terriers are highly intelligent and very trainable. With consistency and mindfulness, you can mold that courageous spirit into a lovely and unwaveringly loyal companion.
"They look at you like they understand every word that's coming out of your mouth," Nichols says. "They look at you like you hung the moon, [like] you are the best in the whole world. There's adoration in those eyes. They absolutely bond to their parents."
Despite the breed's ample energy, their compact bodies and little legs make Norwich terrier dogs well-suited for almost any living situation.
However, Norwiches are high-anxiety dogs, Nichols says, and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. When his anxiety spikes, you might come home to find your garden dug up, your carpets chewed, and your neighbors less-than-thrilled about all the barking. Because of his anxious tendencies and adoration for his owners, he'll thrive in a family of homebodies.
Norwich terriers can do well in homes with other dogs and even cats, especially if they're introduced in puppyhood. These playful pups can also make fast friends with children. Just remember: You should supervise children—especially smaller kiddos—around any dog, including Norwich terriers.
To maintain their wiry coat's hard texture and full color, your Norwich terrier will need to see a groomer for hand-stripping. Hand-stripping removes hair from the root—if you trim a Norwich's fur, their texture softens and they'll lose their natural color. This typically needs to be done when the terrier blows his coat. But otherwise, Norwich terrier coats are relatively simple to care for with weekly brushing and occasional baths.
To keep your Norwich terrier healthy, Nichols says the most important thing to provide him isn't physical activity, but mental stimulation. "If you just want to chill out and watch TV, this is not your dog," she says.
It's important to give him a job to do. So while you're relaxing on the couch, you might simultaneously be playing fetch with his favorite chew toy. Make sure he has plenty of access to puzzle toys so he doesn't become bored, especially when home alone.
The best way to keep a Norwich terrier puppy's mind busy is to teach him new skills. He'll be a star pupil in agility class, easily learn new tricks, and love playing games with his human. Regular training is vital, especially with help from a professional trainer who has experience with the breed, Nichols says.
"Every single dog on the planet can be trained to do what you need him to do if you're willing to put in the time and effort early on," she says. "I say this 100 times a day: You get what you tolerate. And if you tolerate [undesirable] behavior, if you turn your back on it, if you go 'oh, he'll grow out of it,' they don't grow out of it. It just becomes a habit. You get what you tolerate, and with terriers I'd say that times 1,000."
- Upper airway syndrome: This is a complex respiratory condition that can have a number of symptoms, from snorting to loud, raspy breathing. Dogs with UAS might have trouble breathing in summer heat or during vigorous exercise.
- Epilepsy: A condition that causes recurring seizures.
- Paroxysmal dyskinesias: A disorder of muscle overactivity that causes sudden, involuntary movements.
- Hip dysplasia: This occurs when a hip's ball-and-socket joint doesn't develop correctly, resulting in a loose hip that can lead to osteoarthritis.
- Patellar luxation: A condition where the kneecap comes out of its normal position.
- Eye disease: Norwich terriers are susceptible to primary lens luxation, which can lead to blindness. This disorder typically starts showing itself when the dog is between 4–8 years old. Norwich terriers can also develop cataracts.
- Periodontal disease: This dental disease develops as plaque builds up on a dog's teeth and spreads underneath the gum line, which can cause inflammation, bone loss, and soft tissue. Diligent dental care will help keep your terrier's mouth in tip-top shape.
Nichols says obesity is also a common health issue for Norwich terriers. And while a chubby pup can look cute, that extra weight leads to its own string of health issues, including diabetes. She says managing their weight is "more about calorie control than physical exercise," so make sure you're keeping your Norwich on a healthy diet. Consult your veterinarian on proper weight management.
The Norwich terrier first appeared during the late 1800s in East Anglia, a region of England that includes Norwich, Norfolk County. But despite their location of origin, this terrier wasn't always known as the Norwich—according to the NTCA, early Norwich terriers were called Cantab, Trumpington, and Jones terriers and were a mishmash of different terrier breeds. These early renditions were diverse, as breeders were trying to produce small, friendly hunting dogs. In fact, each Norwich terrier looked quite different until England's Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1923.
The first pup to cross the pond was a terrier named William Jones in the early 20th century. He was purchased by a Philedelphian horseman named Robert Strawbridge and became an ambassador for the breed in the fox hunting community.
The Norwich and Norfolk terriers have always been closely tied and were considered the same breed until fairly recently. The American Kennel Club recognized a drop-ear pup named Witherslack Sport as a Norwich in 1936. In 1979, the AKC split the drop-eared dogs and the prick-eared pups, defining them as two separate breeds. Those with prick ears kept the Norwich terrier title, and the dogs with drop ears became Norfolk terriers.