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Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament: Scotlands forgotten breed

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
The Dandie Dinmont is a rare Scottish Breed. Photo credit:Dryfevally Dandie Dinmonts, bred and raised in the Scottish Borders. Owned by Angie Miller. Shared by Caledonian Dandies

The gentleman under the Terrier breeds: With their soulful-looking big eyes and curious demeanour, the Dandie will immediately conquer your heart and soul.

If you have ever met one of these rare dogs, they have likely left a lasting impression. So often overlooked by people due to new designer breeds, the Dandie is a loyal, affectionate and playful dog without being overbearing.

But is this dog breed the right one for your lifestyle? It's time to find out. In this blog post, we will dive deeper into their breed history, lively temperament and potential health issues you may encounter with the Dandie Dinmont. The Dandie might be a suitable choice for many people, but it's essential to research before taking the plunge, as with any dog.

Read on to make sure you've covered all ground.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier History

Dandie Dinmont Terriers are unique and different from their Terrier Group cousins.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
The elongated body doesn't cause many back problems. Photo credit: Julia Fox ,‘Puddockswell Hoodwink’ Best of Breed Crufts 2022, shared kindly by Caledonian Dandies

Their body is a more elongated S-shape and not like the flat back of a Dachshund. For that reason, Dandies don't encounter back problems. The rise in the spine protects their back.

Their head is distinctive, large and surprisingly strong for such a little dog.

Their hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs.

The silky topknot or covering, which is the signature mark of the breed, additionally protected their head when they set off to do what they were bred to do: Searching and hunting grounds and holes for foxes, badgers and otters. The topknot protected the head when a fox or badger suddenly went for the bite. Very often, the topknot saved the life of the short-legged Dandie.

The breed has mostly stayed the same since the 18th century, as they were the perfect dog for the job. The first Dandie Dinmont Club was established in 1875 and is the third oldest breed club worldwide. If you'd look at a photo from a Dandie from 100 years ago, you wouldn't see much difference.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
The topknot is the signature look of the Dandie. Photo credit: Nicole H. shared on Facebook: Dandie Dinmont Terrier World

As with many breeds, the true origins of this little dog are unknown, as the breeding's sole purpose back then was to create working dogs for the farm folk.

Some documents point to the development of other Scottish Terrier breeds in the Border area between Scotland and England.

The first Dandie Dinmonts recorded were native to the Scottish Borders and often kept by Scottish farmers.

At the same time, the Bedlington Terrier, Otterhound, Fox Terrier and Skye Terrier were around and could all have influenced the Dandie or the other way around.

What is clear is that the Dandie Dinmont is one of the oldest Terrier breeds and was one of the first distinguished ones as a breed.

There are only two colours recognised in the breed. Mustard and Pepper. Pepper ranges from dark blue to a light silver grey with a silvery topknot. Mustard is a reddish brown or rich mustard to pale fawn colour with a creamy white topknot.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
Pepper and Mustard are the two established breed colours. Photo credit: Laura S. kindly shared on Facebook: Dandie Dinmont Terrier World

One of the first paintings of the Dandie was completed in 1770 and featured the third Duke of Buccleuch with a small dandie-like Terrier at his feet. The Buccleuch family name is often associated with the breed throughout history.

Another fun fact about the breed: The Dandie Dinmont is the only dog taking its name from a character in literature.

The book "Guy Mannering" published in 1814, mentioned the Dandie Dinmont for the first time in a very poetic manner, showing how obsessed the author became with this lovely dog.

'He evolved from the Scottish hillside, the grey mists forming his body, a bunch of lichen his topknot, crooked juniper stems his forelegs, and a wet bramble his nose.'

The name of the author was Sir Walter Scott.

The fictional farmer in this book owned a pack of small pepper and mustard-coloured Terriers. The farmer's name was Dandie Dinmont, so the little dogs adopted the name "Dandie Dinmonts Terriers", with the "s" being later dropped.

The book was an absolute bestseller at the time, catapulting the Dandie Dinmont Terrier to fame. Even Queen Victoria was rumoured to have owned a couple of Dandies.

Unable to forget the little dogs he sighted, Sir Walter Scott became the owner of a Dandie himself. His Mertoun Dandie influenced the breed, being a stud to a bitch who gave birth to "Vixen".

Today's Dandies can be traced ultimately to one stud dog: "Old Pepper". Old Peppers's pedigree is unknown as he was a stray found in a trap and adopted by the estate of the Duke of Buccleuch.

Tracing back old historical data and documents, it was uncovered that the mating of Old Pepper and Vixen resulted in Old Ginger, a founding dog of the Dandie Dinmont pedigree and son of "Old Pepper".

Vixen belonged to Robert Pringle and Mrs Violet Douglas at the Haining, so today, the Selkirk estate is firmly established as the birthplace of the Dandie Pedigree.

In a nutshell, Sir Walther Scott contributed to the breed's fame and mere existence.

If you've ever strolled through Edinburgh, you might have wondered what type of breed the Greyfriars Bobby statue is. Bobby was a faithful dog who stayed by his owner's grave for 14 long years after his death in 1858. It was mainly assumed that Bobby was a Skye Terrier.

In 2022 a new book suggested that Bobby might indeed be a Dandie Dinmont. Mike Macbeth and Paul Keevil researched years for the book and concluded it was the only possibility. Bobby was never referred to as a Skye Terrier but a "Scotch Terrier", a term often describing a Dandie. During the time, there were also around 60 Dandie breeders nearby, whilst the Skye Terrier was mostly confined to the Isle of Skye.

A genuinely loyal breed!

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
The Dandie Dinmont is on the UK vulnerable native breed list since 2006. Photo credit: Patric L. shared kindly on Facebook. George & Odina of the Chives castle

The Dandie Dinmont has been on the UK vulnerable native breed list since 2006. This is because only around 80-100 Dandies are born yearly on the British Isles.

As a result, Dandies are known as "Scotland's forgotten breed".

The second World wasn't kind to them, but that is the case with most breeds. The actual decline started in the 80s and 90s.

However, the past few years have seen a little increase in popularity, which is completely understandable once you have met the medium dog with its soulful eyes and short legs.

In Q3 2022, 32 Dandie Dinmont Terrier puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club. The Dandie Dinmont is not common in the UK but has a loyal following and even more loyal supporters.

Q1 2021

Q2 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

Yearly 2021

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

Q3 2022









Source: UK Kennel Club January 2023

Now that we have a rough idea about their breeding history let's dive into how your life with a Dandie Dinmont might look.

What is the Temperament of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier?

What Dandies might lack in stature, they make up with their confidence.

Despite their small size, Dandies are no pushovers. Bred to stand up against vermin of many sizes, they are independent and persistent.

When chasing after otters and badgers, these Terriers had to be able to make their own decisions. Although differently built than their terrier cousins, the Dandie will always have somewhat of a Terrier determination.

But the Dandie also has a sensitive side. Many Dandies make for great Therapy dogs. They can be calm around people and sudden sounds and have a kind and friendly demeanour. A Dandie will not be jumpy and reacts relaxed when approached by people the right way. These are all excellent traits for a therapy dog.

However, Dandies can react badly to harsh corrections. Therefore, when training your Dandie, you must show patience and understanding and sometimes acknowledge that your dog might not want to do something. Dandies, being terriers, will have a "what's in it for me"- attitude when training, and you need to discover what makes your dog tick.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Temperament
Dandie Dinmonts are incredibly clever. Photo credit: Mike V. shared via Facebook: Dandie Dinmont Terrier World

Dandies are incredibly clever dogs. They can learn commands quickly but can get bored with repetitive tasks.

However, they will flourish with a flexible training schedule and various learning tasks. If you make training fun, your Dandie will respond positively to any request.

They are sharp and trainable, and having some basic knowledge of obedience and agility training, will benefit you when you decide to hop onto the "Dandie-Dinmont-train".

Due to their breeding purpose, Dandies can portray a strong prey drive. Little squirrels or birds can absorb all their attention span, and they can display some wanderlust potential if you have yet to practice effective recall.

A Dandie has a lot of love to give to a family that returns the favour. They're affectionate and enjoy evenings with cuddles in front of the TV. They happily roll over on their backs for well-deserved tummy rubs if they're relaxed. For some reason, many owners report snoring in the breed.

But they also love playtime. The playfulness of this breed is very evident in their daily life without being overbearing. Playtime and learning time must be part of their physical and mental stimulation. They will make you laugh with their determination, and you should keep a good sense of humour when owning one of these gems.