Patterdale Terrier – Breed Guide (Personality, Health, Grooming etc.)

patterdale terrier

Patterdale terriers are a breed of British hunting dog that were exclusively purebred in Britain for their hunting prowess. A small to medium-sized dog, this intelligent breed is known for its tenacity and skill at chasing and hunting prey.

Until recently, patterdale terriers were exclusive to North England. They are local to Great Britain’s Lake District and were named after a village in Cumbria with the same name, where the dogs were frequently kept.

In physical appearance, these dogs show different traits, because the breed was bred for their hunting ability and not their appearance. A breeder called Joe Bowman from Ullswater Hunt is purported to have developed the breed through crossbreeding multiple lines of similar dogs. The breed that we know and love today has been derived from his work, but also the local dog gene pool in Patterdale.

Patterdale terriers, also known as black fell terriers, are active, intelligent, and good companions for active owners who want a pet just as sporty as they are.

Highlights about Patterdale Terriers

  • Patterdale terriers are small but brave hunting dogs who were bred exclusively for their keen instincts when exterminating vermin.
  • Multiple different physical features exist within the same breed because of the variety of dogs incorporated in its original derivation. The patterdale terrier is not so much a pure breed as much as a derived breed. 
  • In the UK, the patterdale dog was used to hunt mice, rats, and foxes and rabbits in game hunting as well as in maintaining a farm or homestead free of pests. As a result, the dog is extremely primed to hunt smaller animals.
  • The breed was introduced to the USA in 1978 where they were employed to hunt everything from foxes, raccoons, badges, groundhogs, to squirrels and any other game being hunted popularly.
  • Black patterdale terriers are the standard version of this breed that is commonly found.
  • They are a medium-sized dog but disproportionately fierce and stubborn and need thorough, comprehensive training.
  • Because of these traits they are an extremely active dog. In fact they are a working dog and therefore need a lot of exercise on a daily basis.
  • Patterdales are typically not well suited for apartment life.
  • These do best in farms, or in areas where they have a large tract of land over which they can run and get their quota of physical exertion for the day.
  •  It is also recommended that there be enough small prey in the vicinity for the dog to get its hunting tendencies out of its system.
  • Patterdale terriers are diminutive at best and grow to an average height of about 12 inches or 30 cm.
  • They do not get very heavy and usually grow to a weight of 11 to 13 pounds or 5 to 6 kg on a healthy diet with ample exercise.
  • Despite their small size this breed does not attain the long lifespan associated with small dogs. Patterdale terriers live to an average of 13 years.
  • These dogs are not advisable for first time owners or for owners with other small pets in the household already.
  • They have tiny Patterdale puppies in litters of 3 to 6 puppies per pregnancy.
  • This breed is not recognised by the American Kennel Club or any other major canine Club because of the lack of conformity in their appearance and pedigree.

Patterdale Terrier Size

patterdale terrier standing

The patterdale terrier is a small dog and compactly built. They retain their puppy-like features well into adulthood which only adds to their appeal.

Height: Patterdale terriers grow to an average height of about 12 inches or 30 cm. A certain amount of variation is to be expected within this breed and therefore, heights of up to 14 inches or 36 cm are also not uncommon in dogs descended from larger stock.

Weight: on average a Patterdale terrier attains a weight about 11 to 13 lbs or 5 to 6 kg. This is in combination with a healthy balanced diet and plentiful exercise. These dogs are not prone to obesity because of their hyperactive temperament.

Conformation: the patterdale terrier is a small, compactly built dog with powerful shoulders and strong hind legs. These dogs have a wedge shaped or trapezoidal head with a proportionately sized muzzle and skull and a square broad snout.

The wide muzzle is an essential feature of well-bred patterdale terriers. Their teeth are invariably strong, white, and align together for a strong scissoring bite. It’s not unusual for these dogs to lose their teeth because of their hunting.

Patterdale terriers can have a variety of eye colours, but blue should not be one of them. Blue eyes are associated with a higher incidence of deafness in this breed. Eye colour is usually in aesthetic accordance with their fur.

Unlike other breeds, their eyes should not be protuberant or bulging from their skull, because these are hunting dogs who need to have their vision on earth level. Even those dogs who are not expressly going to be used as hunting dogs should not be bred for this trait, in order to avoid the problems associated with brachycephalic breeds.

Patterdale terriers have small to moderate sized triangular ears that fold down on the sides of their skull. The tips point towards the eyes and are usually on the same horizontal level. Most of the black patterdale terriers have black noses except for the brown to liver-coloured versions, who have red noses.

Their necks are strong, muscular, moderately long, and connect to wide strong shoulders. The shoulders are also sloping and articulate with strong forelegs made for bounding.

Their stance is not bow legged, and they have wide elbows that are set inwards, close to the body without restricting movement. Traditionally they should be slightly longer than they are tall. The loins are slightly arched with a little top up. Their chests are firm and deep at the level of the elbows but not excessively wide and usually oval in healthy hunting dogs.

These dogs have powerful hind legs that are in proportion to their forelegs, optimised for running over long distances and maintaining a pace to match their prey. They have strong bones and muscles with well angled stifles and low hocks.

Another feature of good breeding is that their rear pasterns are perpendicular to the ground when the dog is standing and parallel when seen from behind.

Their tails are usually docked, but even when not, they rarely arch over their backs. Docking is not recommended in this breed because sometimes when the dog has burrowed too deep inside the ground while chasing prey, the tail is the only way to pull the dog out of the ground. There is also no proven benefit to their conformation from docking their tails.

Their coats are short and traditionally black but other colours are also possible. They have a short, dense undercoat and lose very little hair. Their fur is stiff and does not require a lot of grooming on a regular basis. Some dogs have more defined eyebrows and moustaches. Colours such as brown, grizzle, bronze, red, liver are possible with white patches on their feet and chest.

Patterdale Terrier Temperament and Personality

patterdale terrier in field

Patterdale terriers are small but extremely sporty and make terrific pets for people who live an active life. These dogs have a great temperament and are focused and tenacious, feisty, and focused, having been bred specifically for these traits. Even dogs of recent and more later generations who have not been employed for hunting still inherit these traits from their parents. 

They may look like small lap dogs but they are capable of exterminating all the small wildlife in the vicinity of the home. In fact, this is one of the reasons it is recommended that these dogs not be raised in houses without adequate running grounds, or in apartments.

Relationship with Owners: patterdale terriers are not exceptionally affectionate dogs. They are essentially a working breed and are unparalleled in their ability to carry out commands such as retrieving, tracking down, cornering, or hunting. This makes play with them very interesting since a variety of interactive games can be incorporated into play time.

But that being said they are still tough and independent dogs who will spend a lot of time in the vicinity of their family, but not necessarily cuddling with them. They also make great watch dogs, but are prone to attacking more than raising alarm since barking is not a big feature of this breed.

Patterdale terriers usually develop close relationships with their owners even though these relationships are often based on functionality. They need to be trained from a very young age onwards to prevent them from developing small dog syndrome, which in combination with their strong-willed tendencies, can lead to a lot of rebellious behaviour in later life. The dogs need to be given a clear understanding of who the owners are and what the framework of his training is.  

But a great feature is also that these dogs are highly intelligent and easy to train. They thrive on positive reinforcement and a structured training pattern. This has to be combined with sufficient physical exertion to exhaust the dog and to make sure that he does not have excessive energy while being trained. Patterdale terriers are usually too tricky for first time dog owners and are not recommended for an inexperienced dog owner.

Relationship with other pets: with regards to temperament, patterdale terriers are far too independent and determined to play well with other dogs, so to speak. They are fiercely competitive and can rarely be trained to work as a pack with other dogs while hunting. This is one reason why they are rarely used with foxhounds, because they tend to kill the fox rather than letting the fox bolt, after having cornered it. The same applies to any small animals in its immediate vicinity.

Patterdale terriers immediately chase any unsuspecting small critter that they lay their eyes on. Combined with their excellent digging capabilities, you can pretty much be sure that you will not be able to raise rabbits or hares if you have a Patterdale Terrier at home. They are a little easier to train to get along with other dogs if they have socialised at an early age and have been trained thoroughly. But with non-canine pets, patterdale terriers really never develop peaceful relationships.

Relationship with Children: Patterdale terriers and not good dogs to be companions to little children. They are not exceptionally patient and are not capable of tolerating liberties that small children often take with dogs in their vicinity. With older children and adolescents incapable of giving clear constructed commands to the dog, patterdale terriers work better. In any case these are not dogs that should be left alone with children.

This is not because they are fierce but rather because they are unlikely to obey people they do not recognise as their owners or their alphas. 

Patterdale Terrier Health

patterdale terrier face

Given the vastness of the gene pool in this breed there are very few health issues that are endemic to them.

Characteristically patterdale terriers are healthy robust dogs and not predisposed to any defects or diseases.

Lifespan: patterdale terrier lifespan on an average is about 11 to 13 years, which is a little unusual for a small dog.

Patterdale Terrier Care

The main feature of taking care of patterdale terriers is to make sure that this working dog receives the necessary amount of exercise to get the jitters out of the system.

Being essentially hunting dogs, they need to run over large stretches and therefore should be taken for long walks everyday. Younger dogs need more exercise and may need to be walked twice to thrice a day. It is also essential that the dog walk at heel behind their owner or on a lead to prevent them from running away off trail. It is also recommended that this dog be allowed to regularly hunt small prey as it is bred to do.

If these dogs are not giving the engagement and exercise that they desperately need, they may develop behavioural problems and turn to destructive behaviour inside the house and on the property. A bored dog is also less likely to follow any commands, even to commands that it has been long trained to follow.

Patterdale Terrier Grooming

On the grooming front, patterdale terriers need very little attention. Their coats are made of short, coarse, mixed fur with stiff hair, either in a smooth coat, or with mixed texture. They like being brushed regularly but do not need it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Patterdale Terriers good pets?

Yes, Patterdale terriers make for great pets for people living on larger properties or farms, who can afford this hunting dog the kind of environment it needs to thrive.

Do Patterdale Terriers shed a lot?

No, patterdale terriers do not shed a lot. These dogs can have smooth or mixed coats, but both kinds have short, bristly fur that does not fall out much.

Are Patterdales aggressive?

Patterdale terriers are not aggressive per se, but they are not the most patient of animals with strangers. With small animals, their hunting instincts kick in immediately.

What breeds make a Patterdale terrier?

Patterdale terriers are not the result of a cross but rather the result of line breeding dogs who were local to north England, especially around Cumbria and the village of Patterdale.

What is the temperament of a Patterdale terrier?

Patterdale terriers are extremely active, feisty, strong willed, independent dogs who can be trained to follow commands and give chase. However, they are also prone to being stubborn.

Why does my Patterdale terrier shake?

Shaking is not common in these dogs or even typical to patterdale terriers. It may be the result of epileptic activity. Low blood sugar, or even diseases that affect the nervous system. It’s best to let your dog be checked out by the vet if he is constantly trembling.

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