Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today is Earth Day, and when I thought about the combination of dogs and earth, I thought right away about terriers.  And this is because terriers were bred to "go to earth," which means they go digging down into the ground after foxes and badgers and rabbits and weasels and animals like that.  So I decided that in honor of Earth Day, I would tell you about a terrier breed.  And the one I chose is the Dandie Dinmont, mostly because I think the name of this breed is pretty hilarious.

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is the only dog breed to be named after a character in fiction.  This character was in a novel that Sir Walter Scott wrote in 1814, and it was called Guy Mannering.  Dandie Dinmont was the name of a farmer in the novel, and he had several little terriers who were called either "Pepper" or "Mustard," depending on the color of their coats.  So this type of dog came to be known as Dandie Dinmont's terriers.

A Dandie from 1915
The character of Dandie Dinmont was based on a real farmer named James Davidson, who was also a terrier owner.  Mr. Davidson used dogs from several sources to breed his terriers.  Some of these were traditional hunting dogs that came from the Allans of Northumberland, and there may also have been Border Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and Skye Terriers involved.  Mr. Davidson wrote down everything he did when he was breeding his terriers, and he became known as the father of the modern Dandie Dinmont.

The British Kennel Club was started in 1873, and only two years later, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (DDTC) was formed.  This made the DDTC the third-oldest breed club for dogs in the world.  Dandie Dinmonts were first registered with the AKC in 1888 and with the UKC in 1918.  During World War II, a lot of kennels in the UK didn't have enough food for their dogs because of rationing, so they had to send the dogs to other places or else destroy them.

After the war, several kennels got busy breeding Dandies again, so that there would be more of them.  In spite of this, there are still not a whole lot of this breed being registered.  In 2006, the Kennel Club said that the Dandie Dinmont was one of the rarest dog breeds native to the British Isles.  And Dandies were also put on a list called Vulnerable Native Breeds.

People in the border country between Scotland and England used Dandies mostly to hunt badgers and otters.  That's why they wanted their dogs to be fairly small and low to the ground.  Like dachshunds, Dandies have short legs and long bodies.  They have large heads, ears that hang down, and a sickle-shaped tail.  But the best way to tell a Dandie Dinmont is by the cute little topknot of hair on its head.

Dandies come in two colors.  The first of these is pepper, which ranges from a bluish black to a light grey.  And the other color is mustard, which might be anything from reddish brown to fawn.  The hair of the coat is about 2" long, with soft and hard hairs mixed together.

These dogs are good for families, since they are affectionate, intelligent, and undemanding.  They are good watch dogs and also good companions.  Because of their hunting instincts, they should not live in homes where there are small pets like hamsters and guinea pigs.  Usually Dandies are okay with cats, especially if they have been around cats since they were puppies.

The fact that Dinmont Dandies have such long backs means they are more likely to hurt the discs of their spines.  And older dogs may have trouble with stairs.  Other health problems that Dandies might have are hypothyroidism, glaucoma, and cancer.  Their life span is about 11-13 years.

One thing that some Dandies really like to do is dig holes in the yard.  Of course, they were bred to "go to earth" when they are chasing prey animals, so they are just doing what comes naturally.  My brother Nicky, the greyhound, also likes to dig holes in the yard, but he was not bred to do that, so we don't know why he does it.  Maybe it's just his way of celebrating Earth Day!


  1. Well...I feel a bit foolish, yet I also learned something new - so I can live with the foolishness. I have NO doubt that I've seen a few Dandie Dinmont Terriers and maybe several, but I always "assumed" they were a cross of a poodle and maybe a dachshund. Yeah...I know that probably sounds kind of silly or stupid...but the truth is the truth. Ha.

    Thanks for another great blog.
    Love, AP

    1. Dear Aunt Patty,
      I think that Dandie Dinmonts look a lot like they could be a cross between poodles and dachshunds, so it is not silly of you to think that. Mostly the only place you see them is at dog shows, since not a lot of people have them as pets. Anyway, if I saw one just walking down the street, I might not recognize what breed it was, unless it was all groomed fancy like the show dogs are!
      Love, Piper

  2. hello Piper
    Which by the way is my granddaughters name i think i have a Dandie i came by her at a shelter they didnt know what she was and i started looking online and she matches the pic i have seen of Dandies online is there any way to know for sure. thank you

    Proud Dandie Mom

    1. Dear Marie,
      I think your granddaughter has a very nice name! Ha! Anyhow, the only way I know to maybe tell for sure what kind of dog you have is to do one of those DNA profile tests. Or maybe you could let some Dandie Dinmont breeders look at your dog and get their opinion.
      Sincerely, Piper

  3. Marie,
    We have a few Dandies as pets. They are very easy to identify once you have seen them up close. Big expressive eyes, the top knot, dark roof of the mouth, the tail etc.

  4. I found my Dandie, online as an adoptee, from the Las Vegas, Nv. ASPCA. Saw a pic of him online. New he was for us. we adopted him, Jan of 07, he has been our friend now for 6 1/2 yrs. We changed his name from to Gizmo. he has been an excellent companion for my wife. he is Mustard coated. it only took us a year to find out that he was a Dandie. we took him to a professional groomer. She was extremely excited, about having a Dandie to work with. Since then, and after much research, we have no doubt that Gizmo is a true Dandie. He also travels well. Only problem is that he is overprotective of my wife and myself, and will attack any Larger dog, that he sees as a threat.

  5. Our neighbor has two they do nothing but bark at nothing when they are in the yard. It’s pretty much the same in the house. The owner is kind of an idiot.

    1. Oh, dear. I hate it when dogs bark all the time, even though I am a dog myself! Some dogs bark because they are bored or lonely or are afraid their humans aren't coming home again. I wonder if your neighbor's dogs are barking for one of those reasons. Does your neighbor realize how much the dogs bark, and how much it bothers other people? It is really annoying when dog owners aren't courteous enough to try to control their dogs!