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Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

norfolk terrier

Height: 9–10 inches
Weight: 11–12 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Colors: Black, red, fawn, brown
Suitable for: Companionship, families, apartment living
Temperament: Energetic, mischievous, protective, intelligent

The Norfolk Terrier is one of the smallest dogs in the terrier group. However, don’t let their small size deceive you—they are still a relatively stocky breed. Underneath a wiry coat of black, red, or brown fur, they are strong pups.

The breed was developed for ratting and fox bolting sometime around the beginning of the 1900s. They need plenty of love and are happy to be a family’s unlikely guardian, like a typical Terrier. They are closely related to the Norwich Terrier.

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Norfolk Terrier Puppies

norfolk terrier puppy
Credit: violetblue, Shutterstock


Even though the popularity of the Norfolk Terrier grows every year, they still only rank 138 out of 199 recognized breeds, according to the AKC Breed Popularity scale.

When you’re looking for a Norfolk Terrier, take your time to look for quality breeders. Ask for advice from vets, or search online to know the background and reputation of the dog breeders near you. Remember to watch out for breeders who might not be satisfactory or who might even belong to a puppy mill. Always ask to see the papers of the parents or at least their health certificates. Ask them for a tour around their breeding facility. If they are unwilling to procure any of these things, it should raise red flags about their reputation.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Norfolk Terrier 🧠

The Norfolk Terrier can effectively be described as spunky. They love to get out and feel like they are helpful to those they love the most. These Terriers like to be around people, though they do fine being left alone.

These pups are confident, never appearing to be nervous. Another impressive trait is that they don’t commonly suffer from small dog syndrome. Instead, they are friendly and fearless, ready to take on anything that seems to be dangerous without quickly acting aggressively.

Norfolk Terriers are curious and need plenty of exercise, a.k.a. time to explore. They can be jealous and need plenty of socialization training, mainly if they have grown up without other animals around. They are mischievous, and without enough exercise and training, they can get themselves into no end of trouble.

Even though these pups will love you to death, they also tend to wander. They don’t typically want to run away, but they can get distracted by a passing squirrel or rabbit.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

This dog is a practically perfect pup to consider for your family. They generally get along well with kids and even better with their beloved paw-rents. They will want to spend as much time with you as they can! Try to involve them in any outdoor or energetic family activities.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Norfolk Terriers do usually get along with other pets. They can display signs of jealousy but this can be worked on. Since this breed doesn’t tend to act out in aggression, patience will be more critical when getting them accustomed to other animals being around.

norfolk terriers
Image credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning a Norfolk Terrier

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

These dogs are easy to maintain and their diet is no different. Since they max out at around 12 pounds, they don’t need much daily food. Feed them between ½ and 1 cup of food each day. Space it out and don’t allow them to free feed. It is said that Norfolk Terriers will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first. As such, they struggle with obesity and need to be carefully monitored. Train them to not pick up bits along the road on your daily outings.

To determine if they are gaining too much weight, look down from above at them. Their waist should be clearly visible. Place your hands on their back, with your thumbs along the spine and fingers spreading down. You should feel their ribs without being able to see them. If you can’t, they need less food and more exercise.

Exercise 🐕

Norfolk Terriers are thought to be moderate- to high-energy dogs. However, since they are so small, it is easy to wear them out. Take them on long walks or short jogs every day.

You can also take them hiking, since they are always ready for any mountain. If they need more work on socialization, consider the dog park. They do well if they can get out with other pups because they love to play.

If walking is your primary form of exercise, try to get out about 4 miles per week, giving them about 30 minutes of activity each day.

Training 🦮

Since Norfolk Terriers are quite intelligent, they are typically straightforward to train. Although they can be mischievous, they ultimately want to impress their people and are down to earth. They behave best when they know that they are doing the right thing and that it matters.

During training sessions, give them plenty of positive feedback. If they know that they are making you happy, they will tend to repeat the action with ease. The only part of their training that can be difficult is housebreaking them. This part might take more patience than other tricks and commands.

Grooming ✂️

Norfolk Terriers only shed lightly and are considered hypoallergenic. Since they have such excellent temperaments and are easy to care for, this is great news for people who suffer from animal allergies.

To minimize the amount that they shed around the home, they should be brushed at least once a week. Use a slicker brush and a comb. They will need to be trimmed a couple of times a year, since their fur grows more like hair than other dogs.

If they can be trained to be calm around scissors, use them to trim around their faces. Use clippers on the rest of their wiry hair if you feel comfortable. Otherwise, visit a groomer when necessary.

Health and Conditions ❤️

These dogs are robust and generally quite healthy. The riskiest disease that they can suffer from is mitral valve disease (MVD), as it is life threatening. Breeders of these pups are working extensively to eliminate the disease and not breed dogs that develop MVD.

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Vaccination sensitivity
Serious Conditions
  • MVD
  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation

Male vs. Female

There are no recognizable differences between male and female Norfolk Terriers. At times, males can grow slightly larger than females but are still only a maximum of 12 pounds.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Norfolk Terrier

1. “Roughrider” was the name of the breeder of these delightful little dogs.

These Terriers were initially developed in the early 20th century. They do not have a long history compared to other Terriers but have quickly gained in popularity since then.

As interesting and gregarious as the puppies that he bred, Frank “Roughrider” Jones was the English dog breeder responsible for them. He was also a horseman, which is why he received such a striking nickname.

Roughrider initially developed the dogs as ratters and fox bolters, selling them to other equestrians to help hunt small vermin. He was responsible for both the Norwich and the Norfolk Terriers.

2. They are more popular around their area of origin.

The Norfolk and Norwich Terriers have taken their time spreading around the continents. They are a fun breed with a well-balanced temperament, which is somewhat common in Terriers. However, they are the most popular in the region in which they originated.

As you can guess, the Norfolk Terrier is popular around the city of Norfolk. Here, people identify with the pup and claim them as one of their own. The Norwich Terrier has also become popular close to this region, in the East Anglia area.

3. Drop ears and prick ears were the only differences between the two types of terriers for many years.

For many years, there weren’t any differences between the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers. Slowly, the two became more separated, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the Kennel Club in England recognized the Norfolk Terrier as an entirely distinct breed. In 1977,  the Canadian Kennel Club officially accepted that same difference, and the American Kennel Club followed suit 2 years afterward.

Often, the only identifiable difference between the two dogs is their ears. In the 1930s, the breeders of the dogs were trying to establish more of a breed standard. There was not a recognized difference yet. They stopped interbreeding dogs with tall ears, or prick-eared pups, with those who had floppy ears, or drop ears.

The dogs with drop ears are known as the Norfolk Terriers, and those with pointed ears are the Norwich Terriers. Initially, the Norwich Terriers were more popular, and thus, when World War II came about, there were more of them. The Norfolk Terriers almost became extinct. In the end, they were saved by a breeder named Miss Macfie. She worked with other breeders around the U.K. to reestablish the adorable breed that we have today.

norfolk terrier
Image credit: Zuzule, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Many dog lovers prefer small dogs or big dogs, partly because of their varying temperaments. A Norfolk Terrier is a small dog with the personality of a large dog. This combination makes them the perfect pet for “big dog” people who can’t have a large dog or don’t want another.

Norfolk Terriers are wonderful, unique, and fun little dogs with big personalities. They want to protect and love their family and are highly adaptable. They typically get along with kids and other pets, and they can live in apartments or larger spaces.

Make sure to give them enough exercise and attention, and you will have a loyal life companion.

Featured Image Credit: Niwiko, Shutterstock

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