Graceful terriers in sheep’s clothing, Bedlington Terriers, named for the English mining shire where they were first bred, are genial housemates, alert watchdogs, versatile athletes, and irresistibly cuddly TV-time companions.
Bedlingtons are lithe, energetic Englishmen. The crisp, curly coat; arched back; tasseled ears; scimitar-shaped tail; and fleecy, pear-shaped head are identifying features of this one-of-a-kind breed. As the curvy contours indicate, there’s sighthound’Whippet, most likely in their family tree. Bedlingtons move with a light, springy step and when roused to pursuit can run like the wind. Rollicking, charming, and full of fun, Bedlingtons want most to be their family’s center of attention and are known to be protective of loved ones. For an active family looking for a no-shedding, lively, and loyal companion, the search might end here.
They look like lambs in the show ring, and they’re as gentle as lambs around the house. So, it comes as a bit of shock to discover that Bedlingtons spent most of the 1800s doing dirty, and sometimes deadly, work. Created in the Northumberland mining shire that gave the breed its name, Bedlingtons were a workingman’s dog expected to be versatile enough to be employed as coalmine ratters, varmint killers, and pit fighters. The breed acquired the nickname “Gypsy Dog” because it was used by the Romani people as a stealthy poaching partner. An observer of the breed’s formative years wrote that the Bedlington was the “smartest and quickest of our terriers.”
The first dog identified as a Bedlington Terrier, named Piper, was bred in 1825. It was said that Piper was so game that he was still dispatching badgers at age 14 and nearly blind and toothless. The nail makers of Bedlington took a fancy to the breed and became known for their plucky terriers. The shire’s miners and nailers wagered their salaries on epic dogfights, pitting their terriers against each other. A breed historian noted, “Bedlingtons were never a mischief-maker, but once he started fighting, it was to the death.”
Happily for us, Bedlingtons turned out to be even better lovers than fighters. Thanks to their ample charms, Bedlingtons eventually rose from coal mines and nail factories to the manor house. British elites found Bedlingtons to be bighearted, lovable companions, as well as attractive ornaments to their style-conscious lifestyle.
Refinement and consistency in the breed began with the formation of England’s National Bedlington Terrier Club in 1877. Nine years later, the AKC registered its first Bedlington. Today’s citizens of Bedlington, England, are still proud of their most famous export. Bedlington’s Northern League soccer team is called the Terriers, and the town has recently installed park benches shaped like its fleecy mascot breed.
Temperament: Frollicking / Charming / Loyal
Height: 15 to 17.5 inches
Weight: 12-23 pounds
Life Expectancy: 11-16 years
The Bedlington is generally a healthy breed, and responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder), thrombopathia, and certain eye issues. As with all breeds, a Bedlington’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth brushed daily.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Copper Toxicosis DNA Test
- Cardiac Exam
- Patella Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The crisp, curly coat of the Bedlington Terrier is a mix of soft and harsh, but not wiry, hair. While fastidious owners will be happy to learn that it virtually does not shed at all, it grows very quickly and needs to be clipped every two months. Many owners learn the process, which involves both electric clippers and scissors, while others are happy to take their Bedlington to a groomer. In addition, a Bedlington needs to be brushed and/or combed once or twice a week. As with all breeds, the Bedlington’s nails should be trimmed regularly, because overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.Bedlingtons are lithe, energetic Englishmen. The crisp, curly coat; arched back; tasseled ears; scimitar-shaped tail; and fleecy, pear-shaped head are identifying features of this one-of-a-kind breed. Click To Tweet
Bedlingtons, like most Terriers, have a fair amount of energy and require regular exercise to stay fit and happy. The breed is energetic, but not rambunctious or mischievous. A Bedlington loves to play fetch or go on a long walk or run, but afterward he’s happy to just curl up on the couch with his family. Despite their lamb-like looks, Bedlingtons were bred to chase small animals, and that’s what they do. So they require a fenced-in yard and should be on a leash for all walks. Many Bedlingtons enjoy participating in agility, obedience, tracking, and earthdog competitions.
Early socialization and puppy training are recommended for all dogs. Though Bedlingtons can be stubborn, they are also both intelligent and eager to please. Bedlingtons do not respond to harsh training methods or physical correction, which can lead to a battle of wills rather than to obedience. Positive reinforcement techniques, such as using praise and food as rewards, are much more successful.
The Bedlington Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.