How to Train a Dandie Dinmont Terrier

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The unique-looking Dandie Dinmont Terrier is a tough but dignified little exterminator. Sturdily built for the rigors of farm life, they will agreeably adapt to city living. Dandies are compact companions blessed with a big personality. Physical hallmarks of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier include a large head covered with profuse, silky white hair; long, hanging ears tipped with feathering and coming almost to a point; big, round eyes full of brightness and expression; and a long, low torso and short legs. The crisp body coat comes in two spicy colors: pepper (bluish black to silvery gray) and mustard (reddish brown to pale fawn). Weighing no more than 24 pounds, Dandies are alert and intelligent watchdogs with a big baritone bark. Dandies enjoy romping and cuddling with kids, but aren’t as hyper as some small dogs. They are terriers, though, with typical willfulness, independence, and courage. Dandie owners get best results with positive, motivational training.


The terrier that would become known as the Dandie Dinmont made its debut in written history in about 1700. Described as a “rough native terrier owned by border hunters in the Cheviot Hills between England and Scotland,” the breed was said to be especially good at dispatching such four-legged poachers as otter and badger.

Sir Walter Scott, Scotland’s foremost novelist, was an admirer of the breed. For his 1815 novel “Guy Mannering,” he created a character named Dandie Dinmont, a farmer who keeps a pack of curious-looking pepper and mustard terriers. Scott based the fictional Dinmont on a real-life breeder of such dogs, James Davidson, who kept a pack of working terriers—Old Mustard, Young Pepper, Young Mustard, Little Pepper, Little Mustard, and Old Pepper—the “immortal six” still spoken of with reverence by Dandie fanciers. (It is said that every Dandie alive today can be traced back to a dog named Old Ginger, sired by Old Pepper.)

In acknowledgment of the exposure the breed received from Scott, who called it the “big little dog,” these bright-eyed, long-backed earth dogs came to be known as “Dandie Dinmont’s terriers.” They remain the only AKC breed named for a fictional character.

Dandies caught the attention of 19th-century royals, such as French king Louis Philippe, who kept a brace of pampered Dandies as part of his royal entourage. England’s Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club, established in1875, is still in operation today as one of the world’s oldest breed clubs. The Dandie entered the AKC in 1886, and retains a small but steadfast following.

Quick Facts

Temperament: Independent / Smart / Proud

Height: 8-11 inches

Weight: 18-24 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years 

Terrier Group


There is no breed that is completely disease-free, but a Dandie comes closer than many others. A rare few develop lymphoma, but otherwise, the breed is typically quite healthy. Responsible breeders do genetic testing on their breeding stock to avoid any potential problems. As with all breeds, a Dandie’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.


The Dandie Dinmont Terrier does not shed, but that doesn’t mean he requires no grooming. His coat must be stripped of dead hair at least a couple of times a year. This can be done by hand by his breeder, or the owner can learn to do it using a special stripping tool recommended by the breeder. Long hairs can be plucked daily from the coat using thumb and forefinger to maintain a neat appearance. The Dandie will also need to be brushed daily to avoid matting Toenails should be trimmed at least monthly, and care of the ears should be included in maintenance grooming.


A Dandie will do best exercising a half hour or so twice a day in the form of a brisk walk, or perhaps chasing a ball across the yard. When outdoors he should always be on a leash or in a securely fenced area. The Dandie was bred to hunt, and even the best trained will dart away given the chance to chase what they perceive as prey. Most Dandies will do very well in a home environment with moderate exercise. With their long-and-low build, Dandies are not made to run long distances, and the breed is not the ideal fit for owners looking for a jogging or biking partner.


Dandies are tough but dignified big dogs in a little body. With lots of patience and a positive reward-based approach you will get wonderful results. They are ‘rough-and-tumble,’ sturdy little dogs with lots of energy but are very adaptable and eager to please. Typical terriers, they can be stubborn, independent, and a little too sure of their ability to take on all comers. It is imperative that you train the Dandie well so that you not only have a companion with good manners, but also that you can take the lead in unexpected situations.


The Dandie Dinmont should be fed a high-quality dog food 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. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. 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.