Dandie Dinmont – All fine & Dandie!

Breed facts: Terrier group

In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly provides you with all you need to know about the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. Find out here if one of these super little dogs could be your ideal canine companion.

The Dandie Dinmont is a rare breed of Scottish dog – so scarce, in fact, that it is now on the Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list, with less than 300 puppies registered per year.

Dandie Dinmont
Dandie Dinmont

Britain’s most ancient terrier, the Dandie has a remarkable history. The breed, said to have been known as Mustard and Pepper Terriers, originated in the Border counties of Scotland and England, bred and prized by gypsies, tinkers and itinerant musicians for poaching and rough field work. All the Dandies around today are descended from a poacher’s dog, known as Old Pepper, found in a trap on the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate in 1839. However, these little dogs’ endearing appearance and character soon brought them to the notice, and into the homes, of the rich, titled and royalty, including Queen Victoria, Agatha Christie (novelist), Sir Walter Scott (novelist and poet), Sir Edwin Landseer (artist) and Sir Alec Guinness (actor). In fact, it was from Sir Walter Scott’s book Guy Mannering, published in 1814, that the breed’s name was born. One of the characters, a Mr Dandie Dinmont, had pepper- and mustard-coloured terriers and so the name was transferred to these little Scottish terriers that bore the same rich inky blueblack or golden brown colouring. Dandies have changed little in almost 200 years, and the three UK breed clubs are proud of the fact that the physical appearance of these little terriers has never been altered for the show ring. The breed standard set over 100 years ago remains to this day.
Surviving illustrations of Dandies go back as far as 1770, and the ‘then’ and ‘now’ pictures are virtually the same (see page 41). Says Hilary Cheyne, of the Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (CDDTC): “One of the tangible benefits of being a minority breed is that the Dandie has never become a victim of popularity or fashion like some other breeds. It remains the same game, faithful, fun-loving and affectionate little dog that Sir Walter Scott introduced to the world, way back before the Battle of Waterloo.” Family life Today the Dandie Dinmont is rarely used as a working terrier, but still makes an exceptional companion dog.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club (DDTC) says they are ‘hardy, intelligent, friendly, gentle with children and a good watchdog. They are not too excitable – like some breeds of terrier – but they have very much a mind of their own.’ Certainly, as our case studies reveal, on pages 37, 38 and 39, the Dandie is a top choice if you want a great all-round and affectionate family pet.


  • Medium-sized
  • Long-lived & characterful
  • Keen watchdog
  • Fun all-rounder
  • Town or country living
  • Loves people & good with children
  • Moderate exercise requirement
  • Intelligent & eager to please
  • Can be stubborn
  • Practical & tough
  • Inquisitive & perky
  • Medium coat maintenance
  • Affectionate & loyal

Did you know? The Dandie Dinmont is the only breed to have a train, a boat, a blend of whisky and a brand of tobacco named after it.

KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Dandie? Here’s what to look out for:

Distinctive head with a beautiful silky covering, with large, wise, intelligent eyes offsetting a long, low, weaselly body. Short, strong legs; weatherproof coat.

Pepper or mustard. Pepper ranges from dark bluish-black to light silvery grey, intermediate shades preferred. Body colour coming well down the shoulder and hips gradually merging into the colour of legs and feet, which varies according to body colour from rich tan to pale fawn. Profuse silvery white ‘topknot’. Mustard varies from reddish-brown to pale fawn. Profuse creamy white ‘topknot’, legs and feet of a darker shade than head. In both colours, feather on forelegs rather lighter than hair on fore part of leg. Some white hair on chest and white nails permissible. White feet undesirable. Hair on underside of tail lighter than on upperside which should be a darker colour than the body.

Game, workmanlike terrier.

Independent, highly intelligent, determined, persistent, sensitive, affectionate and dignified.

Head & skull
Head strongly made, large but in proportion to dog’s size, muscles showing extraordinary development, especially the maxillary. Skull broad, narrowing towards the eye, measuring about the same from inner corner of eye to back of skull, as from ear to ear. Forehead well domed; head covered with very soft, silky hair not confined to mere ‘topknot’. Cheeks gradually tapering towards deep and strongly made muzzle. Muzzle in proportion to skull as three is to five. Top of muzzle has a triangular bare patch pointing backwards to eyes from nose about an inch broad. Black nose.

Rich dark hazel; set wide apart and low; large, bright, full and round but not protruding.

Pendulous, set well back, wide apart, low on skull, hanging close to cheeks with very slight projection at base. Broad at junction of head and tapering almost to a point; fore part of ear coming almost straight down from its junction with head to tip. Cartilage and skin of ear very thin. Length of ear, from 7.5- 10cm (3-4ins). Ears harmonise in colour with body colour: in a pepper dog, covered with soft, straight, dark hair (in some cases almost black); in a mustard dog, hair mustard in colour, a shade darker than body but not black. Both should have a thin feather of light hair starting about 5cm (2ins) from the tip, and of nearly the same colour and texture as ‘topknot’, giving ear appearance of a distinct point. This may not appear until after the age of two years.

Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite (upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws). Any deviation is highly undesirable. Teeth very strong, especially canines which are extraordinary in size for a small dog. Canines fit well against each other, to give greatest available holding and ‘punishing’ power. Inside of mouth is black or dark coloured.

Very muscular, well developed and strong, showing great power. Well set into shoulders.

Shoulders well laid back but not heavy. Forelegs short with immense muscular development and bone, set wide apart and chest coming well down between them. Forearms to follow line of chest with feet pointing forward or slightly outward when standing. Bandy legs highly undesirable.

Long, strong and flexible; ribs well sprung and round, chest well developed and well let down between forelegs; back rather low at shoulders having slight downward curve and corresponding arch over loins, slight gradual drop from top of loin to root of tail. Backbone well muscled. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Hindlegs a little longer than forelegs; set rather wide apart, but not spread out in an unnatural manner; thighs well developed. Stifles angulated, hocks well let down. Dewclaws, if present, customarily removed.

Round and well padded. Hind feet smaller than fore feet. Nails dark but varying in shade according to colour of body. Flat or open feet highly undesirable.

Rather short from 20-25cm (8-10ins), rather thick at root, getting thicker for about 10cm (4ins) and tapering off to a point. Not twisted or curled in any way but with a curve like a scimitar, the tip when excited being in a perpendicular line with root of tail, set neither too high nor too low. When not excited carried gaily a little above body level.

Gait & movement
Strong, straight impulsion from rear, giving a fluent free and easy stride, reaching forward at the front. A stiff, stilted, hopping or weaving gait is highly undesirable.

Very important feature of the breed. Hair should be about 5cm (2ins) long. Double coat with a soft linty undercoat and a harder topcoat, not wiry but giving a crisp feel to the hand. The coat should not ‘shed’ down the back, but should lie in pencils caused by the harder hair coming through the softer undercoat. The forelegs have feather about 5cm (2ins) long. Upper side of tail covered with wiry hair, underside not so wiry with neat feathering of softer hair.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

Exercise & training
Says top breeder Glen Tinsley: “Dandies are very intelligent little dogs, and are easy to house train. But they can be a little stubborn, and don’t always listen. A breeder in the 1920s once wrote ‘If you ask the Dandie to do something it doesn’t want to do, by the time it does it, it does so with such poor grace, you are sorry you asked.’ “If they don’t get enough exercise, they’ll run madly around the house and garden to let off steam, but they don’t need the exercise that the larger breeds require. Around an hour’s walk in the morning and an hour in the evening would make them very happy little dogs.” All in all, Dandies take as much or as little exercise as you are able to give them, although they do thoroughly enjoy and thrive on a varied exercise routine and love having a good romp in the hills, as well as having a go at new activities such as mini agility and obedience.

5 Dandie facts

Grooming Advises top breeder Glen Tinsley: “The Dandie requires grooming at least once a week, and preferably every three days. A good brush and combing is necessary and they should have their coats handstripped at least twice a year, in spring and autumn, to let the new coat come through. “Most breeders are willing to help their new owners. The breed clubs often hold grooming seminars where owners can learn more about Dandie coat care.” Says Dandie owner Karen Hartman: “We have our Alfie stripped every three months or so, costing between £40-£50 each time, and he is groomed four or five times a week. He’s easy to brush and comb and simply loves to be pampered. It is important to groom regularly to keep his coat free from tangles.” Adds Marion Peachey, who owns two-year-old Snuffer: “Snuffer is pretty good being brushed, for a short time at least! He hates baths but stays still and suffers it with a look of anguish. I have him stripped every three to four months at £15 a time, which includes a bath, nail trim, anal sacs checked and emptied as necessary and a blow-dry.”

Health Generally, says the CDDTC, Dandies are healthy. Problems that might possibly occur are Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism and Primary Closed Angle Glaucoma (which reputable breeders test for prior to breeding from stock). However, these conditions are extremely rare and most Dandies have happy, healthy and long lives. Although a Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a long back, back problems are comparatively unusual in a dog that has been reared and fed correctly and not over-exercised as a youngster. Several adult Dandie Dinmont Terriers are now competing in mini agility competitions.

Feeding Dandies are not fussy and usually eat whatever is put in front of them. It’s best to stick to quality foodstuffs to help promote good digestion and overall health.

Height & weight The height at the withers should be from 20-28cms (8-11ins), length from withers to root of tail should not be more than twice the height, but preferably 1- 2ins less. Weight: 8-11kg (18-24lbs) for dogs in good working condition. The lower weights are preferred.

Lifespan The average lifespan of a Dandie is 12-14 years, “although,” says breeder Glen Tinsley, “I have heard of Dandies healthy and happy at 16 years plus.”

Where to get a Dandie puppy
It is likely you will have to put your name down on a waiting list for a puppy from a reputable, preferably KC-accredited, breeder. The best place to start looking is by contacting the breed clubs, which have puppy registers. They will then provide you with details on what pups are available and where. Occasionally, rescue Dandies are available through the breed clubs. Going to dog shows incorporating Dandie classes are another good way of tracing and talking to breeders. You can also contact the KC for details of breeders on www.thekennelclub.org.uk or tel. 0870 606 6750. Dandie pups are quite expensive in relation to other, more readily available, breeds. So why is this? Explains breeder Glen Tinsley: “Dandies don’t have large litters and this price reflects the cost to breeders in buying or breeding the mother, the subsequent eyetesting and stud fees. “There are also veterinary costs, worming and vaccinations, along with top quality nutrition for the bitch and her puppies. And don’t forget the countless hours the breeder will have spent during the whelping, and on the rearing and nurturing of the litter.”

Useful contacts
Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club Mr Keith Derry (secretary), tel. 01977 644347; www.dandiedinmontweb.com Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club Mrs Gill Mannia (secretary), tel. 01625 251826; www.ddtc.co.uk Southern Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club Mrs Jane Withers (secretary), tel. 01635 201489. http://southerndandies.co.uk

Expect to pay…around £800–£1,000+ for a puppy.

Special thanks to Hilary Cheyne, Simon Rishton, Rob Andrewartha, Paul Keevil, Caledonian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club for pictures and information provided for this feature.