Information about the Norwich Terrier
The Norwich Terrier is a breed of dog. It originates in the United Kingdom and was bred to hunt small vermin or rodents.
These terriers are one of the smallest terriers (11-12 lb, 5-5.4 kg; 9-10 inches (24-25.5 cm) at the withers), with prick ears and a double coat, which come in red, tan, wheaten, black and tan, and grizzle.
Norwich Terriers can be red, wheaten, black and tan, or grizzle (red and black hairs intermixed).
These small but hardy dogs can be courageous, intelligent and affectionate. They can be assertive but it is not typical for them to be aggressive, quarrelsome or shy. They are energetic and thrive on an active life. They are also quite hungry all the time and will eat anything edible. They are eager to please but have definite minds of their own. They are sensitive to scolding but 100% Terrier. They should not usually be kept outside or in a kennel setting because they enjoy the companionship of their owners. Norwich are not given to unnecessary barking, but they will warn of a stranger approaching. Once they realise that there is no threat, they can become immediate friends. Norwich are generally good with children. If introduced to other household pets as a puppy they generally co-habit peacefully, though caution should be observed around rodent pets as they may be mistaken for prey.
The life expectancy of the Norwich Terrier is 12-16 years. While the Norwich Terrier is considered a healthy breed, there are some health issues for which responsible breeders do preventative genetic health testing, thereby reducing the incidences.
The Norwich Terrier does have a predisposition for some health issues but studies to determine the exact mode of inheritance or the exact frequency in the breed are unknown or have not been conclusive. At present there are no disorders identified as “most important”. Of secondary magnitude, cataracts are recognized as a disorder that has been reported sporadically and may be inherited. Also of a secondary magnitude there are instances of epilepsy, narrow tracheas, luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, mitral valve disease, and incorrect bites (how the teeth meet when the jaws are closed).
Like all dogs, Norwich Terriers can have autoimmune reactivity to rabies vaccinations. Rabies-Vaccine-Induced Ischemic Dermatopathy, or RVI-ID, is a non-fatal but potentially serious reaction to chemicals called adjuvants in the vaccine. RVI-ID is often misdiagnosed, but if correctly diagnosed, is treatable. Symptoms may include: symmetrical dark spots or lesions at the tips of the ears; swelling, hard lumps or dark spots in the vicinity of the injection site.
Higher volume Norwich breeders are seeing more dogs with breathing concerns, and the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club (USA) has formed a new “Health and Genetics Sub-Committee for Research on Upper Airway Syndrome in Norwich Terriers”. Upper Airway Syndrome (UAS) covers all abnormalities that can occur in the upper airway, including: elongated soft palates; too short soft palates; narrow/misshapen tracheas; collapsing tracheas; stenotic nares (nasal passages that are too small); swollen tonsils; everted laryngeal saccules. These upper airway disorders can occur singly or in combination with one or two others. All compromise the airway and the dog’s ability to breathe normally; the dog’s breathing often sounds raspy or moist. It may be that shorter muzzles may have increased incidence of such issues.
Norwich Terriers generally have small litters of 1 to 3 puppies. Generally, if a female is healthy, its optimal breeding period is between the ages of 2 (after all genetic health testing is complete – heart, eyes, hips and petellas) and six years. At seven years of age dogs are considered geriatric. The small supply and the high price of a pure bred Norwich Terrier – often around US $2,500 in 2008 – has attracted fraud, as unsuspecting buyers pay full price for Cairn Terriers with docked tails, or mixed-breed puppies.
In the Canada and the United States you can verify if a dog has completed genetic health testing by checking the open registry at www.offa.org.
Norwich Terriers are hardy, active dogs, bred for a working life of pursuing vermin and accompanying their farmer owners on horseback. A good daily walk is therefore the minimum needed to meet the exercise requirements of a healthy Norwich Terrier. Norwich Terriers compete in Earthdog competitions, and are increasingly common in Agility and Flyball competitions. The dogs were bred as working terriers, and thrive best with at least one hour of real activity daily, such as a good walk, run, or working session. Norwich are curious, independent dogs who may become bored by routine, repetitive walks/routes.
The Norwich Terrier has two coats – a harsh, wiry topcoat and a soft warm undercoat. Ideally, the coat is combed with a steel comb daily to once a week to remove the loose, dead hairs and prevent matting. Proper maintenance of the Norwich coat, like other hard wiry coats, requires “stripping,” or pulling the oldest hairs from the coat (using fingers and/or a “stripping knife,” a special grooming comb). Stripping results both in the coat retaining its proper appearance, and in the health of the dog’s skin and coat. Ideally, owners hand-strip the coat on a regular basis to achieve what is called a “rolling” coat, where hairs of all lengths are growing in. Maintaining a rolling coat is easier on the dog’s skin and requires shorter grooming sessions. At minimum, the coat should be stripped once in the autumn and once in the spring. Clipping or cutting negatively affects the appearance of the coat’s natural colours and texture. For a very helpful article on how to groom the Norwich Terrier’s coat see Wildgoose’s Grooming Norwich Terriers and Norfolk Terriers.
Outside of Canada and the United States, the docked-tail profile of the Norwich Terrier is changing. In Australia tail docking is optional.But in NSW it is illegal. In the United Kingdom tail docking is only permitted for working dogs and is banned for dogs bred as pets or showing. Some countries banned general tail docking for a number of years e.g. Norway since 1987, Sweden since 1988. In the last four years Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg and Switzerland have decided to introduce a ban on tail docking. In the United States, a docked tail is currently considered “strongly preferred” for success in the show ring.
Proponents of docking argue that a docked-tail dog can be extracted from a hole by the tail with less risk to the dog’s spine. Opponents of tail docking note that docking severely damages the important canine tail-signalling system, so vital to dogs’ social encounters, and also cite the historical basis of docking in the UK to avoid taxation of sporting dogs.
Norwich Terriers are difficult to breed. Many have Caesarean sections. The North American average litter size for 2007 is two puppies with the total number of puppies for the year, in the USA, at approximately 750. There are breeding lines with higher average litter sizes as can be easily traced in pedigrees of kennel clubs who include such information, i.e. The Dutch Kennel Club. Similar information can be obtained at internet site of Finnish Kennel Club.
Recently in the United States, there has been significant pedigree fraud. Sometimes these fake Norwich Terriers are sold over the internet.
The breed has existed since at least the late 19th century, as working terrier of East Anglia, England. The dogs were useful as ratters in the stable yard, bolters of fox for the hunt, and family companions. It was the mascot of students at Cambridge University. Small red terriers, descendants of Irish Terriers, had existed in the area since at least the 1860s, and these might be the ancestors of the Norwich, or it might have come from the Trumpington Terrier, a breed that no longer exists. In its earliest history, it was also known as the Jones Terrier and the Cantab Terrier.
Since its earliest identification as a breed, puppies have had either drop or prick ears, and both were allowed when the Norwich was first recognized in the show ring in 1932 by The Kennel Club (England). Drop ears were often cropped until it became illegal to do so. This intensified a long-standing controversy over whether drop-eared dogs should be allowed in the show ring and whether the primary difference was simply the ears or whether other, deeper, personality and structural differences marked the drop-eared variety. Starting in the 1930s, breeders increased their efforts to distinguish the breeds. While Norfolk and Norwich Terriers were inter-bred for a number of years today they are positively two distinctive breeds. In fact some historical texts indicate that they were distinctive breeds before they were inter-bred.
Both ear types continued to be allowed in the ring until The Kennel Club recognized the drop-eared variety as a separate breed, the Norfolk Terrier, in 1964, and the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, and Canadian Kennel Club did the same in 1979. Until that time the breeds were designated by the AKC as Norwich Terriers, P.E. (prick ears) and Norwich Terriers, D.E. (drop ears).