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Ron Willbie, Animal Photography
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Dandie Dinmont takes his name from Dandie Dinmont in Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering.” These dogs are dandies, with a poufy topknot, dark shoe-button eyes, and a self-confident attitude.
Sir Walter Scott was so entertained by the breed that he included it in his novel “Guy Mannering,” published in 1814. His character Dandie Dinmont, after whom the breed takes its name, is thought to have been based on a farmer named James Davidson, whose dogs, known as “the immortal six,” were Auld Pepper, Auld Mustard, Young Pepper, Young Mustard, Little Pepper, and Little Mustard, which is how the breed came by its coat color names.
Despite being the "gentleman" of the Terrier group because of his calm demeanor, the Dandie is all Terrier when the opportunity presents itself. Any opportunity to chase prey such as rats or squirrels brings out his inner earthdog nature, and he can be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know. With his family, he is affectionate and comical, but strangers will be greeted with dignified reserve.
The Dandie has several characteristics that give him a unique look: his long, low body; a large head with a silky topknot; a "scimitar" tail, which looks like a sword curving upward; and coat colors described as "pepper" (dark bluish black to light silvery gray with a silvery white topknot and ear feathering and tan legs and feet) and "mustard" (reddish brown to pale fawn with a creamy white topknot and ear feathering and legs and feet that are darker than the topknot). His average size of 18 to 24 pounds makes him suited to most homes, including apartments and condos.
The Dandie’s moderate activity level calls for a long daily walk or active playtime in a safe, traffic-free area. Once that need is satisfied, he will be happy to lie by your side or follow you around as you do your daily activities. His alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog and he will sound the alarm at the approach of friend or foe. As a bonus, he’ll rid your home and yard of any mice, rats, or other rodents that take up residence.
Train the Dandie with firmness, fairness, and consistency, plus lots of positive reinforcement in the form of praise, play, and food rewards. Dandies are quieter than the average terrier, but any terrier can become a nuisance barker if left unchecked. Teach your Dandie when it’s okay to exercise his vocal cords and when he should be quiet.
Dandie Dinmont Terriers are generally good with children if they are raised with them. Always supervise dogs and children to prevent any misbehavior on the part of either party. Dandies who live with cats from puppyhood can get along with them nicely, but outdoor cats are on their own.
Confine the Dandie Dinmont to your yard with a solid fence. An underground electronic fence will not deter him if he sees something he wants to chase. Be aware that terriers are also diggers. Give your Dandie a place of his own to dig or be ready for him to re-landscape your yard on a regular basis.
The majority of Terriers are native to England and were often developed to work a specific type of terrain or quarry. The dogs that became the Dandie Dinmont originated in the Cheviot Hills border area between England and Scotland, where they hunted otter and badger. They have been known for some 300 years.
Throughout his existence, the Dandie has been appreciated by all classes, from the nomadic Rom to farmers to nobility and even royalty. Queen Victoria no doubt encountered the unusual Terriers on one of her trips to Scotland — perhaps after reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering" — and kept one herself.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Dandie in 1886. He has never been excessively popular but remains a well-kept secret among people who appreciate his looks and personality. The Dandie ranks 164th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Dandie Dinmont is a delightful companion. He is very affectionate and thrives on fellowship with his family. He is highly adaptable and can be happy as a city or country dweller. The good-natured Dandie does have an independent side to his personality, thanks to his Terrier heritage. But while he may have his own ideas about things, he is also very eager to please his owner. He is a good watchdog and is sure to bark when newcomers visit his home.
The Dandie is a good playmate for children, especially when he is raised with them. He seems to understand when a child is happy or sad and adapts his behavior accordingly.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Dandie breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
Dandie Dinmont Terriers are healthy, but conditions that have been seen in the breed include liver shunts, hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, intervertebral disc disease and glaucoma. To be on the safe side, ask breeders to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have healthy eyes certified by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. It’s also a good idea to ask breeders what problems they have seen in their lines. An honest breeder will be more than willing to discuss the health of her dogs, good and bad.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Dandie at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier has a unique look that requires regular grooming. His coat must be scissored and shaped every four to six weeks to maintain its distinctive appearance. A professional groomer familiar with the breed can do that for you, or you can learn to trim the coat yourself.
At home, he need to be brushing several times a week with a soft slicker brush to prevent or remove mats and tangles. The good news is that the coat doesn’t shed much.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually once a month. Brush his teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath. Check his ears weekly for dirt, redness, or bad odor, which can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian. It is important to begin grooming the Dandie when he is very young -- this early introduction teaches him to accept the handling and fuss of grooming patiently.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all the certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She should be more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who tell you only good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and will come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Dandie Dinmont and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the DDTCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to assume responsibility for the dog if the owner can’t keep him.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also remember that buying a puppy from one of those “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Dandie Dinmont puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment and come from parents with health clearances, conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Dandie Dinmont might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult dog, you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog instead of a puppy, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.
The Dandie Dinmont is an uncommon breed and is rarely found through breed rescue groups and animal shelters, but if you would like to try, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Dandie Dinmont in your area in no time. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all of the Dandie Dinmonts available on Petfinder across the country). Animal Shelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Some local newspapers also have a “pets looking for homes” section you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Dandie Dinmont. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Dandie Dinmonts love all Dandie Dinmonts. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Dandie Dinmont Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Dandie Dinmont rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Dandie Dinmont home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he house-trained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Dandie Dinmont, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Whether he's a puppy or an adult, take your Dandie Dinmont to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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