Norfolk Terrier with a ball
Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed
Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed
Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed
Norfolk Terrier Dog Breed
His small size makes the Norfolk a favorite with people looking for a lap dog, but he is happiest when he can get a fair amount of exercise and play. And small or not, he’s tough, which means he’s a great choice for families with children. The Norfolk is an excellent watchdog and his grooming needs are minimal. Downside: he sheds. The Norfolk Terrier is one of the smallest Terriers, but he’ll never behave that way and wouldn’t believe it if you told him how small he actually is. A Norfolk believes in living with great gusto, whether he’s out and about with the people he loves or digging a hole in the flower bed. He’s robust, sturdy, and tends to be good with children — among the best contenders for a family pet among all the fiery little Terriers.

Of course, not every Norfolk Terrier will be good with children. Adult supervision of the kids along with training and socializing of the dog is still required. The Norfolk usually gets along well with other dogs and with cats, but small pets like hamsters are another story. If yours is a multispecies family, you’ll have to choose another breed, be very careful, or face a crying child once that pet rat meets his doom.

Norfolk Terriers are generally not diggers, are easy to housetrain, and take readily to other types of training as well. When it comes to obedience training, be prepared to put in some effort since, like many Terriers, the Norfolk can be independent and even a bit stubborn. They’re far from the noisiest of the small dogs, but they’re not the quietest, either, and that means more training to keep the yap factor in check.

The Norfolk Terrier’s rough coat sheds, but it can be minimized with weekly brushing or combing and occasional trips to a professional groomer. Hand-stripping gives the dogs a proper Terrier look for the show ring. It is a labor-intensive task that involves pulling out loose coat a little bit at a time using a special tool. It’s usually more practical to have a dog regularly clipped for neatness.

The Norfolk Terrier and the Norwich Terrier are closely related, although they do have a few differences. The one people notice most is that the Norfolk Terrier has ears that fold forward, while the Norwich’s ears are erect. (The easy way to remember the difference: The NorFOLK has drop ears that FOLD forward; the NorWICH has pointed ears like a WITCH’s hat.)

Norfolk Terriers have been bred to be family companions for so long now that they can never accept life as a backyard dog. Make sure your Norfolk Terrier lives indoors as a member of the family or he’s likely to turn into a noisy, destructive, and very unhappy little dog.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Norfolk has a rectangular build, small dark eyes that sparkle with anticipation, small drop ears, a wiry coat, and a docked tail.
  • The rough coat of the Norfolk can be any shade of red, wheaten, black and tan, or grizzle (a mixture of black or red hairs with white hairs). Sometimes a grizzle coat looks bluish gray or iron gray.
  • The Norfolk and Norwich Terriers became separate breeds instead of two varieties of the same breed in 1979.

The History of the Norfolk Terrier

One of the reasons there are so many Terrier breeds is because many were custom-created for a particular area or population. The Norwich hails from England’s East Anglia, home of Cambridge University. Like college students of any era, the Cambridge students of the 1880s thought it was good fun to bet on sporting events, including the ratting abilities of their dogs. Terriers, including Yorkshire and Irish Terriers, were crossed to develop small red or black and tan dogs with a game spirit. They were known as Trumpington Terriers, and they came in several sizes, colors, coat types, and ear shapes. When a breed standard was eventually written for the dogs, it included both prick-eared and drop-eared varieties.

In 1964, England’s Kennel Club separated the two varieties, calling the drop-eared dogs Norfolk Terriers. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1979. Today the Norfolk ranks 117th among the breeds registered by the AKC.

Norfolk Terrier Temperament and Personality

The outgoing Norfolk loves people. He’s eager to meet everyone he sees and loves getting attention from them. His affectionate and happy-go-lucky nature combined with his small size make him well suited to any home as long as someone will be there to keep him company. He likes children, seniors, and most other pets, with birds, rabbits, and rodents being notable exceptions. The Norfolk is a fearless hunter who will see them as easy prey.

This is a curious, observant dog. Not surprisingly, he’s a very effective watchdog while also being one of the most easygoing members of the Terrier group. He’s less likely than many to be yappy, as long as he’s not bored.

The Norfolk might be small, but he’s sturdy. He is best suited to homes with children who are at least 7 or 8 years old. In homes with younger children, supervision is important. Remember that no dog is automatically good with kids. An adult Norfolk who is not experienced with children needs time to get used to their quick movements and shrill voices. Teach children never to tease or mistreat a dog. As with any dog, never leave a Norfolk alone with young children, no matter how well he knows them or how friendly he seems.

Housetraining is not difficult as long as the Norfolk puppy is taken out on a regular schedule. Minimize his opportunities to make mistakes in the house. Use a crate, exercise pen, puppy pads, or canine litterbox to prevent housetraining accidents and ensure that he has acceptable options when you aren’t home to take him out.

A Norfolk has a moderate activity level. Two or three 15-minute walks or playtimes daily will satisfy his exercise needs. If you’d like to try some dog sports, he’s good at agility, earthdog tests, obedience, rally, and tracking.

Be sure to always walk him on leash or play with him in a fenced yard. The Norfolk is an inveterate hunter with quick reflexes, and he will be off after a rabbit or squirrel before you know it. Never let him off his leash in an area with traffic or other dangers. Don’t think that an underground electronic fence will contain him. He’s a determined little dog and the shock may not stop him if he really wants to chase something.

The Norfolk doesn’t like being left alone for hours on end. If you travel frequently or work long hours and can’t take him to the office, he’s not the dog for you.

Train the Norfolk with positive reinforcement techniques such as praise and food rewards. He learns quickly and needs little more than tone of voice and expression to determine whether you are happy or displeased by what he’s done.

What You Need to Know about Norfolk Terrier Health

Norfolk Terriers are a relatively healthy breed. In the hope of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and help prevent new ones from emerging, the Norfolk Terrier Club participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).

Before a Norfolk Terrier can become CHIC certified, the breeder must test him for heart, eye, and knee diseases (like mitral valve defects affectng the heart; glaucoma and optic nerve hypoplasia affecting the eyes; and patellar luxation involving the knees), through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. All test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.

The most serious health problem affecting the Norfolk Terrier is mitral valve disease (MVD), which can eventually lead to heart failure and death. According to a 2000 study of members of the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club and the American Norfolk Terrier Association, a whopping 60 percent of Norfolk Terriers in the United States showed evidence of degeneration of the mitral valve.

Though making sure to buy a puppy from a breeder who has tested both his parents for heart disease may minimize the risk, it’s still possible for your dog to be affected. The disease can be managed with careful treatment if caught early, so have your Norfolk Terrier’s heart checked regularly by a veterinarian.  

Remember that after you get a new puppy home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Norfolk at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life.

The Basics of Norfolk Terrier Grooming

The Norfolk Terrier has a hard, wiry, straight coat with a heavier amount of hair on the neck and shoulders forming a protective mane. Trimming isn’t necessary, but the coat does need to be hand-stripped twice a year, a time-consuming process of pulling out loose hair with a tool called a stripping knife. In the meantime, brush or comb the coat weekly.

If you choose not to strip the coat, the Norfolk will have a scruffy appearance, which some people like. The drawback to this is that the coat will shed more, especially as the dog matures. Stripping the coat has other benefits as well. A stripped coat sheds dirt and is water resistant. Terriers whose coats are stripped need fewer baths.

For a neater look, you can have your Norfolk clipped by a professional groomer, but it’s not the perfect solution. When you cut a Norfolk’s hair, it lightens the color because part of the pigment is removed, and it softens the texture, making the coat less protective.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Norfolk Terrier

 Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Norfolk Terrier Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right 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. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.

Look for more information about the Norfolk Terrier and start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Norfolk Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the NTCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and suggests that breeders obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

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. Quickie online purchases 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 Norfolk Terrier 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, from parents with health clearances and 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. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Norfolk Terrier 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 dogs of your dreams. An adult Norfolk Terrier may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. 

With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog from Norfolk Terrier Rescue or a Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for a Norfolk Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Norfolk Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections 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 Norfolk Terrier. 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 Norfolk Terriers love all Norfolk Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Norfolk Terrier 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 Norfolk Terrier 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 Norfolk 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 housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Norfolk Terrier, 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.

Puppy or adult, take your Norfolk Terrier 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.