Norfolk Terrier

Breed Group: Terrier

Temperament and Behavior

The AKC Standard calls the Norfolk Terrier “game and hardy… a ‘perfect demon’ in the field…gregarious, fearless and loyal”. Additionally they are full of fire and assertiveness, but are also agreeable and make good companions; in short, they are what any terrier should be. Never aggressive, the Norfolk Terrier, along with the Border Terrier and their Norwich Terrier brothers are the gentlest and most sociable of the Terrier Group. They get along about as well as an average dog with all members of their family including children, although they do best with older, considerate youngsters with whom they will gladly play. His response to strangers varies from wary to accepting. They get along with other dogs better than many other terrier breeds, but can still be scrappy if pushed. But with a typical terrier prey drive, trusting them around hamsters or ferrets would be foolish. A very busy little dog whether inside or out, he is alert and watchful making him an outstanding watchdog. But his tendency to bark when anything that is amiss can become excessive in some individuals. Although they may try, they make below average guard dogs. His exercise needs can be reasonably met by responding to his interest in playing or a brisk walk. But when outside he must be leashed or confined to thwart his interest in adventure. Adaptable, they do well in an apartment if adequately exercised. But they can be possessive of their food and toys and is able to dig tirelessly for hours.

Physical Characteristics

The Norfolk Terrier is a small dog, one of the smallest working terriers. He stands 9 to 10 inches tall and weighs 11 to 15 pounds. Their coats are about 2 inches long and come in the colors of red, wheaten, black and tan, or grizzle. They shed little if at all. Brush them once a week to keep their coat in good condition. The breed does well in any reasonable temperature. Many people can’t remember how to tell the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers apart, which is quite easy to do. The Norfolk has ears that fold over and the Norwich has triangular ears that stand up straight. To remember which is which, look at the first letter not common to both names, the “f” in the Norfolk and the “w” in Norwich. The top of an “f” shows the profile of a folded ear and the center of a “w” shows the front of an erect, triangular ear.

Trainer's Notes

The Norfolk Terrier needs more socialization than most other terriers even though it is rare to find one that is nervous or shy. Smarter than most dogs but with a terriers obstinance, training a Norfolk is usually more of a challenge than most dogs. With a mind of its own, it is important to provide them with consistent rules to follow. But use only positive training methods (food rewards work well) as the Norfolk is a sensitive breed. Even being one of the mildest terriers, he is still not recommended for a first-time owner.

Photo © by Arschimedes available under the GNUFDL
Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier


Although generally considered a healthy breed, recent research shows perhaps 60% of Norfolk Terriers are effected by Mitral Valve Disease. Fortunately, the disease appears to manifest itself in mid-life rather than early. About 1 in three dogs have been diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia. Less frequently seen are Cardiomyopathy and Patellar Luxation. The life expectancy of a Norfolk Terrier is 12 to 15 years.


The Norfolk Terrier rankes 112th on the American Kennel Club's list of most popular dogs. There are between 300 and 400 registration in a typical year.

Breed History

The Norfolk Terrier has been around for over 100 years. Their ancestors may have included the Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, and a red terrier from Ireland. During the 1800s, Norfolk Terriers were popular with students at Cambridge University and hence became the university mascot. Originally known as the Norwich Terrier, the breed was first recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1932. The American Kennel Club registered the first Norwich Terrier in 1936. It was soon realized that some dogs referred to as Norwich Terriers had erect pointed ears, while the others had ears that folded over down close to the head. Therefore, in 1964, the English Kennel Club reclassified the drop-ear variety as its own breed, the Norfolk Terrier. The American Kennel Club recognized the division in 1979. Norfolk Terriers were originally bred as barn dogs used to get rid of vermin. They were also occasionally used to drive animals of equal size out of their den. As a result of his agreeable disposition, today the Norfolk Terrier assumes more the role of a household companion.

Additional Information

Although the Norfolk and Norwich Terriers’ temperaments are essentially identical, some believe the Norfolk Terrier is a bit more sensitive, more prone to jealousy, and more independent than his Norwich Terrier brother. The National (US) Breed Club is the American Norfolk Terrier Association.

Is A Norfolk Terrier THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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