Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Zero Degrees Photography/Shutterstock.com

Terriers were once the greatest dogs in the world.


Terrier Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Terrier Conservation Status

Terrier Locations

Terrier Locations

Terrier Facts

Fun Fact
Terriers were once the greatest dogs in the world.
Protective, loyal, lively, intelligent, playful, fearless

Terrier Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Brindle
Skin Type
6 - 80lbs

Terrier as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
6-80 lbs
Female weight
6-80 lbs

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Terrier infographic
Terrier infographic

The Terrier is not a dog breed in and of itself, but a dog group of breeds that share common features. They range from small to large sizes with coats that range from short and wiry to long and smooth and personalities that are fearless, lively, protective, loyal, intelligent, and playful.

Terriers are bred to hunt, kill vermin, and guard family homes and barns. They are further categorized by size and function, with there being 5 different groups of Terrier.

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The name “terrier” comes from the Latin word for “earth” (terra) because these dogs burrow and “go to ground” to catch field vermin such as chipmunks, mice, rats, moles, voles, badgers, otters, and even foxes.

This group of dogs originated in the British Isles from a small selection of ancestors. Although they’re fairly new, they’re extremely popular all over the world as working dogs, companion animals, and family pets.

Different Types of Terrier Breeds

Teddy Roosevelt Rat Terrier Male puppy on Sidewalk steps in Autumn

©Michele M Vogel/Shutterstock.com

There are hunting, short-legged, bull-type, toy, and large breeds. They are all working breeds with the exception of the Boston Terrier, which originated in the United States and the American Kennel Club accepted it in 1893 as a non-sporting breed. Rat-baiting, bull-baiting, and dog-fighting have been popular blood sports involving various types and breeds.

Health and Entertainment for your Terrier

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Evolution and Origins


Teddy Roosevelt Terrier

puppy playing.

©Michele M Vogel/Shutterstock.com

Several dog breeds, primarily developed in England, were originally bred for vermin hunting and for their role in foxhunting and dog fighting, exhibiting a pugnacious nature; however, over time, their breeding has focused on cultivating a friendlier temperament.

The term “terrier” originates from the Middle French phrase “chien terrier,” meaning “dog of the earth,” reflecting their original purpose of hunting and eliminating vermin, which is still evident in breeds like the rat terrier, while their bold and fearless nature has come to characterize the temperament of the breed as we know it today, as described by A. E.

A recent study reveals that the origin of various dog breeds like Chihuahuas, spaniels, and tiny terriers can be traced back to the Middle East, indicating that the domestication of the gray wolf is responsible for the diverse range of dog breeds we have today.


Jack Russell terrier dog with donut in front

Jack Russell terrier dog wanting to eat a donut off the table.

©Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock.com

Terrier mixes are the result of breeding two Terrier breeds or a Terrier and another purebred (such as the large Airedale Terrier) or a hybrid dog (such as the Terrier Poodle, also known as the Terripoo).

The most popular purebred dogs to breed with these dogs are the Chihuahua, Poodle, Labrador, Beagle, Dachshund, and Schnauzer, while popular Terriers to have as one parent to breed with another purebred or a hybrid dog breed is the Silky Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Black Russian Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.

These and other well-known mixes were further bred for consistency, achieving specific results in coat, physical appearance, and temperament with qualities from both parents.

Here are some examples of popular Terrier mixes, in alphabetical order:

3 Pros and Cons of Owning a Terrier

Jack Russell terrier sitting on the grass in the park. A popular breed of dog.

Raggle (Beagle Rat Terrier mix) hunting in the garden.


They’re social and lively. They enjoy being around people. Although they can make new friends, they prefer their owners and families.They have separation anxiety. These dogs tend to be prone to negative behaviors such as excessive barking, chewing, and digging when left alone. It is very important to socialize and train them early; otherwise, it will be very difficult to do so later on.
They love to work. These dogs thrive on having tasks or jobs to do.Overall, they don’t get along with other dogs and other animals. They have a high prey drive so they are prone to chasing smaller animals. They are also territorial and should never be off-leash outside.
They’re intelligent. Curious dogs, take to training as long as there are variety and consistent, positive rewards. Although they’re also stubborn, this means they won’t give up what they’ve learned easily.They shouldn’t be left unsupervised around small children. Some breeds are very possessive of their food and toys. Teach children how to handle them gently and never leave them unsupervised.

Size and Weight

Staffordshire bull terrier lying on a bench

There are more than 40 types of Terrier mixes, such as the

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

, pictured here.


These dogs are a dog group of small to large size breeds with a coat that ranges from short and wiry to long and silky, or even hairless, such as the American Hairless Terrier, which is derived from the Rat Terrier.

Some other examples of breeds are Silk y Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Black Russian Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Teddy Roosevelt Terrier. Due to their variety, they can weigh as little as 2.7 kg (6 lb) such as with the English Toy Terrier to up to 80 lbs such as with the Bull Terrier.

Their height can range from 10 to 24 inches. In some breeds, males are larger than females in both weight and height, while there is little to no difference in others. All puppies are considered adults at approximately 12-18 months but they don’t reach their full growth until 2 or even 3 years of age.

Height (Male)10-24″
Height (Female)10-24″
Weight (Male)6-80lbs, fully grown
Weight (Female)6-80lbs, fully grown

Common Health Issues

Fox Terrier


These dogs as a whole tend to be fairly healthy dogs. Smaller breeds are especially hardy, although specific small breeds have unique health issues; for example, Yorkshire Terriers have a higher risk of hypoglycemia in their first five months after birth, and many small breeds are at risk of blindness and other vision problems. The Boston Terrier is prone to respiratory issues due to brachycephalism and larger breeds, especially with deep chests (such as bull-type terriers) are more vulnerable to bloat (gastric torsion).

However, all of these dogs generally tend to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which in dogs is called Dog Compulsive Disorder. Behaviors include excessive barking, chewing, digging, and other destructive or negative behaviors. Breeds that are actively working are prone to arthritis and joint dysplasia. Cancer is also a risk. In short, the most common health issues about these dogs are:

  • OCD
  • Arthritis
  • Joint dysplasia
  • Cancer


The temperament of this dog group is generally described as lively. Their general personality is social and playful, with traits of fearlessness, intelligence, and protectiveness. They also tend towards having separation anxiety, with behaviors of excessive barking, chewing, and digging. They prefer people over other dogs or animals. Some breeds are more possessive and snappish than others. They also tend towards having a high prey drive and so will chase cats and other smaller animals.

How To Take Care of Them

New pet owners looking for how to care for these dogs, especially puppies, must consider the specific breed. Whether it’s behavioral or stress issues like separation anxiety and OCD, health issues like hypoglycemia and trouble breathing, or different care related to their coat and size, each breed has unique needs that must be considered.

The Best Dog Food for Terriers

These dogs, especially puppies, have unique health considerations depending on the breed. Therefore new owners should consider these factors when choosing food for their pets:

Puppy food: Puppies should have puppy food for their age, size, and nutritional needs. All puppies need nutritionally complete puppy food and to be fed according to the directions of the food or the recommendations for their breed.

Adult dog food: Similar to puppy food considerations, adult dog food should be nutritionally complete. Adding supplements is a good idea if your dog is prone to specific health issues. Because these dogs remain active well into adulthood, it is best for them to have an active dog food variety that combines the main ingredient of animal protein with carbohydrates, fats, and vegetables.

In our analysis at A-Z Animals, the best dog food for Terriers is Merrick Lil Plates Small Breed Dry Dog Food with Real Meat.

We recommend this food for most terrier breeds due to the quality of its ingredients, excluding potatoes, lentils, and peas in favor of healthy lamb, chicken, and brown rice. It’s full of glucosamine and chondroitin to prevent joint conditions, pain, and reduced mobility. Plus, the probiotics ease digestion while amino acids promote full-body well-being. The crunchy kibble improves the health of teeth and gums by cleaning away food residue, tartar, and plaque.

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Best for Small Breeds
Merrick Lil' Plates Small Breed Dry Dog Food with Real Meat
  • Real lamb and brown rice small dog breed recipe
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy hips and joints
  •  Probiotics and prebiotic fiber supports healthy digestion
Check Amazon

Maintenance And Grooming

Maintenance and grooming for these dogs depend on the coat of the breed you have. Airedale Terriers are best suited for warm climates, the Australian Terrier adapts to any climate, and the Bedlington Terrier is best suited for cold climates. Short-haired breeds have one coat and so only need brushing a couple of times a week, while longer-haired breeds will need more frequent brushing and more than one type of brush. Those with long fur, which sheds often, or who are prone to matting, need daily brushing.


These dogs are intelligent but stubborn. If they are bored due to a lack of variety in their training or are punished with negative reinforcement, they will refuse to do the tasks and act out. Early training and socialization at 3-4 months with firm and consistent directions and positive rewards is a must.


Like other dogs, playtime for puppies should be limited, with 5 minutes for every month of age. Once they are adults, however, these dogs need a lot of exercise. Smaller breeds do not need nearly as much space as larger ones and do not require heavy exercise.

Generally, they need a high amount of exercise every day. They also need variety to keep them happy and engaged. Aim for 60-90 minutes of exercise with 30 minutes of moderate to intense play.


Puppies will display signs of separation anxiety early on, even when not left alone for long. Crate training is recommended along with leaving toys. If socialized early, they will do well being left alone with other puppies or other dogs of any age.

Cute happy Jack Russell Terrier puppy dog lying in the grass


Jack Russell Terrier

is a cute and playful Terrier breed.


Terriers and Children

Certain breeds tend to be very possessive of food and toys and may bark, growl, or snap at children in the same way they would adults. They are also defensive and hence, should not be left unsupervised with children and with children who do not know how to be gentle with them.

Dogs Similar

Dog breeds similar to those in this dog group include Beagles, Poodles, and Dachshunds. Additional dog breeds similar to Terriers include:

  • Chihuahuas – They’re lively and energetic dogs. They’re also similar in size to many of these dog breeds.
  • Shih Tzu – As a companion animal, it’s as loyal to its owners as Terriers are. It’s also a couch potato like these dogs.
  • Schnauzer – This breed has several size possibilities like those found in this dog group. It’s likewise been used as a hardworking farm dog.

Famous Terriers

Several breeds have been used in advertising. Here are 3 different breeds that have been the most popular in video commercials and ads:

  • Spuds Mackenzie: This white English bull terrier with a black mark around her left eye was the mascot for Anheuser-Busch in a 1987 Super Bowl ad. Although the name and character were supposed to be male, the dog in the commercials was a female named Honey Tree Evil Eye. She traveled the world for the next 2 years after a series of highly popular commercials, stopping in 1989 with the Bud Bowl and dying of kidney failure in 1993.
  • Nipper: This dog was so named due to his biting visitors’ legs. 3 years after he died, his owner (English painter Francis Barraud) painted a picture of him staring into a phonograph machine entitled, “His Master’s Voice.” The Gramophone Company bought the image after convincing Barraud to alter it to resemble one of its machines. Patented in 1990, the image of Nipper became posthumously famous starting in 1901. It has extended to being used to promote products for several other companies, including Victor and RCA.
  • Bullseye: This white bull terrier with a target painted over its left eye became the mascot for Target stores in 1990, with several other similar dogs replacing it as mascot over the years.

Popular names for these dogs are often those of flowers, actors and actresses, or gemstones. Some examples are:

  • Swayze
  • Stud
  • Goliath
  • Napoleon
  • Bandit
  • Molly
  • Nellie
  • Melody
  • Trixie
  • Snowflake

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?
About the Author

Rebecca is an experienced Professional Freelancer with nearly a decade of expertise in writing SEO Content, Digital Illustrations, and Graphic Design. When not engrossed in her creative endeavors, Rebecca dedicates her time to cycling and filming her nature adventures. When not focused on her passion for creating and crafting optimized materials, she harbors a deep fascination and love for cats, jumping spiders, and pet rats.

Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How many terrier mixes are there?

There are more than 40, but there are 21 which are the most popular breeds.

Do terrier dogs bark a lot?

They bark to alert their owners of strange noises, but they can bark excessively if they are bored or neglected.

What is a terrier personality?

A terrier personality is a go-getter and one that often “goes to ground” to hunt vermin.

Are Terriers good pets?

Yes, terriers are great working dogs as well as companion and family pets.

Why are dogs called terriers?

Dogs called terriers belong to the Terrier group of breeds which were created to hunt, kill vermin and guard family homes and farms.

What are differences between a toy fox terrier vs rat terrier?

The major differences between a toy fox terrier vs rat terrier can be found in their size and coloration. The rat terrier is a much larger dog than the toy fox terrier, and it comes in many more colors and patterns. The rat terrier weighs between 10 and 25 pounds and stands up to 18 inches as opposed to the toy fox terrier which weighs between 4 and 9 pounds and only stands 11.5 inches tall.

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