Terrier Breeds: Overview and Popular Types

Terrier dog breeds are dogs that were originally bred and trained across the United Kingdom to hunt vermin and pests. Some terrier breeds were also used in dogfighting, bull-baiting, and pit fighting.

Today, terriers have a wide variety of different traits, but all terrier breeds still retain their original strength, endurance, and excitement for learning.

Terrier breeds are found in homes ranging from apartments to farms, and are also used in police work, therapy, hunting, and tracking. These dogs are known for their endless energy, loyalty to owners, and intelligence.

Terrier dog breeds are one of the seven dog types recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Terrier Dog Overview

Terrier dog breed: West Highland white terrier

There are 31 types of terriers recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Terrier breed sizes range from toy-sized to large and are bred with short or long legs. Terriers have fur and coat types in many varieties, such as wire-haired and soft-coated.

Large Terrier Breeds

The largest terrier breed is the Airedale Terrier. Other larger terriers include the American Staffordshire terrier, measuring 17 inches tall and 55 pounds on average, and the soft-coated wheaten terrier measuring 17–19 inches tall and 30–40 pounds.

Airedale Terrier

Airedale terriers stand at 23 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. This breed has a wire coat that appears in black, tan, and white patterns.

Airedales have high energy levels and are very protective of their homes and owners, but proper training can prevent these dogs from being overly loud or aggressive. The intelligence of Airedales makes them easy to train and adaptable to a large variety of work and home environments.

For these terriers to be on their best behavior, they need to have at least two hours of exercise or engaging play per day.

Bull Terrier

Bull terriers are goofy, playful dogs that grow to be 21–22 inches tall and 50–70 pounds, however, miniature bull terriers are 10–14 inches tall and 18–28 pounds.

The most well-known bull terriers are white and black, but they appear in tan and brown varieties as well. With smooth coats, bull terriers don’t need regular bathing and shed seasonally.

Bull terriers are very affectionate towards their owners and need regular play and stimulation to prevent mischief, so this breed is wonderful for families. The bull terrier is protective and known to bark frequently, but also moderately easy to train and reacts well to positive reinforcement from owners.

Medium Terrier Breeds

Medium-sized terrier breeds aren’t much smaller than the largest terriers and grow 13–17 inches and 12–27 pounds. Popular mid-sized terriers include the Irish terrier, Skye terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and the Boston terrier.

Irish Terrier

Irish terriers grow up to 18 inches tall and weigh 25–27 pounds on average. This breed has a medium-length, wiry coat that doesn’t need regular bathing or grooming and appears in red or wheaten.

The Irish terrier is very affectionate and loving, but also very protective of its owner and aggressive towards other dogs. While this terrier is great with children, this breed has a high prey drive and shouldn’t live with other pets.

Boston Terrier

Boston terriers have a different facial structure compared to other terrier breeds, but their body shape and temperament match other terriers more closely. Adult Boston terriers measure 15–17 inches tall and weigh 12–25 pounds.

The smooth, tuxedo-style coat of these dogs makes them recognizable and easy to groom.

As with most terriers, Boston terriers are very loving and playful, and they even enjoy interacting with strangers and children. This breed isn’t very aggressive but should be supervised when interacting with other dogs or small pets.

Boston terriers have a lot of energy and are easy to train, so they best suit active owners and families.

Small Terrier Breeds

Terrier breeds: West Highland white terriers

Some of the smallest terrier breeds can be considered toy-sized and grow to be 7–14 inches tall and 7–17 pounds. Yorkshire terriers, Jack Russel terriers, Cairn terriers, and Bedlington terriers are all considered small breeds containing all of the energy of their terrier relatives, but with half the size.

Jack Russel Terrier

Jack Russel terriers are very intelligent, energetic dogs that are 13–14 inches tall and 13–17 pounds. These dogs’ coats come in smooth or wiry varieties. They have solid white and markings that appear in black, brown, or tan.

This breed is loving towards humans and other dogs but needs strict training to behave around children. Jack Russel terriers have high energy and need an active lifestyle with plenty of balls or toys to chase.

If their owners are away for home for long periods of time, these dogs will become destructive.

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terriers, or Yorkies, are classified as toy-sized and grow 7–8 inches tall and up to 7 pounds. This breed has long, silky, black and brown fur that needs regular bathing and grooming to avoid matting.

Yorkies are attached to their owners and families, but also very open towards strangers and moderately friendly with other dogs. Yorkshire terriers have high energy and make great, tiny guard dogs.

This breed needs at least two walks a day to stay active and loves to chase balls and small toys.

Terrier Mix Dogs

Terrier mix dogs come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and personalities depending on their parent breeds. For example, a mix between a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle, or Yorkiepoo, will be much smaller than an American pit bull terrier and golden retriever mix.

However, most terrier mix dogs keep the high energy and high intelligence characteristic of terriers.

Should You Get a Terrier Breed?

Terrier breed: Airedale terrier

Terrier breeds are perfect for families or owners that are willing to spend a large amount of time with their dog. With deep attachments to people and high energy levels, terrier breeds are the happiest when they’re working, training, or playing with their humans.

Most terrier breeds have a high prey drive and protective nature. Multi-pet households need to do plenty of research into each breed’s traits before adding a terrier to the family.

About Thomas Woods 225 Articles
Thomas has been a dog lover since he was 6 years old when his parents got him a rescue Labrador. Since then his love for dogs has lead him to study Animal Behavior & Welfare. He now keeps a six year old English Bullmastiff and educates pet parents through his online publication Perfect Dog Breeds.

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