Meet The Norfolk Terrier: A Fearless & Fun Dog Breed

Last Updated on April 23, 2023

Norfolk Terriers are one of the smallest working terriers. They’re affectionate, energetic, and intelligent and have the softest temperament of the terriers.

Nicknamed Trumpington Terrier, after the street name where the breed was developed. But some simply know them as “ratters.”

a Norfolk Terrier smiling while standing on a field of grass
Norfolk Terrier enjoying outdoors

Read on for more about this fearless and fun pup.

Where did the Norfolk Terrier originate? 

The Norfolk Terrier breed was created by a dog breeder living in England in the early 20th century.

They got their name from the East Anglia town of Norfolk, where their ‘working dog’ reputation started while assisting with pest control on farms.

As early as the 19th century, undergraduates at Cambridge University showed appreciation for the breed’s earth dog qualities to control pests on campus.

The Norfolk Terrier is part of the Terrier family. It is said to have developed by crossing short-legged terrier breeds like the Red Terrier, Irish Terrier, Border Terrier, and Cairn Terriers.

In the United States, the breed is often referred to as Jones Terriers. It references Frank Jones, who sold many of the dogs in America before World War I.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Norwich breed in 1936.

Norfolk Terriers were considered Norwich Terriers until they received formal recognition by the kennel club in 1979. Norfolks are a separate breed, with their own breed standards.

The AKC shares responsible breeding and awards top breeders, such as Barbara Miller in this video:

What does a Norfolk Terrier look like?

Drop-eared Norfolks have a round head that features a wedge-shaped muzzle and small, dark, oval eyes. They have a high-set tail, round-shaped feet, and dark nails.

a Norfolk Terrier wearing a starfish scarf while standing in the yard
Source: @maxi.and.orla / IG

The Norfolk’s hips and shoulders are the widest points of its body. They have a compact, hardy, and game physique that gives a free-moving to this active dog.

Since they fight vermin, scars are considered honorable if you plan to have your Norfolk join a dog show.

Norfolk Terrier vs. Norwich Terrier

a Norwich Terrier laying on tall grass
A Norwich Terrier puppy laying on a grassland

The Norfolk Terrier is a separate breed from the Norwich Terrier.

They may share the same ancestry and origins, but they differ in personality and appearance, like how the Norfolk Terrier is the stronger of the two.

The Norwich Terrier has pointed ears as opposed to the drop ears signifying the Norfolk breed.

Norfolk dogs’ hindquarters are short and are stronger than those of the Norwich Terrier.

Size: How big does a Norfolk Terrier dog get?

Norfolk terriers are small dogs that weigh 11 to 12 pounds (5 to 6 kgs). Males grow to a height of 10 inches (25 cm), while females tend to be 1 inch shorter.

The breed matures at the age of 1 and can reach its full size from 6 to 8 months old.

The small size of the breed means they can live comfortably in all types of houses, including apartments.

Coat & Color: Do Norfolk Terriers shed hair?

The Norfolk terrier has a low- to non-shedding coat that’s considered hypoallergenic.

Norfolk Terrier puppy drenched with snow
Source: @fonz.thenorfolk / IG

Their double coat is made of a soft undercoat buffered by a 1 to 2-inch (2,5 cm to 5 cm) short- to -medium wiry coat on top.

This contributes to the weather-resistant qualities of the coat. The neck and shoulders have longer hair or ruff than the base of the ears and throat.

Norfolks have a coat color that comes in shades of red, wheaten, black and tan, black and gray, or red and white, and are often mixed in a grizzle pattern.

Temperament: Are Norfolk Terriers good family dogs?

These little dogs are good family pets. Don’t be fooled by their size, though. They’re often reserved and have an instinct to hunt, which means they’re not really lapdogs.

Norfolk Terriers love attention and can be affectionate towards their owners and their guests.

a close-up image of a Norfolk Terrier
Source: @jaico610 / IG

Are Norfolk Terriers aggressive?

Don’t let your Norfolk Terrier develop a Small Dog Syndrome, where the dog believes he is the pack leader. This can result in separation anxiety, jealousy, and bad behavior around guarding.

The advantage of having this typical terrier trait is your pooch will alert you with a bark, but they’re not inherently aggressive.

It is said that many Trumpington Terrier dogs may show aggression or dominance toward strange dogs.

And with its background, their high prey drive gives that instinct to chase and catch vermin or small animals like hamsters.

But generally, Norfolks get along well with other dogs and cats that they grow up with.

Do Norfolk Terriers bark a lot?

The Norfolk Terrier does suffer from separation anxiety, best managed through training.

It’s not suitable to leave the terrier alone at home as they can easily become bored. The natural response to boredom is to resort to digging or barking.

It’s best that they’re socialized from a young age and have puppy training. It helps prevent them from misbehaving when no one’s around.

The energetic and inquisitive personality of this working dog has to be managed and supervised.

With their intelligence and keen sense to follow instructions, you may think they’re easy to train, so you can steer them clear of destructive behaviors, but no.

They can be stubborn and difficult to teach, especially with house training.

a Norfolk Terrier sitting on a dog bed inside a crate
Source: @koma.haru / IG

Crate training is an easier alternative. The small Norfolk Terrier will not pee or poop where they sleep. Let your dog out of the crate for regular bathroom breaks.

You can control your ratter through obedience training. Asserting yourself as the leader and your dog as the follower is an integral part of respect training.

How to take care of your Norfolk Terrier

Other than requiring attention and being kind of clingy, Norfolk terriers are a low-maintenance breed.

And though they originally come from cold climates, they can tolerate warmer weather conditions, too.

Exercising your Norfolk Terrier

Inside that compact body is a highly energetic breed that requires 20 to 40 minutes of exercise daily.

The inquisitive nature of this purebred means it’s best if they burn their energy in a safely enclosed area

For mental stimulation, keep a chew toy nearby for a leisurely game of fetch. As a fairly active house dog, it does best when there is a yard to play and run by itself in.

Grooming: Do Norfolk Terriers need special attention?

a Norfolk Terrier standing on the grooming table
Source: / IG

The breed is easy to groom, but clipping or cutting the fur removes its color and harsh texture.

As a pet, weekly combing using a greyhound comb will help prevent matting in Norfolk Terriers. Show dogs would require hand-stripping to remove dead hair.

Baths should only be given necessary. Use a dry shampoo if your dog dislikes bathing.

The double coat of this terrier can develop a smell when left wet because the long hair tends to dry quickly, while the short hair can keep moisture for longer.

So give your fido a good wipe and blow-dry treatment.

A Norfolk Terrier puppy should be bathed monthly or every second month. This teaches your pup to behave when washed as an adult.

If all these seem like too much work, a visit to a professional groomer every month would be of great help.

Feeding your Norfolk Terrier

The recommended daily amount for Norfolk Terriers is around ½ to 1 cup of high-quality dry dog food. It’s best to divide their meal into two – for breakfast and dinner.

Your dog’s diet and how much you feed her should depend on her age, body weight, activity level, and health.

It’s best to have a feeding routine because this small dog is prone to overeating, which can lead to excessive weight gain or obesity.

A Norfolk puppy will benefit from smaller portions of dog food suitable for growth development or one that’s recommended for all ages.

A pup between 8 and 12 weeks old needs four meals in 24 hours. Puppies between 3 and 6 months old will benefit from 3 meals divided across the day.

What health problems do Norfolk Terriers have?

an injured Norfolk Terrier wearing a stripe neck pillow
Source: @s.yama.yy / IG

Mitral valve disease is a health condition that the Norfolk Terrier breeds are prone to and is the most common heart ailment.

Patellar luxation affects a dog’s knee joints and is the dislocation of a kneecap. From the age of 6 months, a vet can evaluate the patella bones for excessive movement.

The breed has recorded issues with hip dysplasia, and both of these orthopedic issues cause lameness and pain in the animal.

Cataracts can appear in middle age dogs and often leads to blindness. Glaucoma is another eye disease of concern in Norfolks. Eye diseases are typically inherited.

Vaccinations can cause side effects in Norfolk Terriers. The usual symptoms include hives, facial swelling, and lethargy.

They can experience seizures, which is often mistaken for epilepsy and requires medical attention.

Skin diseases in Norfolks can include ichthyosis. Symptoms include dark, dandruffy, smelly skin and tiny blisters on the ears or footpads. It does not affect the dog’s life span but will cause discomfort.

Norfolks can suffer from an incorrect bite, either overshooting or misaligning.

A physical exam performed by the vet can determine your dog’s cardiac strength. Using a stethoscope, the vet will monitor the heart and lungs of the animal.

Norfolk terriers have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, but the most common reason for death is heart failure in their golden years.

How much do Norfolk Terrier puppies cost?

a Norfolk Terrier looking to the right
Source: @sallymassonphotography / IG

A Norfolk Terrier puppy has a price range of $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the breeder’s location & popularity, the pup’s pedigree or lineage, and gender.

This breed has a litter size of 2 to 5 puppies, so the availability will affect the cost, too.

Rehoming Norfolk Terriers is a more affordable option averaging $300.

Alongside the cost of food, veterinary care, leash, collar, and toys, you may choose to go ahead with sterilization. These costs can reach upwards of $300 per year.

Pet stores are best avoided when buying a dog. They are not suitable environments for young dogs. A commercial or hobby breeder is a more sensible route.

Find one near you in your local club’s breeder list. Dogs bred in smaller numbers receive the correct treatment and care.

Finding Norfolk Terrier breeders

You can expect top breeders to have a waiting list. Few Norfolk Terriers are born and registered with the AKC in comparison to other popular breeds, so you can check out the AKC Marketplace.

Another option is the Norfolk Terrier Club’s kennel listing, so that you can contact breeders directly.

Norfolk Terrier dogs for adoption

For those who prefer to adopt an older dog or give another fur angel a chance to be loved, there are plenty of Norfolk Terriers and their crossbreeds out there.

You can check with your local shelter, but if they have no available Norfolks, you can reach out to the Norfolk Terrier Club, as well.

Outside the U.S., the Norfolk Terrier Club of Great Britain in England can also help you look for a terrier of your own.

Norfolk Terrier Chihuahua mix

close-up of a cute Norfolk Terrier Chihuahua
Source: @taniagail / IG

Want the Norfolk Terrier but also love Chihuahuas? We got you covered. Chis are smaller but have the same feistiness to Norfolks and are excellent companions, too.

So it’s no wonder that some breeders would make a crossbreed out of the two. However, one of the main issues is the genetic illnesses that they can pass on to their hybrid offspring.

Both breeds are prone to luxating patellas and heart defects. The inheritance of the Chihuahua’s hydrocephalus is also a concern.

A Norfolk Chihuahua mix is typically lighter, shorter, and has a shorter coat than a Norfolk Terrier.

Norfolk Terriers crossbreeds are not common and have the best results when done with other terrier breeds. A popular Norfolk terrier mix is the Norjack and Norkie.

The Norjack is a mix between the Norfolk Terrier and Jack Russel Terrier. The Norkie is a mix between the Norfolk Terrier and the Yorkshire Terrier

Who should get a Norfolk Terrier?

Two Norfolk Terriers wearing cute jackets while riding a stroller
Source: @multilayer / IG

Norfolk terriers are suitable for first-time dog owners, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to raise a challenging dog.

They need a large amount of interaction with people because they’re companions, as well.

These watchdogs are great at alerting homeowners of intruders, but their small size does not lend itself to being a good guard dog.

So let’s scratch that out of our checklist. It makes them excellent pets for apartment-dwellers, though.

Families with dogs will find the Norfolk Terrier is tolerable towards other pets. Although its instinct to kill rodents, birds and reptiles mean they should remain separate.

Many terriers are quick to react and are not a recommended breed for families with small children.

You should also keep in mind their tendency to hunt, chew, dig, and bark, especially if not trained, socialized, and got bored. There’s also the probability of getting overweight.

Nonetheless, Norfolk Terriers are prick-eared, energetic, and fearless. This courageous breed of dog is suitable as a household pet and has an interesting history as an earth dog.

Fewer and fewer Norfolks are being used for pest control but will happily do so when given a chance.

Do you have an adorable Norfolk at home? Share an exciting story about your pet with us. We would love to hear what your experience with this breed of dog has been.

Further reading: similar breeds to the Norfolk Terrier


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