Terriers are those dogs that were developed for the purpose of vermin control. Their general size is tidy enough to fit into a burrow, though their coat is never tidy enough to enter the show ring (without a little help from you). Whether England is infested with more rodents than any other land is not expressly known, but she is populated by the most terriers, which might lead one to believe that few rodents could survive there. Many terrier breeds today come to us from various English counties: Airedale, Bedlington, Norwich, Manchester, Lakeland, Sealyham, West Highland, etc. Ireland and Scotland also have produced their own terrier breeds, as have most countries. In the United States and England, however, every recognized terrier breed comes from English-speaking nations. Some of the rare breeds derive from other countries, such as Germany, Holland, Czechoslovakia, and Brazil, but these dogs have little if any following in the States.
The character of the terrier, usually detectable in the alertness of the dog’s eyes, is keen, spirited, courageous and game. These feisty dogs make dependable and adaptable pets. Most wirehaired dogs need to be hand-stripped for the show ring, though a show terrier’s coat doesn’t require as much fussing as do some other breeds’. That is not to suggest that hand-stripping a dog the size of an Airedale Terrier is not a task and a half. The conformation of the group varies considerably. The smaller terriers have narrow skulls, erect ears and square jaws. Dogs with a bull-and-terrier background are also counted among this group. These dogs are larger boned and more massive, revealing their mastiff blood.
Terrier trial at kennel club-sanctioned exhibitions to test the show dog’s possession of instincts and related abilities are becoming increasingly popular. Terriers are the only breeds that are sparred in the show ring—a means by which a judge can determine the gameness of the dog (whether or not he backs down from a fellow dog). Some terrier breeds are more yappy and “talkative” than other; as a general rule, most terriers have a lot to say and insist that their masters hear it.