Welsh Terrier

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Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Wales
AKC Group:Terrier Group
UKC Group:Terrier
Use today:Earthdog
Life Span:12 to 15 years
Color:Black and tan.
Coat:Harsh, dense wire outer coat, soft undercoat.
Grooming:Brush weekly. Clip three to four a year or hand strip.
Size:Small Dog Breed
Height:15 to 15.5 inches at the shoulder
Weight:20 pounds

"Let's get busy" is the rallying cry of this game but well-mannered terrier, whose temperament is described as friendly and smart, with a desire to please. That pleasing personality has long made the breed a favorite in its native country. In the 1700s, the breed was well established with several hunts in North Wales. The dogs of that era were higher on leg and thus able to keep up with the hounds. A true working terrier, the Welsh was bred to hunt badger, fox and otter as well as rats and other vermin. Physically tough and sturdy, males measure 15 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 20 pounds; females slightly less. The dog has a dense, hard and wiry waterproof outer coat over a soft, insulating undercoat. The head and legs are tan, and the jacket is black or black grizzle. Hand stripping is needed for the show ring, but pets are more often clipped. The Welsh is sensible, intelligent and quiet. Young dogs make good pets for children with similar traits, while older dogs are fine companions for senior citizens. The Welsh Terrier is happiest with its people. It enjoys daily exercise and is at home in city or country.

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The Versatile Welsh Terrier

By Bardi McLennan

 

Most of the terrier dog breeds need purposeful employment, and the Welsh Terrier is no exception. Terra, owned by Sue Weiss, a breeder and American Kennel Club judge from Cedarhurst, N.Y., is adept at lure coursing, herding sheep, tracking, upland and water retrieving and agility.

The Welsh Terrier takes itself seriously, which can be a lot of laughs for its owners. Caught with a paw in the cookie jar, the dog will react with a "the devil made me do it" look and dare you to think otherwise.

As a breed, the Welsh Terrier lacks humility. It will try your patience by pretending to understand what you are saying only if you can repeat it in Welsh, a pretense accompanied by a typical Welsh Terrier expression of innocence.

If you were to ask 10 Welsh Terrier owners what they like best about the breed, you would probably get 10 different answers because it's such a versatile dog. The Welsh Terrier's energetic personality invigorates and entertains its owners' needs and desires and is equally content to live in the city, suburbs or country, with or without kids or pets. The Welsh Terrier needs outdoor exercise, such as brisk walks or chasing toys, and mental exercise, such as obedience training.

The Welsh Terrier is easily trained to stay in a crate when running loose would invite trouble. Outdoors, this dog breed must be walked on a leash and needs a fenced yard or rectangular dog run for exercise when its owner isn't up to it.

Most of all, the Welsh Terrier needs people. It is best with children over age 6 who know how to behave around dogs. The Welsh Terrier is a relatively -- we're talking terriers here -- calm and quiet companion. But it is an excellent watchdog with an authoritative bark.

The Welsh Terrier was referred to in a Welsh poem written in 1450, describing it as "a good black and red terrier." Red was used in the same poem to describe the fox, and that is still the preferred shade of brown. Although the Welsh Terrier breed standard allows for lighter shades, the only shade in the show ring is that rich red-brown on head and legs. The dog is best described as brown and wearing a jet-black jacket with the collar turned up roguishly on its neck.

By a long and circuitous route, the Welsh Terrier that had been the scruffy farmer's aide and the poacher's pal was acknowledged by the Kennel Club in London in 1885, which officially designated it the Welsh Terrier. It had been known for centuries in Wales by the generic Welsh worddaeargi, which means simply terrier.

The first two Welsh Terriers came to the United States from Great Britain and were entered in the American Kennel Club stud registry. At that time, the breed was still only a few hairs away from the original unkempt, utilitarian farm dog and a long way from today's handsome, well-groomed specimens.

Take Their Work Seriously

Welsh Terriers function instinctively on three levels: sight, scent and sound. These set terriers apart from other dog breeds because any one of those senses can cause a distraction during training. This also means a Welsh Terrier will mentally stagnate if not employed.

The breed trains easily with praise, food rewards and patient good humor. A lapse in consistency -- allowing the dog to curl up on the couch one day and not the next -- is a primary cause of failure in all training. The Welsh Terrier mind will spot the chink in your armor and never forget it.
  
The Welsh Terrier is gaining a good reputation in AKC Earthdog trials and natural hunting. The Welsh Terrier enjoys tramping through fields and along streams, which is the type of work it's been bred for.

The breed is meant to chase vermin; it must be quick and able to work in fields for hours. Welsh Terriers need good angulation and muscle in the hindquarters, strong lungs and sturdy legs and feet. For digging, the Welsh Terrier needs a short forearm and good lay-back of shoulder to dig through rocks and roots and a flexible loin to wriggle down a 9-inch hole. The folded ear keeps out the dirt, and the docked tail is not easily grabbed by prey and makes a perfect "handle" for pulling the dog out of harm's way when needed.

Cathy Saito, a breeder in Metuchen, N.J., is a member of the New Jersey Beanfields Earthdog Club and hunts in nearby fields with Bear, Ch. Rubicon's Sugar Bear, SE, CG, CGC, Therapy Dog. The initials stand for Senior Earthdog, Certificate of Gameness, Canine Good Citizen. "It's wonderful to see Welsh Terriers come alive," Saito says. "All their natural working terrier instincts take over as soon as they realize this is not just another walk, it's a hunt. Welsh Terriers are quiet workers and hunt well in the field with other terriers."

Although few Welsh Terriers show up in shelters, the Welsh Terrier Club of America Rescue has a national network of people who find and care for dogs until new homes are found. "Most of the Welsh Terriers up for adoption are re-homed rather than actually rescued," says Carolyn Morris of Atlanta. Usually the owner gives up the dog for personal reasons, such as divorce, a move or illness.

Welsh Terriers going to a second home have an advantage over many other dog breeds because they are generally not one-person dogs. They adapt almost overnight to their new people and environment. Occasionally a dog will seem to settle in for a week or so and then show signs of being homesick, but a good workout with a new toy or a long, interesting walk with the new owner quickly dispels the problem, and the Welsh Terrier is once again a contented companion.

Debi Jamison and Steve Patt of Cupertino, Calif., fostered Cosmo for four months when his adoptive family moved to Australia. The dog went happily through foster care and quarantine and has made a perfect adjustment to living Down Under, Jamison says.

Brenda Waddoups of Dallas brought a rescue Welsh Terrier into her home, where an Airedale Terrier, Dandy, and a Welsh Terrier already lived. After an energetic run one morning, the three dogs came barreling toward her and she yelled, "Dandy, sit!" All three screeched to a halt. She added a "Stay while I get treats."

"I walked out of sight, got the treats and returned to the living room," Waddoups says. "To my astonishment, all three were exactly where I had left them. I had expected the Airedale Terrier to comply, hope my Welsh Terrier would but never dreamed that the little Welsh Terrier male in our home less than 24 hours would."

Pups are born almost completely black, usually with brown only on the paws and eyebrows. Sometimes a puppy looks as if it had put its nose in the sugar bowl, but those white specks quickly fade. The black puppy coat recedes, replaced by brown in the right places by the time the pups are about 4 or 5 months old. The first puppy coat may be fuzzy or flat.

Grooming the Welsh Terrier is something every dog owner should understand before getting the dog. The gorgeous, expertly trimmed dog in the show ring is not necessarily what you'll see when you glance at the dog lying at your feet.

The Welsh Terrier has a double coat: a soft, insulating undercoat, which may be lighter in color than the top coat, and the outer coat, which is the one you see and is harsh, wiry, thick and waterproof. This double coat protects the dog from nettles, burrs, rain, snow, the bites of rats (as well as gophers and woodchucks), and similar hazards of the dog's natural workplace.

If you enjoy working with your hands -- for hours -- and can master the art of hand stripping, then you, too, can have a round-the-clock show dog. But for most pet owners, grooming means a weekly routine of thorough brushing and combing, teeth brushing and ear wiping. Nails need to be checked every week but clipped only every two to three weeks. Then a trip to the groomer for a professional trim four times a year will keep a Welsh Terrier looking and feeling fine.

Welsh Terriers do not shed much, so if you brush weekly to remove dead hair, you won't find any on the couch or your clothes. Also, a Welsh Terrier can live its entire life of 14 or more years having had only a couple of baths. Frequent shampooing is not beneficial because it alters the texture of the coat, softening the wiry layer and reducing its water repellency. If you feel the need to bathe a Welsh Terrier, a shampoo four times a year at the groomer won't hurt.

Of course, we're dealing with Welsh Terriers, so having said all that, the fact is most of them love water. They will paddle in puddles; run along a river's edge looking for muskrats, frogs or otters; chase waves back into the ocean; and dive fearlessly into backyard pools.

Ardent sailors, John and Patty Boyd of Newcastle, Calif., never go to sea without their Welsh Terrier in his life jacket. "He's so much a part of our seafaring family, his registered name is Cisseldale Harri Mordwywr -- 'Harry the Sailor' in Welsh," John Boyd says.

A rescued dog named Rudy has a passion for water to which his owner, Russ Bain of Trumbull, Conn., can attest. They were vacationing along the Maine coast and after a nice romp in the park, Bain took Rudy down to the water. There was no beach, and as they stood on the rocks to 6-foot waves crashing at their feet, Rudy plunged in. "Fortunately," Bain says, "I had a good, firm grip on his leash so he wasn't swept out to sea, but, unfortunately, he dragged me into the surf with him." Bain managed to grab onto some rocks and, soaking wet and with bleeding scrapes on his hands and legs, got two of them out of the ocean. As for Rudy? "He just looked happy with himself," Bain says.

 

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