Let’s not beat around the bush – Patterdale terriers are high energy and feisty little terriers that are not for the faint-hearted or the first time dog owner! But with the right owner, these dogs are extremely lovely and loyal. Today we are going to take a look at details on the breed and explore what it takes to be a good owner of the Patterdale.
Origins and Breeding
The Patterdale was bred in Patterdale – a small village in the Lake District, Cumbria – in the hills and valleys of Northern England. They were bred originally for hunting foxes and badgers and this is why they have a strong prey drive.
You may sometimes hear someone call their terrier a ‘Nuttall’ Patterdale and they are trying to say that it is a purebred. This means that they are associating their terrier with the original Patterdale breed – they were bred back in the 1960s by a man called Brian Nuttall. In reality, there is no such thing as a ‘purebred’ Patterdale and you will often find variation.
Many people refer to this dog as more of a type than a breed. There is an ongoing debate amongst owners and breeders around this topic. Some even argue that it wasn’t Brian Nuttall who coined the breed but someone else prior.
Patterdales are most popular in the UK of course, but they are increasing in popularity in the US and now some parts of Europe.
Patterdale Terrier – Appearance and Characteristics
These are small terrier sized dogs that will usually weigh approximately 5-8kg and are roughly 10-15 inches tall. There will be a great deal of variation in the appearance of Patterdales because they are not registered Kennel Club breed with specific recommended dimensions. Many are crossbred with other fell terriers.
The coat of a Patterdale Terrier is most often smooth and black, but there are many variations. Brown Patterdales and also black and tan are quite popular. Some are referred to as ‘Red Patterdale Terriers’ which are the rarer reddy-brown colour that often has a red nose.
You can get variation in a Patterdale coat type as well as in colour. The main coat types are smooth and rough. The rough-haired Patterdales sometimes look like they have a moustache on their muzzle.
From a Breeder or Rescue?
If you are looking for a breeder of Patterdales make sure that they know what they are doing and are a registered breeder. You won’t get Kennel Club paperwork with a Patterdale of course, but you do want to make sure that the breeder genuinely has the dogs interests at heart and are not just doing it for the money. When you look at the puppies look for bright eyes, enthusiastic movement and clean bedding and environment.
One of the problems with Patterdales being so high energy and intelligent is that many people get a Patterdale without realising the demands and requirements of owning a dog of this breed. Many Patts, unfortunately, end up in kennels and rescue centres because they were bought for looking ‘cute’ but the owner couldn’t handle the breed. This is why we love to recommend rescuing if possible. You can look at rescuing from places such as the RSPCA and Dogs Trust in England. There is also a Patterdale specific rescue centre in Surrey. If you adopt a rescue Patterdale it will take at least 3 months for your new dog to settle.
As they were bred for hunting, it’s no surprise that they are excitable, high energy dogs with a strong prey drive. This could mean that you might never be able to let your dog off lead, for example, if they attack rabbits, squirrels or smaller dogs and cats. However, some Patterdales are trainable and can cope with this.
It’s a similar story with Patterdales living with cats – some simply won’t tolerate them at all but some who are introduced as puppy and kitten are absolutely fine.
Patterdales who have been socialised with children and other dogs from a young age and who are trained well make excellent family pets. They are extremely loving and loyal. Don’t expect your Patterdale to stay in his or her own bed – they are likely to want to be sitting next to you or on your lap for cuddles in the evening in front of the TV!
Most Patterdales are swimmers although some will love swimming and others will prefer not to. This often depends on the dogs’ individual personality.
Overall, if you want a dog breed to compare it to, Patterdales are very similar in nature to Jagdterriers and Jack Russell terriers.
Patterdales are very stubborn to train especially when it comes to their prey drive or reactive dog training. A Patterdale will, therefore, need a firm hand and an assertive owner/trainer. Train your Patterdale to be comfortable around other dogs and people from a young age so that he is comfortable with them, otherwise, this can later manifest itself as aggressive behaviour.
It is a good idea to crate and muzzle train your Patterdale if you intend to travel with him and also this will prepare him for vets visits too, and make him or her more comfortable in such situations.
One thing to note is that Patterdales are very intelligent dogs. The best dog owners embrace that intelligence and entertain them with learning new tricks, sniffing games and do puzzles. They are very food motivated breed and will always aim to please. This makes them fantastic dogs for learning party tricks!
Patterdales are also very good at small dog agility – this gives them both exercise and mental stimulation.
One thing is for sure, your Patterdale will need an insane amount of exercise! We’re not just talking about one or two 20 minute street walks a day, these sturdy little dogs can go for miles! The ideal Patterdale terrier owner would live in a countryside setting with a big garden or lots of land and be available to do a long walk in the morning and in the evening. Also, 2-3 hour hikes on the weekend with your Patterdale would go down a treat. Why not take your Patterdale to Patterdale?!?!
Remember that even if your Patterdale is well trained in the recall, you might want to avoid letting him or her off-leash in areas where there is an abundance of rabbit holes or squirrels. Patterdales are not supposed to be going down rabbit holes as they can get stuck under there and potentially die especially if the earth collapses.
Because Patterdales are a mixture of terriers rather than a ‘pure breed’ this means that their common health problems are kept to a minimum. They have a high life expectancy and I have known many Patterdales to live beyond 15 years of age which is excellent for a small dog. Some of them are prone to histiocytomas (non-cancerous growths) and knee problems, but on the whole, they are very healthy dogs.
Working Patterdale terrier often has their tail docked to avoid tail injury. Remember that fox hunting and badger baiting is now banned in England and so most English Patterdale terriers are used for ‘bushing’ or ‘ratting’ on farms. If they are docked in England this must be done by a vet before they are 5 days old. There are different rules and regulations for tail docking of dogs in different countries and so remember to check according to where you live.
Regarding health, remember to always keep up to date with a flea and tick treatment as a prevention rather than as a cure. This is especially important for Patterdales because they love to run through long grass and through bushes, which is where they are highly likely to pick up fleas or ticks especially in the summer.
Also, remember to keep up to date with their vaccinations to ensure that they are protected from numerous horrid canine diseases such as parvovirus. You should also consider spaying or neutering your dog to avoid unnecessary health complications or unwanted puppies. This goes for owning any dog.
Regarding grooming, they are extremely low maintenance in that respect, especially the smooth-haired Patterdales. We brush ours with a wire-haired brush every couple of weeks and bath maybe every 6 months or when needed and this is plenty.
Toys for Patterdales
Most Patterdales love rough plan and toys that they can attack! ‘Raggas’ are brilliant for tug-o-war with your Patterdale. They also love furry animal replicas that they can fetch and shake such as plush rats and ducks. Flirt poles work well for Patterdales as it satisfies their chasing instinct. Some Patterdales love to play ball, but others do not, so you will need to figure out what your dog likes best by trying different things.
Crossbreeds in Patterdales are popular – sometimes they happen naturally but sometimes they are bred that way on purpose. For example, a Patterpoo is a cross between a Patterdale and a Poodle and many people look for this type of dog for the apparent ‘hypoallergenic fur’ that can be an outcome. Pocket Pitbulls are American Pitbull Terriers crossed with Patterdales to get a more petite sized Pitbull and these are becoming increasingly popular in the US. There are many other crossbreeds such as a ‘Patterjack’ (Patterdal and Jack Russell) and a ‘Patterbea’ (Patterdale cross Beagle).
What makes a Good Patterdale owner?
Overall, there are several things that make an owner or family perfect for a Patterdale….
- Countryside setting
- Outdoorsy and loves to hike.
- Working from home or has someone in the family at home most of the day (they are prone to separation anxiety).
- The experienced dog owner (Patterdales are not dogs for first-timers!)
- Training minded household – can play games, teach tricks and train on walks and for socialisation.
- Budget available – they cost money in food, toys, training and vets bills and so you need to have disposable income.
- Someone who can be assertive and show themselves as a leader.
The countryside is the most suitable environment for a Patterdale, but an urban setting with a garden and someone with a car to drive to nice walks would still be ok in our experience.
Is a Patterdale for you? Pros and Cons list
- Very trainable
- High energy which is great for hikers and outdoorsy people
- Few health issues
- Long life expectancy
- Loyal and loving companion dogs
- Small size is good for travelling and lap cuddles!
- Low maintenance grooming
- Strong prey drive
- VERY excitable which can scare young children!
- Prone to separation anxiety
- Need a firm hand in training – an owner with authority
- Can become reactive or aggressive if not trained and socialised early on
- Can be dominant with other dogs.
- May not be a good fit if there are pet cats or rodents already at home
- Need space to run but may not always be able to go off lead
So what do you think? Is a Patterdale terrier the dog for you? If you own a Patterdale or are interested in getting one, I’d love to hear your comments in this blog.
Bio – Amy Green
Amy is author and editor for www.patterdaleterriers.co.uk and owner of rescue Patterdale terrier Blake. She also has previous experience owning several Jack Russell terriers and is enthusiastic about dog adoption and rescue. If you are interested in finding out more about the breed then you might like to follow her on Twitter @PatTerriers.