The Lakeland Terrier is a small to mid-sized terrier breed, that derives its name from its home of origin, the Lake District, a mountainous region in North West England. Dating to the 1700's the Lakeland Terrier is one of the oldest of the modern Terrier breeds and is believed to be a descendant of the old English Black and Tan and Fell Terriers. A dedicated early ratter and vermin eradicator, the job of this tenacious little breed was to go to ground (enter the preys burrow) in order to dispatch them. The breeds small size, and aggressive personality made it the go to dog for hunting in hard to reach places.
The Terrier breeds have a long and noble history, complete with legends of gallantry and conquest. These dogs were brave little warriors with reputations for being fearless and supreme hunters. Bred as early as the 1700’s, the Lakeland Terrier is one of the oldest breeds of the Terrier type still in existence today. First developed in England and Ireland, the Terrier type was bred to guard farms and homes from vermin and to hunt fierce prey such as fox, otter, and badger. These animals are burrowing creatures, and Terriers were taught to follow them into their underground dens, and to then kill and retrieve the prey. Terriers were bred to withstand vicious attacks by such creatures and to be relentless in their pursuit of them.
Terriers were bred and developed throughout England and Ireland in past centuries, however each area and county would overtime, develop their own unique breeds of the dog. The Lakeland Terrier was bred and perfected in the harsh and mountainous terrain of the Lake District in Cumberland County, Northern England. The Lakeland Terrier would be named for this area of England once official breed names were given. However, the breed has also been known throughout history as the Cumberland Terrier, the Westmoreland Terrier, the Colored Working Terrier, and most often as the Patterdale Terrier.
While the Lakeland Terrier is thought to have descended from several earlier Terrier breeds, its specific origins are questionable as the breed was established centuries before the advent of official stud books and kennel clubs. Some breeds that have been suggested for the Lakeland Terrier’s lineage include: the Old English Black and Tan Terrier (now extinct), Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Border Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Wire-haired Fox Terrier, and the Fell Terrier. Regardless of what breeding combinations produced the original Lakeland Terrier, the modern breed of Lakeland most closely resembles the Airedale Terrier, but in miniature form.
Originally, the Lakeland Terrier was used by farmers to hunt, alongside larger hound breeds in the pursuit of the fox and badgers of the Lake District that commonly terrorized livestock and often killed sheep in their pens. The use of Hounds and Terriers together to control these invaders was a necessity for the farmers as opposed to a gentlemanly pursuit for pleasure. Being such, the dogs that the farmers took along with them on the hunt had to be tough, strong, and above all things, they had to be fearless. Most often the hounds would be used to locate the prey and force it to ground (into its burrow). After which the early hunting Terrier would be loosed and required to enter its underground den and either kill it or carry on the fight long enough for the farmers to dig it out. Such effective little hunters they were, that rarely would a hunting party or a pack of Foxhounds be without a Lakeland Terrier or two among them.
The Lakeland Terrier breed has long been known for its endurance and bravery, showing no hesitation when following its often formidable and always aggressive prey into a dark underground den. Not only is the breed fearless, but it is also a tenacious and dedicated hunting terrier that refuses to give up. There are even tales of Lakeland Terriers emerging alive after remaining submerged underground for 10-12 days hunting prey within a burrow. Another story is told that during the early 19th century, a Lakeland Terrier belonging to Lord Lonsdale burrowed 23 feet under solid rock in ‘dogged’ pursuit of an otter. It would take a team of men three days, performing blasting operations into the rock to rescue the little Terrier. Other Lakeland Terriers; however, were not so lucky, paying the ultimate price for their bravery; their bodies either never being recovered or only after extensive searches and excavation was performed.
Exceptionally useful little dogs, Lakeland Terriers were of great value to their owners. As such, Lakeland Terrier puppies were often given as gifts or exchanged between friends, farms, and hunters; the best pups being kept in order to further their owner’s breeding efforts and for work hunting in the fields of their owner’s farm. All Terriers were traded in this way, however white Lakeland Terriers were viewed as exceptionally valuable. Otter hunters found the light color of the coat desirable as it protected the dog from being mistaken for prey and injured or killed by overly zealous Hounds.
The 1890’s, brought about the advent specialized agricultural shows called ‘meets’ in the Lake District of England. It became common place for the farmers and hunters of the area to bring their dogs with them in order to compare them with the dogs of other farms. One category in which these Terriers were judged was “the likeliest-looking terrier” suitable for fox or otter. During this time, Terrier colors ranged from grizzle to blue and tan, red, or wheaten, with a sprinkling of white terriers. Regardless of color, all Terrier breeds were judged together at this time. Eventually, however the dogs would be split into different classes and groups based on their coat color. The classes were white working Terriers and colored working Terriers.
It was also during this time that each county had specific breeds of Terriers that it claimed as its own; the dogs being therefore named for these counties at this time. This was a humble dog show beginning for England’s Terrier breeds. The dog show would grow tremendously in popularity. At the Kersurch Dog Show, held in 1912, a Terrier breed club was formed. The club’s intent was to recognize and promote the Cumberland County Terriers. This is the county where the Lakeland Terrier was originally developed. This club made some progress in promoting and developing the breed until the onset of World War I (WWI). During the war, the breed club was disbanded.
After the war, in 1921, nine breed fanciers set out to continue the initial progress made by the first Terrier breed club. These nine met in Whitehave, in Cumberland County, and decided on calling the breed the “Lakeland Terrier” after its homeland. They reestablished the club, and wrote an official breed standard for the Lakeland Terrier type. Shortly after this was accomplished, the Lakeland Terrier was accepted into the Kennel Club’s (KC) stud book. The Lakeland Terrier was officially recognized as a unique and separate breed by the KC in 1928, making its first appearance at the Crufts Dog Show later that year.
The Lakeland Terrier Club, in the 1930’s, began a concentrated effort to introduce the Lakeland Terrier breed to the public. Shows for the Lakeland Terrier breed were sanctioned and organized by the club in an effort to further promote the breed. Also in the 1930’s, the Lakeland Terrier would make its first appearance in America. Thomas Hosking, one of the nine breed fanciers responsible for reestablishing the Lakeland Terrier in England after WW I, immigrated to America along with his Lakeland Terrier and his passion for the breed. By 1934, the Lakeland Terrier had been accepted for registration by the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) studbook. “Eaton What a Load of Howtown” was the first Lakeland Terrier to be registered with the AKC. The AKC’s parent club to the breed, the United States Lakeland Terrier Club (USLTC) was later formed in 1954.
The Lakeland Terrier breed would go on to have a successful show career in both England and America. In 1967, a Lakeland Terrier called “Stingray of Derrybach” won Best-in-Show at England’s Crufts dog show, and won Best-in-Show at America’s Westminster dog show the next year. Stingray of Derrybach is the only dog to have won this “double crown” of the dog show world. The Lakeland Terrier has proven to be a very successful showing breed, as members of the breed have won all major shows and awards throughout the world. The 1970’s would see further success for the Lakeland Terrier in the dog show arena. “Special Edition” would win dozens of Best-in-Show titles. Another Lakeland Terrier called “Ho-Ni’s Red Baron of Crofton” won 73 Best-in-Shows. In the 1990’s, a Lakeland Terrier co-owned by comedian Bill Cosby, called “Reverly’s Awesome Blossom” won more than 100 Best-in-Show titles, making her one of the top winning show dogs of all time.
Despite all the breeds’ past successes in the show arena, the Lakeland Terrier is not necessarily “popular” in America by today’s standards. In 2010, the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds places the Lakeland Terrier in just 137th place out of 167 breeds.
A small dog, the Lakeland Terrier stands just 14½ inches at the withers and weighs roughly 17 lbs. Of a square build, the Lakeland Terrier should appear to be balanced and proportionate. The breed is workmanlike and compact, small enough to carry under the arm but sturdy enough to fight vicious prey to the death if need be. The Lakeland Terrier displays boldness and self-confidence in his appearance.
The Skull of the Lakeland Terrier is flat, somewhat broad, and well refined. The cheeks are smooth and flat; the stop barely detectable. The small, oval eyes are often dark or hazel in color, and set well apart. The dog’s expression changes with its mood. The muzzle is moderately long and broad; the bridge of the nose is strong. The nose is black; a lighter colored nose is an exception only in liver-colored dogs. The jaws are strong and powerful, possessing large teeth. The bite should be scissor, level, or edge to edge. Moderately placed on the skull, the V-shaped ears are small and alert.
Like the head, the neck is refined. It is strong and clean, slightly arched and leading smoothly into well laid back shoulders that give way to straight forelegs. The level topline is short. The chest is narrow and deep; it extends to the elbows of the front legs. The Lakeland Terrier’s back is solidly built and gives way to a powerful hindquarter, with well-muscled thighs and angulated legs. The feet of the Lakeland Terrier are round and forward pointing, with thick pads that may be colored black, dark gray, or brown depending on the dog’s coat color. The toes are close together and strong. The Lakeland Terriers tail is high set on the back and is traditionally docked. It does not curl and is not carried over the back, but is slightly curved and held upright.
The Lakeland Terrier possesses a double coat that is moderately short overall. The undercoat is soft and lies close to the skin. The outer-coat is wiry and harsh; giving the breed a weather-resistant quality to its coat. For the show arena, the coat has specific guidelines as to how it should appear, but overall the coat may be wavy or straight, with the length of the hair varying on different parts of the body. All colors of coat are acceptable as the Lakeland Terrier has always displayed a wide variety in its coloring. The solid colors found in the Lakeland Terrier breed are Black, wheaten, red, liver, and blue. Another variety of coloring found in the Lakeland Terrier is called “saddle-marked”; which is when a wheaten or tan colored dog has a darker marking that covers the back of the neck, back, sides, and tail.
Fearless, but with a loving heart, the Lakeland Terrier is true to the Terrier nature. The breed is tough, tenacious, disciplined, and brave in its work; but also loving and good natured in its home life. Bred for “gameness” and to be fierce hunters, the Lakeland Terrier will not back down from a fight whether the opponent is larger than it or not. With other dogs, the Lakeland Terrier is generally pleasant and well-behaved; not often starting a fight, but the breed will be unlikely to back down once challenged. The owner of a Lakeland Terrier should be conscious of two things with this breed based on its background: first that the dog is a digger, and second that if something runs the Lakeland Terrier is likely to pursue it. Because of these facts, the Lakeland Terrier requires adequate amounts of exercise to keep it entertained.
The Lakeland Terrier should always be kept on a leash when being walked so it does not run off after other animals. When playing outside, the Lakeland Terrier should always be kept in an enclosed or fenced area. When in pursuit of its perceived “prey” the Lakeland Terrier may become so focused that it will not respond to being called back by its owner. Smaller creatures that run from the Lakeland Terrier will be aggressively pursued, and may meet a sad end as it is the dog’s nature to kill its prey once it is caught.
A high energy dog, the Lakeland Terrier is also known to possess great stamina. Bred early on to hunt for days and run long distances, the Lakeland Terrier displays incredible endurance. Because of the difficult terrain found in Cumberland County, the Lakeland Terrier was taught to pursue its prey on foot and traverse long distances in order to track its game. Once it had caught its prey, the Lakeland Terrier than had to find the energy and strength to fight the animal to the death. Even though modern Lakeland Terriers are mostly removed from this hunting lifestyle, the breeding created in the dog a need for excessive amounts of exercise. Owners that commit to an active lifestyle will suit the Lakeland Terrier well. The breed enjoys being outdoors; walks, hikes, trips to the park, running, and chasing balls are all activities that the Lakeland Terrier will be a happy participant in.
The Lakeland Terrier is reserved with strangers, but rarely aggressive toward them. The breed displays a bit of an attitude at times, as they are independent in their thought and intelligent. Stanley Coren, in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, published in 1994 describes the Lakeland Terrier as being of “Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence”. This means that the Lakeland Terrier will learn new commands within 40 to 80 repetitions and will obey first commands 30% of the time or more. With that being the case, the Lakeland Terrier can be a fairly quick learner and easy to train.
The type of hunting the Lakeland Terrier was trained for required it to be and independent thinker and to spend time working alone, therefore when the breeds’ instincts kick in, the dog can become stubborn and strong willed, thinking it knows what is best. Mental and physical stimulation is very important for the Lakeland Terrier breed so the dog does not become bored and destructive. The Lakeland Terrier does quite well with basic obedience exercises; however the Lakeland will continue to thrive if allowed to participate in advanced obedience and agility work. The dog is a quick learner but will operate in its own time. Patience is therefore necessary when training a Lakeland Terrier. Training sessions should be short and should include diverse and interesting activities to keep the dog engaged and challenged.
The training of any Terrier breed should always include positive reinforcement and praise. The Lakeland Terrier will not take well to harsh treatment or inconsistent training. Strong leadership from their owner is vital for the Lakeland Terrier to develop successfully. The breed understands the concept of fairness and will willingly respond to correction if it is given in a fair and genuinely positive manner. Because the breed can be stubborn and requires a great deal of patience during training, the Lakeland Terrier is not recommended for a first time dog owner. The breed has a slight tendency toward stubbornness or dominance when not properly led by its owner.
Like other Terrier breeds, the Lakeland Terrier can be difficult to housetrain. The breed may also guard its toys and food excessively and they are known to bark. Therefore, clear and precise training is necessary and will help the Lakeland Terrier understand its boundaries and what acceptable behavior is, and what it is not. Although its size may seem well suited to an apartment dweller, the Lakeland Terrier is far from the ideal housemate in a small to moderately sized apartment or condo. They require ample amounts of energy and if not properly stimulated, the dog may bark to the point of becoming a nuisance to neighbors living close by.
Early socialization is important to the breed so it does not develop undesirable behavior such as shyness and aggression. A dog that does not understand its place in the world may become nervous and display these inappropriate personality traits. With proper training and exposure to new people, places, and things the Lakeland Terrier will grow to be a well adjust and devoted member of the family. Lakeland Terriers do quite well with children that understand their boundaries. Care and supervision should be used when the dog is interacting with young children, especially toddlers. The Lakeland Terrier is small in stature and will do very well with equally sized or larger dogs and with cats. Smaller pets and animals will be seen as prey by the Lakeland Terrier and caution should be exercised in a household that includes pets such as rabbits and hamsters.
When the Lakeland Terrier is trained correctly and knows its place and boundaries, the dog will be well-adjusted and can be an ideal family companion. The breed is devoted and loyal; displays boundless energy and enthusiasm, and is curious and alert; ready to participate in family activities and eager for play time. The breed is small, but it is hearty. They will provide hours of fun for children; and entertainment and companionship for all members of the family.
The Lakeland Terrier possesses a shorter coat and requires little in the way of regular grooming. The dog should be brushed two to three times a week. Staining can occur in the hair growing around the dog’s mouth, and therefore the beard should be wiped after meals to prevent such staining from occurring. As the coat is made of wiry hair and not fur, the Lakeland Terrier will need to be plucked or stripped about twice a year. This is a simple grooming procedure that can be easily performed at home by the owner. The dead loose hairs should be grasped firmly in the hand and pulled from the body of the dog. This process does not cause the dog discomfort, so there is no worry there. The hair in the ears and between the pads of the feet can grow long and should be trimmed when this occurs. For the show arena, some clipping of the Lakeland Terrier’s coat may be performed to ensure an adequate shape when viewed in profile.
For the show arena, the breed standard is that the hair on the following body parts be trimmed short and be smooth in appearance: the head, ears, chest, shoulders and the back of the tail. The hair on the body should be left slightly longer than the hair on these parts. Hair on the foreface and legs should be abundant but tidy. The face should be trimmed so the hair over the eyes is longer and covers the eyes. This gives the face the appearance of rectangular shape.
As with all dog breeds, the Lakeland Terrier should have its nails trimmed regularly and proper attention and care should be taken in cleaning and grooming the eyes, ears, and teeth of the Lakeland Terrier to detect and prevent any health concerns that could arise in these areas.
Although a purebred dog, the Lakeland Terrier breed displays few serious hereditary health issues. Living on average 10 to 12 years, there are reports of Lakeland Terriers living to the ripe old age of 16. Even thought the Lakeland Terrier is a generally healthy and strong breed, it is not however, exempt from all health concerns. One condition that is documented for the Lakeland Terrier breed is Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. It is a condition concerning the hip joint, in which an abnormality or deformity of the hip joint occurs. There is treatment for the condition.
Other health issues that are seen in the Lakeland Terrier breed include, but are not limited to the following: