Terriers originated on the British Isles and were a product of man’s evolving needs. Compared to hounds, terriers are a relatively new type of dog. The original purpose of almost all of the early terriers was to control pests such as vermin and foxes. Specimens with high prey drives and tenacity were favored by those that used them for work. The term ‘terrier’ is derived from the Latin ‘terra’ which means ground – this is a reference to the work of the terrier, which would ‘go to ground’ chasing its quarry.
Some of the most popular terriers around the world today include the Border Terrier, West Highland White Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier. Nowadays, there are many breeds that are considered to be terriers, but that are not part of the original terrier group. For example, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which has a common ancestry with many terriers, is descended from terriers and bull breeds. Bull Terriers were created when fighting dogs and terriers were crossed in order to give the larger bull breeds more courage and gameness. Since then, the breeds have developed into popular pets as well.
Terriers as we know them today are descended from European hunting breeds. The terrier type became established during the early 1800s, around which time there were two types of terrier. One with long legs and one with short legs.
Terriers are typified by their formidable courage and gameness. They are born with latent desires to chase prey and to tackle it. In the domestic environment, this instinct translates into playfulness, cheekiness and on occasion raises the need for a firm and dedicated trainer.
The terrier was basically developed to be a digger. In order for them to do their job effectively and efficiently, there are slight variations in their bone structure.
The terrier front assembly has slightly different proportions than that of a dog bred for running like an Afghan. The basic structure remains the same. To many people, this means that the terrier should have an upright shoulder and a stilted gait. This idea may have come from the phrase “straight terrier front.” This does not mean that the dog has an upright shoulder but instead the dog has a shorter upper arm in relation to the shoulder blade. This allows for more leverage giving the terrier stronger digging power. The shoulder blade remains well laid back at a forty-five degree angle.
Terriers are broken down into two groups, long legged and short legged. Long legged terriers have straight front legs with feet that point forward. This is because long legged terriers push the dirt underneath their body and between their back legs. Short legged terriers, because of their short stature, cannot push the dirt underneath themselves or between their back legs. Therefore, they push the dirt to the side. In order to do this, their front feet should turn out slightly. A short legged terrier’s legs also differ in regards to the straightness of their legs. Although we style the front legs to appear straight for showing purposes, their legs are not perfectly straight. Also, unlike the long legged terriers, their elbows are not close to their body. This does that mean that they are out at the elbow, but it just means it is not snug to the body. The bodies on most short legged terriers are well sprung at the ribs but have a slight flat appearance. This simply means that the ribs taper inward after the widest part of their ribs and approximately where the elbows fall making the space between the elbow and the body. This confirmation allows room for proper movement when digging.
Now to turn this into a grooming lesson. Even though short legged terriers' feet should turn out, for presentation purposes, we trim them to appear they are facing forward. Make sure that the elbows are trimmed tight and there the space between the leg and the body is divided. The short legged terrier rears vary from a "curtain" of furnishings with the rear angulation exposed, to fullness in the rear in the Scottish Terrier. (See photo gallery)
For long legged terriers, the front legs should have parallel lines, also with tight elbows. Excess hair on the elbow is not very attractive. Since long legged terriers should be wider in the rear to allow the dirt to be pushed between their rear legs, the hair on the inside of the rear legs is significantly shorter than the hair on the outside of the rear legs. (See photo gallery)
To get the full look of leg furnishings, they must be worked frequently. For some breeds, weekly trimming is acceptable. Wire Fox Terriers tend to need more frequently. To trim furnishings, Bathe and dry the legs. Use a pin brush or a palm pad to brush, making the coat stand out from the legs. DO NOT use a force dryer to dry. It will blow the undercoat out that you want for that fullness and can also break the coat. Comb the hair straight out from the leg and pluck any hair that sticks out past your ideal line. Remember to pluck in the direction you want the new hair to grow. For those harsh coated terriers with very coarse texture, you will want to deep condition the hair to help prevent breakage.