Breed of the Week: The Bedlington Terrier (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Bedlington Terrier

Breed of the Week: The Bedlington Terrier (Video)


Before you go any further in this post, take a look here. You really have to see these dogs to believe them! They look just like cuddly, soft lambs. Don’t let the appearance fool you, though; the original purpose of the Bedlington terrier was to track down and kill vermin. That’s on the lawful side of the equation. On the not-so-lawful side, the Bedlington was also often used by poachers. Today, of course, he’s more likely to be seen in a show ring, or just hanging out with his family.


The Bedlington Terrier originated on the northern borders of England, and no one really knows this breed’s actual origin. One theory holds that he was so good at poaching game for his Rom (gypsy) owners, that locals took note of the dog’s ability and began to acquire Bedlingtons for themselves.

One notable owner was Lord Rothbury, who was a Northumbrian border lord. For quite some time, therefore, these dogs were known as Rothbury Terriers. Eventually, though, the name “Bedlington Terrier” was more commonly used. The first dog to be officially termed a Bedlington Terrier was Ainsey’s Piper, in 1825. He was owned by Joseph Ainsley, who was a resident of Bedlington.

It is believed that, at some point, the breed as it was known was crossed with Whippets in order to improve the breed’s agility and speed. Given the Bedlington’s resemblance to the Kerry Blue and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, it’s possible that these breeds are also part of the ancestry of the dog that today, we know as the Bedlington Terrier.

The interesting thing about Bedlingtons is that they’ve always been “dogs for everyone.” When you go back into the history of many breeds, you’ll find that they wouldn’t have amounted to much had it not been for royalty that saw something desirable in the dog and decided, having time and money on their hands, to begin a breeding program. The Bedlingtons are a bit of an anomaly in that they were favored both by the nobility (members of which typically had a great deal of money) and the Roma (who often barely had a pot to p—- um, I mean cook in).

The first Bedlington Terrier club was formed in 1877 in England. In 1886, the breed was recognized by the AKC. Today, you probably wouldn’t consider the Bedlington to be an overly popular dog, since he ranks comparatively low on the AKC breed list – 128th in popularity nationwide. His popularity is increasing, though, and you can probably expect to see many more Bedlingtons in the show ring in the not-too-distant future.


Bedlington Terriers are not large dogs. Males will typically stand about 16 inches at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 17-23 pounds. Females will be about an inch shorter, and weigh within the same range.


Bedlington Terriers are intelligent, energetic and alert, and love attention. He can, however, be aggressive toward other dogs if they are of the same sex. This is really nothing against the Bedlington; it’s actually true of most breeds. Because of the Bedlington’s vermin-chasing history, though, you might expect him to be not so good with smaller animals, even dogs that are of the opposite sex.

Temperament is, of course, affected by many different factors. Breed background is just one. Heredity is another. So, if you’re looking to buy a Bedlington, insist on being able to view the mother. If you can see the father, as well, that’s a plus, but it’s not always possible given that the breeder may not own the father. Considering the relative scarcity of Bedlingtons in comparison to other breeds, it’s very possible that the father could live in another city, or even in another state.

Bedlington Terrier

Always be sure to observe your puppy as he relates to the rest of the litter. You don’t want one that’s snapping and biting at his littermates. By the same token, you also don’t want the one who’s tucking himself off into a corner, afraid to interact with the rest of the litter.

It’s also helpful if you can view dogs from previous breedings. A responsible breeder will know where he or she has placed puppies, and should be able to give you the names of people who won’t mind being contacted to share their experiences with you. If you can, arrange a visit so you can see how their puppies turned out. It’s a pretty good way of getting a handle on what sort of dog you’ll end up with.

Then, having chosen your puppy, make sure to socialize him early, exposing him to many different people and situations. I frequently recommend puppy kindergarten, for any breed.

A Digression

Okay, it’s time for another one of those famous “Ash digressions.” It’s my habit to go down to a local convenience store every morning for my newspaper. A while ago, outside, a man was holding a puppy, and inviting all the kids who came in for snacks before heading to school to pet said puppy. The store owner was pretty worried, and said “Should I call the police?”

I asked her why she’d want to do that, and she said, “Well, that guy out there…”

I pointed out that he wasn’t trying to lure kids away by asking them to help him find a “lost” puppy. He wanted them to pet the puppy that he was holding. “Settle down, Shayna,” I said, “He’s found the best spot in the whole world to socialize that puppy.”

If you want to take this approach, I think it’s a good one. However, I also think it would have been a good idea for the guy to let Shayna know what he was trying to do before he just parked himself outside the store. He wasn’t doing anything wrong; in fact, he was doing a very good thing for his puppy. The optics just weren’t all that good.

So, by all means, do what he did, but let people know what you’re doing, okay?


Bedlington Terriers are usually healthy, but like any other breed, they can be prone to certain diseases and disorders. Remember that not all Bedlingtons will end up with these problems, and in fact, there’s a very good chance that yours won’t. They’re just things to be aware of in case they do happen.

1. Hip Dysplasia

What most people don’t know about hip dysplasia is that any breed – any breed at all, from the smallest to the largest – can develop this condition. Most people think of it as being the province of large breeds, but that’s not the case. It’s a condition where the hip and thigh joints don’t connect properly. It can be painful, but it’s also usually manageable, so don’t let anyone tell you that it’s a “death sentence.” Sometimes a dog with hip dysplasia will limp. Other times, there might be no symptoms whatsoever. Most of the time, the condition can be managed with pain medication administered occasionally, and it’s very rare that surgery is needed.

Your breeder can’t guarantee that your dog will never develop hip dysplasia, because it can’t be effectively diagnosed until a dog is at least two years old. The most your breeder can do is let you know if the parents (assuming that they are two years old or older) have no signs of hip dysplasia. This is the best indication that your puppy will also remain free of the disorder.

2. Copper Toxicosis

This is another rare condition. It happens when the liver doesn’t dispel the copper that is found in your dog’s diet. Then, the copper builds up in your dog’s body, and it can cause illness or even death. Although this is a concern with Bedlington Terriers, it’s one that you can probably rest easily without having to obsess over. In order for your Bedlington to develop copper toxicosis he would have to inherit the gene for the disorder from both parents, which is pretty unlikely.

3. Patellar Luxation

Also known as “slipped stifles,” this is a condition in which the kneecap becomes dislocated. It’s similar to hip dysplasia in that there could be few or no symptoms. Your dog might very well go through his entire life with the condition but with a complete absence of symptoms. At its most severe, the condition can usually be corrected surgically.

4. Distichiasis

This is a troublesome condition that occurs when a dog grows an extra row of eyelashes, and the eye becomes irritated. It’s easily treated, though; your veterinarian will simply freeze the area, give your dog a general anesthetic so that he will sleep through the surgery, and then remove the excess eyelashes.

5. Retinal Dysplasia

This is another eye disorder – a malformation of the dog’s retina. Most of the time, it’s not much to worry about. Your dog might lose a bit of his vision but not much. It’s hereditary, though, so if your dog has it, he shouldn’t be bred.

6. Renal Cortical Hypoplasia

This condition occurs when the kidneys don’t develop the way they should. It’s not common, but it is serious. The condition will manifest as kidney failure. It can be treated medically, but there is a possibility that eventually the dog will develop terminal kidney failure. It’s basically a “wait and watch, and do what you can” scenario.


Bedlington Terriers are moderately active, so they do best in a securely fenced yard. You can keep a Bedlington in an apartment as long as you make sure to exercise him regularly. Take him for a walk, play fetch with him, or train him for tracking or agility. As long as he’s properly exercised, once you’re done for the day, your Bedlington will be happy to snuggle up on the sofa or bed with you and take it easy.

Bedlingtons are very trainable but can be stubborn. There’s not much point in trying to use force with your Bedlington, as he will engage you in a battle of wills. And unless you’re a very assertive owner, there’s a chance that you’ll lose.


In virtually all of my “Breed of the Week” posts, I point out that I free feed. Sometimes I point out that a certain breed might do better on a schedule, but this isn’t the case with the Bedlington. There are no digestive tract issues in the Bedlington that would make it more desirable to go with scheduled feeding. If you want to, though, feed him a cup to a cup-and-a-half of good, dry dog food, divided over two meals. And, of course, keep in mind that if your Bedlington is lazy, he might need less, and if he’s very active, he might need more.

You should be able to tell pretty easily if your Bedlington is too fat or too thin. Grab his butt and place it between your knees, and then look down. Touch his spine and his ribcage. Are you feeling or seeing ribs? If you are, increase his food. If you can’t feel the ribs, or can’t see a waistline, cut back a bit. That’s really all there is to it.

Coat and Grooming

The Bedlington Terrier’s coat is a combination of soft and harsh hair. It’s not wiry, but it’s crisp and curly, particularly around the face and head. Your Bedlington won’t shed much.

Most Bedlingtons are white, but you’ll also find other combinations like liver, blue, sandy, liver, liver and tan, and sandy and tan. Most Bedlingtons are a bit dark at birth, and tend to lighten up as they age. If you’re showing, the tuft of hair on the top of your Bedlington’s head (assuming that he is bi-colored) should be lighter than the rest of his coat.

As to the rest of your grooming protocol, it’s really no different than it is for any other breed. Brush your Bedlington’s teeth regularly to prevent plaque and tartar from building up and leading to tooth decay. Trim his nails if you hear them clicking on hard surfaces. Bathing? Well, bathe if necessary, but don’t necessarily bathe. Bedlingtons are typically clean dogs.

Kids and Other Pets

Bedlingtons are energetic, and usually best suited to families that have older kids. With little ones, a Bedlington will tolerate some rough handling, but he does have his limits. And as I’m always telling you, never leave any dog, of any breed or any temperament, alone with young children. Your dog has no way of knowing that it’s okay to nip at a littermate, but not at a child.

As far as other dogs, Bedlingtons will usually get along pretty well with them if they’re raised with them from a young age. However, if a Bedlington does get into a fight with another animal, he won’t back down; it’s only over when it’s really over. This is especially true for male Bedlingtons. Personally, I think Bedlingtons do better when they’re the only dog in the household.

The Final Word

The Bedlington Terrier is a wonderfully affectionate breed but might not be the best for the novice dog owner. You have to be very assertive to know how to deal with the Bedlington. The sweet nature of this dog, though, will go a long way toward trainability. Just know what you’re getting into, and be prepared to stand strong.

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