Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

Rugged and cute, Norfolk Terriers are borderline toy dogs with big dog personalities. These feisty terriers originated in the early 1900s in England, where they helped control rat populations and bolted foxes from hiding during fox hunts. Among the smallest of the working terriers, they are brave, focused, and determined in the field. At home, they are playful, gregarious, and self-assured. Norfolk Terriers shouldn't be mistaken for lap dogs longing to relax on the couch with you all day. Instead, these tenacious dogs will prod you outdoors in search of adventure. As long as they're with you—and on the go—Norfolks are happy. Wherever you travel, make sure your Norfolk Terrier is on a leash. No matter how well trained, her hunting instinct will kick into gear if she spots a squirrel or bird, and she'll give chase.

Other Names

Norfolk Terriers are also called Norfolks.

Physical Description


Norfolk Terriers have hard, wiry double coats that keep them well protected from brambles and twigs in the field. The coat is straight and about 1½ to 2 inches long, except around the neck and shoulders, where it grows longer to form a slight mane. They also have longer furnishings on the legs and slightly longer hair on the face, forming eyebrows and whiskers. The coat colors are red, black and tan, grizzle, or wheaten, with dark points possible.


Average Height: 9-10 inches


Average Weight: 11-12 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The American Kennel Club breed standard describes the Norfolk Terrier as 'game and hardy, with expressive dropped ears.' Indeed, their V-shaped, velvety ears are almost always in motion, seemingly on the listen for calls to adventure. Their dark, oval eyes are also bright and alert. They have a compact, muscular frame, and short, sturdy legs. Despite their small size, they are agile and can cover a lot of ground in short order.

Breeder Frank "Roughrider" Jones developed the Norfolk Terrier in England in the early 1900s as a tenacious ratter and skilled fox hunter. Early on, the breed varied widely in color, size, and ear type, but eventually was standardized into a small, wire-coated dog with either prick ears or drop ears, named the Norwich Terrier. Over time, some breeders focused on creating the prick-eared type, and others the drop-eared variety. In the 1960s, they were separated into two breeds in England, with Norfolk Terriers having drop ears and Norwich Terriers having prick ears. Aside from their ears, the two dogs are indistinguishable. In 1979, the American Kennel Club recognized the Norfolk Terrier as a separate breed from the Norwich Terrier.

AKC Breed Category

Terrier Group


General Temperament

Norfolk Terriers are peppy and tenacious, whether they're chasing down a squirrel in the yard or demanding playtime with their people. They are gregarious and fun loving, happy to meet new people and even other dogs. Norfolks are somewhat stubborn when it comes to training and may have their own ideas about the day's activities. For the most part, difficult behaviors such as digging and barking only crop up when their owners don't keep them busy enough. When active and engaged, Norfolks are always good company.

Family Life

Are Norfolk Terriers Good with Kids? Norfolk Terriers enjoy playing with kids and they're robust enough to handle a little roughhousing. However, they are small dogs and young kids may accidentally hurt them with overzealous hugs and play. Always keep a close watch.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Norfolk Terriers Good with Other Pets? As far as Norfolks are concerned, cats and dogs are welcome playmates. However, smaller animals are not safe around Norfolks, who will view them as prey.


Norfolk Terriers are only moderately territorial but will sound the alarm when people—known and unknown—approach the house.

Are Norfolk Terriers Good Guard Dogs? Norfolk Terriers are alert to visitors and will bark until they know their pack is aware of their arrival. But Norfolks are far too small to scare off ne'er-do-wells.

Energy Levels

Though one of the most low-key terriers, Norfolks still have plenty of energy to burn.

Specific Concerns



Norfolk Terriers always want to be where the action is and should live indoors with their families. With plenty of exercise and attention, they tend to be calm at home. Norfolks shed lightly throughout the year, so fur is not a major issue.


Norfolks should spend time outdoors getting exercise and fresh air. They will instinctively chase after squirrels and birds, so they should always be kept in a secure enclosure and walked on a leash. Digging also comes naturally to Norfolks, so don't bring home this breed if the thought of holes in the yard upsets you.


A healthy, adult Norfolk requires an hour-plus of physical activity and play each day. They are skilled at most dog sports and agility training.


Norfolks have the energy for multiple games of hide-and-seek, or fetch throughout the day, in addition to several medium-length walks.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: While eager to join you on any outing, the Norfolk Terrier's short legs don't make them the most natural running buddies.
  • Hiking Miles: Your Norfolk will be eager to head out on regular hikes of up to three miles.


Norfolk Terriers require about a ½ cup to 1 cup of good quality dry dog food each day, ideally split between two meals. The proper amount of food will vary widely based upon their size, activity level, and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Norfolk.

Alone Time

The courageous, independent Norfolk Terrier doesn't mind spending a bit of time alone. But let that time drag on too long and you'll have to contend with problem behaviors, including barking and destructive chewing. Crate train your Norfolk—make his dog crate appealing so you'll be able to leave him alone for an hour or two without worry.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

12-16 years


The Norfolk Terrier's wire coat should be brushed weekly and hand-stripped when it grows too long. You can do this yourself, or take him to a professional groomer. Clipping a Norfolk's coat will change its texture, making it softer and lighter than the standard. Give your Norfolk a bath once a month, or as needed. Wash his ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush his teeth several times a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent painful cracking.

Common Health Issues

Some breed-specific medical concerns and sensitivities may affect the Norfolk Terrier, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Possible vaccination sensitivity

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Norfolk Terrier by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Norfolks are eager to please, with a dash of stubborn in the mix. They can be slow to housetrain, but will learn control when taken outside on a set schedule. They'll also ace basic obedience commands in a jiffy, with patient training and positive reinforcement and rewards.

Advanced Training

Norfolks excel in advanced obedience and dog sports training, as long as training sessions are always kept upbeat and playful.

Sporting Dog Training

Norfolk Terriers are excellent candidates for Earthdog trials, a non-competitive sport in which dogs demonstrate their skills tracking small mammals held in cages placed in burrows.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Norfolk Terriers.

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Yes. Norfolk Terriers are counted among the hypoallergenic breeds. Their rough coat sheds lightly and thus leaves minimal dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet related allergies. No dog is considered 100 percent hypoallergenic.

Terriers are known for excessive barking. While Norfolks are one of the quietest of the terrier breeds, they will bark. As with most terriers, ample attention and exercise help minimize barking problems.

Norfolk Terriers can swim and many enjoy jumping into the water. It's imperative you keep your Norfolk Terrier away from water when he is alone, however. Norfolks have been known to drown in pools because they were too small to get climb out without help.