Traits, Personality and Behavior
Although his small size -- between 11 and 12 pounds -- makes him a favorite with people looking for a lap dog, the Norfolk Terrier is happiest when he can get a fair amount of exercise and play. And small or not, he's tough, which means he's a great choice for families with children.
Of course, not every Norfolk Terrier will be good with children, and adult supervision of the kids along with training and socializing of the dog is still required. The Norfolk usually gets along well with other dogs and with cats, but small pets like hamsters are another story -- if yours is a multi-species family, you'll have to choose another breed, be very careful or face a crying child once that pet rat meets his doom.
Norfolk Terriers are generally not diggers, are easy to house-train and take readily to other types of training as well. When it coming to obedience training, be prepared to put in some effort since, like many terriers, the Norfolk can be independent and even a bit stubborn. They're far from the noisiest of the small dogs, but they're not the quietest, either, and that means more training to keep the yap factor in check.
The Norfolk Terrier's rough coat sheds, but it can be minimized with weekly brushing or combing, and occasional trips to a professional groomer. These dogs are "hand-stripped" for a proper terrier look for the show ring, a labor-intensive task that involves pulling out dead coat a little bit at a time using a special tool. It's usually more practical to have the dogs regularly clipped for neatness.
The Norfolk Terrier and the Norwich Terrier are very closely related and similar dogs, although they do have a few differences. The one people notice most is that the Norfolk Terrier has ears that fold forward, while the Norwich's ears are erect. (The easy way to remember the difference: The NorWICH has pointed ears like a WITCH'S hat.)
Norfolk Terriers have been bred to be family companions for so long now that they can never accept life as a backyard dog. Make sure your Norfolk Terrier lives indoors as a member of the family, or he's likely to turn into a noisy, destructive and very unhappy little dog.
Health Issues Common to Norfolk Terriers
Norfolk Terriers are relatively healthy for a purebred dog. In the hope of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and prevent any new ones from emerging, the Norfolk Terrier Club, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
The CHIC requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for heart, eye, and knee diseases that are prevalent in the breed, and recommends that the dogs be cleared for hip problems as well.
They also recommend testing for a genetic skin disease known as ichtyosis, which causes skin darkening, scaling, and chronic infections. This condition is often apparent at birth, and while it's not painful or life-threatening, it's both disfiguring and difficult to manage. Clearance for ichtyosis will also come from OFA.
The most serious health problem affecting the Norfolk Terrier is mitral valve disease (MVD), which begins with a heart murmur and can eventually lead to heart failure and death. According to a 2000 joint study of members of the Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club and the American Norfolk Terrier Association, a whopping 60% of Norfolk Terriers in America showed evidence of degeneration of the mitral valve.
While making sure to buy a puppy from a breeder who has tested both his parents for heart disease will minimize the risk, it's still possible for your dog to be affected. The disease can be managed with careful treatment for quite some time if caught early, so have your Norfolk Terrier's heart checked annually by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Norfolk Terrier Puppy
Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Norfolk Terrier Club, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and requires them to take lifetime responsibility for any puppies they sell if their owners are unable to care for them.
Ask your breeder to show you written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) clearing your puppy's parents of genetic health problems. PennHip certification of hips is also recommended.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Norfolk Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Norfolk Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Norfolk Terrier can live to be 12-15 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
Puppy or adult, take your Norfolk Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of mitral valve disease.
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Pet Insurance for Norfolk Terriers
Pet insurance for Norfolk Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Norfolk Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Norfolk Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Norfolk Terrier is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.