Although books have been written about many breeds of dog, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier remains the only dog breed that was named based on a character in a book. Dandie Dinmont was a character in the book “Guy Mannering” written in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott, a farmer with six long low-slung Terrier dogs that kept his farm clear of vermin. Although the name Dandie Dinmont was not coined until after the book’s publication 1815, the breed itself was described as early as the 16th century and was appreciated by farmers, Romani, and noblemen alike for its ability to hunt not just rats and mice, but otters and badgers as well. The Dandie Dinmont Terrier is an intelligent, tenacious, and independent dog, bred to be hunters rather than lapdogs, and they require vigorous activity on a daily basis. This breed does not shed and is considered hypoallergenic, however, they do require grooming. Regular brushing helps to avoid mats, and their penciled coats are best served by carefully plucking out the longest coat out either by hand or by using a stripping comb. This is a rare breed, with an average of only three hundred puppies born each year worldwide.
Known as the gentleman of the Terrier family, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier was developed in Cheviot Hills that border England and Scotland at some point in the 1600’s to the 1700’s, and although the full ancestry of the breed is lost to history, we do have some idea of what breeds may have contributed to its development. The rough Terriers that were native to the area are generally believed to be the basis for the breed, although fanciers are split as to whether or not the Terrier may have had early contributions from other breeds of dogs, such as Otterhounds or Dachshunds. They were bred mainly to hunt otters and badgers, and for this, they require a strong jaw and powerful neck, as well as a tenacious nature. When Sir William Scott created the character of Dandie Dinmont, he based him, at least in part, on a farmer named James Davidson who owned a pair of the Terriers named Tarr (short for Mustard) and Pepper. After the publication of Guy Mannering, friends and neighbors of Mr. Davidson recognized him in the character of Dandie Dinmont and began calling his dogs Dandie Dinmont’s Terriers, later adopting this name for their own similarly-built animals. At some point in the 1830’s, Sir William Scott chose to breed a female named Wasp to The Mertoun Dandie, producing a daughter by the name of Vixen. Around this time a dog of unknown parentage but fitting the Dandie Dinmont description was caught in a poacher’s trap on the land of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch 1839 and was named Old Pepper. Old Pepper was bred to Vixen and from this pairing came a dog known as Old Ginger, who is acknowledged as the “founding father” of the breed.
The Dandie Dinmont Terrier, like many other Terriers, is a small but sturdy dog bred to hunt vermin. As they were often employed to hunt otters and badgers, they were developed with strong, muscular necks and powerful jaws and the short, muscular legs are set fairly wide apart, with the rear legs just slightly longer than the front legs. The feet are small but rounded, with the hind feet that are somewhat smaller than the front feet. The Dandie has a much longer back than most terriers, the length of the back is usually at least twice that of the height as measured at the dog’s shoulders and their scimitar-shaped tail extends out behind it. They have a downy undercoat to keep them warm, overlayed with a crisp, but not wiry, topcoat, and a distinctive topknot of downy fur that extends upwards from the animal’s head. The literary character that they were named for, Dandie Dinmont, kept six of the little dogs, naming them Auld Mustard, Auld Pepper, Young Mustard, Young Pepper, Little Mustard, and Little Pepper; because of this, Dandies are separated into two color classifications: Mustard and Pepper. Mustard can range in color from a darker reddish brown to a pale fawn, capped with a white topknot and pepper covers all different shades of gray, and their topknots may be more silver than white.
This breed sheds very rarely, if at all, and is considered a hypoallergenic breed. Their general grooming needs are minimal; bathing is only required if they have become dirty or smelly, but they should be brushed a few times a week with a slicker brush to avoid mats and tangles. The Dandie should also have their coat stripped once or twice a year. This can be done by carefully plucking out the longest coat out either by hand or by using a stripping comb. Dogs that need their coat to remain neat and rather than shaggy, such as dogs that are destined for the show ring, may require professional grooming on a regular basis to maintain their distinctive appearance. The eyes of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier are large and tend protrude somewhat, making this breed somewhat more susceptible to eye injuries, so care should be taken when cleaning your pet’s face and eyes, and their hanging ears should frequently be checked to avoid bacterial or fungal infection. They typically do well in apartment settings but do require at least an hour of vigorous exercise a day to maintain their health and welfare.