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Top 10 Most Popular Terrier Breeds

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Overview

March 27 is National Terrier Day. It’s a chance for terrier lovers around the world to get together and celebrate these energetic, spirited, and oh so lovable canines.

If you’re the proud pet parent of a terrier, why not spoil them rotten on March 27? Take them on an adventure, treat them to a day full of rough-and-tumble play and games, or cuddle up with them on the couch for some snuggle time.

Of course, if you don’t currently have a terrific terrier in your life, you might be on the lookout for a new fur-baby from the terrier family. To help you get to know some of these gorgeous and charming dogs a little better, let’s meet the 10 most popular terrier breeds according to data from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

miniature schnauzer smiling - top 10 most popular terrier breeds

Miniature Schnauzer

The number-one most popular terrier breed is the friendly, intelligent, and fearless Miniature Schnauzer

"Hang on a second," we can already hear you saying. "What about the Yorkshire Terrier?" Well, despite the fact that they have “terrier” in their name, not to mention the feistiness you’d expect from a terrier, Yorkies actually belong to the AKC's Toy group of breeds. So of all the true terrier breeds, the Miniature Schnauzer tops the charts and also comes in at #18 on AKC's list of most popular dog breeds of 2021.

There’s a lot to love about this pint-sized breed — starting, of course, with those adorable good looks. With that distinctive beard and bushy eyebrows, the Miniature Schnauzer is one catwalk-worthy pup. And though the Mini Schnauzer is small in stature, standing up to 14 inches tall, beneath that wiry coat you’ll find an athletic, solidly built body that’s always ready for action.

Originally bred as a rat catcher and farm dog, today, this handsome pooch is better known as a loyal and loving companion. Miniature Schnauzers are friendly and super affectionate with their family, and they’re adaptable enough to live happily in an apartment or on acreage. They are quite energetic, however, so regular exercise and other mentally stimulating activities are important for their wellbeing.

These playful pups love being included as part of the family. They’re always up for adventure and will bring plenty of joy into your life with their mischievous antics. Throw in the fact that they’re good with kids, easy to train, great watchdogs, and generally quite healthy, and it’s clear there are plenty of good reasons why you might want to welcome a Miniature Schnauzer puppy into your family.

Best for: Families searching for a loyal, affectionate, and playful pet

west highland white terrier dog walking along the sand

West Highland White Terrier

Take one look at an adorable West Highland White Terrier and try not to fall in love. Go on, we dare you! With piercing and inquisitive eyes, stocky legs, and a tail said to be shaped like a carrot, this little cutie is very easy on the eyes.

But the Westie has plenty of substance to go with that unmistakable style. These happy and alert dogs are simply a whole lot of fun to be around. They’re friendly and certainly don’t lack courage — in fact, the official AKC breed standard describes them as being “possessed with no small amount of self-esteem.”

Westies were originally bred to hunt rats and other vermin. And while they’re small dogs that only stand 10 to 11 inches tall, they should never be underestimated. These tenacious terriers are hardy, muscular dogs that are a lot tougher than they look.

West Highland White Terriers are also highly intelligent and confident dogs, so they’re not as easy to train as some other breeds. They can be strong-willed and even stubborn at times, so patience is essential when training your Westie.

Westies are typically quite healthy, though cardiac issues and patellar luxation can cause some problems. Regular grooming will keep that distinctive white coat looking its best, while participating in a variety of doggy sports and fun activities will keep that cute tail wagging.

And with consistent training and a whole lot of love and attention, the Westie will make a “pawsome” addition to your family.

Best for: Families with older kids

white and gold scottish terrier dog standing in the grass

Scottish Terrier

The spirited Scottish Terrier is one of those breeds that most dog lovers instantly recognize. With distinctive facial hair, a sturdy and compact build, and a dignified bearing, this is one pooch that really stands out from the crowd.

As the name suggests, Scottish Terriers originally hail from the Scottish Highlands, where they were developed to hunt rats, foxes, and other unwanted interlopers. The terrain in the highlands is notoriously harsh and rugged, and the weather can be brutal, so the Scottie needed to be capable of handling difficult conditions.

To quote the AKC breed standard, the Scottie’s “bold, confident, dignified aspect exemplifies power in a small package.” These dogs are solidly built and have a tough, weather-resistant coat, while their keen expression indicates they’re always ready to leap into action.

But it’s the Scottish Terrier’s temperament that makes this breed so easy to love. Often described as feisty, determined, and independent, these are small dogs with a big personality. Unfortunately, that strong-willed, stubborn streak can make them quite difficult to train.

Your Scottie will, of course, need regular exercise and lots of mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Check out our guide to the best activities for Scottish Terriers for simple ideas to help your pet stay active.

But if you can provide the training and stimulation a Scottie needs, plus brush that wiry coat a few times a week, this breed makes a charming companion.

Best for: Experienced pet parents; not suited to families with young children

bull terrier posing in front of the water

Bull Terrier

Next on our list of the top 10 most popular terrier breeds is one of the most distinctive-looking pooches you’ll ever lay eyes on: the charming and cheeky Bull Terrier.

At first glance, the Bull Terrier is quite an imposing dog. With a muscular build, triangular eyes, and a unique "egghead", this is not a pooch that ever gets mistaken for another breed.

Originally developed for the barbaric "sport" of dog fighting, the Bull Terrier is better known today as a family companion. And the breed makes a wonderful companion indeed, boasting a truly charming personality that’s impossible not to love.

Despite their brutal origins, Bull Terriers are some of the most sweet-natured, fun-loving dogs you’re ever likely to meet. This cheeky canine loves a game just as much as they love getting up to mischief, and they've got a whole lot of affection to share with their human family.

Bull Terriers can be independent thinkers, so keep training sessions fun to achieve the best results. Socialization is also important to help your pet get along well with other dogs, while a variety of canine sports and other top activities for Bull Terriers will help keep them happy.

If you’re thinking of welcoming a Bull Terrier into your family, remember that this is a breed that adores people and won’t cope well if left alone for long periods. But if you can welcome your pet into your home and make them feel like a much-loved family member, the beautiful Bull Terrier will fill your life with joy.

Best for: Families; active lifestyles; not the best choice for first-time pet parents

airedale terrier dog wearing green collar - popular terrier breeds

Airedale Terrier

When a breed has a nickname like "the king of terriers", you know it’s going to be a pretty impressive canine. And Airedale Terriers certainly live up to this moniker — not only are they the largest of the terrier breeds, but they also have big, lovable personalities.

Beautiful, bold, and brave, the Airedale Terrier is a loyal and loving family member. This strong and athletic breed doesn’t know how to take a backward step, and their courage and unwavering spirit are the stuff of legend.

Originally from Yorkshire’s Aire Valley, where they were developed to hunt rats and ducks, this working-class breed features a dense, wiry coat and an intelligent expression. Add to that a distinctive long head, along with a handsome beard and mustache, and you’ve got yourself one very eye-catching dog.

Hip dysplasia can be a concern for this generally healthy breed, while that gorgeous coat doesn’t require too much in the way of maintenance. The time you save on grooming might need to be put into training and exercising your pooch, however. 

Airedales are intelligent dogs but prone to stubbornness, so they’ll need regular training and a patient approach. Exercise is also important for this high-energy breed, and daily walks, play sessions, and other great activities for Airedale Terriers should help keep your pet in shape.

While they may not be as cuddly as a lapdog, Airedales are devoted to their people and very protective of those they love. And if you can give this terrier plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, you’ll be rewarded with a friendly and loyal pet.

Best for: People who enjoy an active lifestyle; not suited to novice pet parents

soft coated wheaten terrier dog posing in front of dark portrait backdrop

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Cute, cuddly, and very affectionate, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a breed that simply loves being around people. These friendly and intelligent dogs form a strong bond with their humans and thrive when made to feel like part of the family. Leave them alone in a yard for hours at a time, however, and they’ll quickly become unhappy and destructive.

Originally from Ireland, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was developed as a versatile farm dog. But these floofy canines were also excellent watchdogs and beloved companions, which means they offer a unique combination of terrier tenacity with the affectionate nature of a family pet.

Boasting a soft and silky coat of warm wheaten color, the Soft Coated Wheaten needs frequent brushing to prevent mats forming. Breed health concerns include protein-losing nephropathy and enteropathy, Addison’s disease, and renal dysplasia, but these generally healthy dogs have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

Daily exercise is important for this active breed, so long walks and outdoor games will put a smile on your pup’s face. And while Wheatens are very intelligent dogs, they’re still terriers — so you can expect to come up against an independent streak during the training process. Check out our guide to the top activities for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers for ideas on how to help your dog stay active.

Wheatens are playful, loving, and often tend to get along quite well with kids. So if you’re looking for a terrier that adores people, cuddles, and an active lifestyle, the Wheaten might just be the breed for you. 

Best for: Families; suitable for first-time pet parents

white and brown russell terrier dog standing on the grass

Russell Terrier

The Russell Terrier proves that good things come in small packages. These pint-sized pooches are inquisitive, energetic, and friendly, which makes them wonderful companions for a wide range of pet parents. 

Not to be confused with the Parson Russell Terrier, which has longer legs and is a little taller, the Russell Terrier stands 10 to 12 inches tall and tips the scales at between 9 and 15 pounds. Russell Terriers have a weatherproof coat that can be smooth, broken, or rough, and their alert, almond-shaped eyes hint at the lively character that lies within.

Russell Terriers have a real "can-do" attitude to everything life throws at them. They’re lively and curious, always on the lookout for action and adventure, and very intelligent. They’ll also happily keep going all day long, so they’re best suited to life with pet parents who enjoy an active lifestyle.

The breed’s intelligence means you can expect your pet to be a quick learner, but they’ll also get bored quickly if you don’t keep their training sessions challenging and fun. The good news is that they’re fairly low maintenance from a grooming perspective, so you should have plenty of time to devote to training and exercising your pooch. 

If you’re thinking of adding a Russell Terrier puppy to your family, look for a responsible breeder that tests for things like patellar luxation, deafness, and eye problems. Do that, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding a puppy that can see out the breed’s average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, and maybe even a little longer.

Best for: Active families; pet parents must be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to train their dog

cairn terrier dog walking along a sidewalk

Cairn Terrier

Another small dog with a big heart, the Cairn Terrier is a cheerful, affectionate fellow who has won plenty of admirers around the world. The most famous example of the breed is, of course, Toto from The Wizard of Oz, and it’s easy to see why these lovable dogs are among the nation’s top 10 favorite terriers.

Hailing from Scotland, where they were developed to hunt vermin, these short-legged terriers are hardy and strongly built. Wrapped in a weather-resistant coat, they boast gorgeous shaggy eyebrows and the sort of alert expression you’d expect from any working terrier.

Perhaps the biggest strength of Cairn Terriers is their versatility. Equally at home in an apartment or on a larger (fenced) property, the Cairn loves staying active but is also more than happy to cuddle up next to you at the end of a busy day.

Daily walks will keep your Cairn happy, while they could also excel at sports like agility and earthdog. Cairns are quick learners and have plenty of smarts, but they do have an independent streak — they are terriers, after all — so start training your Cairn Terrier puppy as soon as you bring them home. You can also check out our guide to the best activities for Cairn Terriers for more ideas on how to entertain your pet.

Patellar luxation and eye problems are a couple of the Cairn health issues to watch out for, while a weekly brush and a bath when necessary will keep their coat in tip-top condition. 

Finally, don’t forget that this is a breed that thrives on close relationships with their humans. Give your Cairn all the love and attention they crave, and you won’t find a more devoted or fun-loving pet.

Best for: Families; suitable for apartments as well as homes

staffordshire bull terrier smiling and posing in front of a dark portrait backdrop

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, lovingly known as the Staffy, is living proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. While the Staffy looks like a tough, muscular character at first glance, this adorable canine is a big softie at heart.

Originally bred for dog-fighting rings in 19th-century England, Staffies have impressive strength for their size, and they're easy to identify thanks to their pronounced cheek muscles. And despite their brutal history, Staffies are some of the most affectionate and loving dogs you’re ever likely to meet.

Staffies are playful and fun-loving dogs, and their reputation as wonderful playmates for children has earned them the nickname of "nanny dog". Of course, any breed of dog should always be supervised around children. Staffies are loyal and brave too, but will need careful socialization to encourage them to get along well with other pets.

There are lots of fun activities that Staffordshire Bull Terriers enjoy, and they’ll relish the chance for some active play or regular walks/jogs with their people. Training is a must due to their strong prey drive, but Staffies are fast learners and always eager to please. Hip dysplasia and eye issues are some of the health problems that can affect the breed, but the good news is that Staffords are relatively low maintenance from a grooming perspective. 

And with that iconic Staffy "smile" lighting up your life each and every day, there are plenty of good reasons why a Staffordshire Bull Terrier could be your “pawfect” match.

Best for: Active families

two brown and white american staffordshire terrier dogs lying in the grass

American Staffordshire Terrier

Rounding out the top 10 of the most popular terrier breeds is the adorable American Staffordshire Terrier. This is another of those breeds that looks like a fierce brawler, but is actually a sweet-natured family companion underneath a muscled exterior.

Strong, stocky, and agile, AmStaffs stand up to 19 inches tall and can weigh as much as 70 pounds. The breed standard says this dog should “give the impression of great strength for his size”.

While AmStaffs are known for their courage, what many people don’t realize is just how lovable and affectionate this breed can be. AmStaffs form strong bonds with their humans and are at their happiest when doing whatever you’re doing. They’re also clever and eager to please, which means training is easy, while early socialization is also important to help your pup grow into a confident family member.

Lots of exercise and mental stimulation are also essential requirements, so check out our guide to the top activities for American Staffordshire Terriers. And because the breed’s short coat requires little in the way of maintenance, you should have plenty of time left over to spend on making sure your AmStaff feels like a much-loved and appreciated member of the family.

Best for: Experienced pet parents; active lifestyles

Terriers. Some are big, some are small. Some have short hair, others long, and yet others are delightfully scruffy. But as you can see from the list above, all of them have something unique to offer as companions and loving family members. 

While terrier breeds are generally healthy, they can develop serious health conditions later in life. Invest in pet insurance to give your fur-baby the best "pawssible" care. Use Wag!'s pet insurance comparison tool to find the right plan for your pup.


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