Loyal, fast, and friendly
A unique dog in many ways, while the Bedlington Terrier and their flashy haircuts wow audiences at big dog shows like Westminster, the breed actually has a much less glamorous past.
Although they look like lambs, don't let that fool you. The Bedlington is all terrier, capable of immense energy and power. To this day, if given the chance, most Bedlington Terriers will happily prove themselves in the field. 1 In a fairly small body (males should be 16.5 inches at the shoulder), they possess all the instincts of a good hunting dog: sight, scent, retrieving, and going to ground. 2 Many are even natural pointers. 3 While Bedlingtons are rarely used as hunting dogs these days, you can still find them excelling in hunting-related dog sports, like coursing and barn hunt.
Originally known as the Rothbury Terrier, the Bedlington came to be thanks to coal miners in England’s Northumberland County who needed a do-it-all terrier. The Bedlington could swim down an otter, draw a badger, dispatch vermin, run down a rabbit as well as hold his own in a fight. His gaming prowess, along with his personality, eventually charmed the elite, and the Bedlington became a beloved pet of England’s upper class.
Non-shedding, the Bedlington Terrier’s coat is very dark at birth and lightens with maturity. One might expect it to feel like a Poodle’s, but it is different. Lighter, linty, crisp, and soft; beautiful to touch.
I'm fortunate to have a friend with many years of Bedlington experience. Bonnie Nelson breeds Bedlington Terriers under the kennel name Ispy here in Ontario. Bonnie is also a Master Groomer and is a mentor for many Bedlington owners across the world.
Bonnie met her first Bedlington Terrier at a dog show. She loved their unique lamblike appearance, medium size, and the fact that they don't shed. She knew it was the breed for her right away and has been breeding Bedlington Terriers now for over 30 years.
Bonnie describes the breed as “loyal, sociable, and sensitive. Can be stubborn and, if challenged by another dog, will likely not back down. They are easy to train, make great therapy and family dogs.” Although Bonnie lives in the country, she says Bedlingtons make great city dogs too, provided they get a couple of good walks a day and access to a safe, fenced-in area to let them run.
One look at a Bedlington Terrier in good condition, and the grooming question arises. Bonnie says, "It is well known that the Bedlington trim is the hardest to master. They have a unique linty coat that consists of both soft and coarse guard hairs. The coat is non-shedding, which makes them the perfect dog for many allergy sufferers. They require regular brushing, combing, and trimming to maintain the unique look." Most Bedlington Terrier pet owners have their dog see a professional groomer like Bonnie once every six weeks (show dogs in longer coat need to visit more frequently). Ask the groomer if they have experience trimming Beddlingtons before you book your puppy's first appointment, as not all groomers have worked with the breed before. Luckily, some Master Groomers are offering virtual breed workshops, so more groomers are learning to style the breed.
Bedlingtons are multi-talented terriers and do well in most dog sports, including dock diving- lure course, barn hunt, sprinter, and agility. Their sweet nature makes them naturals when it comes to therapy work.
They make wonderful family pets. Their size and non-shedding coat appeal to many families. Most are fantastic with children, provided they are raised with respectful children. Bonnie says Bedlingtons can be kept with other dogs and even cats, but as in any multiple pet home, owners need to keep an eye on their behaviour and deal with any issues before they become an argument.
I’ve also noticed that Bedlingtons are generally very healthy dogs that live a long time. It’s not usual to hear of one living to 17 or 18. When I asked Bonnie who makes an ideal Bedlington Terrier owner, she explained that they need an owner who can be firm, yet still kind when it comes to training as they are smart and sensitive dogs. Although they look like lambs, they aren’t dogs that should be constantly coddled and spoiled (remember where these beautiful dogs came from originally!).
In closing, Bonnie says, "Bedlingtons are the best kept secret in the dog world. The unique trim may not appeal to everyone, but once you meet them, they will change your mind. The breed is spirited, smart and easy to train as well as live with. They love to please their people. Their personalities are as unique as their coats and trim!”
The Bedlington Terrier might be the breed for you if:
- You have allergies and need a non-shedding coat.
- You want a medium-size dog and loyal pet.
- You would like a dog that can be both active and cuddle on the couch.
- You want to participate in agility and other dog sport activities.
The Bedlington Terrier might not be the breed for you if:
- You don’t like a dog who may chase squirrels, rats, or other animals. Not all will, but they were bred to go to ground - some are very determined hunters!
- You don’t want the expense of paying a groomer or don’t have the time to brush regularly.
- You don’t want to put in time for socializing and training. Bedlingtons are smart and require the interactive attention.
Thanks to the help of CKC Member and Breeder Bonnie Nelson, I’m able to share this information on Bedlington Terriers with you. Bonnie has bred Bedlington Terriers since 1992 and resides in Georgetown, Ontario. Ispybedlingtons@gmail.com
All photos courtesy of: Nadia Bongelli
1 The Bedlington Terrier Club of America, https://www.bedlingtonamerica.com
2 Ibid., The Bedlington Terrier Club of America
3 Ibid., The Bedlington Terrier Club of America