English Toy Terriers


Breed: English Toy Terrier

Temperament: alert and loyal

Lifespan: 9 – 13 years

Maintenance: low

Recommended for: small homes and toy lovers


In Great Britain, the sport of rat killing reached its peak in the mid-1800s, a pastime made particulary popular in the rat pits of English Taverns. The English Toy Terrier is actually just a miniature by-product of one the more popular Terrier breeds of the time, the Manchester Terrier. The original Manchester Terrier type (also known as the Black and Tan Terrier) was very popular amongst the poor and was fairly varied in type, with Italian Greyhound and Whippet said to have contributed to the breed. Size was especially varied, and the Toy variety was created by selecting and breeding the smallest. This smaller version is said to have peaked in popularity during Queen Victoria’s reign, when small size took priority over the animal’s health and temperament.

The English Toy is reputedly the oldest English toy breed in existence. It was fairly popular in Australia during the 1960s but popularity soon declined. Popularity has since increased in the last 10 years, with numbers now at around 100. There are breeders in WA, SA, NSW and Vic. There are no English Toy Terrier clubs in Australia.


Today, the Toy is a near-identical smaller version of the standard Manchester Terrier. The most obvious difference being the erect or ‘candle flame’ ears of the Toy compared with the hanging ears of its larger cousin.

The English Toy is slightly taller than a Maltese and the body is long and graceful, with a narrow, deep chest. Females are finer-boned. A ‘thumb print’ under the chin and on the centre of each pastern is a hallmark of the breed and a long, slender tail, almond shaped eyes and short, single, fine coat give the dog an aristocratic appearance.

English Toys appear only in black and tan with the tan predominant on the lower legs, vent (around the anus) and to the sides of the muzzle. As the dog ages the black extends into the regions coloured by tan; leaving a ‘kissing spot’ (a tan spot) on each side of the face.


A very alert breed. Very loyal and faithful and will easily bond to one person. English Toys love physical contact, love being petted and the company of children. Owners and breeders say it is not a snappy breed, though can be wary of strangers. The English Toy possesses excellent hearing and

makes a top watch dog. Pups are inclined to bark often but breeders assure that they will grow out of this trait. The male dogs can be quite dominant and one shouldn’t keep males together. In contrast, the females are very easy going. The breed has good trainability, though like other terriers can be easily distracted.

Health and lifespan

These are very fine-boned dogs, and reports of broken legs are not unheard of. However the Australian type is slightly larger than the European, resulting in a more robust dog suffering less incidence of breaks.

Breeders have spoken of an un-named skin condition which is known to affect some pups during weaning. During outbreaks, little patches of hair-loss, equal to 5cm (2′) or smaller can occur. Breeders say the condition will usually rectify itself once the pup has adjusted to its new diet.

Burke’s Backyard consulting veterinarian, Dr. Rob Zammit says that some problems with slipping kneecaps and poor hip joints have been reported. When buying a puppy, make sure that both parents are sound and do not suffer from these genetic defects. Average lifespan of 9 -13 years.

Breeding and maintenance

Up to six pups in a litter, though usually an average of three to four. Breeders have reported the occasional occurrence of a condition called ‘fading pup syndrome’. In this instance, all puppies may appear vigorous and healthy at birth, but within 2 -10 days a minority may lose their interest in nursing. They can often cry as though they are in pain or discomfort. The affected pups may lose body weight and eventually die, despite careful nursing. Consult your veterinarian before breeding from these dogs.

English Toy Terriers are a low maintenance dog. The short, fine coat doesn’t require bathing or grooming often, and creates little problems with odour. A rub-over with a chamois is often enough.

Space and exercise

When it comes to exercise, toy breeds look after themselves fairly well. They don’t need a great deal of space; just need a bit of attention or take them for a short walk or even a game of ball in the backyard.

Ideal owner and cost

Quite often found in households with limited space, this little dog suits the young family. Though be careful that small children aren’t too rough with this fine boned breed. English Toy Terriers will also suit apartments and are happy to be kept as a single pet. A waiting list for pups is not uncommon, they cost around $350 – $450.

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