Breed standard

The following guidelines describe the Dandie Dinmont’s ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance, as based on the breed standard issued by The Kennel Club. Please visit their website for more details.

General appearance

The ideal characteristics of this breed include a distinctive head with a silken topknot, large, intelligent eyes, a long weasel-like body, short yet strong legs, and a weatherproof coat.

Characteristics and temperament

A Dandie Dinmont is a workmanlike terrier – independent, highly intelligent, determined, persistent, sensitive, affectionate and dignified.

Southern Dandie head and skull

Head and skull

The ideal Dandie has a strong head with well-developed muscles. Although the head is quite large, it is in proportion to the dog’s overall size. The skull is broad, narrowing towards the eyes. The measurement from the inner corner of the eye to the back of the skull is about the same as the measurement from ear to ear. The forehead is well domed, and the head is covered with very soft, silky hair, which is not confined to a mere ‘topknot’. Its cheeks gradually taper towards a deep and strong muzzle, which is in proportion to the skull as three is to five. The top of the muzzle features a bare patch, triangular in shape and about 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide, pointing backwards from the nose (which is black) to the eyes.


A Dandie has dark hazel eyes, which are bright, set wide apart and low, and actually quite large for a small dog. They are full and round, but not protruding.


The breed’s pendulous ears are set well back and wide apart. They sit low on the skull, hanging close to the dog’s cheeks, and are broad at the base and taper almost to a point. Their length varies between 7.5 and 10 cm (3–4 inches). Their colour is in harmony with the rest of the body – pepper Dandies’ ears are covered with hair that’s soft and straight, and almost black in colour, while mustard Dandies’ ears are a darker shade than their body but not black. Both should have a thin feather of light hair in the same colour and texture as the topknot, accentuating the ears’ pointy look (although this might not develop until they’re two years old).


Dandies have a strong jaw with a perfectly regular and complete scissor bite, meaning the upper teeth closely overlap the lower teeth and are set square to the jaw. Any deviation from this standard is highly undesirable. The teeth are very strong, especially the canines, which are extraordinarily large for a small dog. The canines fit well against each other. The inside of the mouth is black or dark in colour.


A Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s neck is strong and features well-developed muscles that are firmly set into the shoulders.


The breed’s shoulders are well laid back but not heavy. Their short front legs are strong and set wide apart with the chest coming well down between them. The feet point forward or slightly outward when standing. Bow legs are highly undesirable.


A Dandie’s body is long, strong and flexible. The ribs are well sprung and round, and the chest is muscular and comes well down between the front legs. The back appears rather low at the shoulders, with a slight downward curve and a corresponding arch over the loins. There is a slight gradual drop from the top of the loin to the root of the tail. The backbone is well developed.


The breed’s back legs are a little longer than the front legs. They are set wide apart, but not spread out in an unnatural manner. The thighs are muscular, the stifles angulated, and the hocks well let down. Dewclaws are generally removed, if present.


A Dandie Dinmont’s round feet are well padded, with the hindfeet smaller than its forefeet. The nails are dark, varying in shade according to the dog’s body colour. Flat or open feet are highly undesirable.


The breed’s tail is rather short (20–25 cm, i.e. 8–10 inches), and quite thick at the root, getting thicker for about 10 cm (4 inches) and then tapering off to a point. It should not be twisted or curled but instead has a backward curve like a scimitar. An excited Dandie’s tail points upward, forming a perpendicular line from the root to the tip, set neither too high nor too low. When not excited, the Dandie’s tail is carried a little above body level.

Image from The Illustrated Breed Standard of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier
(full version available in the members’ section)

Gait and movement

A Dandie’s stride appears smooth and easy, reaching forward at the front with a strong, straight impulsion from the rear. A stiff, stilted, hopping or weaving gait is highly undesirable.


A Dandie Dinmont Terrier’s coat, which essentially is a double coat consisting of a soft, linty undercoat and a harder topcoat, is a very important feature of the breed. Its hair should be about 5 cm (2 inches) long and feel crisp to the touch but not wiry. The coat should not ‘shed’ down the back but rather appears to have a pencilled look, caused by the harder hair coming through the softer undercoat. The front legs have feathers about 5 cm (2 inches) long. The upper side of the tail is covered with wiry hair, while its underside is less wiry with a neat feathering of softer hair.


Dandie Dinmont Terriers are either pepper or mustard in colour.

Pepper Dandies range from dark bluish black to light silvery grey. Intermediate shades are preferred. The body colour runs down to the shoulders and hips, gradually merging into the colour of the legs and feet, which can vary from rich tan to pale fawn, according to the dog’s body colour. Peppers have a profuse silvery-white topknot.

Mustard Dandies vary from reddish brown to pale fawn. They have a profuse creamy-white topknot, and their legs and feet exhibit a darker shade than the head.

Both Dandies might display some white hair on their chest. White nails are permissible, but white feet are undesirable. The hair on the underside of the tail is lighter than on the upper side, which should be darker than the body.


The height at the shoulder blade ridges should be between 20 and 28 cm (8–11 inches). The length from the shoulder blade ridges to the root of the tail should not be more than twice the height, but preferably 2.5–5 cm (1–2 inches) less. A dog in good working condition should weigh between 8–11 kg (18–24 lbs). Dogs on the lighter end of the scale are generally preferred.


Any deviation from the above guidelines is considered a fault, and the fault’s seriousness should be regarded in proportion to its degree, its effect on the dog’s health and welfare, and its ability to perform its traditional work.

Scale of points

Although the latest standard issued by The Kennel Club no longer includes a scale of points, it’s still interesting to note how Dandies used to be judged and the importance that was allocated to certain features.

Legs and feet10
Weight and size5
General appearance5