Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Uncommon Terriers: Sealyham

fortune of a breed of dog can rise and fall. There are a handful of terriers who may have once been popular but are now very uncommon, some are in danger of becoming extinct. The first of these we will look at is the once popular and a "must have" dog of the rich, royal, and/or famous, the Sealyham Terrier. 

Once Sealyhams could be found in Windsor Castle and Hollywood: Princess Margaret, Cary Grant, Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart...this spunky and handsome little dog used to see 2,000 pups a year registered. In 2011 the Kennel Club registered only 49 Sealyham puppies.  

Sealyhams aren't just a pretty face; they still will happily work as ratting dogs chasing down vermin. They can also be trained for other tasks and are a terrier that are actually interested in pleasing their owners - although they can be stubborn. They are still terriers after all.

The Sealyham is a Welsh terrier in origin. These are cheerful pups who make good family dogs and do best when handled by a firm, and consistent handler. They also need some exercise everyday - a brisk half hour walk and maybe a little ball chasing would suit them well.

If your looking for a little different kind of competition, Sealyhams would usually do well in Earthdog competitions. These are competitions where dogs, like terriers, who were bred to go to ground for vermin can practice the skills they were bred for without doing harm to anything.

Sealyhams also train up well for obedience and agility - a little less common for terriers who are notorious for short attention spans.

If a hardy little dog with a big personality appeals to you, if you are willing to spend some time training and maintaining a big personality in a small package, and if you are thinking about adding an uncommon dog with a lot of affection to give, to your life - consider the Sealyham. You can help preserve an uncommon breed and get a very devoted companion in the bargain.


  1. Those puppies are definite competitors in the "cutest puppy ever" contest. Kathy

    1. They are pretty adorable - I would be delighted to have that top pup to hug and squeeze and love and make my very own....

    2. These dogs are the best! Their personality is a combination of the usual lively terrier with the loving, attentive lab -- without the shedding! These are not only cute dogs but great pets! I fell in love with Sealys from research on the net. I wonder if the reason that they aren't so popular is that they are very expensive - over $1000, at least. I wanted a healthy dog and was willing to pay the price and have never regretted my choice. Most Sealy owners will tell you that they will never have any other breed.

  2. Great article. I had no idea Sealyham Terriers were so rare these days! With all the talk and news about dog breed standards, in-breeding, etc, I've seen very little about the breeds that seemingly are disappearing. Good job call out attention to this!

  3. Thanks Sue. It is ironic isn't it, with all the talk of over-breeding people may not realize that there are actually some breeds on the verge of being extinct. I've always had a soft spot for the unpopular breeds :-)

  4. Hi Y'all,

    What cute dogs. Unfortunately, I have ruled terriers out and long haired dogs too. Thus I'm afraid this beautiful dog is not in my future.

    BrownDog's Human

  5. Terriers aren't for everyone - diversity means that some dogs and some people go together well, while others are better off admiring each other from a distance :-) At least some long haired dogs don't shed so much, just need occasional haircuts.

    I think everyone should take time to get to know what kind of dogs suit their lifestyle. I wish more people thought about this before they got a dog.

  6. I think it's appropriate to add to this blog that Sealyhams have an extremely limited gene pool and as such come with certain problems.

    I have kept Sealyhams before in the UK when I still lived there and the worst problem with this otherwise charming little terrier is character. "Stubborn" does not do the problem justice. It's more like psychosis. They can have extremely unreliable aggressive tempers towards both their owners and strangers.

    Unfortunately the gene pool is too small to completely solve this problem within the breed itself. There are however breeding programmes using out-crosses to other terrier breeds to try and stabilise the breed which should have the desired effect on temperament and genetic diversity.

    As it stands not all Sealyhams are very good with children other small animals and the public. So be warned and make sure you know what you are getting into. If you can accommodate such a dog all well and good but take it from me it can end up being a never ending uphill battle one you and the dog are likely to lose. I had to have one of my bitches put down as she became unmanageably aggressive and couldn't even be handled by a vet so without basic treatment her life became a misery as did ours as we coud do nothing to help. We tried medication sedatives but all that did was turn her into a growling zombie who slept all day.

    Sadly the Sealyham as a breed as it stands today is a very risky prospect, lets hope if the breed is saved it will also be a far better dog.

  7. As some people are also expressing worries about the nature of their coat it's worthwhile pointing out here too that they have extremely high maintenance coats.

    This is not by original design, in fact the coat should be a tough hard wearing wiry waterproof one that can take the rigours of the hunt. Unfortunately because of breeding for profuse coats for dog shows a soft unmanageably fine coat has resulted. Without constant brushing at least daily and this is difficult with unstable characters the coat very soon becomes a tangled mess that needs shearing.

    Bearing in mind the breed loves to go to ground and sniff out wild animals in thickets, even when out in the garden its coat very quickly becomes a mess.

    In fact the coat is meant to be "stripped" i.e. pulled from the dog rather than trimmed, unfortunately no dogs like this and even less so Sealyhams. Their coat does not 'blow" sufficiently i.e. fall/shed out properly enough to make stripping possible without actually causing pain.

    So what you are left with is a hunting dog that need to be treated like a toy poodle as far as coat is concerned, needing monthly professional grooming and even more if it spends time outdoors which it must do to be happy. You may find your dog will not be accepted by groomers due to its unreliable character. These are powerful little dogs bred to take on badgers they have big muscular jaws and don't easily give in.

    It's far to easy to write a simplistic blog about a pleasant little rare breed but the truth is very important should any well meaning people decide to take on such a breed.

    A working Sealyham is a far happier one than a pet in all respects.

    Im a big fan of this dog however even assuming its saved as a breed this is just the begining to a lot more hard work and dedication to making it "right" as a breed again, not just in numbers but as a breed.