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You could be mistaken for thinking the English Toy Terrier is a miniature Doberman - with its lithe figure, pointed snout and black and tan markings it looks not unlike a pinscher, however this little dog was developed from the larger Manchester Terriers to wage war in the rat pits of the 19th Century, earning their owners large sums of money by killing as many rats as possible within an hour.
Once the preserve of the larger Manchester Terrier it was felt that a smaller dog would have more success in the pit and the Toy Terrier was developed. The decline of the rat pit coincided with the development of the Kennel Club and this graceful little dog made the transition from rat pit to show ring with remarkable ease.
The breed is currently on the KC's list of vulnerable native breeds and efforts are being made to re establish the gene pool so the Toy Terrier is not lost forever.
A regular in the rat pit, the Toy Terrier was developed from the Old English Black and Tan Terrier that's closely related to the aforementioned Manchester breed. The Toy is extremely quick and very, very agile, which made it perfect for chasing rats around a specially created 'pit', dispatching them cleanly as it went.
Bets were placed on the dogs chosen to participate in this sport - which was most popular in the slums of Victorian England - with money being put on the animals predicted to kill their quota of rats in the fastest time.
Small dogs were felt to make the best rat pit competitors and many owners purposefully bred smaller and smaller animals, believing they would enjoy more success in the pit. Tiny, a terrier reputed to weigh less than 6lb, is reported to have killed 300 rats in less than an hour in 1848 and another dog 'Billy', was reported to have been capable of killing 100 rats in five-and-a-half minutes.
The banning of the sport happened just as the Kennel Club was established and the Toy's natural grace meant it was enormously successful in the show ring. Until the 1920s black and tan terriers were shown in weight divisions, but after the '20s the breed was split into the larger Manchester and the smaller Black and Tan Terrier (miniature). The name 'English Toy Terrier' was adopted in the 1960s.
Average height to withers: 10" - 12"
Average weight: 6-8lb
With very defined breed standards, the only permitted colourway for the Toy is black, with tan markings on the face, chest and legs. The body of the Toy should be smooth and sleek, balanced and compact.
The head is flat, with a pointed snout and erect ears which are forward-facing. The nose should be black and the eyes dark and almond-shaped. The dog has a strong jaw, with well-aligned teeth and a powerful bite...
The Toy's coat is short and thick and should have a high gloss and the black and tan areas should never blend into one another, rather they should be distinct from one another. The natural gait of the Toy Terrier is often compared to a horse's extended trot.
Having spent the majority of its formative years in the rat pit this dog is brave and should never be nervous without good reason. They are an intelligent little animal which can be vocal - in fact they seem to delight in barking!
Training should be regular and consistent to keep their minds occupied as they are naturally inquisitive and boredom could lead to more barking and destructive behaviour. The Toy should be well socialised from an early age and should be introduced to children and other pets as soon as possible. Never forget this breed has its origins in the rat pits and may view other pets such as cats and rabbits as easy prey. In fact, it is recommended that the Toy is always supervised when with small animals and children should be supervised when with any dog.
The Toy is high-spirited, playful and cunning and care should be taken to always remind him who is in charge!
Skin problems are documented in this breed, with demodectic mange one of the most common ailments. This form of mange is caused by an overpopulation of the mite Demodex canis that the dog's immune system is unable to cope with. Most dogs have low levels of the mite present in the hair follicles around the face and other areas and they never cause a problem. However in certain individuals, those with impaired immune systems for example, the mites can rage out of control and cause anything from mild itching and some hair loss, to widespread inflammation, scabbing and intense irritation. Many mild cases remedy themselves without treatment; however severe cases should always be seen by a vet.
The Toy can also suffer from luxating patella, where the kneecap is able to move around freely due to weakened ligaments and the painful and debilitating Legg-Calve-Perthes - a disease of the hip joint that causes the head of the femur to degenerate. This can cause sever lameness and any dog showing symptoms of LCP should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
Another disease affecting the breed is the blood coagulation disorder von Willebrand Disease. This condition is widely reported in humans and dogs, and to a lesser extent is also known to affect cats, horses, pigs and cattle. VWD presents itself with 'easy bleeds' such as frequent nose bleeds, bleeding gums and bruising easily.
Other illnesses affecting the Toy include deafness, eye disease including glaucoma, lens luxation and cataracts and heat stress.
Despite the ailments mentioned above, the Toy Terrier is a tough little dog and will attack most tasks with gusto. Although his exercise requirements are reasonably low, he should be given a daily walk and have access to a secure outdoor space. If you have any small furries such as guinea pigs or rabbits these should be kept in a secure enclosure and well away from your Toy as he will chase a small pet if he gets the chance.
His coat is easy to maintain, only requiring a brush and a smooth over with a grooming mitt once a week to keep his fur in tip-top condition. He is definitely a one-person dog and is better suited to a single person or older couples as he revels in attention - although older children will appreciate his needs much better than younger ones who may be boisterous and cause injury to these small dogs.