Norfolk Terriers are not created equal. Just as there are differences in physical appearance, or phenotype, there are also differences in temperament. As breeders, it behooves us to know not only what our bitches are like behaviorally, but what the stud dogs we breed to are like, as well.
When considering whether or not to breed our bitches or use our males at stud, we need to take an objective look at their temperaments. This is the part of their personality which is inherited, as opposed to learned behaviors, and unless we have a good idea of the genetics behind our dogs actions, then we have no business breeding them. Dogs that are either overly aggressive or overly timid should not be used in anyone's breeding scheme, no matter how physically attractive they may be. The Norfolk standard calls for dogs that are alert, gregarious, fearless and loyal and that are never aggressive. We need to constantly keep this in mind or we risk producing cute little neurotics that will ultimately end up in dog pounds, shelters or worse.
Many Norfolks are laid back and care-free; some are not. The terrier instinct that makes this breed so appealing may need harnessing and redirection if a dog is to make an acceptable family pet. It is imperative that when we match puppies to people, we consider not only the lifestyle of the family, but also the character and temperament of the dog involved. A strong willed puppy is probably not an ideal companion in a home where no one has experience in dealing with terriers. These are the very dogs that can make ideal companions in the right hands, but who can turn into little terrorists if not properly supervised.
It is important, when selling a puppy, to stress that these dogs are terriers and should be appreciated as such. Golden Retrievers are wonderful dogs. Poodles are bright as all get out. Norfolks are wonderful too, but they're not going to act like Goldens and they are not going to act like poodles and they shouldn't be expected to!
Breeding for the whole dog should be the goal of anyone contemplating producing a litter of puppies. Unless we pay as much attention to the inside of the dogs we produce as we do to the outside, our efforts will ultimately be detrimental to the breed we profess to love.
ANTIC, Fall/Winter 1995
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