Welsh Terrier

Michelle Diener, DVM
By Michelle Diener, DVM on Feb. 13, 2024
black and tan welsh terrier sitting outside

Adobe Stock/Angel

In This Article

General Care

The Welsh Terrier is an affectionate breed that, thanks to their intelligence and eager-to-please nature, is easy to train.

The breed originated in Wales and was bred to hunt pests, such as otters and badgers, for Welsh farmers. They resemble an Irish dog breed, the Airedale Terrier, but with notable differences. Namely, the Welsh Terrier is smaller; they stand about 15 inches tall and weigh around 20 pounds. Airedales are 23 inches tall on average and weigh 50–70 pounds.

The Welsh Terrier has a rectangular head and almond-shaped brown eyes. Their tail is commonly docked, though this is a controversial practice the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advocates against.

Caring for a Welsh Terrier

Though terrier breeds have a reputation for having an independent streak, Welsh Terriers are eager to please their family members. They are highly trainable and pick up cues quickly because of this.

Welsh Terriers have a lot of energy and need to be given jobs to stay active and prevent boredom. They enjoy retrieving balls and running in a fenced backyard. A long, daily walk is also enjoyable for this breed.

A professional grooming appointment is needed every two to three months to keep their coat short and tidy. While their coat does shed, it can be stripped by hand or by using a grooming knife.

Welsh Terrier Health Issues

The Welsh Terrier is a healthy breed that typically lives 12–15 years. However, this breed can be prone to a few musculoskeletal, eye, and neurologic conditions.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can occur in Welsh Terrier puppies. This disease causes limping on one or both hind limbs due to a lack of blood supply in the top of the femur, which leads to bone decay. This condition is painful and requires orthopedic surgery.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited orthopedic condition where the hip joint doesn’t properly align. This can cause pain and, over time, arthritis. Hip dysplasia can develop in one or both hip joints.

While rare, some Welsh Terriers are born with congenital hip dysplasia, while others can develop this condition during their senior years. Symptoms include:

  • Lameness

  • Slowness to rise from a lying position

  • A “bunny-hopping” gait when running

  • Reluctance to run, jump, or go up or down stairs

  • Holding the affected leg out to the side when sitting up

Hip dysplasia can often be managed with joint supplements and certain medications. In serious cases, surgical intervention may be required.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is when a dog’s kneecap moves (luxates) out of place. There are varying degrees of kneecap luxation, with the most severe requiring orthopedic surgery.

A reputable Welsh Terrier breeder will have their dogs evaluated for patellar luxation and hip dysplasia to make sure only those without these medical conditions are used for breeding.

Eye Conditions

Welsh terriers are prone to certain eye conditions, including cataracts, lens luxations, and glaucoma.

A cataract occurs when the eye lens becomes cloudy. The cataract’s size determines the degree of vision impairment, and surgery to remove the cataract may be needed to restore eyesight.

Glaucoma is an inherited eye disorder caused by increased pressure within the eye. This most often occurs in Welsh Terrier dogs under 3 years of age. Symptoms include excessive blinking, red eyes, bulging eyes, eye discharge, and blindness. Medications and surgery are often needed to manage glaucoma.

Primary lens luxation is a painful genetic eye condition in which the lens is displaced. This can lead to glaucoma and blindness if surgical correction isn’t performed quickly.

Atopic Dermatitis

Canine atopic dermatitis (atopy) is an extremely itchy skin condition that Welsh Terriers are believed to be genetically predisposed to. It can be triggered by environmental allergens (such as pollen, fleas, dust mites, or mold) or by a food allergy, often due to the protein in the diet.

Symptoms usually develop between 6 months and 3 years of age, so regular veterinary visits are important to monitor your dog’s skin health. Welsh Terriers with atopy are constantly scratching, chewing, or licking themselves. This self-trauma leads to hair loss, thickened skin, and secondary skin infections. Treatment often involves topical therapy or oral medication, a recovery cone, and a food trial to test for a food allergy.


Primary epilepsy refers to seizure activity in dogs that may occur sporadically or frequently with no identified underlying cause. Symptoms usually develop at an early age (1–4 years) and may include:

  • Unconsciousness

  • Dilated pupils

  • Full-body tremors

  • Vocalization

  • Urination or defecation

Treatment involves one or more oral anti-seizure medications that must be given long-term to prevent seizures.

What To Feed a Welsh Terrier

welsh terrier carrying a stick in a park
Photo credit: Adobe Stock/DragonFly

Welsh Terriers should be fed a high-quality, small-breed dog food that meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Like all dogs, Welsh Terriers should always be fed a diet that matches their life stage (puppy, adult, or senior). Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog.

How To Feed a Welsh Terrier

Adult Welsh Terriers should be fed twice daily. In contrast, Welsh Terrier puppies need to eat more frequently—three or four times per day—to reduce risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

How Much Should You Feed a Welsh Terrier?

Follow the feeding guidelines on your dog food packaging to learn how much to feed your dog based on their weight. Your vet can give further advice on the proper feeding amount based on your dog’s health, age, and lifestyle.

Once your Welsh Terrier puppy is 1 year old, slowly transition their puppy food to a high-quality, small-breed adult formula. To prevent unwanted weight gain, adult food has fewer calories than puppy food. Welsh Terriers are prone to being overweight, so measure their food to avoid overfeeding.

As with all dogs, your Welsh Terrier’s daily diet should consist of 90% dog food and only 10% treats.

Nutritional Tips for Welsh Terriers

A healthy Welsh Terrier that’s fed an AAFCO-compliant dog food shouldn’t need anything additional. However, there are certain instances where a veterinarian may recommend one or more supplements for your dog.

For example, if your Welsh Terrier has canine atopic dermatitis, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement containing EPA and DHA can help reduce skin inflammation and promote a shiny, healthy coat. Welsh Terriers with joint issues, such as a patellar luxation or hip dysplasia, may benefit from a joint supplement and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to reduce joint inflammation. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Welsh Terriers

Welsh Terrier Personality and Temperament

The Welsh Terrier’s temperament is friendly and outgoing, according to the Welsh Terrier Club of America (WTCA). They can be good with young children and other dogs when properly socialized, and when introductions are supervised and done properly.

Welsh Terriers also have a lot of energy and need at least one or two hours of exercise every day. This could be a long walk, a brisk run, or chasing a ball or Frisbee in the yard. They need a job to do to stay fit and stimulated, and to prevent obesity and boredom. 

Welsh Terrier Behavior

True to their terrier nature, this Welsh dog breed barks a lot, and needs patience and positive reinforcement to curb unwanted behaviors. Early socialization and training classes with positive reinforcement are crucial at an early age to help keep your dog from barking excessively.

Proper training, including strong recall, is also important when your Welsh Terrier is outside. This breed has a strong prey drive because of their hunting history and may see smaller animals as something to chase. Always keep your Welsh Terrier on a leash or inside a fenced area when outside.

Welsh Terriers have a lot of energy and need to be given jobs to stay active and prevent boredom. They enjoy retrieving balls and running in a fenced backyard.

Welsh Terrier Training

Welsh Terriers are usually easy to train because they are smart and eager to please their family members. They respond well to positive reinforcement, such as receiving praise and treats when they behave properly.

Welsh Terrier puppies should be enrolled in socialization, obedience, and puppy training classes before they’re 16 weeks old. These classes will help them learn cues and become comfortable around new stimuli (like children, other dogs, and strangers).

Fun Activities for Welsh Terriers

  • Long walks

  • Running or jogging

  • Frisbee

  • Chasing a ball

  • Barn hunt

Welsh Terrier Grooming Guide

The Welsh Terrier has a double coat of medium length fur: a wiry and harsh outer coat over a smooth, soft undercoat. Professional grooming appointments can help keep their coat at a manageable length and minimize shedding during certain times of the year.

Skin Care

A Welsh Terrier should be bathed every two to three months with a moisturizing shampoo. Because this breed can develop allergy-related skin issues, monitor their skin and contact your veterinarian if you notice changes such as redness, moisture, or crust.

Coat Care

The Welsh Terrier’s coat sheds two to three times a year. During these times, the dead or loose hairs can be hand-stripped (a process that removes hair by the root instead of trimming the fur).

Aside from stripping, pet parents must brush their Welsh Terrier’s coat at least once or twice a week to prevent matting.

Eye Care

Welsh Terriers are prone to several eye disorders. When researching a Welsh Terrier breeder, work with one who has their breeding dogs examined and tested for various eye disorders.

After bringing home your pup, schedule a wellness exam to have a veterinarian look at their eyes. This should be done annually. If you notice a change in your dog’s eyes or suspect vision loss, schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible.

Ear Care

Welsh Terriers are not as prone to frequent ear infections as some other dog breeds. However, they can occasionally develop infections, especially if they have allergies or get water in their ears during a bath.

Cleaning their ears with a vet-recommended ear cleaner can help minimize ear infections. It’s also important to clean their ears after a bath or other water activity, such as swimming. If your dog has allergies, ask your veterinarian how often you should clean their ears to reduce the risk of infection.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Welsh Terriers have a lot of energy—and it’s a pet parent’s job to make sure they release that energy every day. The ideal home for this breed would have a large, fenced backyard where a Welsh Terrier can run around after a ball. While they can live in an apartment, they would need to be taken out for long walks or runs every day to prevent unwanted weight gain and boredom. 

Remember that this breed was bred to hunt and may still retain a strong prey drive. If you have a cat, introduce them to your Welsh Terrier slowly and under supervision. This dog must be supervised, and either be on a leash or inside a fenced yard when outside so they don’t chase neighborhood wildlife.

When well-exercised, well-trained, and well-socialized, Welsh Terriers can make a great family dog.

Welsh Terrier FAQs

Do Welsh Terriers make good pets?

Welsh Terriers can be great pets with the proper training and socialization, and when their daily exercise needs are met.

Do Welsh Terriers bark a lot?

Every dog is an individual, but Welsh Terriers are known to bark a lot to seek attention and alert their family. Training at a young age is key to helping prevent unwanted barking.

Do Welsh Terriers shed?

A Welsh Terrier’s coat sheds two to three times a year, and they need to be brushed or hand-stripped during this time to remove dead and loose hairs.

Can Welsh Terriers be off leash?

If a Welsh Terrier is trained to return quickly when called, they can be off leash. But be cautious, as this breed has a strong prey drive and may chase a small wild animal if it’s in eyesight.

What’s the difference between Welsh Terriers and Airedale Terriers?

Although their coat colors and texture are similar, there are differences between Welsh Terriers and Airedale Terriers. The Welsh Terrier is about 8 inches shorter and 30–50 pounds lighter than the Airedale. Welsh Terriers also have a slightly longer life expectancy than Airedales, on average.

Michelle Diener, DVM


Michelle Diener, DVM


I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I obtained by BS degree in Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 and my DVM degree at NCSU in 2006. I have...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health