This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
Latterly a considerable amount of discussion has been going on relative to the reputed trimming of the coat and face of the Dandie Dinmont. That this has been done, and is still done in many instances, I have had ample proof, and I always have blamed the judges for not putting it down with a strong hand. This they could easily do by disqualifying any dog where the hair had been removed off the face, and where the top knot had been artificially whitened. Dogs with uneven mouths, either overshot or undershot, ought likewise to be firmly dealt with, and kept altogether out of the prize lists. Of course, there are some exhibitors who do not so "trim" their dogs, as there are others who deny that anything of the kind is done to any unfair extent. But the fact remains, and at least two owners of good dogs to my knowledge discontinued exhibiting, their chief reason for so doing being the prevalence of plucking and general trimming of the coat and face.
Whether the best specimens of to-day are as good or better than those of twenty years and more ago is rather a difficult problem to solve. Our judges do not always quite stick to type, and some of the southern bred dogs that have done a great deal of winning of late are to my mind too light in bone and generally weak, unterrier-like, and constitutionally puny in appearance. Though the Dandie Dinmont is not, as a rule, used by the "show man" as a working terrier, he must not be allowed to degenerate into a ladies' pet. Remember that the border farmer and gipsies used them for work long before Sir Walter Scott christened them Dandie Dinmonts and made them fashionable dogs.
A writer in the Scottish Fancier, about twelve months since, gave his opinion, in very strong language, that the Dandie Dinmont was degenerating. He said: - "Dandie Dinmont terrier fanciers talk of the great improvement that has taken place in their favourite breed during the last decade. We fail to see it. Our opinion is that we are fast losing the points that go to make a good Dandie Dinmont. The large, full, dark expressive eye, which displays so much affection and strength of character - some would call it 'dourness' - is unfortunately too seldom seen; the large full-domed skull is equally rare; and lor one that has a good arched back there are dozens that are as flat as a Skye terrier. Bone, legs, and feet are also in need of improvement. These cannot be made by the aid of finger and thumb, so are allowed to go from bad to worse. The cause of the degeneracy we cannot tell. Faulty judging has certainly something to do with it, and if something is not done the strong-boned, small-sized, big-eyed, silver-domed terrier will be a thing of the past." Words like these from an authority on the breed must have weight, and ought to be borne in mind, but dog breeders are almost as obstinate in their fancies as a woman is in the choice of a bonnet or mantle.
As a companion, the Dandie Dinmont terrier is quite satisfactory. He is game, intelligent, as a rule free from vice, and no more addicted to a fight than other varieties of the terrier. His long body and short legs enable him to carry a considerable amount of street dirt into the house when he is made a part and parcel of the family. Otherwise he is a good family quadruped, being fond of children and amiable in his disposition. To my mind, he is not so useful as an assistant to hounds as a fox terrier, or as a longer-legged, more active dog. Nor is he fast enough for rabbit coursing. The latter is, no doubt, an advantage to them from a moral point of view, because coursing matches with bagged rabbits are not likely to be made in his favour, as is unfortunately the case with the modern fox terrier. The Dandie Dinmont, a hard bitten, determined terrier, is liable to kill his fox underground, if he can get to him, rather than drive him into the open, nor is he of that form likely to make him an active water dog, though fond enough of a swim. He is quaint in appearance, by no means unornamental on the hearthrug before the dining-room fire, and will repay in affection for anything that he eats when kept as a dog in the house.
No better dog asa "friend" could possibly have been than the writer's Sir Douglas, alluded to earlier on. Often the companion of my fishing excursions, he knew when to hunt rats and when not to do so. He struck up an acquaintance with a family who lived near some gunpowder works, with whom I used to leave a salmon rod to use as occasion required. Douglas liked the people there, he liked the children. In the winter season, when we did not go fishing, Douglas paid weekly visits on his own account, walking quietly along the footpaths through the fields, never leaving the "trod" though rabbits might be on both sides of him. He was petted by the youngsters, wagging his great tail the while, and in an hour was off on his return, taking the same route as he had on the outward journey. Again, if I left him at home when I had gone out angling, in nine cases out of ten he would meet me on the road back, two miles or so out of the town, especially at night time. Poor dog! he had a sad failing, he loved killing a cat, but knew well enough he ought not to do so. Let "pussy" spit at him, her life was soon over. He liked to go out to afternoon tea with the children and their nurse who were our neighbours. On one occasion a large and ferocious brown retriever flew at one of the youngsters, Douglas was at the dog's throat in an instant, and it was generally believed he saved the child from being worried to death, as the brute was, a short time afterwards, destroyed by magisterial orders for almost killing a little girl. The same afternoon Douglas was in disgrace, because he killed the cat in the house where his family party were taking tea.
I could name the date and the show, but I will not do so for reasons that are no doubt apparent. More than twenty years since a semi-tame fox was on view as an additional attraction at one of our canine exhibitions in the north of England. Some of the keepers and committee who were on duty during the night having an idea that they could have a bit of sport, unbenched two or three of the wire-haired terriers, said to be "good at badger, fox, or fighting," and one by one let them at the poor fox. However, sport there was none, for the terriers would not tackle their game at any price. "Try Sir Douglas" (who was benched at the same show) said one fellow, and Sir Douglas was at once brought upon the scene, and, licking his lips - as was his wont under such circumstances - made a dash at the fox, immediately pinning it by the throat, much to the chagrin of those who were in charge of the show. Somehow or other they managed to get the dog off before the fox was quite killed, though the poor thing died just after the show - it was thought from distemper contracted thereat.