Judging the Lakeland Terrier

A Breeder–Judge’s Point of View

The Lakeland is a long-legged, wire-coated terrier that shares a fairly similar general appearance with the Airedale, Wire Fox, Irish and Welsh Terriers. This subgroup of terriers share not only a similar general appearance but are also similar in balance and movement. Whether it is inadequate knowledge, a lack of dedication to type in the pursuit for big wins or both, recently these breeds have integrated to the point that type is disappearing. Many of the dogs we now see in the ring can be described as generic terriers. Too often, the only traits that differentiate these breeds are size, color and grooming styles and that too is barely discernable.

Show stack (Madison)Each of these breeds was developed in a separate region for a distinct purpose. It was these differences that allowed them to work and perform the job their creators intended. In spite of their similarities, judges must possess the knowledge and be able to recognize the traits and characteristics that define breed type.

Since their introduction to the United States, the Lakeland has enjoyed tremendous success in the show ring but too many of the dogs we see in recent times are closer to Wire and Welsh in type. The standard does little to lessen the problem and in many areas adds to it with its use of general terms and wording that is almost identical to the other terrier standards.

The standard, on its own, does little to help one envision a picture of type and should be viewed as a general description and an outline for determining faults. It is possible for a dog to conform quite closely to this description, possess very few structural faults and yet look very little like a Lakeland. Hence the ever popular generic “good terrier” who is continually rewarded for his outstanding showmanship. Breeders and judges must be able to determine when a fault ceases to be a fault and becomes a deviation from type, thus taking away from that overall look that is typical of a Lakeland Terrier.

The General Appearance as stated in the standard is an excellent beginning for understanding the Lakeland:

The Lakeland Terrier was bred to hunt vermin in the rugged shale mountains of the Lake District of northern England. He is a small, workmanlike dog of square, sturdy build. His body is deep and relatively narrow which allows him to squeeze into rocky dens. He has sufficient length of let under him to cover rough ground easily. His neck is long, leading smoothly into high withers and a short topline ending in a high tailset. His attitude is gay, friendly and self-confident, but not overly aggressive. He is alert and ready to go. His movement is lithe graceful, with a straight ahead, free stride of good length. His head is rectangular, jaws powerful and ears V-shaped. A dense, wiry coat is finished off with longer furnishings on muzzle and legs.

Head

The Lakeland head is often described as a brick but the same has been said of both the Welsh and Airedale heads, which are very different from that of the Lakeland. The skull is moderately broad, it should be shorter and proportionally thicker throughout than the heads of the other four breeds. Lakelands should possess a strong muzzle with a broad nose bridge and good underjaw.

The head should have a more balanced square-shape appearance than the long rectangular shaped head of the Welsh with a longer foreface. The Lakeland head is not as long as the heads of the other four breeds. The skull is more of a square with the width approximately equal in the length (from stop to occiput), which is equal again to the length of the muzzle. It is moderately wide, never as narrow as the Wire. It should almost have a chunky appearance but without coarseness and the cheeks should be clean and almost straight-sided.

Lakeland head While many consider the ears to be purely a cosmetic feature, it is one of the most important aspects that differentiate type. Our Standard calls for a “small, V shaped ear with the fold just above the level of the skull. The inside edge is close to the cheek and the flap points toward the outside corner of the eye.”

The ear flap should be held close to the side of the head with the tip of the ear approximately level with the outside corner of the eye. The Lakeland ear breaks just above the skull and points downward to the ground near the outside corner of the eye. The Welsh ear breaks higher and points more to the center of the eye. The Wire Fox ear is the highest break of all and points more to the inside corner of the eye. It is important that the ears fold nicely together as an open ear would not be effective in keeping out the harsh weather of Lakes district.

The eyes should be “moderately small and somewhat oval”. The eye of the Lakeland is somewhat larger than that of the Welsh or Wire. This slightly larger eye creates the gentler inquisitive look so typical of the Lakeland. They should be black or dark brown, except that in liver or liver/tan dogs a lighter eye from hazel to warm brown is acceptable. The relatively wide placement of the eyes and full “fall” of hair over the eyes tend to soften the Lakeland’s expression.

It should be noted that an eye that was large or protruding was open to injury when the dog poked his head into small openings of the fox dens. Judges should ensure that creative grooming with an overly abundant fall over the eyes does not hide eye faults.

The nose of the Lakeland is black and prominent. Brown colored noses and lips are acceptable in liver-coated dogs. The nose should be of good size. Although a “winter nose” or faded pigment is permitted (usually seen in solid Red and Wheaten colored dogs after periods of little or no sunlight).

The jaws “are powerful. The teeth, which are comparatively large, meet in either a level, edge to edge bite, or a slightly overlapping scissors bite. Specimens with teeth overshot or undershot are to be disqualified.” A wry mouth should be severely penalized. Due to the Lakeland’s very large teeth, bites are a serious concern in the breed.

Neck, Topline, Body

The neck “is reachy and of good length, refined but strong, clean at the throat, slightly arched and widens gradually into the shoulders.” A short neck or thick neck (Welsh type) or one of extreme length (Wire type) should be penalized as they are a serious deviation from Lakeland type.

The forelegs should be strong boned, clean and “absolutely straight when viewed from the front or side, devoid of appreciable bend at the pastern.” Remember straight terrier fronts refer to the forelegs not the layback of shoulder.

The shoulders are “sloping, well laid back.” The shoulder blade is long in proportion to the upper arm allowing for a reasonable angulation. The shoulder blades should be well knit or close together. The flexible shoulder assembly is critical for the Lakeland to jump, spring, dig and wiggle into the rocky dens.

Judges should always examine for thick, well-padded feet. The toes should be compact without splay and have strong nails.

The chest is moderately narrow, deep, extending to elbows. The ribs are “well sprung and moderately round.” It should be emphasized that the Lakeland had to get his body into any space where his head would fit. The Lakeland does this by contorting and squeezing though, first one shoulder then the other.

The overall length-to-height proportion dog is approximately square, the back is short and level, the loin taut and short, although a slightly longer loin is permitted in bitches. The Lakeland should be slightly longer through the loin than the Wire or Welsh. This allowed him to twist, turn and maneuver his way through the narrow crevices.

The rear should be well muscled with an obvious shelf behind the tail. When standing freely, the hind legs should not be set underneath him. The hocks should be well let down and the toes should point straight ahead. Judges should ensure that skillful shaping of the furnishings is not hiding faults.

The tail “is set high on the body. The carriage is upright and a slight curve in the direction of the head is desirable.” Curled over the back is faulty. It is docked so that when set up, the tip of the tail is in line with the top of the skull. The tail that is docked too short is a man-made fault but detracts from the overall look. A tail that is carried anything but up is a serious deviation from type. An upright tail that bounces and flops over to one side in an unnatural manner while moving can indicate tampering.

Coat & Color

The Lakeland has a wire outer coat with a soft dense undercoat. The appearance should be neat and workmanlike. The body coat is approximately ½ to 1 inch in length and may be straight or slightly wavy. The legs are trimmed to appear cylindrical. The face is trimmed with full “fall” over the eyes to cover from above but with the eyes quite apparent from the front view. Thus giving the Lakeland his own unique expression. It should be noted that the furnishings should be abundant and not profuse like the Kerry Blue.

The Lakeland comes in the widest variety of colors of the Terrier breeds. They come in solid colors of Black, Blue, Red, Wheaten and Liver. The saddle marked colors are Black & Tan, Grizzle & Tan, Blue & Tan, Liver & Tan and Red Grizzle. All colors are equally acceptable. . A small patch of white on the chest is also permissible.

I want to stress that the tan, as desirable in a Lakeland, is a light wheaten or straw color and should never be the rich red or dark mahogany of the Airedale or Welsh. All too often the Lakeland’s in the ring are being chalked and colored to an intensity that seriously deviates from our breed standard.

The furnishings on the legs and face are a lighter shade than the tan found elsewhere on the body, particularly the ears. A dog that is the same color all over, with no varying shades is most likely artificially colored. A judge must decide what he/she is willing to tolerate in the way of grooming preparations and he must be consistent.

In the ring at Montgomery 2010

Temperament

The Lakeland’s temperament should be bold, friendly and confident. The Lakeland should never be aggressive. This was a dog that worked in packs and had to be able to coexist with other dogs. Aggression in this breed should be discouraged and penalized. It is not typical. A Lakie who is alert, focused and up on his toes is a sight to behold. It should be noted that an air of boredom and disinterest towards other dogs, giving the impression that they are beneath him, is totally acceptable.

The ideal height is “14 ½” at the withers with a deviation of ½” either way. Bitches can be up to 1” less.” The Standard states “balance and proportion are of primary importance.”

Size

The Lakeland is the smallest of the long-legged terriers. In keeping with type, he should not be larger than the Welsh nor should he be a great deal smaller. Although he should never approach the stockiness of the Welsh, he should have a good amount of bone and substance for his size to enable him to do his job. The weight of a mature Lakeland male should be around 18 pounds while a similar sized 15” Welsh male should be around 20 pounds.

Presentation

The Lakeland is a beautiful terrier when presented in a magnificent coat. I would ask that those passing judgment on the breed do not ignore the owner-handler that has done a fine job of conditioning but whose dog may not be the most polished coat in the ring. The Lakeland is a working terrier and not a bronze statue for the mantel. A Lakeland should not have his face or legs scissored to perfection which has become the fashion with many of today’s professional handlers. They should posses a double coat of proper length, not the nearly naked, artificially colored coats seen in abundance. Finally, a Lakeland is a happy confident dog and should always portray that in the ring.

— Red Tatro