The Unique Lakeland Terrier – Head, Ears & Expression

Lakeland Terrier Head, Ears and Expression


The Unique Lakeland Terrier – Head, Ears and Expression
By Pat Rock

Everyone has heard the old saw that if you viewed dogs with just their heads hanging over a fence you should be able to recognize each breed, even if you couldn’t see the color or markings. Nothing could be more true about the long-legged Terrier breeds.

Face it, given how low entries are in Lakelands, and how rare the opportunities are for attendance at breed-specific seminars or ringside mentoring, precious few newly approved judges have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with more than a handful of Lakelands. Studying profile pictures and a few heavily campaigned specials can’t provide the comparisons for this breed that may be obtained by attending a single (for example) specialty for Golden Retrievers.

Lakeland Terrier Head, Ears and Expression
Great view of big nose, but due to angle of head the ears aren’t showing well.

The Lakeland Terrier headpiece is unique. Of course, not every Lakeland Terrier shown or finished will possess the ideal head, ears, and expression. There is the whole dog to consider. Achieving a Lakeland that approaches the ideal does not occur merely by “breeding the best to the best.”

The earth-working Terriers definitely illustrate the principle of “form follows function.” You must breed an animal with big jaws, small size, maximum substance, maximum flexibility—can you visualize the difficulty of achieving these opposing characteristics? These are not characteristics that can be fixed in a gene pool, but must be perpetually selected for.

Lakeland Terrier head
Good example of variation possible between dog and bitch, and acceptable differences in level of fold of ears. Lakelands do not need to be “cookie cutter” in appearance, but if the population drifts too far in one direction or the other in regard to any trait, judges need to make note and reward the ideal before the extreme becomes the norm.

A short back (meaning short loin, good length of ribcage), besides being aesthetically pleasing, is another form-follows-function trait—stamina. A long, reachy neck, arched well into head, does not naturally accompany a short back and must always be selected for in every generation.

Lakeland Terrier head
Lakeland Terrier’s correct Head, Ears, Expression

Form-follows-function: flexibility underground. Flexibility in the shoulder assembly is paramount, both for jumping (underground ledges in the lair of the fox) and navigating narrow spaces. The Terrier that can get a throat-hold takes much less punishment from the fox than biting at the head.

Lakeland Terrier Head, Ears and Expression

It is possible to study side-on pictures and side gait to get a fair idea of these aspects of conformation. If you really want to understand Lakeland breed type, though, you must spend time looking at them face-on. The number one characteristic: a big nose. A large nose indicates large teeth and jaws. You want maximum biting power, but they don’t have an opportunity to bite the quarry if their skull is too big to fit in the fox’s den. Therefore, the correct Lakeland skull will have flat cheeks, and the skull is about as long as the muzzle. The muzzle should never exceed the length of the backskull. Muscles obey the laws of physics; the farther they are stretched between origin and insertion the weaker their power will be unless they are bulked up, which in this case defeats the purpose of getting into tight spaces.

Lakeland Terrier Head, Ears and Expression
Lakeland Terrier with a very good head, ears, expression, with big nose.

The backskull should be square; width the same as length from stop to occiput. Skull should be flat ontop, with good fill for attachment of muscles. Properly placed ears accentuate the powerful headpiece. They should be triangular, fold just above the level of the skull, the inner edge held close to the skull, with the tip not extending below the corner of the eye. As long as the ear canal is typically covered, ear size and placement will serve the working Terrier just as well if there is even some variation.

The combination of eyes that look straight ahead and are less “varminty” than some other Terrier breeds, set in the strong headpiece with flat skull and big nose, and those correctly placed (and mobile) ears make the unique and endearing face of a Lakeland.

  • Pat Rock of Providence Forge, Virginia, breeds and shows AKC Lakeland Terriers. She is a member in good standing with the United States Lakeland Terrier Club and the American Working Terrier Association, and is an American Kennel Club licensed judge for Earthdog Tests. Pat has been recognized as a Breeder of Merit Platinum in the American Kennel Club’s Breeder of Merit Program for Lakeland Terriers. Pat has had a passion for genetics and animal breeding since she was a child. (How many other kids did their school science project on coat color genetics in puppies?) Growing up with Pointers and Setters, and always at least one Terrier that her dad kept as a squirrel dog, she bred her first litter in 1961, studying the performance records of potential stud dogs through the pages of The American Field weekly, and shipping that first English Setter bitch in a rented crate on a train via Railway Express to be bred. Getting involved with conformation showing was the fault of her husband. While they were still teens, he took her to her first dog show, knowing that she loved dogs and because it was a cheap date. After they were married and his job had them moving frequently, it just wasn’t possible to breed anything the size of Pointers. So, she turned to the Lakeland Terrier, having fallen in love with the look of them at that first dog show. Twenty twenty-one marks her 50th year showing Lakelands. Pat has bred over 100 show champions, five MACH Lakelands (one of them attaining MACH5), and a high percentage of all AKC Earthdog titles earned by Lakelands are Hollybriar owned or bred. Pat has been a member of the United States Lakeland Terrier Club since the early 1970s, has served terms on the Board, including President, has chaired the Health Committee, brought about the club’s first Breed Health Survey, has written columns for the AKC Gazette for many decades, and was instrumental in the enrollment of the breed in the UCDavis Canine Genetic Diversity Project, an ongoing endeavor to preserve as much genetic diversity in the gene pool as possible for the preservation of the breed into the future. Pat is active in Judge’s Education, has chaired the first and second Lakiepalooza events, and is looking forward to continuing to be active in promoting the breed she loves so much.

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