Why Are There So Few Bedlington Terrier Dogs?

Purebred Bedlington Terrier


It has been most disturbing to observe the steady decline of the population of our purebred Bedlington Terrier over the past two decades. The American Kennel Club developed a characterization of this, labelling low-ranked breeds as Low Entry Breeds. Our Bedlington Terriers currently rank at 133 among all AKC recognized breeds, but I was amazed to see that our breed actually ranked ahead of nine other Terrier breeds, most notably Kerry Blue Terriers, which surprised me.


Ch. Capstone Clearly Carillon
Ch. Capstone Clearly Carillon


In the 1970s and ’80s, Bedlington Terrier breeders had to cope with a lethal inherited liver disease that affected over half of our dogs. The ’90s brought relief with the development of a molecular genetics diagnostic tool that detects the presence of copper toxicosis, with the subsequent years bringing further perfection to the test. It would be logical to think that the dramatic minimization of the incidence of copper toxicosis would lead to a robust boom in population. Unfortunately, this was not the case and a small handful of our breeders continue to produce affected individuals, rationalizing that testing diminishes population and the gene pool.


Bedlington Terrier


We must stand back and examine the possible reasons for the decline. In general, animal rights organizations have glamorized adopting mixed breed strays from shelters, vilifying purebreds with misinformation; with national media doing the same. As our population has become denser, homeowners associations and legislation passed by uninformed lawmakers have become far more restrictive, making it difficult for hobby breeders to raise puppies and keep dogs for exhibition. The culture of breeding did not accommodate change rapidly enough. Decades ago, it was fashionable to state “puppies only occasionally” on breeders’ calling cards. How could they hope to establish a strong, dominant bloodline that way? High volume breeders, no matter how ethical and conscientious, were shamed and branded as puppy mills. All of this contributes to the diminishment of population.


Purebred Bedlington Terrier


More recently, a spin was added to the decline in our breed population, ranging from theill-advised to the clearly unethical. Requiring owners to pledge spay and neuter agreements for quality puppies is a form of control; apparently emanating from a lack of trust, and in light of our low entry status is not sound judgement. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that early sterilization, in particular, does not have the health benefits that veterinarians and owners once thought it did.

If breeders don’t have a high comfort level with a puppy client, they should move on and find someone who better fits their criteria, and leave it up to the owner as to whether or not to sterilize the dog.


Purebred Bedlington Terrier


The use of Limited Registration offered by the American Kennel Club has been abused and is being used as a tool for financial gain. The intention of this option was to enable breeders to eliminate dogs with inherited defects and diseases from the gene pool. There are examples in our breed of instances of high-quality dogs that were being held for bounty with Limited Registrations. Experienced breeders interceded on behalf of these clients, and the dogs became worthy exhibits and studs. How many worthy dogs have been eliminated from the gene pool this way?

The hard work, dedication, and expense of breeding certainly is a limiting factor in itself. Requiring sterilization and using Limited Registration in an unethical way has been a big factor in the decline of our numbers. These measures in no way guarantee that a dog won’t end up in careless hands. Other registries exist and all that an unethical person would need is the AKC number of the sire and dam and they are in business, even if the AKC registration is limited or withheld pending proof of sterilization. If we wish to halt the population decline of the purebred Bedlington Terrier, we need to respect the parameters of AKC registration for the sake of our declining breed.

If breeders don’t have a high comfort level with a puppy client, they should move on and find someone who better fits their criteria, and leave it up to the owner as to whether or not to sterilize the dog.


Bedlington Terrier – A Low Entry Breed
By Lucy Heyman

  • Lucy Heyman has been active in canine sports since 1979 when she finished the Championship title on her first Bedlington Terrier at the National Specialty, held at the Montgomery County Kennel Club. Lucy has been a Judges Education Presenter since 1994 and is currently the Judges Education Chairman of the parent club.

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