Members of the Norwich Terrier Club of America have for a number of years been working to monitor dogs that are registered with AKC as Norwich, as well as Norwich puppies being sold on the Internet, because in the past they have found dogs registered as Norwich Terriers that they believe are Cairn Terriers or mixed breeds.

To call attention to the problem, Norwich fancier Dana Esquibel made a very public demonstration earlier this year. She explains: “On January 6, 2012, at an AKC show in Palm Springs, Calif., I showed a dark brindle Cairn Terrier mix with a docked tail that is registered with the AKC as a Norwich Terrier. The judge examined him, gaited him and excused him. We had purchased an ad in the Cairn section of the show catalog inviting Cairn Terrier people to come to the Norwich ring to see the ‘lost Cairn.’ Come they did.”

Ranger was AKC-registered as a Norwich Terrier and sired numerous litters. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Why would anyone purposely register Cairn Terriers as Norwich? Supply and demand is the answer.

Cairns ranked 56th in terms of number of AKC registrations in 2010, while Norwich ranked 100th. These figures reflect the relative differences in the populations of each breed around the world; there are simply more Cairns than there are Norwich. The Norwich Terrier is in great demand in the pet market in the United States, but is a much more rare breed than the Cairn.

Pet prices for Norwich puppies are higher than for many breeds. A quick search of the Internet will reveal Norwich puppies for sale ranging from $500 up to $3,000. On one website with puppies offered for sale by multiple breeders, only two listings were for $500, both brindle males, one 6 months and one 9 months old, and both which appear to be Cairns. There were a total of 32 listings for Norwich for sale. The most popular price was $3,000 (five sellers), with half of the puppies selling for over $1,000 and eight more selling for $900 and up.

A search on the same “puppy finder” site for Cairn Terrier puppies included 53 listings with prices ranging from $300 to a high of $2,000, not including a 4-year-old for $200. There was one $2,000 and one $1,800 listing, oddly neither with a photo. The most popular price was $450 (12 sellers), with exactly two-thirds of the listings advertising puppies from $400 to $650.

Esquibel explains the origin of the Norwich she’d shown in January: “This dog was purchased by a friend and fellow Norwich fancier from a commercial breeder in Missouri. In an attempt to find out exactly what breed of dog Ranger really is, she purchased and submitted a cheek swab DNA sample using the Wisdom Panel Purebred DNA Certification Test, which is available from Mars Veterinary. The test results say that this dog is 75 percent Norwich Terrier and 25 percent Cairn Terrier. Ranger is 6 years old, has been used for breeding for several years, and the resulting offspring are AKC-registered.”

A portion of the DNA analysis returned on the dark brindle female registered as a female black and tan.

“The AKC has been registering non-purebred dogs as Norwich Terriers for a decade,” explains Esquibel, “yet few members of the fancy are aware of the situation. We showed this dark brindle Cairn mix to bring awareness to the fancy of the loss of integrity to the Norwich registry and the misuse of Cairn Terriers by commercial breeders.”

According to Esquibel, “This problem has become so commonplace that one only needs to visit the AKC website and view the Classified Ad section to find puppies being offered that are clearly not purebred Norwich. I did a search for Norwich Terriers in the AKC classified section and found an ad for Norwich puppies for sale that offered the breeder’s website address. Upon navigating the website, I found a photo of the dam of the puppies, and it revealed her to be a dark brindle bitch, clearly not a purebred Norwich Terrier!

“The AKC has removed some of these dogs from the Norwich Terrier registry,” says Esquibel, “however, between imports from eastern European countries and some less than scrupulous commercial breeders, more non-pure dogs are continuing to be registered by the AKC as Norwich Terriers.”

Alexa, registered as a daughter of Ranger’s, is no longer AKC-registered as a Norwich. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Carol Suggs, chairman of the NTCA Registry Integrity Committee, says that the NTCA has been aware that Cairns with docked tails were being sold as Norwich as early as 2002. As more and more questionable dogs turned up, more members of the parent club became involved in helping to verify the backgrounds and/or pedigrees of questionable dogs, and eventually the parent club decided it needed to give the group a formal name. Thus, the Registry Integrity Committee was formed.

The first time Norwich Terrier fanciers became aware that some of these Cairns were registered with AKC as Norwich was in 2005. In April that year, a member of the then-parent club for Norwich and Norfolk went to rescue a 5-month-old puppy. He was later named Snickers. Club members believed the puppy was a Cairn instead of a Norwich, but discovered that the litter he came from was registered as a litter of four Norwich puppies. Club members wrote to AKC and included photos of the dog, asking that the litter be removed from the registry on the grounds that Snickers was a Cairn, not a Norwich.

Snickers, once AKC-registered as a Norwich. His Wisdom Panel DNA test showed that he is at least 50 percent Cairn Terrier. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

After tracking down another member of that litter, a bitch called Maggie, NNTC members asked longtime Cairn Terrier breeder and judge Lydia Hutchinson to look at Maggie and give her opinion of what breed she was. Mrs. Hutchinson did so and wrote a letter to AKC stating that in her opinion the bitch was a Cairn Terrier with a docked tail.

AKC sent a field rep to see the sire and dam. According to Suggs, the rep was a former Terrier handler and judge, and he determined that they were poor-quality Norwich Terriers. The registrations were allowed to stand.

The Norwich breeders who were involved with these dogs were determined that they should not be registered as Norwich Terriers. Since this litter was registered, a pedigree was available, and NNTC members began to research the dogs in the pedigree. They discovered that the maternal grandsire, a dog in Germany, would only have been 3 weeks old when the breeding took place that produced Snickers and Maggie’s dam. Since this isn’t possible, they determined that the pedigree provided was a fake. This information was imparted to AKC and, according to Suggs, was verified by the AKC.

When a DNA test became available that purported to be able to determine a dog’s ancestry, NNTC members took a DNA sample from Snickers using a swab from the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed Analysis test. The swab was sent to Mars Veterinary, which distributes the DNA test, and the test result reported that the breeds detected included the Cairn Terrier, at a “significant” level. The report says this means that at least 50 percent of the dog’s DNA comes from the detected breed.

According to the NTCA, it took several months from the time that the information on the German grandsire was sent to AKC for the registrations of these dogs as Norwich Terriers was revoked. According to Suggs, 131 other Norwich registrations were revoked based on these pedigrees.

Since then the Norwich Terrier Club has informed AKC on numerous other occasions of dogs that are of questionable heritage, and other registrations have been revoked. In several instances, club members involved in rescue have discovered dogs at auctions that were being sold as Norwich that were clearly not. The parent club does not purchase dogs from auctions, but members have done so on occasion in order to have them spayed and placed in pet homes.

This dark brindle female was AKC-registered as a “grizzle” Norwich Terrier. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Many of these dogs have been imported from Europe, and NTCA members were often able to prove that they were bred from Cairns by researching the pedigrees that were submitted when the dogs became AKC-registered. After seeing many of the pedigrees on dogs that were imported as Norwich, the NTCA committee concluded early on that pedigrees submitted to AKC for imports were constructed using bits and pieces of legitimate pedigrees, and some of them included names of Norwich in recent generations, but Cairns in later generations, making them easier to detect. The committee believes that today, breeders selling these dogs are submitting pedigrees that are more carefully crafted and include only Norwich, making it impossible to prove fraud based on paperwork.

There have also been instances when dogs registered as Norwich that turned out to be at least of some Cairn breeding were bred in large commercial kennels in the U.S., according to Suggs. The NTCA alleges that litters of Norwich Terrier puppies have been listed on the AKC website that, on closer inspection by both Norwich and Cairn breeders, are almost certainly not Norwich, as they are from parents that are dark brindle in color and look like Cairn Terriers.

The NTCA committee has continued to use the Wisdom Panel DNA test to determine the backgrounds of dogs it has encountered and believed were not Norwich. Additional registrations have been canceled over the past few years. However, since today it is impossible to detect a fraudulent registration based on pedigrees, the NTCA sees the Wisdom Panel test as the only way to determine a dog’s breed when one is questionable.

The website for the Norwich Terrier Club of America includes a “Buyer Beware!” page alerting the public to the fact that not all dogs advertised as Norwich are Norwich.

The NTCA has asked AKC to accept the results of the Wisdom Panel test for dogs that are registered as Norwich, but are of questionable ancestry. AKC has declined to do so. DNA identification of humans is proven science today, but identifying breeds of dogs based on their DNA is not yet a perfected process. However, NTCA members have gathered DNA samples from about 100 dogs, including purebred Norwich, Norfolks and Cairns, as well as numerous rescues believed to be Norwich/Cairn mixes. Members of the NTCA committee believe that analysis of these samples contributes to the reliability of the DNA test, and that, because the Norwich Terrier gene pool is relatively quite small, the test is accurate enough to help weed out dogs that should not be registered as Norwich, thus protecting the integrity of the AKC Stud Book for Norwich.

As Esquibel notes, “People that are dedicated to their breed, who are passionate and committed, are and should be the guardians for their breed and must do whatever it takes to protect the registry and make it pure. Please help us get the word out that AKC’s current registry procedures are not working to protect the Norwich Terrier registry.”