They are the smallest of the working Terriers. They are active and compact, free moving, with good substance and bone. Good substance means good spring of rib and bone that matches the body such that the dog can be a very agile ratter, the function for which it was bred.
Norfolk terriers are moderately proportioned dogs. A too heavy dog would not be agile. A too refined dog would make it a toy breed. Norfolks generally have more reach and drive and a stronger rear angulation, hence cover more ground than their Norwich cousins. Norfolk have good side gait owed to their balanced angulation front and rear, not their perceived slightly longer length of back as is often cited.
The ideal height is 10 to 12 inches (25-30 cm) at the withers and weight is about 12 pounds (5 Kg).
Norfolks are described as fearless, but should not be aggressive despite being capable of defending themselves if need be. They along with Norwich Terriers and Border Terriers, have the softest temperaments of the Terrier Group. Norfolks work in packs and must get along with other dogs. As companions in the bed, they love people and children and do make good pets. Their activity level is generally reflective of the pace of their environment. This breed should not be kept or live outside since they thrive on human contact. Generally, Norfolks are not given to unnecessary barking or digging but, like any dog, will do either out of boredom when left alone for too long a period. They generally cohabit well with other household pets when introduced as a puppy. Though, in the outdoors they are natural hunters with a strong prey drive for small vermin.
Norfolks are self confident and carry themselves with presence and importance, holding their heads and tails erect. A Norfolk that is shy, or carries its tail between its legs is atypical, as is a dog that is hot tempered and aggressive with other dogs; these traits are not the standard. A Norfolk's typical temperament is happy, spirited and self confident. The greatest punishment to a Norfolk is his human companion ignoring him.
Norfolks generally have small litters averaging two puppies. Responsible Breeders only breed healthy dogs that have been genetically tested for known ailments of the breed, are of good temperament, champion pedigree lineage and best reflect the written national kennel club standard. The demand for Norfolk is far greater than the supply. The environment in which they are raised directly impacts the temperament of the puppy for its lifetime. Norfolks do not thrive in kennel environments.
They were first called the Cantab Terrier when they became fashionable for students to keep in their rooms at Cambridge University in England. Later, they were called the Trumpington Terrier, after a street in the area where the breed was first developed. Then, just prior to World War I, a Norwich huntsman helped introduce the short-legged terriers to the USA, calling them the Jones Terrier.
In 1932, the Norwich was granted acceptance into the English Kennel Club and the first written standard was created. The American Kennel Club registered the first Norwich Terrier in 1936. In 1964, The Kennel Club reclassified the drop-ear variety as it its own breed, the Norfolk Terrier, and the prick-eared variety retained the name Norwich Terrier. The American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club both recognized the division of the Norwich Terrier breed in 1979. The Norfolk Terrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1979. After many generations, these two breeds have developed as two distinct breeds both in physical looks and in temperament. Of note, there is literature that suggests that the Norfolk and Norwich were always two distinct breeds and the original mistake was classifying them as one.