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Patterdale terriers are such a fun breed of dog to own. They are high energy, intelligent and loyal to their owners. However, due to their characteristics there are some common Patterdale terrier behaviour problems. What are they? And as a Patterdale owner, how can these be resolved?

Patterdale terrier Behaviour Problems

Prey Drive – Chasing and Killing small Creatures

As Patterdale terriers were originally bred for hunting, their prey drive that is difficult to get rid of. After all, the breed was bred in the Lake District for hunting foxes and badgers. Many farmers use them today for ratting or protecting game birds during a hunt.

This means that they will go for small creatures such as rats or squirrels quite often ignoring their owners call for them to come back. This can be extremely dangerous near main roads. Their prey-drive can also be an issue if a Patterdale terrier is brought into a household that has small pets such as guinea pigs or hamsters. It is not ideal for Patterdale and rodents to mix as pets. If your guinea pig escaped this could end in disaster.

The Solution? The best way to deal with this is to avoid mixing patterdales and pet rodents in the same household, or devise a way to keep them separate. Also keep them on leads around wild animals such as rabbits or squirrels.

working patterdale terrier hunting rats

Stubbornness in Training

Stubbornness is a common Patterdale terrier trait and this makes Patterdale terrier training quite a challenge! You may find that sometimes your dog just does not want to do what you want it to do. If your Patterdale’s focus is elsewhere it can sometimes be difficult to get back.

The Solution? Sometimes when your dog is stubborn, it just needs a break. Take a small break from training and return to the same training again later and you may see a difference. On the plus side Patterdale terriers are extremely food motivated which makes them a good grade for learning new tricks and enjoying agility. Using treats – particularly high level treats such as chicken or liver cake is a great way to refocus your patterdale.

Separation Anxiety

A big issue with Patterdale terriers is separation anxiety. They create a strong bond with their owners and feel extremely anxious when they are left alone. This common Patterdale terrier behaviour problem can manifest itself in howling and barking which can annoy the neighbours and also destructive behaviour.

The Solution? The way forward is to start leaving him for short amounts of time and then build it up. If he howls when locked in a room, open the whole house up to the dog as normal, just hiding away things he can chew and emptying bins. Then test him out with food dispensing toys such as a Kong or Licky Mat for dogs. When you know what he is ok to be left with you can then start him or her having these when left for short periods and then built it up. Hide treats and chews around the house for your patterdale to hunt and find – all these distractions will calm his or her anxiety and help to pass the time while you are out.

licky mat for dogs

Aggression in Patterdale Terriers

If not socialised well with other dogs, children and adults, it is possible for a patterdale terrier to develop aggression. I once heard of a family who had a patterdale terrier chained up in the garden without playing with him or walking him regularly. He became what was perceived to be ‘aggressive’ towards the children jumping and barking ore snapping as they approached. He had not been adequately exercised or played with and intellectually stimulated which is why it developed, as this patterdale became an excellent family pet in the right home.

Our rescue Patterdale terrier Blake was aggressive towards men because we rescued him from the RSPCA and he came from a home where the male was aggressive towards the dog and his female partner. Therefore Blake had learnt to defend himself and his ‘dog mom’. It took a while, but he eventually built up trust between us and slowly he got used to meeting male strangers.

Patterdale terriers are loyal and loving to their owners and so if they are treated right, and well trained and socialised, it is very rare that they are aggressive to their dog mom or dad. You might be interested in reading my blog on Are Patterdales aggressive?

The Solution? If your patterdale terrier is aggressive it is a good idea to seek professional help through a one to one dog trainer and then to go into classes when the time is right. Aggression towards people in Patterdale terriers is often through fear and so patience and building up trust is important. If they are aggressive towards a particular family member try letting that person feed him/her and give the dog treats so that they develop a bond. If the dog is aggressive towards strangers, you can use people that you know as ‘stooges’ to treat him or ignore him when he approaches, getting the dog used to strangers slowly and in a controlled environment.

Chasing Bikes and Cars

The chasing instinct is a common patterdale terrier behaviour problem and often can involve chasing cars and bikes. This can be very dangerous especially if the dog is not on a lead and refuses to come back when called. It can cause accidents and injury to your dog if not controlled and so if your patterdale terrier does chase bikes and cars you will want to try to do something about it.

The Solution? Clicker training is a good approach to take. Start clicker training in the house when the dog gets a reward within 5 seconds of hearing the click. You can then progress this to outside when he starts to make the association. You may find that you need to use very tasty treats such as liver cake, chicken or small bits of sausage. You might also need to click and treat the dog several times when the bike or car is going past to keep him distracted. You should also demonstrate that you are in charge when leash walking your dog and so as soon as he starts chasing or barking at the car or bike instantly turn around and start going in the other direction. This is reinforcing the fact that the car or bike is not a threat. You could also try riding your own bike near your dog in an enclosed place and treating him when the bike comes near.

In addition, it’s always good to have distractions such as other tricks and activities for your dog to focus on for example Nina Ottosson dog puzzles and agility weave poles.

Patterdale Terrier Behaviour Problems – What works for you?

How have you dealt with your patterdale terrier behaviour problems? What has worked, or not worked? I’d love to hear your comments.

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3 thoughts on “Patterdale Terrier Behaviour Problems”

  1. I got my patterdale terrier at 5 months old, from a rescue. She had been spayed and all shots. She was sweet and loving, but gradually got destructive and chewing everything. Now we have had her nearly a year and she is gettinf more and more aggresive towards our senior poodle, and has been growling at me when I try to pick her up or put her on my lap. She has also snapped at my 6 year old grandson that she has always been around. She is not food or toy aggresive. I take her for walks and let her run laps in our fenced yard. I am very worried she will bite someone and she runs and snaps at your legs. I love her to pieces but i am afraid she hasn’t been trained well. please help, I cannot afford to take her to a trainer. please help!

    • You can divert the chewing with interactive dog puzzles and chew bones/dentasticks. Make sure she always has something to do and something to chew on. As for the growling and snapping I would recommend that you consider positive reinforcement with clicker training when you are near the stimulus such as the poodle or children. There are a few articles on these techniques on the blog, I hope that they help and wish you all the best. Keep in touch.

  2. My patterdale is a rescue he is 9 years old now we have had him for 7. One of the problems we have is inconsistency whilst on walks, when he is on the lead he is aggressive towards other fails and will bark at them across the street, but off the lead is friendly and playful with them, we get nervous letting him off the lead just in case, does anyone have any suggestions?


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