Terrier Traits – What to expect when you get a Terrier!

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When you take on a terrier, you have to remember that you are taking on a little powerhouse of energy!  Terriers that are not high energy are few and far between, and invariably they also possess a high prey drive, they love to hunt and dig.  They are also incredibly loyal, intelligent and make good house guard dogs as they’ll alert you to any visitors or unwanted guests.  

Terriers are bold, confident little dogs who frequently have an intelligent sense of humour.  Teach your terrier tricks and give them a job, and they are happy.  If they don’t have the activity, they need to work their brains as well as their bodies; you could experience problems as they find ways to entertain themselves when boredom sets in.

Of all our canine companion’s terriers are the least likely to settle for a cat in the family, and you have to be very careful with regard to small furries such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits.  That said, terriers are highly trainable and a terrier puppy introduced to an existing cat in the home learns quickly that the cat is family, and they usually get on well once that idea is established.

Terriers are wonderful companions, and if we take the time to reward them with good training that includes firm ground rules, they repay us with fierce loyalty.

Terriers often suit people who have horses, farms or smallholdings because they can busy themselves looking for vermin or exploring the area frequently with a constant awareness of where their favourite human is.  When you have a terrier, and you don’t slot into those categories, there are ways you can entertain and enjoy your terrier with a bit of imagination.

Build the bond with your terrier by offering them regular obedience training.  Challenge them with more demanding searches and tricks to keep them interested.  Frequently they bust the dog feeding puzzles very quickly and look at you as if to say “what’s next?”.   Once your terrier has the basics of obedience, it is highly advisable to work on ensuring a good recall as this will help when prey drive sets in.

Terriers need regular exercise, and it is helpful if this includes things that they find interesting, such as walking in places where there are interesting smells.  You might incorporate some tracking or utility which doesn’t need to be the formal type; you can encourage them to jump branches, walk on walls and train them to jump into your arms on command. 

Another way to exercise your terrier and scratch that prey drive itch is to utilise a flirt pole, see more in our Flirting with your Dog blog post.  Flirt Poles really are a great way to exercise terriers physically whilst working their brains, especially if for whatever reason you cannot walk them for long.  They enjoy games of fetch and frequently can be taught to fetch specific items in the home.

They love to spend time mooching about in the garden, however, terriers love to dig, and they will “help you” by digging up the vegetable patch just after you’ve planted seeds!  Therefore it is wise to fence off any areas of the garden that you don’t want to be dug up by dogs, keeping a separate dog playing area if at all possible where they can dig to their heart’s content is a sensible plan!

Their bold confidence could be a problem for other dogs, so careful and thorough socialisation is essential.  Terriers are likely to see other dogs and be seeming to say 

“Hey, hey, I want to meet you and play with you, can we play, can we, now!”

When not carefully managed this exuberance can turn into aggression or cause aggression in the other dog who doesn’t know how to handle that bold exuberance.

Therefore, especially if you live in a town or city, it is absolutely essential to have strict rules about meeting other dogs with a foundation in good socialisation and obedience training, you can calm this exuberance to make your terrier less excitable when meeting new canine friends. 

Terriers are pack animals; many were bred and developed to run with the hound pack.  Patterdales, for example, were developed to run with the hounds of foot and horseback hunters all day if necessary.  With careful introduction, they are welcoming and genial hosts to visiting dogs in the home and welcoming to new dogs to their pack.  Indeed, many terrier owners have more than one terrier or dogs.  This may be because they give each other companionship whilst the human pack is out and about doing what they need to do without the dogs.  

Those of us who have terriers in our lives will tell you that many other breeds are dull by comparison.  Giving a terrier the exercise it needs for its mind and body, taking into consideration the specific terrier traits and you’ll have a terrier that is adorable, loyal and incredibly fun to be around.

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