Terriers – are they really so terrible?
I know lots of people with a wide variety of terriers and they always strike me as being such characters! I have also stood watching terriers doing agility on many occasions. They are super fast and agile, but also quite likely to run off into the next ring. Or into the scorer’s tent, looking for biscuits! Cheeky and determined are two adjectives that spring to mind. But what’s it really like to own them? Clare has kindly given me lots information about them.
“The ﬁrst dog that became a full time responsibility for me was Timber, a working Lakeland terrier, who was 12 years old when I met him. He had been a hunt dog, worked all his life, but had become a bit old for most work other than ratting. His owner became ill and Timber was passed round a few temporary owners and eventually came to us (narrowly avoiding being shot!) When I met him Timber had the appeal of a well worn teddy bear. He was a companion and van dog, accompanying Roger all over the place.”
Clare says that Timber initially lived outside and they were told he was not house trained. They were also told that he would kill cats and they had 5 at the time! However, after some patience on Clare’s part, he was able to live happily in the house alongside the cats.
After a while Clare and Roger planned to get a second dog and were able to choose from a litter sired by Timber to a Patterdale terrier. They had planned to keep a boy, but ended up with two girls! Plenty of people told them that two terrier bitches, who were littermates, would be untrainable. (I tend to agree, on the whole, see my post on Littermates). Clare was undaunted:
“I booked puppy classes, and Roger came with me and the 2 puppies to classes. We loved it so much we continued with classes for years, introducing them to scent work, gun dog work, ﬂyball, obedience and agility. I have also done some heel work to music with Styx. Eventually I spent most time at agility with them both, starting at grade 1. Now Styx is grade 4 and Twiggy is grade 6. “
Clare had her two girls DNA profiled as they looked so different. She found the mix was about a quarter each of wire Fox Terrier probably the origin of the curls), Border Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier and Sealyham Terrier. Go to the KC website to see descriptions of all the different Terriers.
Clare wanted another terrier, but waited until Timber died – he lived until he was 22 years old! Having originally hoped to breed from one of her girls, she then found it was too late for them, so started contacting breeders.
Eventually a breeder got in touch to say that one of their pups needed rehoming. She was four and a half months old. She had been homed with two working adults, plus two young children and an older terrier of 11 who had been used to being the only dog. The puppy was very lively and the older dog didn’t want to play. Clare went to see her:
“The puppy launched herself at me as soon as she saw me and had masses of energy, constantly jumping at me or her owner. I can see that might not be suitable in some homes. However I wanted her to join in the agility that the others did, so bags of energy and enthusiasm for jumping suited me down to the ground.”
Bringing in a new family member
Clare wasn’t sure if she would get on with a puppy she hadn’t had ‘from the start’, but of course Timber had come to them in middle age, so it was fine. Clare says:
“I have been very careful introducing Tilly to Twiggy and Styx bearing in mind she didn’t get on with the older terrier in her previous home. Indeed, they have both put her in her place, because they don’t want to play and have got aggravated by Tilly biting their legs to entice them to play.”
Fortunately, Tilly has also had other young dogs to play with and Clare worked hard on socialising her (lots of visits to the pub!) She has taken Tilly to classes and agility shows, preparing her for competition in the future. Clare says “She isn’t old enough to compete yet, but is a joy to teach and quick to learn.”
Old dogs can learn new tricks
Clare has no regrets about taking on Timber when he was 12, and thinks we shouldn’t worry about trying to retrain an older dog. Young dogs may learn quicker, but that doesn’t mean an older dog won’t learn new things. In fact Clare has taught one of Timber’s daughters agility, starting when she was 8 years old (now 11). She has competed at KC shows, her best result being a clear agility round.
Trouble with terriers
Clare says that terriers can be noisy and can fight if there is more than one (although this is especially the case with littermates). She likes the fact that they will bark to warn that someone is nearby, but says if you live close to your neighbours it might become a problem.
Terriers are also escape artists! They are small dogs, who are intelligent and persistent, so it can be harder to make a garden terrier proof. However, they are loyal and can generally be trained to have a good recall.
A bonus feature is that they are small, portable dogs, who can easily travel around with you. On balance I would say they Clare adores her terriers – and they adore her! Thanks Clare, for sharing your experiences.
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