For anyone who either owns a terrier dog, or is thinking of getting one, it’s important to know the characteristics. While extremely friendly and playful creatures that exude positivity and energy, they can be a bit of a nightmare as well. For those expecting the kind of dog that poses you no problems or concerns, you might be a touch surprised when you finally get to play with a terrier!
So, to help make sure you can best understand your furry new friend, let’s look at the typical terrier dog characteristics. While every dog is different, most breeds have some rather standard traits that, over time, tend to show up one way or another.
The Chasing Game
One major issue with terriers is that, contrary to belief, they lack discipline in many cases. They are independent, free spirits who won’t mind just charging away from you to check something out. They are quite happy to just run, run, and run, using their boundless energy and enthusiasm to your detriment. If you want a dog that does as its told and stands still, then you might get a shock when it comes to a terrier. Be prepared to do plenty of chasing: they have very little issue with breaking free of their collar and going for a bit of exploration.
Also, this exuberance and energy comes into how they tend to live out their daily lives. If you aren’t out of breath chasing your little terrier to catch him, you’ll find him going through any landscaping you have. While not all terriers are so bad for it, many are absolutely devoted to digging and hiding. They’ll get into all kinds of manic activities, from digging up increasingly large holes in your grass to parading around the place like a guard dog on steroids!
To help your terrier settle in, look to make it a dig pit. This designated area can make sure that it always has somewhere to dig away in without ruining the rest of the location. This can be absolutely vital for making sure you can avoid the predatory nature of your pet, and it’s love of digging up small animals, can be sated a touch.
So, you should be prepared for a form of dog that needs a lot of chasing, movement and activity. They have high energy levels and expect you to live up to that end of the bargain. If you cannot, then you’d best get yourself to some fitness classes as soon as you can: this kind of dog will tire you out!
The other aspect of their exuberant nature is their barking nature. Few forms of dog are quite as enthusiastic about endless barking than a terrier. Anything that gathers its attention is worth a bark, and this can naturally cause some problems with neighbors and the like. If you live in an area without much love for dogs, then a terrier might not be the best kind of dog to bring home.
With all of this in mind, though, it’s important to remember that, so long as you work with the dog to better understand it, success and compromise can be found. So, what do you need to know about your terrier? How can you ensure that, in time, you can get it to calm down a little and become a more tranquil dog, generally?
The Social Factor
When you get a terrier, you can start to imagine that you have brought the personification of friendship and charm back home with you. While that might sound like the case given their positive and charming personalities, terriers aren’t quite as friendly as you might think. For example, did you know that terriers don’t really play well with other dogs?
These are dogs which have a genetic history of being bred for solo work. As such, they are very unsocial for a dog and tend to be at their happiest working alone. Try and introduce your dog into a forced social scenario, and you can be sure that it won’t be too impressed. Not only are these kinds of dogs quite hard to get to socialize, but they flat out do not deal well with sharing the home. If you are going to get a terrier, it had best be the only dog in the house. Even if they are trained and coaxed from a young age to be around other dogs, they find it hard. The most sociable of terrier is far less socially comfortable than many other forms of dog, making it hard for those who want to use their dog to socialize.
For example, a terrier is not a fan of the dog park. They dislike the atmosphere most of the time, even when they are used to being taken along. At the same time, these are dogs that do provide a relatively friendly side to a human. If you want to get on well with your terrier, it pays to understand that it prefers its own company to others – sometimes, even yours.
It’s very rare to find a terrier that wants to be the center of attention. They typically dislike major shows of affection and being held or cuddled for too long. This annoys them, and they have less of a need for your attention and approval. For someone who wants ad dog that isn’t going to be needing them to give it something every two minutes – from attention to food – this can be useful. If you are looking for a best friend, though, the cold shoulder of the terrier might not be the ideal choice for you.
It’s very important that you understand this from early on, though. They are known for being dogs that work alone and thus they aren’t as reliant on a master to keep them going. However, this affects their social skills and leaves them blunt around people and animals. The best solution to this tends to be dealing with a high level of socialization. They are typically quite wary and unsure of strangers, although they tend to be better around children.
For any terrier, though, we recommend keeping a close distance to it so that it can be watched at all times around children. While they are not regularly a violent breed of dog, their wary and assertive nature makes it easy for the dog to seem difficult.
Handling Other Species
Another concern for a terrier, and something to understand, is their very nature can make them dangerous. As they are bred to kill smaller animals, they have that brutal instinct within them. As such, smaller animals and rodents can be under pressure from a terrier. Even if the rodents are yours, a pet like this can have a hard time from not just getting involved and making something happen. This means that you need to be very protective of smaller pets, as your terrier will make a move at one stage if allowed.
We recommend trying to get a terrier at the youngest age possible, and having the smaller rodents around it from a young age. When it finds that you treat the rodents well and that they pose no threat, it removes the chance of something negative happening to the creature – though it cannot be negated fully.
If you have an especially predatory young terrier, though, it might be impossible to keep them apart and to kill that instinct. In that case, you need to make a tough decision: who stays?
This is why understanding a terrier’s characteristics is so important. If you get a terrier and then find out that it’s unsuitable to where you live, this can cause some issues.
Keeping Them Active
To keep a terrier from climbing the walls and enacting on some of these more negative traits, you need to look towards keeping it busy. A happy terrier is one without any need to find something to do: if you can give it activity and engagement, it will pay you back by being kind and personable to all.
If you can give your terrier some kind of outlet to get that energy used up, it can remove the need to do anything dangerous or untoward. Therefore, try and make sure that your terrier stays extremely busy and that it always has somewhere to go, something to do and place to visit. If you are going for a long walk or a hike, then a terrier makes an exceptional ally because of their fitness and desire to keep going.
Like most dogs, they respond well to positive reinforcement. If you go training with your terrier, be sure to give it ample rewards when it does something good. From creating a food puzzle to use up mental energy and allow its predatory side to flourish, to providing treats and playtime when it does things well, you can help to create an environment that is good for the development of your terrier.
With so much to do and learn, it can take a lot of work to understand a terriers’ motivations. However, once you realize that they aren’t quite as harmless as they look, it becomes easier to prepare for one being brought into your home.