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Terrier Talk

up the treeTerrier type dogs are highly popular pet dogs. They tend to be pocket rockets, an all round family dog and probably the first to alert his owners to any movement in the yard… any movement. Terriers were originally bred to work, however the type of work they used to do is not really sought after nowadays. Initially, they did not have a specific look, like they do now, it was all about their skills and personality.

They had to be fast, they had to be loud (vocal), they had to be tenacious and they had to be independent. Small terriers were used to kill vermin, interestingly, the desirable motor pattern was locate, grab,shake, kill or harass until the vermin stopped moving and move on to the next victim, dissection and consuming was an unwanted trait because that would slow them down and possibly put their owners out of work.

Other terriers, like Daxies were used to chase small animals out of holes, for hunting purposes and terriers like the Mountain Feist, was bred with long legs and for their tree climbing skills to hunt small animals in trees. Larger terriers were utilised in wars as message pigeon carriers, or to keep house holds safe while the soldiers are away from home.

Airedale TerrierThe Airedale Terrier almost ceased to exist due to being killed during the war because of their guarding duties. Large terriers like the lack Russian Terrier and Tibetan terrier were really just bred for the way they looked and used as ‘guard’ dogs

As with most breeds, the way dogs looked soon became much more important than what they could do, or could not do.   A whole world of terrier types were created, each breed with their own unique quirks, coats and size. And with all this fuss, their hard-wired genetics were pretty much forgotten and is causing quite a bit of a stir with the new, unsuspecting terrier owners. Especially when it comes to how vocal they are, and how often they can get themselves in trouble with much larger dogs.


Originally terriers were bred with a very low arousal threshold, anything will get them going and their tenacity will keep them going, regardless of the size of the challenge..As a breed, they needed that to survive. Unfortunately for general pet owners, those traits can become a nightmare. With a bit of specialised terrier training we can make daily life a bit easier.

  • Know your terrier’s arousal threshold, and get him out of the situation before he reacts. This means you have to learn what his triggers are, how far it is from him, etc. We are not necessarily talking about reactivity or aggression, but also about excitability. Anything that makes him difficult to manage. They tend to have a pretty short fuse.
  • Teach your terrier to take breaks.   If possible, they need to be taught as a puppy to disengage from play often. This is not something they are going to do out of their own, you as a responsible terrier owner need to step in.
  • Body posture. Terriers’s heads are always held up high, their necks tend to be stretched upwards in general and their body carriage is quite high. Their natural body posture is what rattles most other dogs, because it just looks threatening. It really helps to be aware of this and find ways to prevent a tense situation.

It is really important to do research before deciding a terrier is the type of dog for you. Read through some discussion forums about what people who already have terriers have to say.   These dogs are unique and hard-wired with many behaviours that can become a problem. Which might be why the shelters are overflowing with little terriers hoping and waiting for a forever home.

 By Tersha,

Team Leader up up