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are terriers really trouble?

(38 Posts)
sununu Thu 18-Aug-11 09:10:07

Looking at rescue sites I keep seeing phrases like 'experienced terrier home', 'typical terrier ways', 'like any terrier', 'terrier lovers only' etc. can you really generalise so much about their ways? I've also spoken to quite a few doggy people who shake their heads about them being hard to train, running away etc. becoming curious about what this terrier temperament really is!

moosemama Thu 18-Aug-11 09:24:05

Personally I think they often get a bad rep and have known many absolutely fantastic terriers. You only have to go to an agility or heelwork to music show to see what they can do. My own Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was the best trained dog I've ever had - I could literally teach her anything and she'd pick it up straight away - although I do think she was unusual for her breed.

I would say terriers can make wonderful pets, if you are willing to get in early with the training and have the time and energy to keep up with them and occupy their brains - they do like to be busy and many seriously hate to be bored. Like any breed though, each dog is an individual, so some will be more trainable than others.

Many of the terriers around where I live are owned by elderly people who have over-indulged and not trained them - they are pretty much snappy little hooligans, but that's down to their lack of training, exercise and channelling of their intelligence and imho not the dog's fault. It could well be that those are the sorts of dogs that are sittin in rescues across the country, hence what you are seeing.

QuietTiger Thu 18-Aug-11 10:38:47

The mistake a huge number of people make is that they think they are babies and treat them as such. They fail to take into account that a terrier is a very large working dog is a small body. Treat your terrier as a normal dog, giving it proper training and boundaries relating to its breed and what it has been bred for (i.e. understand that they have been bred over generations to do a job ratting and rabbiting) and you will have a wonderful and loyal friend.

I've had JRTs all my life. They are fabulous dogs, but they do have the nickname "Jack Russell Terrorists" for a reason. wink

musicposy Thu 18-Aug-11 12:55:31

Yes grin

I have a Jack Russell cross. We adore her, but she's hard work compared to my Sheltie.

She wants to do what she wants to do - and she intends to do it. She has a mind of her own. She's intelligent and quick witted, needs lots of brain stimulation and lots of exercise. The same old walk each day won't cut it, she wants new sights, new sounds, new smells, new things to do, lots to think about. She needs firm but kind handling and very clear boundaries. We've been to endless dog classes - something we never had to do with our Sheltie. It's useful because it keeps us well trained wink. However, she does have a tendency to behave beautifully at the dog class (I suspect the high treat to action ratio helps) and then do whatever the hell she likes once she gets home.

At the moment I have a serious burn on my foot so cannot walk properly. My girls are walking her twice a day, but I don't like them wandering off for miles or for hours, and they can't drive to new places, so she's getting inferior walks at the moment. I certainly know it in terms of her behaviour - she's on the lookout for something else to occupy that brain of hers. Raiding the kitchen bin and stealing the cat's food (she knows this is not allowed) are coming high on the list right now!

I'd say she's a work in progress grin. We're getting there. But I do look at my beautifully trained, super obedient Sheltie and wonder if we will ever reach those dizzy heights. Probably not....

Ephiny Thu 18-Aug-11 12:58:39

I have to admit to being a bit prejudiced against little terriers, and prefer big dogs!

Though I agree a lot of the problems are caused by people treating them like babies or toys rather than intelligent, high-energy working dogs who happen to be small. I'm sure they can be fantastic little dogs in the right home.

MissBeehiving Thu 18-Aug-11 13:04:11

I have a border terrier and he has a fabulous temperament. They are determined dogs and like mental stimulation. You just have to work on recall alot <ahem>

faverolles Thu 18-Aug-11 13:14:58

I have a jrt. In her adolescent months she ate our kitchen table, chewed and swung off the curtains and pulled up the lino in the kitchen .
She won't do anything she's told unless we have visible treats - it has to be worth her while! (despite 2 training courses)
However, she is amazingly loving to us and our dc. She supervises anyone who holds the baby (all 4 of them over the years) - watches intently with worried eyes, and always looks relieved when the baby is handed back to me.
She has bags of character, and I'm sure she has a sense of humour.
I don't think I'd have the nerves to cope with another though

Our labrador is so much easier, and seems to take up less space, but she doesn't have half the presence and character of the mad jrt.

Popbiscuit Thu 18-Aug-11 13:15:30

Terrier lover here!
I think, generally speaking, you can expect a fair amount of trouble from terriers. I have had two Jack Russells; both were absolutely bloody mental (but I adored them). Extremely high maintenance and needy and fairly antisocial in that there were huge problems with excitement/hyperactivity when we had people over to the house (despite all sorts of training). They needed a LOT of exercise for them to be manageable. However, I'd have one again in a heartbeat if I ever end up living on a farm smile Ours were the long-legged and more athletic Parson Jack Russells, the stumpy-legged ones always seem to have much calmer temperaments, I think. Both of our JRT's were good with children, though. You just have to watch that they don't knock over little ones in their mad throes of affection as they pack a lot of power into those tiny bodies.
We now have a Westie who is the most beautiful, obedient, loyal, calm, well-mannered dog I have ever come across. We are all besotted with her and she loves all human beings and animals. She has been extremely easy to train and trots around behind me for most of the day. I have heard of Westies being a bit snappish but ours is an absolute gem. Can't say enough wonderful things about her.
I think terriers are great fun and would do fine in a family with an active lifestyle. They are not so great if you're pre-occupied with babies and toddlers but better for a house with older kids where you can get out for lots of walks, rambles and tearing through woods. Training is extremely impt. and you must establish yourself as leader of the pack because they can be a bit full of themselves smile

CalamityKate Thu 18-Aug-11 13:22:42

The trainer I used to go to has a rescue JRT that is working "C" in obedience. So he, at least, is definitely trainable!

From what I can make out, Terriers come in the "What's In It For Me?" class of dogs - rather than the type who seem willing to turn somersaults for a pat on the head. Coupled with a worky-type, hyper personality it isn't difficult to understand why people can struggle.

moosemama Thu 18-Aug-11 15:55:49

Popbiscuit, I absolutely love Parsons JRTs. They are very high on my list of smaller dogs to have someday (we've always had big dogs with my SCWT being the smallest). My aunt and uncle have two - completely untrained and barking mad, but great with kids children and so loyal and affectionate. I was smitten the second I met them.

I agree that terriers make great pets for active households and families that prefer to spend the majority of their time outdoors keeping busy, hiking, cycling etc. Motivation is definitely the key, most of the ones I've met that have been really well trained have worked better for toys and games than for food/treats - all except for my SCWT who just loved training and bizarrely would work for the chance to carry a banana skin (empty) around in her mouth. confused

Haven't met a terrier yet that didn't appreciate their own digging box either. wink

Popbiscuit Thu 18-Aug-11 17:08:44

That's funny, Moose. SCWTs are on my "dogs I'd like to have" list! Unfortunately, DH has a "one terrier at a time" policy so I'll have to wait grin.

moosemama Thu 18-Aug-11 18:18:25

Your dh sounds like mine. grin Mind you his list includes, Irish Wolfhound, Leonberger, Estrela etc - you get the idea!

Wheatens are great, but I couldn't ever have another. My girlie was too special to me and I feel like I'd always be comparing, which wouldn't be fair on the new dog, iyswim.

Popbiscuit Thu 18-Aug-11 20:17:33

Absolutely. I'd be reluctant to get another Westie because I don't think any could possibly live up to ours. We hit the terrier jackpot smile.

2littlegreenmonkeys Thu 18-Aug-11 20:27:46

We have a JRT cross and she is one of the most easy going, easy to train, well balanced dog I have ever had.
I think, as others on here ave said, that terriers have a bad reputation, there is always good and bad in every breed. It is bad owners who create 'bad' dogs.

My other dog is a complete mix but I see a lot of terrier in her and she was a rescue. She is the most loving dog I have ever known. She came to us when she was approx 18 months old, we house trained her in a matter of days (4 if I remember correctly) she walks to heel and has fab recall.

Both of my beautiful dogs are very, very good with children, they have their own space where the kids can't get to them so they can have some peace and quiet.

Terriers are known for their intelligence and playfulness and with good training and a good owner you will most likely get a perfect doggy companion.

<now wants another dog to fit into our ridiculously small house> grin

Megglevache Thu 18-Aug-11 20:36:48

<<reads with interest>>

MotherJack Thu 18-Aug-11 23:04:18

I really like terriers. In particular, I love Staffordshire Bull Terriers. They are a slightly different kettle of fish to most other terriers for a handful of reasons, but there is one word that covers all terriers IMO...... TENACIOUS. If you think you can work around this then you will have a fab dog. If you haven't had one before, then you need to prove to them that you have researched and understood what you have researched about them.

Agree with QT that a number of terrier owners see a small dog and think they are easily handled because of their size. As an SBT lover, Patterdales can strike the fear of god in to me grin. And a recent possible foster dog struck fear into my Stafford when the potential foster dog went for her.... a yorkie.... and yes, it was previously spoiled.

They are dogs and I think it is essential to have a basic understanding before taking any breed on. I think that all dogs have the potential to be soft as putty with the handling that they need. If you are looking at rescue sites who have assessed the dog properly, then you are as well talking to them before looking through the pages for the ones that appeal to you. Have a chat with them. There are oodles of terriers that a good rescue could fit you up with smile

CalamityKate Fri 19-Aug-11 10:55:22

Does anyone have any experience of Yorkies/crosses thereof?

Ephiny Fri 19-Aug-11 11:11:36

I do like Staffies actually, all the ones I've met have been nice - though one was a bit funny with other dogs, lovely with people though. I think that supports my theory though - that the smaller, fluffier and cuter-looking a dog is, the more likely they are to be a complete nightmare!

CalamityKate Fri 19-Aug-11 11:29:29

the smaller, fluffier and cuter-looking a dog is, the more likely they are to be a complete nightmare!

Is that a nature or nurture thing though? Are they just "like that" or is it that little cute dogs tend to:

Get babied (never taught how to behave)
Get under-exercised (bought because "small dogs don't need much exercise")
Get under-socialised (don't get out much, due to "don't need much exercise myth as above)
Get bought by older people as lap dogs, and suffer from all of the above??

sununu Fri 19-Aug-11 11:37:17

this all seemed largely encouraging until MotherJack said Patterdale - one we were considering! do you think because they are more often or more recently real working dogs their terrier characteristics are stronger perhaps?

Ephiny Fri 19-Aug-11 11:37:57

Oh I think it's definitely those sorts of reasons CK - don't mean to imply any dog is intrinsically 'bad' by nature!

I wonder if it's a bit to do with breeding as well - if you have a big strong breed like Mastiffs or Rottweilers, people must have made some effort over the years to breed for a fairly gentle nature, because a dog of that size with the temperament of the average JRT would be a serious danger! Whereas with the tiny breeds, maybe you can get away with a bit more? I'm no expert in breeding though, so might be miles off the mark here...

MotherJack Fri 19-Aug-11 13:32:04

Whoops - trust me!! grin

the bit about opposable thumbs made me laugh grin

moosemama Fri 19-Aug-11 16:46:31

Sununu, I think Patterdales are great, but they are very much working dogs and probably one of the most 'terriery' terriers of the lot, so imho would need a lot of training, exercise and stimulation to make a good family pet. I used to know a breeder and he didn't recommend them as purely family pets and only let his pups go to working homes or ones that were going to do mini-agility etc.

LeBOF Fri 19-Aug-11 17:01:48

I have a Patterdale/Border cross- I think the Border element softens some of the more hardcore terrier elements. She is absolutely fantastic with my autistic daughter, and a fabulous family pet, but she definitely needs the legs walked off her daily, and can go a bit feral in the presence of cats/rabbits/small fluffy things. I think there's a pic on my profile lower down (not the pup- she's a soppy Cavalier!). They are real little characters.

moosemama Fri 19-Aug-11 18:41:50

Oh she's gorgeous, face full of genuine character - I'm a sucker for dogs with eyebrows! grin

Patterdale x Border sounds like a lovely mix.

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