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Wise terrier folk - advice needed please

(40 Posts)
Bilbomum Tue 10-Oct-17 10:59:56

I hope some of you knowledgeable terrier folk will be able to give me some advice please. Background – we have an 8 month old Welsh terrier, kids took four years to persuade me to get a dog they wanted a cockapoo but as I knew I’d end up doing all the work I gave in on the condition we got a welshie. The only dog I could imagine myself with, husband’s family have always had dogs but never a terrier; I had a boxer as a kid but not much experience apart from that & dogsitting for friends.

So we love him to bits and he is a handful (as I expected) good points: never aggressive with other dogs even when provoked; great with people/kids when out & about; mostly lovely with us at home although still has mad bitey spells when playing. We consulted a behaviourist who advised time outs when he uses his teeth, it works up to a point but hasn’t stopped it altogether but I can see he really tries to reign himself in sometimes so heading in the right direction. I think we’ve done quite a good job with his socialisation, he’s happy going to the pub and in social situations.

The bit we’re struggling with is the growling/air snapping. I know they are a vocal breed so I’m not sure if it’s something I should be worried about or just accept that’s the way he is or perhaps it’s just a teenage phase. We've had him from a pup but this has only started in the last couple of months.

When he doesn’t want to be messed with he lets you know, a growl generally but sometimes a snap (although not often). Took him to dog training last night and the woman bent down to move his paw out of the way of the lead and he snapped at her. She was very taken aback, I generally always get his attention and give him a ‘pawsie’ warning if I’m moving his legs as I know he doesn’t really like it but didn’t have time to tell her before she did it. She’d given him a thorough body check over when we got there and he was quite happy with that so he’s not unhappy being handled. He’s done it with us when he’s been disturbed when resting or when he’s settled in the car and doesn’t want to get out. I usually use a treat to distract him and get him to do what I want.

So big question – do we just accept how he is? I get the principle of reward based training but how do you let them know it’s wrong to snap. I’d rather have a warning growl than a bite obviously so presumably I don’t want to encourage the growling.

Sorry for the essay, at the moment everyone thinks it’s my fault as I chose a terrier sad

Bilbomum Tue 10-Oct-17 11:01:45

Sorry that should have been DISCOURAGE the growling..

Elphame Tue 10-Oct-17 11:56:39

Fellow Welshie owner here!

Elfpup is my second one and I love the breed but they can be a right handful at times. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

Welshies are extremely intelligent and strong willed even for terriers so you really do have to be in charge or they'll run rings around you. Elfpup rapidly worked out that if he does 2 little wees rather than one big one then he gets double the number of treats!

Is he tired when it happens? People get grumpy at times and I guess dogs are allowed to as well. I also believe that dogs have the right to say no when they have had enough and need a bit of peace and quiet but it's a matter of what is acceptable so I'd respect a small growl too.

I'd concentrate on avoiding triggering his snaps. All attention from you is rewarding after a fashion so if he does snap it's hard to deal with . Definitely no treats or toys though.

You sound like you are doing the right thing regarding the paws. Making sure he's not taken by surprise would be my solution too. Many dogs just don't like their paws being touched and by a stranger in a very stimulating environment you may well get a reaction.

I'm grumpy when disturbed from a nap and/or settled comfortably so I guess dogs have a right to be! Have you tried waking him by calling his name and talking to him rather than by touch? Let him come to gently rather than suddenly. To coax a comfy sleepy dog out of the car I'd start to disturb him before I got to where I was going by calling his name and talking to him so again he wakes gently. If you can get some excitement into your voice too then that will help. If he's awake but reluctant to shift then rather than lifting or pulling him out I'd lay a bit of a treat trail.

There is a nice FB group "Welsh Terriers UK" which is worth joining for chat and support as we all know what they are capable of! Great place for commiseration and practical advice.

They do calm down, a bit, eventually..... but they are lovely dogs. You're going to be buying chew toys though for the rest of his life. They never grow out of that but they do learn just to chew permitted objects!

MissWilmottsGhost Tue 10-Oct-17 12:11:44

I have a terrier and she does like to play using her teeth and growling. However, we have been absolutely zero tolerance with it.

If she wants to chew something, we give her a toy. It must be hers only we do not let her chew or tug on any human stuff, even old shoes or toys. If her teeth touch our skin while we are playing we always make a big fuss of wailing and sad face as if she really hurt us, and stop the game immediately and walk away. Always.

We also taught her 'drop it' and 'leave it' at a very early age using treats and/or squeaky ball as a reward. She even learned not to chase squirrels, which is pretty good for a terrier.

Absolutely no lunging or snapping, and anything more than a gentle growl ends all play. Always.

We had no children at the time but when DD was eventually born we were very glad we had been so strict. DDog is always gentle and restrains herself, regardless of how rough DD gets. She will open her mouth and make wailing and growling noises but knows not to touch, if her teeth accidentally touch she immediately stop and looks contrite.

I love terriers and can't imagine having a different dog, but it is important not to inadvertently encourage their killing instincts.

Thewolfsjustapuppy Tue 10-Oct-17 12:13:45

I have two terriers; a Yorkshire and and Irish. The yorkie we are sort of long term fostering and we got her aged about 4 and she is/was very growly, snappy in the situations that you describe. I use that phrase as she is getting better. The Irish terrier would not dream of growling or snapping, she is simply the most gentle and kind little dog you could imagine. But she will take hold of my hand in her mouth if she is uncertain about something I am doing to her (stripping her coat for example) in a sort of tacit "we're not going to hurt each other now are we" kind of way grin.
With the Yorkie I have dealt with her growling by listening to her - I take it that she is growling because she is unhappy so I do back off, same with the snapping. I don't really know why she is improving, I haven't taken a structured training approach. I always let her know what I want and she is slowly starting to do what I want with good grace and manners. I brush her a lot and clean her eyes and feet, she likes this and it seems to have got her used to me touching her where before she wasn't happy with. She is very food motivated so she gets a lot of tiny treats when her manners are good and this seems to be helping a lot too.
Even DS who is 17 and hated her on arrival (she is only 3.5kg and not exactly the sort of dog a teenage boy wants to be seen out with grin) has admitted that she is turning into quite a nice fun little dog.

MissWilmottsGhost Tue 10-Oct-17 12:19:44

I would say no, you don't just accept that is how he is. If you don't like the behaviour then you must discourage it, it is too easy to let things escalate.

Keep going with the training, it really helped Ddog to get used to other people handling her. And the thing I have found with a small dog is that other people will want to touch them. People are naturally cautious of large dogs but dont realise that terriers are a big dog, just in a little body grin

Also, at 8 months your dog is probably approaching his 'teens' and this is the point to really make sure they don't display aggressive behaviour due to hormones. Has he been neutered?

FoxesAreFabulous Tue 10-Oct-17 13:28:28

Hi Bilbomum, we have a miniature poodle, not a terrier, but I though I'd join in as we are convinced he must have some terrier ancestors! Some of his behaviour is very terrier-like and I recognise a lot of it in your first post. He also started growling and snapping at us at around the same age and also began resource guarding - not with his own stuff but anything of ours that he got hold of/could sit next to - ie schoolbags!/could sit on - end of sofa, end of bed. When he was playing, he knew not to use his teeth and would immediately open his mouth if he accidently got a finger rather than his toy, but we were having terrible trouble with the guarding as it was quite unpredictable - you'd think he was having a lie-down in the hall and then realise he was guarding someone's wellies!
We had a behaviourist come round to assess him and she gave us a very detailed training plan to follow, using a clicker and treats, so that over time we reinforced the good behaviour - letting go of things, getting down off furniture. I don't think he'll ever be perfect but when I approach the end of the sofa now, he shifts down to the other end without being told!
We have discovered that our boy really does not like being stroked by strangers, unless he has the freedom to approach them first and decide whether he wants to say hello. I have to be honest and say that this is not the dog we imagined before we got him (had him from 9 weeks old), we envisaged a dog that loved everyone and was happy to say hello and be stroked - but having got our heads round his temperament, we now work with it and have no qualms about telling people that he doesn't like being stroked. I do think that dogs are individuals and some need their personal space more than others. I imagine that everyone wants to stroke your dog as he's little and cute, as is ours, but it sounds as if he is telling you that he doesn't want that. Oddly perhaps, ours has never been anything but brilliant at the groomers and the dog-sitter.
I hope you find a solution/approach you can all work with - but rest assured, it's not down to having a terrier grin

Bilbomum Tue 10-Oct-17 13:28:33

Thank you for all your messages and advice, I really appreciate it.

Elphame - lovely to hear from a fellow welshie owner, we are already doing a lot of what you suggest so I think we are roughly on the right track, treat trails at late night wee time; a quick hiss of 'where's the fox' usually gets him up and out of the car now. I don't think he's enjoying the training, it's quite rigid walk to heel stuff at the moment which both he and I are finding challenging (lots of tripping over each other grin).

MissW - yes he is in the middle of teendom and not been neutered so I might need to talk to the vet about that. I think you're right about discouraging the behaviour but it's how to do it without meeting him head on - it's worse than dealing with a toddler, drives dh mad as his instinct is to challenge him which makes it all worse I think.

Thewolf - your Irish sounds lovely, how I imagined ours would be (but isn't!!) Yes I think listening to him and avoiding the triggers is certainly the way to go along with some gentle discouragement.

Thank you all

Bilbomum Tue 10-Oct-17 13:39:42

Cross posted with you Foxes sounds like you've done lots of work and it's good to hear it can get better. Our groomer hit it on the head with him when she described him as unpredictable, he's quite happy rolling over for all kinds of strangers and letting the kids at school pat him but then you suddenly get an out of the blue snap. We've had a bit of resource guarding going on as well but luckily he's so greedy that a quick treat rolled across the floor moves him quickly on.

As you say I didn't envisage having a dog that would snap at people so it's come as a shock, I keep feeling that maybe we've done something wrong. I've found myself making excuses for him - he's tired; a bit like I did with the kids when they were terrible toddlers!

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 13:52:56

bilbomum your terrier sounds like mine! She is a Bedlington and nearly 8 months. She is also fabulous outside the house, plays nicely with toys, but has started resource guarding food to a whole new level-she will leave her food in the bowl in the kitchen to come and snap and bite in the living room! We have taken her bowl on the advice of a dog trainer and feeding her by hand-which is helping a bit! She is very friendly out doors but is not a cuddly dog.
Keep persevering I guess. I love her to the moon and stars!

MissWilmottsGhost Tue 10-Oct-17 14:04:46

See IMO with games like 'Where's the fox' it is encouraging hunting/killing behaviour, whether you mean to or not.

Terriers get so over excited when that instinct kicks in and I think they find it quite addictive in a way. I made an effort not to encourage it in any way because it would so easily get out of hand, or spill over into other things because she didnt know when to stop.

Rather than ramping up her excitement with chasing games, we get DDog to play concentration type games, where we hide something (biscuit or toy) and get her to find it, or following-command games like agility training.

Bilbomum Tue 10-Oct-17 14:16:52

Kipper that sounds like a nightmare! I hide food in taped up boxes so he has to rip them up to get it which is quite distracting and turns it into a game. Don't know if that would help in your situation but as you say I'll keep persevering as I too love him to the moon & stars grin

MissW we have a local fox that spends ages following/stalking ddog (he's very tame - fox not dog!) so I'm afraid the hunting fox instinct is already in full flow! They are quite the cat & mouse on our evening walk although I suspect ddog is more the mouse...

MissWilmottsGhost Tue 10-Oct-17 14:27:06

Oh yes, the instinct is always there! Ddog will still go wild at a cat in the garden even though she is so old now that she a) can't see where it went, and b) can't get up the garden step. She just ends up crazy barking at the wall while the cat is under the gate at the other end grin

Terriers just don't need that side of their personality encouraged IME, it is already so strong. It is listening and following commands they aren't so good at, so I have always worked on that throughout DDogs life.

She is now reasonably obedient.......for a terrier smile

Thewolfsjustapuppy Tue 10-Oct-17 14:39:07

I don't think you can suppress the terrier instinct, it is what it is, but you can focus on more harmless games like digging in a sandpit for treats (we do this indoors with a pile of toys or create a tunnel then fill it with torn up newspaper.) irish pup loves these games. She also loves chasing games and will spend ages with the DC chasing her around a shrubbery island in the garden.
I would not tell a dog off for growling but I always reward when Yorkie dog stops growling (she is very inclined to be yappy too and I have managed to reduce this by rewarding her for stopping. She now gives one or two yaps then comes to me for a treat - much better than the endless yapping she did do). I would put a lot of effort into making handling pleasure - grooming, checking feet/teeth/ears every day in an effort to desensitise for future surprises.

Floralnomad Tue 10-Oct-17 14:51:45

I have a patterdale x and he's as terrier as terrier can be . He has never had any guarding problems and only ever growls when he's ripping into something be it toys or whatever . He is 7 now but very occasionally he has an extreme mad moment where he will literally try to savage my legs it's bizarre . What I have found is that he becomes easily obsessed with things / places so we have certain rules in place like no balls at home unless someone is actually playing with him , no routine times for walks , he's not allowed in the conservatory everyday otherwise when it's shut off for whatever reason he mithers by the door annoying people .

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 14:52:22

Thank you all. I will try some of those tips! I’m on a beddie fb group and all I hear is how wonderful everyone else’s is! grin
She is due to be spayed next week and hoping that may chill her a little.

FoxesAreFabulous Tue 10-Oct-17 15:13:15

Oh my god, Kipperiscool, I wanted a Beddie next!! Our boy is too young for us to think of getting a second dog yet but I fell in love with them when we were in Norfolk in the summer and a couple got on the bus with one each! I now follow the Beddie rescue page on FB. Perhaps I should have second thoughts - although given all the issues we've had to deal with first time around with poodle boy, perhaps we'd be well-prepared grin. have you got a photo of her?

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 16:24:40

Here she is. She is generally lovely. I have four children-I think I’m glad she warns. Never seen her attack without warning and never bitten with intent to draw blood. Don’t let me put you off-all the others I meet are lovely

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 16:25:29

Probably outed myself as she’s quite distinctive! smile

FoxesAreFabulous Tue 10-Oct-17 16:42:32

Kipperiscool haha! I was about to say that she's quite unusual looking for a Beddie! I think we'd go for a rescue so hopefully they would have a good idea of temperament. I cannot quite imagine having a dog that is happy to be stroked by everyone and loves people after our experience with poodle boy, but I do meet plenty of them so I'm sure they must exist! We were convinced we'd done something wrong but having heard so many similar stories from owners who got their dogs as puppies, from good breeders, I think we have just been slightly unlucky with our boy's temperament. Bilbomum, our boy is exactly as you describe - will roll over for a tummy rub and then snap at your hand. Quite unpredictable and dd and I can read him very well now but we do watch him with other people (except my dad, who he loves!)

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 16:51:50

She will grow into a proper beddie-usually takes up to 18 months and a proper trim! She is as bombproof as you can get with other people and dogs outside, it’s just inside! She is definitely a one person dog-I’m definitely the alpha!

Ginorchoc Tue 10-Oct-17 16:53:27

I have a Scotty T who is only 6 months but can be a bit snappy and growel, I spoke to a reward dog behaviour therapist who said stand like a tree, don't move no eye contact. It just bemused her, and us. We now say no and if she continues she goes straight in her bed to calm down. Seems to be working as she has sussed the next stage and it happens rarely now. Anyone got advice on digging holes and burying things grin

Kipperiscool Tue 10-Oct-17 16:58:42

Hahahaha! Digging holes is hilarious! My dog dug massiv holes on the beach!

Thewolfsjustapuppy Tue 10-Oct-17 17:10:58

I have given up on the lawn, the bits that haven't been burned by dog wee are full of giant holes! There is so much love for hole digging that I can't be too upset. She has also dug a sort of wallow pit under some ornamental grass that she loves.

Floralnomad Tue 10-Oct-17 17:44:41

I know a lot of people say to train them to dig in their own patch or sandpit , the advantage of a sandpit is that you can pre hide things for them so it brings its own reward . We fenced off our patio with an ornamental metal fence as left to his own devices digs up all sorts and then chews / eats it . We had a very near miss with a daffodil bulb when he was about 5 months and I can't risk it so he's only allowed on the grass when supervised . He will even dig in plant pots . We have a sandpit that he can use when it's dry which he does enjoy , he also likes a paddling pool in the summer .

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