Share your best tips for Terrier owners

(18 Posts)
butcherswife Thu 30-Aug-18 11:13:00

Hi All,

My Jack Russell will be 6 this year and she is still an absolute handful. Before her I had a spaniel and more recently a Labrador which we unfortunately had to have PTS in June. I would consider myself a relatively experienced dog owner, but am slowly learning that Terriers are in a league of their own.

How do you keep yours stimulated? What are your best training tips?

In short she is quite highly strung, very loyal, can be nasty with other dogs if not introduced properly, very vocal (obvs), dominant and protective.

I have been to 1-1 training sessions with her but she is scared of everything so it doesn't really bring out the best in her. She is walked for a couple of hours each day, longer on a weekend. She can be hit and miss with her recall if there's something more interesting than me so I only let her off lead in certain places. I feed her out of a kong so she has to work for her food, I hide bits around the house and send her to go and find them but am struggling for more ideas to keep her stimulated. If left to her own devices she just likes to sit outside and bark at everything/or sit in the spare bedroom window looking out and barking at everything.

I am reading a couple of books on Terrier behavior but sometimes think real-life advice it best from the cats mouth so to speak.

Obligatory pics of her, of course

OP’s posts: |
AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 30-Aug-18 12:16:46

Fellow JRT (cross) owner here. How long have you had yours?

Top tips 1-5 would be: Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. More Exercise. And a bit more exercise after that. Minimum of two hours a day, sometimes more like three, mostly off lead. Anything less and I live to regret it - but you already seem to be on that!

If the barking is causing issues, consider covering up the windows e.g. net curtains or there is stick on frosting stuff you can get for window frames. She's probably worried about the things she can see, and so reducing what she can see will reduce the worries and hence the barking. Right now, what she's learned is that if she barks the scary people passing the window keep walking (she's not to know that that would have happened anyway!) so it's what's called a self-reinforcing behaviour.

Kongs are great, but there's a whole world of different options out there. Nina Ottosson toys, for instance, are brilliant, and Kong has a variety of other food puzzle toys (e.g. wobbler, gyro) that DDog loves. This is a great facebook group for ideas including DIY options like snuffle mats.

If you want low-stress walks where she can be off lead and not have to meet other dogs, consider hiring a secure dog field from time to time When you say nasty with other dogs - are we talking noisy or bitey? If the latter, please consider muzzling her for everyone's safety - the other dog's, but also hers.

Re confidence, things that seem to have helped my (anxious but full of bravado) dog are
- Adaptil plug in
- Trick training - he's learned some ridiculous tricks because it's a good way to keep him entertained, and because he can be successful (ditto enrichment activities - the easier ones can be great at helping them learn problem solving and confidence).
- Doggy parkour - I've taught him to walk along fallen trees. At first he was quite worried, but he'll now choose to get up and climb them if I so much as look at them. You can do it with park benches and street furniture too - you just need to teach an 'up' command first.
- Avoiding the things that worry him as much as possible - for us, it's changing our routes to minimise the number of motorbikes he sees, through to adding an 'ask before stroking' lead slip because he doesn't appreciate strangers touching him, and will walk away given the choice. You can't avoid everything, but it's about minimising it.

For training, positive reinforcement is the way to go. They'll work for delicious treats, and it's the training method that has been proven to work time and time again. For instance, every time DDog comes back when you call, give her a treat.

I notice you made a passing reference to dominance. Just to let you know, dominance / pack leadership / alpha dog theory has been thoroughly debunked - your dog is not trying to take over the world (or even your house). It was based on some very poorly designed research with wolves (separated from dogs by 10,000 years of evolution alongside humans...), and even the original researcher has now said he wishes he'd never published it. It's also commonly associated with some really dodgy training methods; Cesar Millan is considered a pariah in the dog training world, and for good reason. I absolutely do give my dog guidance and mentoring to make the right choices, but I don't think we're locked in a power struggle for pack leadership.

Don't use punishments or corrections - they're a good way to damage the bond you have with your dog, and don't address the underlying reasons for the behaviour. As an example, if you punished the dog for barking - which she's probably doing because she's worried, she may end up barking less, but it's probably because she's too scared to bark - and that's will come back to haunt you! If you were scared of spiders and screamed when you saw them, and your DP punished you every time you screamed, you would still be scared of spiders. You might also become too scared to scream - and it wouldn't improve your relationship with DP either. Environmental management (e.g. stopping the dog seeing people passing the windows) and positive reinforcement (e.g. treats for not barking) are the way to go.

It sounds like you haven't had a great experience with trainers in the past - are you looking to find another one?

I fear I have rambled a bit grin Terriers are funny things - DDog is my first dog as an adult, and my first terrier (had toy breeds as a child), and my first experience of taking on a dog with issues... it has been a steep learning curve, but an enormously rewarding one. He's almost unrecognisable from the dog he was a year ago.

butcherswife Thu 30-Aug-18 13:14:59

avocado wow thank you for your long reply!

I have had her from a pup but she came from a farm where the terriers were used to keep people away so she was born in a shed and kept in there not really handled until we got her at 8 weeks (not the great start to life, I know and in hindsight i should have thought about the implications but was too young) When we brought her home she wasn't a playful puppy but a very nervy pup and took a lot of encouragement to play and interact. She then became incredibly attached to me, and still is. Will go to DP if i'm not there but she is definitely my dog. She is also my first dog I have had as an adult (rescued by lab when he was 10 and had him 4 years before PTS)

Yes, exercise is my go to. My family have a home on the coast so we spend many a weekend there also, she/we are fairly active.

To be honest we live on a private road so there's not much to bark at apart from neighbors, she is just constantly on guard and spends her time listening out for things. It will just be easier for me to close the spare bedroom door. When I leave her on her own I leave the radio on fairly loud so she isn't spending her time on edge listening out for the smallest noise.

I am definitely going to join the facebook group for the enrichment. The dog field hire would also be a good idea. my friend also has a doggy daycare with a secure outdoor area which we private hire occasionally and she enjoys. I do chose very carefully where and when I walk her to enable me to let her off. It's easy at the Coast as we know lots of remote walks but a bit harder at home. She can be snappy yes, I have tried a dogmatic headcollar with her but she refuses to walk with it on. My trainer told me to take it really slow with her; reward each time she looks at it, reward when she puts her muzzle into it on her own accord, put it on her for a short period of time and reward, but she just freezes after that point. I would actually like her in a muzzle as i think it also makes people more aware. She looks friendly when she approaches but if they stare for too long she just flips. I am really careful about letting her interact with others unless introduced correctly. I do have a few friends with dogs who we occasionally go walking with which help to create a positive experience for her.

Regarding the dominance - i did know that now you mentioned it. I don't even know why i referred to it as that. I'm not sure how to explain what I mean, she just has a great presence and she likes everything to revolve around her.

In terms of trainers - i'm not sure as i haven't really had a great experience like you say. I need to have a 1-1 as i cant go in a group due to her been reactive. When I have taken her before it's hard work just to get her in the building (i do reward for any forward movement - dont just drag her in) she will then sit and cower under my chair and not really engage in any of the training or play.

A lot of the things you have mentioned resonate with the current book i am reading in terms of positive reinforcement and punishment/corrections. I would just really like to get into her head and find what makes her tick. She is actually very obedient; if I ask her to get down, wait, sit, leave she does as told. People often comment on how good she is but it's just all the day to day things that need fine tuning.

OP’s posts: |
DisgustedofSouthend Thu 30-Aug-18 13:38:30

With my terrier she loves a tennis ball, In the house, every morning chucking in around, in the garden, We do have some great walks. Wide open spaces are great to avoid other dogs, narrow paths the bane of our lives. Read her body language. Mine loves some male dogs, but there are so many she doesnt like, but it seems she is all noise. She cannot abide big bouncy dogs
my previous jack Russel used to run away and not come back but this one is far better.
our previous learnt to bark at all sorts, i agree with not letting yours look out of the window.
have you tried going jogging or cycling with your jack, so when you meet other dogs she is so busy tryign to catch up with you
our previous jack would go in the water, chasing sticks, but this one doesnt

Hufflefloof Thu 30-Aug-18 14:37:57

I have a 7 month old jrt cross, and I’m really learning that terriers are a completely different proposition to other types of dogs we’ve had. Luckily his recall is great, but when on the lead he is really aggressive towards other dogs. If I see the other dog coming, I can stop and distract with treats, if the other dog catches us by surprise, all hell breaks loose. He’s booked for the snip next month and I’m really hoping that will make a difference, but I suspect I’m kidding myself. Think I need to look at upping his exercise once the kids are back at school next week.

butcherswife Thu 30-Aug-18 15:17:53

disgusted She has lots of toys and loves chasing sticks out walking, i do it often to keep the attention on me. My partner used to take her running but she started biting his ankles... typical hmm We are hoping to get into cycling so maybe thats something we can try with her.

Hufflefloof Me and you both! My bitch was great until she turned 2 then snapped at a small fluffy dog on the beach one day and has never been the same since. When I had her spayed i asked if it would make a difference and the vet said not really it only tends to make a difference in dogs so you may be lucky. I am the same as you, I can get her to sit and wait until another dog passes but if it catches me by surprise she loses the plot.

Whilst your dog is young i would maybe try a dogmatic head collar, that way you have more control over his head and can physically turn him away from the distraction to focus on you. I have one and have tried to use it with mine on a number of occasions but she refuses to move with it on, a friend of mine puts it on her 6 month old collie and he isn't phased by it. Exercise does play a big part in their behavior, hopefully you can correct his snappiness before it gets too far.

Avocados I have booked a dog walking field this Saturday, going to go with my sister and her dog. They have a bit of an agility course there too so that will be fun! Thanks for the recommendation.

OP’s posts: |
JillCrewesmum Thu 30-Aug-18 15:25:17

Not helpful I know but tbh your terrier sounds quite true to type for a working JR.


Dottierichardson Thu 30-Aug-18 15:33:22

I've had a terrier for years, she was very full-on for a long time. I found the best things to do with her were structured activities, so agility and courses on tracking (day or weekends away), in between did between 30 mins to an hour a day training at home, had things like traffic cones etc for weaving. She loved agility and tracking, they also strengthened our bond. So might be worth looking into.

Yecartmannew Thu 30-Aug-18 15:58:50

Don't get one!

Get a hound instead. They are just as stubborn but less manic.
wink grin

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 30-Aug-18 16:36:28

As you've identified, not the best start in life (the crucial socialisation period is the first 16 weeks, and for your dog half of that was crap!), but you are where you are and while it's going to have had an impact you can only look forward from now on. Mine's a bit of a one person dog too - he only attaches himself to people who take him out for walkies or play long games of fetch with him (so, erm, two people). My flatmate, DGM and DM, for instance, do not make the list! It was a bit of a surprise to me - having always had toy companion breeds that were basically bred to give affection to anyone and everyone.

Leaving the radio on isn't a bad shout at all. It would be interesting to see how she does with different stations - perhaps Radio 4, Classic FM and Kerrang. Some people swear by white noise machines, though I've never used one myself.

From what you've said about the trainer's muzzle training, they're not a bad trainer at all (going purely from what you've said!!) but your dog is too nervous to learn in the other environment. A good rule of thumb is not to force your dog to do anything it's scared of - for instance, my dog was clearly and unexpectedly terrified of a spiral staircase recently, so after a couple of minutes of standing near it to see if he would decide it was ok, we walked away and went the long way around. Will the trainer come out to your home so your dog can learn in a 'safe' area? If you do need / want to switch trainers, I'd recommend an APDT trainer If you need someone to help you work on the reactivity, you need a behaviourist - someone CCAB or APBC accredited.

If I'm honest I'm not a massive fan of headcollars except where a dog is so enormous that it's impossible to control in certain circumstances - not the case with JRTs! That said, if someone wanted a headcollar, Dogmatic would be the one I suggested! I walked on a collar for a long time, but I'm a recent convert to the Perfect Fit harnesses. It means that when DDog lunges he doesn't end up throttling himself, and it's helped with pulling on the lead. Have you considered the use of a coat with an instruction on? e.g. with "keep your dog away" or similar printed? I've had success (95% reduction) with an "ask before stroking" lead slip - I think it works well because
a) it's a clear instruction, unlike "nervous" or "anxious" or even "I need space"
b) they can see it before they are close enough to stroke him.
A coat will be easier to see from a distance. Not a panacea, but it may help.

Reactive Dogs UK is a good facebook group for the reactivity side of things - I'm in there largely so I maintain perspective on how much worse it could be ;) They are however quite good at offering advice on dealing with reactivity using positive reinforcement

Enjoy the dog walking field this weekend! There are none near me but I'd love the chance to hire the agility equipment.

@Hufflefloof I'm generally very much in favour of neutering. However, the scientific evidence shows that the only behaviour it reliably reduces is scent marking. There's also some evidence coming out that for those dogs that have issues with anxiety (which often manifests itself as aggression), neutering can actually make things worse. The reason is that if they have the testosterone, it gives them a bit of extra confidence; the loss of testosterone can make them more nervous. I would really recommend speaking to a behaviourist (not a vet - they often know very little about canine behaviour, as it's covered in scant detail at university, if at all) before you get him neutered. There are chemical castration options, so you can see what he's like post-neutering in a reversible way, or vasectomy options to prevent pregnancy.

butcherswife Thu 30-Aug-18 17:18:06

Jill yes I agree, when my OH occasionally takes her to the farm we bought her from she really comes into her own. The guy we bought her off often saya he wishes he kept her. I just need to channel her behaviour at home. Not that she's 'naughty' because she's really isn't, just a very typical of her breed and background.

Dottie I would love to try something like that with her but where I live most of it is done in groups and I couldn't take her with other dogs. I am hiring a secure field for an hour on Saturday and they have a few agility bits there and I think she will love it!

Yecart if I knew what I knew now 😉 haha I joke but would love a hound! I'm not very savvy on them so would need to do my research!

Avocado you sound like you would be a great trainer for my dog! I need some of your knowledge. I play Magic Chilled on the radio and it seems to do the trick! I think I need a behaviourist to be honest, for me that's the worst thing as it's unpredictable. She won't wear a coat but a leadslip is a good idea. I will also join the Facebook group for reactive dogs, I hope I can be smug that she's not too bad!

OP’s posts: |
DisgustedofSouthend Thu 30-Aug-18 17:34:09

she doesnt sound too bad at all. sometimes i think if we let them get on with it things would be better. She shows whose boss, she is a big big dog, in a small body

butcherswife Thu 30-Aug-18 17:40:22

Disgusted she's not, your right. Imagine if we all just let our terriers get on with it though grin in fact i don't even want to imagine! I do know i make her worse sometimes. It's just because she's my first one and i have nothing to compare it to. I've never known a breed like it. It's when you compare her to my old lab, or sister's cockapoo or friends aussie shepherd and she just seems absoloutley feral!

OP’s posts: |
DisgustedofSouthend Thu 30-Aug-18 18:08:14

once you have a jack Russel you are a convert, I believe

Allycumpooster Thu 30-Aug-18 20:41:01

I have three terriers. I think I am what is known as a terrier person grin.
To be fair my three have very different personalities- one is the perfect laid back, happy little princess. One is very anxious and a tad reactive and the last is a bossy super intelligent little madam.
The common theme with my dogs is that the only training that works is positive reinforcement. Anything else would immediately send them over the edge.
I do agility with the bossy little madam, it is what keeps her manageable. I agree that it is normally in groups but unlike a lot of training classes agility tends to be full of dogs with some challenging behaviours and as a result everyone is very tolerant of other dogs this, ehem, ishoos. My dog has a penchant for suddenly heading off wildly looking for a scrap. She’s not reactive she just loves a good fighthmm. On the plus side she has quite a talent for agility and, if I can keep her focused, may even win a few classes in the future.

almondsareforevermore Thu 30-Aug-18 20:43:38

The last thing our terrier needs is stimulation! He’s hyped up the whole time and very noisy. He doesn’t need to see people passing to erupt, every distant sound starts him off. Rewarding his few quiet times is not working at all and we expect complaints daily.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Thu 30-Aug-18 21:50:22

Just for clarity I'm absolutely not a dog trainer! I've trained one dog, read a lot and tried to educate myself... But I am nothing more than an enthusiastic amateur. I avoid giving out what could be construed as advice on training or behaviour apart from the very basic stuff where it's hard to go too far wrong, like don't use punishments, avoid what's stressing your dog, and do use positive reinforcement. While I've seen a behaviourist about my own dog's reactivity, I avoid parroting the advice because another dog's circumstances may be very different to my own, or it could be misunderstood.

If you want to see a behaviourist, do get one that's CCAB (list on ASAB website) or APBC accredited. There are no regulations on who can call themselves a behaviourist (or trainer), so quite literally anyone can. Some of them are clueless, and some of them will fuck your dog up irreparably, which is why appropriate accreditation is vital. The APBC behaviourist we saw is fantastic - you have to implement the advice meticulously, but it works and the things she can pick up on are incredible.

JasmineBuckles Fri 31-Aug-18 22:16:38

My Border Terrier was horrific for 5 years. Dog aggressive, not just a bit bitey, but would walk past on lead dogs while on the lead herself and go for them. Especially fond of attempting to kill fluffy small dogs, collies and jack Russell’s.
100% recall in the dog trainers field. Zero recall if anything was more interesting than me. Not at all food motivated. Did not give the tiniest shit about toys/me/anything that wasn’t something she might kill.
I spent about 3 grand on training. Also spent many, many hours of my life either attempting to train, or looking for the dog.
Terriers are natural born fuckers. The only thing that has enabled me and my amazing, gorgeous dog to have any time off lead, let alone climb Snowdon and Ben Nevis without ever putting her on the lead, as well as live with 4 other dogs is...

an e-collar. She had it on twice when she was five. She’s now 12.

I’m getting a Gundog next.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in