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Ten Top Tips To Terriers

Buying a terrier – Some people are intent on buying a puppy, ‘clean slate’ and all that nonsense. Their only deterrent, is cost or time commitment, so they think ‘rescue’ a very young terrier (pedigree no less!). Be clear, the majority of terriers in rescue are young. Ask yourself why. Bought for looks; bought on a whim; bought without understanding the intense work a terrier pup needs for the first 20 months of its life. ‘Working type’ terriers can be difficult to manage with children under 6 yrs old. You will not know your terrier until 18 months when their instincts will be fully manifest. Free ad ‘Lakelands’ (Fell Terriers) pups come from first generation working terriers. Without careful homing, they will have lost their homes within 12 months, or have been found stray having escaped from gardens, cars or windows. Never buy 2 terrier pups together, the only reason people would sell you 2 is ‘money in their pocket’. Put the work into one then introduce another terrier once your first is over 18 months old, neutered and proven ‘good with dogs in their territory’. And… stating the obvious; terriers look sweet; the closest ever to your soft toy childhood companion, but know the terrier nature. Their energy is so lively, needing expression, containment and patient understanding.

Pup Socialisation – Terriers are scamps … they have sharp claws and teeth and need firm kind direction. Terriers are working breeds and are instinct bound, bred to act independently; with tenacity and courage. They are pack dogs and need intense socialisation for the first 18 months of their lives. Without it, things can go awry with dog socialisation as an adult. Let’s be honest, “good dogs skills” are never a guarantee with terriers. If you observe terrier pups interacting its full on, noisy and they are grabbing fur & flesh, but doing no damage. Terriers are vocal in their play, we term this a ‘flurry’. You break up the play and except murder to have occurred, look for the blood? Nothing but wet fur amazing you say! A fight however is quite a different energy and an owner needs to know when to allow play fighting or break up fighting. So often we are getting young pups coming out of homes being told they are vicious. They aren’t, they are just terrier pups so know what you have taken on and wake up to the challenge or don’t go there.

2 dogs or not 2 dogs? – The saying in rescue is ‘never two bitches’. Two males usually work far better than 2 bitches, but the ideal is a neutered pair; dog and bitch. We advise people to stagger the ages so a young dog keeps the older dog vibrant and the older dog acts as a role model. Yes you can home 2 terriers together, we do it all the time. Ask our honest opinion and a terrier homed with a more stable breed like a collie, shepherd, labrador or spaniel brings light relief into the energy mix and training aspects. Sadly we frequently have to rescue dogs from a situation where people bought 2 pups & are working full-time, their reasoning; “they’ll keep each other company”! We ask you!

Crate fashion – Crates have their place but clearly they are open to abuse. We take dogs in with ‘crate phobia’. Dogs are tidied away, kept from destroying the furniture for prolonged periods whilst owners are out of the house or for convenience. People can use them as punishment to lock them away, exactly the opposite to their design. Properly employed, they provide a safe haven, a refuge for your dog. We take dogs in who have been kept in crates far too small for them as adults … suitable only for travel containment. Please don’t feel the pressure to go out and buy a crate … an open bed with your dog still works! Your choice, but crates carry a health warning never a tool to abuse!

Terrier Equipment – Personally we recommend flexi 2.8 leads medium size 2 and 8 metres long, not 5 metres. Employ the free adjusting lead so the lead stays taut where ever your dog is. If you lock it you and they will get entangled. To reel them in brake and walk forwards; brake and walk forwards. The 5 metre restricts their walk considerably. Always locked short near roads; car parks and street walking. Also Ancol side fixing harnesses for walking your terrier. It takes the strain off the neck and they are difficult for your terrier to slip out of. Back fastening harnesses will come right off if pulled from the front. Should the harness fail you should still have a tag on the collar with mobile numbers on to direct ‘finders’ back to you. If your terrier is reacting or not fully trustworthy to dogs outside we recommend getting your terrier used to a muzzle (basketville size 5) for the small medium Lakeland size. Introduce this at the front of a walk, associated with a treat. Make it tight, initially, because they will try to get it off. After an enjoyable short walk see if they are beginning to focus on their walk and try again the next walk with a treat again. Soon they will associate the muzzle with a pleasurable walk. Explain to people you are putting them through a socialisation programme. The muzzle allows you to have your terrier up close and comfortable. You’ll see when there are problems and when there are not. You no longer need to dive into bushes at the sight of a dog off-lead, but can gently control introductions and swift departures without damage! We do NOT advocate shock or Citroenella collars, any kind of startle equipment like ‘pet correctors’ or tins of beans. Dab collars can help with settling a dog in.

Absence of Road Sense – Terriers have no sense of danger relating to traffic. Foxes; hedgehogs, cats and terriers are traffic vulnerable species. If you own a terrier (s) you know how much this feature dominates your whole consciousness. Take on a terrier and you are never again off duty! You need to manage access points; front door, house windows, back gate, garden, car and any off lead access within 200 yds from a road. Terriers can have both chase instinct and prey instinct. Terriers genetically are an amalgam of sight hound and bull breed. Some have strong working sight hound (fix gaze and chase; mouthy on meeting dogs, and aloofness) traits. Some have more bull breed (people focused, tenacious with other dogs usually don’t start but will finish) traits. Be aware – you are responsible for your terrier’s life. Never take undue risks endangering their lives.

Recall – The term is ‘selective hearing’. Indoors your terrier can be a loving lap dog, following you from room to room, attentive to your call or the shake of a biscuit tin from wherever they are! Heard that! On their walks it’s a different matter – their vision can be focused on the horizon; tuned to the slightest sound or movement. Antenna up … hearing switched on to ‘Russell!’ mode! Oblivious to Come! Name! or Here! A shrill whistle can break that intense concentration especially if it has the association of a ‘high value’ treat. Know your dog and work with your dog in secure areas, but don’t think your training won’t evaporate when they’re “tuned” elsewhere. So think safety first … we deal with the calls from people having lost their terrier on the road or railway line. You can’t train the terrier out of a terrier. We know terriers. So often people are talking the talk, appear to be listening, but in their mind they are thinking I’ll train the dog, “I’ll get them off lead”. We cannot allow our terriers to be placed with people who want their looks, but fail to understand their make-up. It takes a great deal of focused concentration to manage a terrier off lead. When we talk with you we ask what are you looking for in your dog. Describe a nice controlled, disciplined, easy dog then we are probably not going to recommend the majority of our terriers. Read our “terriers in need” descriptions carefully and DON’T go on looks or geography. A day’s trip to meet and home the right dog is worth the petrol!

Dog Lost – All responsible terrier owners should not only have their terrier micro-chipped, but also have a clear disc with address and mobile numbers on their pet AT all times. When visiting a home and seeing resident dogs without collars other than for walks, our heart misses a beat. I remember that call from the owner who lost their dog when there was a firework close to their garden and saw their terrier scramble over their fence and away with no identification at all. Look at www.doglost.co.uk and count the percentage of terriers reported on that site; often with no chip, ID tag and no picture available. If you loose your terrier contact dogslost and www.alfieslostdogs.co.uk and you will get expert advice. The best thing you can do is make up posters with pictures and clear contact details. Focus on the area they were lost in and plaster the area with any positive sightings in. Be aware of dog theft nowadays … gone are the days you can leave your dog in the car; outside a shop or in your garden unsupervised!

Exercise regime – Terriers like routine and they are also excited by new experiences. Be aware of how much exercise your dog truly requires. When not on their walks, offer them stimulation to keep their minds engaged in everyday activities. A secure garden is essential. A terrier-proof garden is 5-6′ solid panel fencing in good repair with no fox holes below and no items next to it, allowing the bright terrier to hop on and over in a trice.

‘Know thy place’ – Whether you are a person who is highly controlled or very unstructured, we need to match the right dog to you. Our terriers are honoured members of the family not distant adjuncts. See how dogs behave naturally, given a large house, come night-time they are all curled up in a lump in a corner- heads, chests and legs entwined. Some of our dogs can cope with the more ‘remote’ homes where a dog’s place is in the kitchen or conservatory, some can not. Be honest and we will place a dog whose instincts match your life style. There is no right or wrong unless we get it wrong or you haven’t thought it through right! We rescue our dogs from ‘outside living and also kennels’ People call us up and say this dog would be better suited to a farm. Think what that life style can mean. A terrier is usually born to that life style, mixing with a menagerie of other animals including livestock, coping with an open boundary situation with cars coming and going and kennelled perhaps for long periods. To move a dog from an integral domesticated situation and expect them to cope with a ‘down grade’ of privileges is wrong. We never demote our dogs from living inside to outside … quite the opposite.

2 extra tips – Control your terrier!

 1) Escape!!!  Getting your terrier back- don’t run towards them. Stand still, fall to the ground and ‘yell them in’ with a treat or their favourite squeaky toy (pretending to have a treat, if you don’t have one).

2) Leave it!!! To get your terrier to stop a behaviour don’t confront and pitch your will … this will strengthen their will.
Distract them into something that engages their curiosity or substitute the ‘forbidden’ with something more attractive