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Let's Talk Terriers

If you are wondering what is the right dog for you, this is the place to be. In this introductory forum we talk about topics such as breed vs. mix, size, age, grooming, breeders, shelters, rescues as well as requirements for exercise, space and care. No question is too silly here. This particular forum is for getting and giving helpful, nice advice. It is definitely not a forum for criticizing someone else's opinion, knowledge or advice. This forum is all about tail wagging and learning.

  
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Lisa

Always my angel.
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 1:04am PST 
So as I browse around Petfinder, etc., in anticipation of my next dog (ducks are still getting into a row for that one, but it's not far off now!), I've found that several of the dogs I'm drawn to are terrier crosses - most often JRT/Poodle mixes, but a few other terriers like Cairns and Silkies keep popping up as well.

I have always been intimidated by the idea of terriers, what with their reported combativeness and obsessive tendencies and barkiness, but I can see how there are some traits that would really appeal to me. I LOVE quirky personalities, for example, and I fall all over myself for a smart dog (even infuriatingly so!). I also jog at least a couple of miles a day, which in the 15-pound and under size bracket usually earns a terrier recommendation. So I'm thinking they're worth a look. I've investigated them a little in the past (maybe even on Dogster, though I don't have the topic bookmarked anymore), but I'd like some firsthand insight here. So, terrier people, here are my questions...

- What is it really like to live with a terrier?
- Can you ever really trust them off-leash?
- How hard is a wiry coat to care for?
- What are the best tips you can give for living peacefully with a terrier?
- Is dog aggression really that common in terrier breeds?
- Do they have an "off" switch, and if so, how much exercise does it take to activate it?
- Do they make good apartment/city dogs?
- What else should prospective terrier owners know about them?

I'm most curious about Jack Russell Terriers, since they seem to be popping up a lot for me, but terrier crosses of many types look to be common around here as well so any information at all is great. I'm only considering adult dogs of any sort (either purebred or mixed), so of course I'll be able to evaluate based on the individual, but it's good to get a general idea as well IMO.
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Missy

Miss- Pig!
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 6:43am PST 
Missy is a JRT x but is pretty much JRT in terms of her temperament. I'll answer your questions based pretty much on my experiences of living with her.


What is it really like to live with a terrier? - Frustrating at times, but lots of fun. They are usually full of life and energy, affectionate but at the same time independent and very smart. They can be barky ( Missy is! ) and it's something we've never been able to train out of her regardless of what we've tried. She barks at pretty much any noise she hears outside and i'd say she's quite territorial. A very good watch dog. My neighbors JRT's also bark a lot and it's a trait that i find more common in JRT's than any other terrier breed IMO.

Can you ever really trust them off-leash? - Yep. Most owners i know of have their terriers off lead all the time, no problems. Of course, it depends on the individual dog itself and the training behind it. My neighbors JRT is actually walked off lead everywhere pretty much. One day there was a cat sitting in the road and i was sure he was going to give chase as he walked back across the road with his owner. To my amazement, he totally ignored the cat! Their prey drive ranges, much like sighthounds. Missy comes from working parents, but her prey drive has always been easily managed really.

How hard is a wiry coat to care for? - I can't advice all that well here because i've never had Missy's coat touched. Most terriers need their coats stripped which i know can be easily learnt yourself.

What are the best tips you can give for living peacefully with a terrier? - Patience! laugh out loud Getting frustrated with them is counter productive. Terriers will always have the last laugh and the best thing to do is to always be one step ahead of them. Positive reinforcement training is key IME. As soon as i started teaching new things with the clicker & treats i found a whole new side to Missy.

Is dog aggression really that common in terrier breeds? - To be honest i'd say yes. But, not so much dog aggression but more reactivity. Missy is DA/reactive herself and has been since she was about a year old. My neighbors JRT's are both reactive, the lady's Westie across the road is reactive, my parents neighbors JRT is reactive....I know a great deal of reactive/aggressive terriers. It's actually one of the first things people tend to say to me when they witness Missy's behaviour, "she's a typical terrier". Even the ones that aren't reactive/aggressive don't tend to back down from a confrontation. Obviously that's not to say all terriers are like this because they're not. I've come across friendly ones, more submissive ones and they're great examples of their breed. But you have to remember that terriers are generally reactive dogs anyway, they had to be feisty and brave to do the job they was required of. Early socialization with other dogs & animals is crucial.

Do they have an "off" switch, and if so, how much exercise does it take to activate it? - Yes they do. Missy has never been OTT hyperactive, but she is a very busy little dog. I've found that a combination of mental exercise and playing fetch wears her out quicker than mile long walks etc. In her younger days she could walk miles and never really be tired, although she would be quiet once back. But i never seemed to be able to tire her out mentally i guess. As i found new ways of training her and as she's got older she's much more relaxed and does tire quite easily most of the time. She can still walk miles but you'll notice that she's slacking now and you know when she's had enough. I would be walking a young, energetic JRT for at least two hours a day, broken up into a couple of walks with mental games and activities provided in between. Free running is a must for these dogs IMO.


Do they make good apartment/city dogs? - Yes they do. Just be aware that they can be noisy which might not go down well with your neighbors. My neighbors don't mind because they have JRT's themselves laugh out loud

What else should prospective terrier owners know about them? - Just always keep in mind the terriers true instincts and nature. Most JRT's in particular don't lost that drive or instinct to hunt, and while it can be managed, it never goes away. They are not particularly cuddly or wanting to be with you 24/7. I've found that they are very affectionate with strangers though. Missy loves people with a passion!


There are terriers that are less full on than JRT's. The Border Terrier is always one that is recommended for people who want a terrier but don't have the energy or the experience for a JRT. They are much more amenable than JRT's and make better family dogs. Less noisy too! way to go
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Rocky *CGC*- With the- angels.

Gone but never,- ever forgotten- xxx
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 7:10am PST 
I only really have experience with JRTs and Cairn terriers. However I work with Cairn terriers as my boss breeds them and all I can say is, AMAZING!

I was never a terrier person, unless it involved SBTs or other 'bully' terriers. But since working with Cairns, my opinion has changed.

They're quirky and you're never short of laughs when they're around. They are also extremely intelligent and focused. My favourite one that I work with is called Jasper (Jazz) and he is brilliant. I take 10 Cairns a walk every morning and they always get let off leash. They learn very fast and if given the right direction when they are puppies, they will never stray too far. They are very nose orientated so doing exercises with them that involve them working their noses is very important. They're medium/high energy. They can walk for hours with you you but don't feel the need to run riot at all times. Jazz is very loving and loves nothing more than curling up on your lap whilst you watch TV... They also have major personalities! Jasper likes to think he can get what he wants and can be a clown doing so... He can get up onto the highest counters just because he knows there's crumbs up there... I've seen him jump from the floor, onto a basket, then onto the kitchen counter, jump over the sink, climb over the microwave and over to the other side, just to get some food left there. Very intelligent. They don't need a lot of grooming, as said abouve, hand stripping is the best way to deal with their coats but it's very easy to learn to do yoursself....

Not to mention, they're damn cute!

JRT's are nutters! But in a very loving way. From what I've witnessed, JRTs are also more vocal than the Cairns...

Good luck though puppy
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Lucille

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 7:35am PST 
I was in sighthounds for many years (greys and IWs, still have a hand in a nice IW thankfully) but I felt I'd learned pretty much what I need to from them and made the switch to terriers and I haven't looked back. While I adore just about all breeds, my heart is with terriers. Love their character, sense of humor, never say die attitude, and many of them are super smart. I'm with Airedales at the moment, but that's a bit out of your size range, I gather.

Yes, they do well in apts. They need a lot of outlets for exercise and mental games, frequent training sessions kept short and sweet. Yes, they're higher on the DA and reactive scales than many other breeds. In individual cases you'll see that poor socialization and handling has made the situation worse. NEVER forget that their primary purpose was for hunting. That is their heart and why they are so courageous and do not back down. Yes, they can do well offleash but you must have a plan and train for when an animal like a squirrel goes by. If you like high drive, chances are good you'll find it in a terrier. They can make excellent running companions. If you're outdoorsy, a terrier will explore with you happily all day long.

Barking can be frequent, but it can be worked on. I must admit it isn't easy, but it's worth the work put in. Honestly I think many of the herding breeds are typically worse for it, never heard a more barky dog than a Sheltie. Remember that most small breed terriers were bred to bolt prey underground, and that is accomplished through barking. JRT's have that hunting style.

I really would figure out a way to get a JRT digging appropriately, if not real hunting, then earthdog or tracking. They love to dig and track. JRTs need a sense of accomplishment, they love to work hard...I simply can't stress enough the need to give them something along those lines for both of your sanity. Lovely dogs through and through in the right hands. Cairns need that to, but not as intensely, their hunting style is a bit different.

ETA for typo

Edited by author Wed Jun 27, '12 7:36am PST

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Lucille

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 7:47am PST 
Forgot your question on living with terriers. Lucille's a terrier mix and she's every bit as intense as her pedigreed half siblings. I love Dales because nothing is done in half measures. They're bold and pushy and truly enjoy lots of interaction during training. They work hard, but play hard, too and that's me to a T. No doubt they're high energy. Nothing feels better than getting to a certain level of understanding with a terrier. When you've got them on your side their loyalty is stunning. When I leave the group of terriers I'm working with now I'm exhausted, but I always have a huge smile on my face. They're just bursting with a zest for life and it's infectious. big grin
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Buster

1201864
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 8:06am PST 
I have a cairn mix and I've been around other terriers. They're wonderful to live with but so frustrating. They seem to love to do things to make you look silly and so they can laugh at you, they can be stubborn but a bit of food goes a long way for everyone who says they're untrainable some of the most popular dogs in tv/movie work are jack russells. They do bark but you can cope with that and teaching them to speak on command and quiet helps.

They just seem to have a spark that other breeds don't, they're very charismatic and very good at training their humans laugh out loud. Some can live with small animals Buster and my rabbit get on just fine after Buster annoyed him one too many times and got bitten on the nose just introduce them slowly. Their recall can be terrible because you have to be more interesting than all the smells around.

He was much more hyper when he was a puppy at 7 he's mellowing out a bit but mental exercise will tire them out and they love doing puzzles well the first few times anyway and he enjoys nosework/tracking

Edited by author Wed Jun 27, '12 8:08am PST

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Pixie Bell

Is that a ball?
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 11:42am PST 
Let me prelude my answers by saying I've always loved terriers, we have parellel personalities. There was a time when my best friend growing up had the most obnoxious, misbehaved, evil rat terrier on the planet. I vowed never to own a terrier, it wouldn't work, I thought.

Enter Pixie, THE most adorable ratty on the planet, dumped on our doorstep, and attached to our hearts.

- What is it really like to live with a terrier?
It's like waking up to a little kid that just drank a pot of coffee and is ready to ping-pong all over the house. A walk won't cover it... Maybe a walk then a half-hour of fetch a couple of times a day.

But between bouts of energy, they are the Snugglers of the house (speaking rat terrier here, they have a very, VERY loyal, "Velcro" personality and are comfort seekers for sure).

- Can you ever really trust them off-leash?
Pixie is fairly trustworthy off-lead, I'm still cautious, but she returns if I seem upset that she is leaving. I don't have a serious problem with her chasing things, though I don't ever give her that option. Even if she runs on the woods I always know where she is. She is too loyal to me to go far... No, really. SHE doesn't like when I'm out of her site.

- How hard is a wiry coat to care for?
I don't know. My terrier has a smooth, shiny coat!

- What are the best tips you can give for living peacefully with a terrier?
Training isn't impossible, agility is downright FUN! For both me and Pixie. That socialization which is IMPERATIVE for a terrier brings out all the FUN in these little dogs. Do some formal activity that makes them think they're playing, the training helps you gain repor, and them learn to trust your ability to lead as well as build an important bond.

Don't be lazy with them either. These AREN'T couch potato breeds, you'll have extreme behavior problems if you leave them at home to chill all the time. They'll find SOMETHING to do, and they'll drive you bonkers.

- Is dog aggression really that common in terrier breeds?
Yes and no. I think the severity here goes to the individual breed. I've met JRTs who have "doggie friends" (these have always been dogs who have a huge opportunity to work frequently, work being socialization and training), and I've met those that just won't be okay with another dog.

Pixie is 100% aloof with other dogs, she won't attack them, but she won't let them sniff her butt either. She does great with our other two dogs, but she is definitely bossy with them.

- Do they have an "off" switch, and if so, how much exercise does it take to activate it?
Pixie zonks at about 9:00 pm, totally ready for bed no matter how much running and playing she did or didnot get that day. She also begs for a nap at the hottest part of the day. Her play times are 6:30 am until about 8:30, 10:30ish, and after 5:30. These are pretty intense, and we play an obscene amount of fetch, she is an awesome hiking partner, and will go as long as she needs to, refusing to wear out until we're in the car.

I do note that her energy is pretty stable, it isn't a matter of "tiring her out" but utilizing her play time. A half-hour of fetch goes a long way, but I'll still be asked to play again in a few hours.

- Do they make good apartment/city dogs?
I think so. AS LONG AS you work them somehow. You'll have to get outside, you'll have to play in the house, you'll have to go for walks, OR ELSE. LOL!!!

- What else should prospective terrier owners know about them?
They aren't right for everyone, and while there is a lot "scary" about them, it becomes routine and hardly noticeable by YOU when you get used to the rigor of it. Others will think your dog is a spaz, and you'll think, "Man, I'm in better shape BECAUSE of her! I love this crazy dog!" Terriers are adorable for a reason, and they will use their "I'm far too cute"ness to their advantage. You'll fall in love and others won't understand, as they'll be exhausted just watching her. Ignore them, and play with your dog. LOL!
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Paris

support the- rabid
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 12:22pm PST 
I like to joke around and call Paris the Silky Terror, but really she's actually not at all as bad as I expected with a terrier. Maybe she's defective wink

What's it like to live with a terrier?
There's never a dull moment, that's for sure!

Can you trust them offleash?
Paris is attached to my mom at the hip and won't go far from her, however she was found as a stray and it's possible she may have run off from her previous home. Who knows though. She is pretty visually stimulated and lasers in at every little thing that moves.

How hard is it to care for the wiry coat?
Paris, being a Silky Terrier, does not have a wiry coat. Hers is more similar to a Yorkie only it doesn't grow down to the ground. Most people keep a puppy cut, but her coat was left to grow to full length (as can be seen in her profile pic). It's not that difficult to care for, although it does get tangled easily so daily brushing is a must (and is usually undone the second she gives a shake!) It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a simple comb through to keep things untangled is all that's necessary. Her coat can get oily as well so she gets a bath every couple of weeks, although I've read they can have baths as often as once a week.

Best tips for living with a terrier:
Try to keep up with them and keep them busy. They love to think and learn so brain games are equally as important as physical exercise.

Is dog aggression common?
Every breed has its generalized trait, and the tendency for dog aggression is one of those when it comes to a terrier. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Paris is great with Nick... most of the time. Play fighting can turn into actual fighting real quick, so I have to referee them. Although I can't tell if the cause is Nicky being too pushy or Paris just being a terrier or an overarousal thing or a little bit of everything. It doesn't happen every time they play, and Paris is actually great with other dogs at the dog park which was something I was worried about when I first started taking her.

Do they have an "off switch?"
Yes, and Paris's kicks in at around 6pm laugh out loud After we eat dinner, she crawls into her bed and is out cold for the rest of the night no matter what went on during the day. She is a busy body during the day. It's like she can't sit still or has doggy ADD. She's not getting in trouble, she's just in constant motion. She makes me tired just looking at her, and she can run at the dog park full speed for a whole hour (even after a walk) and still doesn't wear out. The moment you twitch a muscle, she springs into action in the hopes that you are going to the kitchen. I try to play fetch with her but she loses interest after a few repetitions. She LOVES digging though. Another terrier trait. She has the sandbox all to herself and it provides great exercise for her. She gets to use her nose in it as well. With Paris, she does have energy to spare, but it seems like she is able to adapt as well. She won't go insane and tear the house up if she doesn't get to go to the dog park or go on a walk for a day or two.

Do they make good good city/apt dogs?
As long as the owner is willing to put in the time and energy to make sure they are well exercised and trained, I think any dog could.

What else should potential owners know?
If you don't have a sense of humor, a terrier is not for you!

Paris, I think, makes a nice intro to terriers. She's very terrier-y, but she doesn't seem to be as intense as other terriers either. She is a very nice blend of companion dog and energizer bunny. She can be either one appropriately depending on the situation.

Edited by author Wed Jun 27, '12 12:26pm PST

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Lucille

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 12:42pm PST 
Lucille reminds us when it is her bed time. Her bedroom is the living room. She walks over to the light, sits in front of it and barks. This occurs every night at some point between 10 and 11pm. One of us will say "Oh, it's Lu's bedtime." and shut the light off, then she promptly goes to her bed and crashes out. We can still hang out and watch TV, but the light MUST be off. They do train their humans almost as well as cats. wink

I'm convinced if only they had thumbs, terriers could rule the world.

The wiry coats are actually more easy care than they seem. Dust and dirt just brushes right off, that's why that coat type is preferred in the field by many. Hand stripping is mostly for keeping a dog in show coat. Dales that are shown are hand stripped, but many people who don't show just keep them clipped and shaped. Some purists insist on hand stripping, which can take hours and is very spendy unless you DYI. I say if it's your dog, it's totally up to you. It matters not to the dog...big grin
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Paris

support the- rabid
 
 
Barked: Wed Jun 27, '12 1:01pm PST 
Paris gives a 'Marge Simpson groan of anger' when she has to get out of bed for the last call potty break laugh out loud

Edited by author Wed Jun 27, '12 1:01pm PST

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