The real purpose of a terrier

Hunting is a terrier’s real purpose. “Hunt until you drop.”  That’s Terrier Logic # 2Before we ‘own’ a terrier we read all about these cute, non-shedding dogs and how independent, persistent and plucky they are.  How endearing, we think.  So feisty.  We think we ‘get it’.  But I don’t think we really do. Then some of us struggle mightily against these personality traits.

I read it–but didn’t really get it–until I got involved in Earthdog work and saw what comes naturally to these breeds. Only after this did I truly understand my Bossy Border Terrier and her intensity. The hunt for small and not-so-small furries defines her, along with other terriers.

Dughall, the Cairn Terrier, parades his stuffed rat reward after succeeding at an Intro to Quarry Earthdog Test. (Photo courtesy of C. Mair.)

Terriers have hunted for us for centuries, protecting food stores from destruction by vermin and reducing disease by keeping rodent populations in check.  A local, Ontario mill owner I know still prefers a good working terrier to a cat to keep the mice down around his feeds and seeds. We really need to remember this working history of our terriers and find ways to channel their instincts. When we can’t do what we’re meant to do part of us becomes unstable and unhealthy.  Same, too, for our dogs.  When we stick them in a leisurely, quiet life and never let them follow their noses and hunting instincts, they become neurotic. Like rebels without a cause.
If you have a terrier in your life and haven’t heard about Earthdog trials, been to one as an observer or participated in one with your dog, you’re missing out on a controlled opportunity to let your terrier do his life’s work–without harm coming to the quarry Earthdog work (and practice) helps our dogs exercise their real purpose and helps us bond with them on a deeper level.  Check it out..

Is your terrier empathetic? Share a story that’s touched your heart.

We really need to come to our senses and embrace the emotional make-up of our dogs–especially terriers.  When we do, life with them just makes more sense. For everyone involved.

Bossy After The Storm

Many animals are ’empathic’.  Don’t believe me? Watch this amazing video presentation by Frans de Waal, acclaimed Dutch primatologist and ethologist, that aired originally on the TED network.  He provides evidence of empathy and compassion, reciprocity and fairness in the animal kingdom.  Turns out there’s proof empathy isn’t just for people. Now that’s an “idea worth spreading”, though good ‘dog people’ know it instinctively.

If you own any kind of terrier–a Cairn, a Border or a Pit Bull, for instance–you’ve seen empathy and plenty of it.  All dogs have it. But terriers seem to have more of it than most.  (See Terrier Logic # 12).

Terriers are emotional beings and can recognize, respond to and mirror our emotions.

When someone coughs or sneezes at my house, Bossy is right there checking on her person.  You OK?  Good. Now rub my belly.  When a golfer on TV rims a putt, both of my dogs console my husband after confirming he didn’t have a heart attack. More kisses.  And like most people, my dogs will snuggle in close when they know someone isn’t feeling well. I’m not leaving your side; I’ll stay here as long as you need me.

How does two-way empathy help us in handling our feisty terriers?  If we can change, our dogs can change.  And change usually starts in our hearts.

Is your terrier empathetic? Do you think terriers are more empathetic than other breeds you’ve lived with? Share your story about a terrier that’s touched your heart and shown you his.  Click on the comment bubble on the top right or write your story below.

Lyme Disease is more tenacious than a Master Earthdog

Many terrier owners are doing Earthdog Trials with their dogs this time of year.  You could be doing hunt-ups in long grasses, searching for hidden rats among the brush then WAITING as your dogs go to ground.  That’s on top of all the standing around you`ll be doing at the test site.

Somewhere along the way, a lyme-infected tick could hitch a ride–on you or your dog. So be on the lookout for ticks.   Recent reports say that 10% of black-legged ticks carry the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that`s responsible for Lyme Disease.

Lyme is officially on the rise in Canada, yet disease incidence numbers are probably grossly under-estimated.  While most dogs don’t get Lyme when they`re bitten by a tick, you`re much more like to become infected.  Be vigilant. Not all bites have a classic bullseye rash.

The Lyme Disease bacteria is formidable.  It’s tougher, smarter and way more tenacious than any Earthdog you`ll ever meet. Learn more and stay informed if you`re going to be out working with your Earthdog. Visit www.canlyme.com

Recent News on Lyme: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1215210–ticks-that-can-carry-lyme-disease-agent-spreading

Terriers are more than hypo-allergenic dogs

Why did you pick your terrier puppy?

Because it won’t make you sneeze or wheeze? Because it had a rep for being smart and feisty? Or because you didn’t want to fix your broken doorbell?

If you got a terrier mainly because it’s a small, hypoallergenic breed you may have gotten more than you bargained for.  I, for one, got great “value-added” for my dog investment dollar.

When most people meet me with my Border Terriers they comment on their size and ask if they shed. They definitely don’t ask about their intense hunting natures.  All except for Hamish’s Dad–a young Scottish transplant to Canada–who spotted my Borders hundreds of yards away as we walked towards him.                                       [He “knew all their Border tricks”.]

If you’re considering a terrier puppy, consider Terrier Logic:

  1. Respect yourself and respect others who respect themselves.                            Terrorize everyone else.
  2. Hunt until you drop.
  3. Love your human companion with all your heart, but…
  4. Keep the Terrier “You’re-Not-The-Boss-of-Me” Motto in mind.
  5. If it moves, get it.
  6. If it scares you, GET IT.
  7. If it scares your human companion, GET IT.
  8. Get it before it gets you.
  9. Remember that persistence usually pays off. And that…
  10. Your desires are directly proportional to your human’s. The more your human wants something, the more you should want it.
  11. Tune into every thought and feeling your human companion has.
  12. Live with passion.

Terriers are way more than small, cute and hypoallergenic dogs. They’re empathetic and intense dogs with strong prey drives.  They can be reactive, determined and indefatigable.

Terrier Logic #5: if it moves, get it

So, before you get a terrier puppy know what you’re really getting into.  Prioritize your needs and theirs. Terriers respond best to self-respecting, calm human companions who honour their independent, hunting natures.  Be realistic about how your personality will mesh with–or fuel–theirs.

If you chose a terrier puppy and are having some challenges, be optimistic. If you can change, they can change.  Match your dog’s persistence. And consider these 12 Rules of Terrier Logic and how they might be playing out in your relationship. Doing so might help get you through The Rough.

If you “own” a terrier and have him all figured out, congratulations.                                  Please add your Rules of Terrier Logic so we can share in your success.

Terriers will teach us that if we can change, our dogs can change

Terriers–and dogs in general–are much more “plastic” than we are.

A speaker at a semi-recent national veterinary conference reported that canine personality (and related behavioural issues) is fixed by about three years of age. The implication was: if you haven’t ‘fixed’ your dog’s issues by then, forget about it.  Time to despair?  I don’t think so.

Bossy changed a lot between three and four. So I, for one, conclude this assertion is “bunk!”, to quote my colourful first-year sociology prof, Kunkel.  Of course, if I’d stayed stuck so would have Bossy.

What’s more, if I could’ve figured out faster what I was doing–or not doing– in the situations that stressed and challenged her, I could’ve helped her find her softness and stillness sooner than she did.

Freeing ourselves with the idea that behaviour is malleable is a key to improving all our relationships. After all, isn’t change–and not stasis–the real way of life? Let’s be tenacious on that thought.

Let’s be open to having a terrier teach us.