A great idea for valuable community service for our terriers. Bossy and Bark Border would LOVE this service dog gig. How about your terrier?

Jeg News

The end of semester can be a tough time, with students feeling the crunch of big assignments and cramming for exams. Add to it the lack of sleep, eating badly and more than a few drinks, and it’s pretty easy to get stressed out.

And we know, there are plenty of ways to fight stress — but Dalhousie University is trying out a new way: Puppies.

The Halifax university is creating a puppy room for on December 4th, 5th and 6th to help students cope with the stress of exams and end-of-term assignments.

Not surprisingly, news of the puppies has been met with excitement. A Facebook post published to the Dalhousie Student Union’s page on Wednesday has already been shared more than 300 times in two hours.

“My major paper is due at 4 PM on the 4th… I will beeline it to the Puppy Room,” wrote Dal student Jimmy Tennant.

HuffPost Canada spoke…

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Should I get rid of my terrier?

kid-friendly colour illustration of Border Terrier's head

Original artwork by Syd

Should I get rid of my terrier? That’s a question from a heavy heart.   Let me retell a story that might help with this decision.

It’s a story of two young Border Terriers whose home was at risk.  It’s not a story about Bossy and Bark, my own dogs, although it easily could have been.  It is a story of “Oscar” and “Scottish”, both aliases, relayed by their breeder, who is also a vet.  After it’s telling she said:  ‘Now put THAT on your blog”. We hope it helps.  And I hope my Breeder/Vet will forgive me any liberties I’ve taken with its retelling.

One day not so long ago, my Breeder/Vet friend answered a call from a woman to whom she’d recently sold two pups from different litters.

“We know you told us that Borders Terriers aren’t the right dog for everyone,” said the woman. “We’ve given this a lot of thought and we think you’re right. We have to get rid of these dogs. “

Their offences:

  • Both dogs pull on their leashes and bark at other dogs when they are out for a walk. They really stir it up together.  [How many terriers have you seen that also do this? Likely as not you answered: almost all of them—although almost all of them can probably learn not to act this way.]
  • Scottish ran off the family property and ‘attacked’ another dog who’d been walking by.  It was more bluster than bite. Nobody got hurt.  Except the Owners’ pride. They’d had other, easier dogs over the years and didn’t want to be a problem in the neighbourhood.  [Good goal. Dramatic situation.  But I’m pretty confident a lot of dog owners have experienced some variant of this when their dogs were  young and learning their boundaries.]
  • Scottish and another dog got into it when the dogs were out at a local park running around off leash.  One of the dogs was bitten on that occasion. That might have been ‘the last straw’. [Dare I say, this was 100% human error, not a canine error.]

After asking the Owner two questions—which I’ll later reveal—the Breeder/Vet agreed to take Scottish back and rehome him.  But she made it clear that the Owners would need to sever all ties to the dog.   The Owner would never know where Scottish had gone and there would never be a chance to visit him.  Like a Witness Protection Program, he’d disappear and get a whole new life.  Probably a new name, too.  Sometimes that’s not so bad.  The dog gets a re-boot.  But it’s still very, very sad when we give up on our dogs and our relationships with them.  While Border Terriers aren’t considered to be ‘one man’ dogs and can bond with many people, they DO miss ‘Their People’.

So it was agreed.  A date was set. Scottish would be returned a week hence.  Yet two days before the date, the Breeder/Vet’s phone rang again.

“We really thought about what you asked us,” said the Dog-Owner.  “Since we last spoke, we’ve had two training sessions with someone from our vet clinic. Things are already so much better we’ve decided to keep both dogs. And we’re not changing our minds.  Ever.” 

A happy ending.  

So what were the two, pivotal questions the Breeder/Vet asked?

1. Did the dogs have any training?                                                                                   2. Had you considered walking them one at a time?

The answers the Breeder/Vet got:

Did the dogs have any training? Answer: The owners had taken their pups to training offered through their local vet once. Oscar hid under a chair she was so overwhelmed and afraid. They never went back.  [That was a great sign that little Oscar actually needed more help rather than less.]

Had you considered walking them one at a time?  Answer: The Owner said that option never crossed her mind but wasn’t against the idea. [That signalled hope for these dogs.  An Owner who is willing to give each of their dogs the support he/she needs is on the right path.  Raising two young terriers at the same time can be a tough slog especially if terriers are a new breed to you.  Handling them one at a time can make a huge difference. Like our kids, each dog is different.  Individualized attention is necessary.

The lessons of this story are self-evident but indulge me to close with a few thoughts:

1. If you’re at your wit’s end with your dog, seek help.  Actually, seek help at the beginning of your relationship with your dog to avoid being at your wit’s end–or find yourself at the dog’s end. Which is often the fate of dogs surrendered to shelters.

2. Don’t expect your dog to figure out our rules if you don’t teach them to him.  Just like your toddler.  You wouldn’t drop your baby into the world and expect him to figure things out all by himself.  Same for your dog.  Dogs are astonishing with all they can pick up with so little direction, but we still need to help them out. Especially if there isn’t an older, well-trained dog in the house to show the pup the ropes.

Some of our terriers—or their people —might need a bit more support than other breeds.  Terriers are different.  Many terrier owners face similar issues to what the Owner described with Oscar and Scottish and we can successfully work through them with our dogs.  You can be optimistic that your effort will be rewarded with results. If people are willing to learn about themselves and be patient, their dogs can learn.  Many of my dogs’ challenges were almost immediately fixed when I changed how I was handling situations.

Many Border Terriers are exceptionally smart. They love training if it’s treated as fun and playful and offered with a light, non-confrontational way.  Obedience training can actually be a lot of fun if we approach it that way. “Obedience” is our goal but we can get there through fun.

Training terriers might take longer than other breeds. Some terrier can be quite stubborn, which is the other way to view tenacity.  But they get there and having a well-channelled, motivated and happy terrier who will work with you because you’re both invested in the relationship is one of life’s great joys.  It is worth every minute of effort.

3. If your dog is struggling in training, it means you need to keep at it.  There are many different training models out there.  Terriers are hard-wired to respond fiercely if they feel threatened.  Consider this when you select your training method. Border Terriers  are more sensitive than they look or act.  It you are too dominant and tough you’ll activate the terrier’s self-preservation instincts and make your job WAY harder than it needs to be. Finding the balance between firm and calm is the key. 

Play is a great way to build a dog’s self-confidence and get them to want to do what you’re asking of them.  A tough “command and control” style of training might work at times but I’ve found fun is a much faster way to win a dog’s heart and mind.  And remember that what gets rewarded gets repeated.

The training philosophy that seems to most closely match what I learned through painful trial and error is Kevin Behan’s Natural Dog Training.

4. Dog owners really need to respect public leash rules and not put their dogs in situations that could be beyond their skills.  If your dog isn’t trained and “proofed” for instant recall in highly stimulating environments with other dogs, resist the pull to let them go off-leash. Letting dogs go off-leash before they’re really ready will set them up to fail.

5. Buy your dog from a reputable breeder and look to them for support if you run into trouble.   If you ever think you need to surrender your dog—and I hope you never have to cross that bridge—go to your breeder or a breed-specific rescue group before you drop your dog off at a shelter.  They are better equipped and committed to finding a happy ending for your terrier. They understand and love the breed and likely have a network of allied resources to call upon.

6. Consider your vet as part of your team. While vets are not necessarily behavioural experts they know a lot about dogs. They can help you set some realistic expectations for behaviour and point you toward local support.

7. Don’t give up. On your dog or yourself.

This story has a happy ending.   A good breeder and owners who were willing to do things differently to get a better result.  The future for Oscar and Scottish looks a lot brighter this week.

If you’re thinking of getting rid of your terrier for behavioural reasons, get help first. Many dogs can turn themselves around in a matter of minutes, hours or days if their handler can approach challenging situations with a new mindset or use new skills.  What I learned: if you can change, your dog can change.

What do you think, readers, any other sage advice?

[I know. We could talk on this for DAYS!]

Tale of the potential Blue Jay and the Pit Bull Terrier ban

Blue Jays trade: Will Ontario’s pit bull ban prompt Mark Buehrle to spurn Jays? – thestar.com.

Terrier lovers everywhere will appreciate this baseball player and the big life choices he’s made out of loyalty to his dogs.  Join me in cheering for Mark Buehrle and his personal integrity.

Let’s hope public policy on breed bans will continue to evolve, and that bull-type terriers will be assessed as individuals (and not as a faceless group of dogs) and responsibility for well-trained terriers will be placed where it really belongs–with the owners.

Could Buehrle be the one to knock this issue out of the park?

What do you think about these common bans on bull-type terriers?

Reading Service Terriers

Bark Border Enjoys Reading Game of Thrones With Sister/Cousin

Border Terriers Love To Read (with their favourite people)

Yesterday I said “Winter’s Coming!”. That reminded me of the Game of Thrones family motto and this moment between Bark and “Sister/Cousin” and a laid back afternoon they spent reading one of the books.  Bark prefers the book form of Game of Thrones to the TV version. WAY less gratuitous smut.

People who know terriers think that they aren’t well suited to Guide Dog Service functions (What car? Get that squirrel instead!), but Border Terriers make awesome  Reading Service dogs. Patient. Encouraging. Happy just to hang out with you for hours.  Keep on reading, Sister/Cousin.

SERVICE TERRIERS

Service dogs are often trained to alert others if their person gets into trouble. Sometimes they run circles around a wheelchair and other times they bark until help comes.  A good job for a vocal breed group.

Terriers are good working dogs. For many, ‘service work’ is great casting for their skills, sensitivities and loyal natures.

Read more about Bingo, the Jack Russell Terrier, who has lived his life according to Terrier Logic:

3. Love your human companion with all your heart.

9.  Remember persistence pays off.

11. Tune into every thought and feeling your human companion has.

13. Bark until your (good) work is acknowledged.

About Bingo, reblogged from: BUCKET LIST FOR DYING SERVICE DOG « Booksforever1blog. BarkUpToday!.

Parkour Terrier

Parkour dog.  This astonishing Staffordshire Terrier makes most terriers look comatose. Watch this RIVETING video (follows a short commercial not of my doing–sorry–it’s worth the wait).

This boy understands Terrier Logic # 12: Live with Passion.  You’ll never look at a standard agility course the same way. And you’ll probably join me in never whining about your high-energy terrier ever again.

We should all Live With the Spirit of Parkour.

Credits: Found on http://bitemecharlie.wordpress.com/

My Border Terrier acts like a cat

Bark Border Terrier on High

Some might say Bark, my second Border Terrier, acts like a cat. 

Others would say he has visions of grandeur. That he’s a dominant dog who thinks he’s the King of the Castle.  But Bark isn’t dominant and the longer I live with dogs the more I think the Dominance Model is…irrelevant. And sometimes dangerous–especially when there are terriers involved.  Coming to this realization has helped me solve a host of issues with my pups, too.  [The more we can change, the more our dogs can change.]

Bark is just happier up high. As are many cats.

When Bark goes to Grammy’s house to visit, he climbs the tall staircase and sleeps on the sunny patch of carpet atop the landing. There he can hang off the edge and can gaze out the little port window at the neighbouring roof-tops.  At home, he favours the back of the sofa even though windowed doors come right to the ground. A boy up high can see the rabbits and birds and other critters that a ground floor dog never can.  And he can stay out of the way of a bossy sister. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Where does your Terrier like to hang out? 

My next post will be other behaviours shared between Border Terriers and cats.