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?

My Border Terriers howl. Bossy never howled until Bark came along. But a true emphath she is, she’ll join in. And almost every morning after the sun rises, they’ll face each other and start. Bark starts it and Bossy joins in. The morning chorus I’m trying to put “on command”. We should all enjoy singing together like this.

Booksforever1blog. BarkUpToday! Claudia Bensimoun

WHY DO DINGOES, WOLVES AND DOGS HOWL?

Dingoes have three different types of howls with ten variations. These howls can be long and persistent, rising and ebbing or short. According to research, a dingo howl will change according to the season and the time of day. A dingo howl is also influenced by breeding, migration, lactation, social stability, and dispersal behavior. Dingoes will also howl if there is a food shortage and they are hungry. Howling seems to be a group activity and they will also greet-howl. Dingoes will howl less often than grey wolves. They will call to each other in the wild so as to relocate back to dingo packs. They most enjoy howling together as a chorus and these howls get louder with the increase in pack members. Dingoes do bark and their bark is short and monosyllabic. Barking is used just as a warning. Often this…

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Border Terriers & Coyotes

A silent communion

Coyote on mountain ridge

Not the Coyote we saw yesterday, but a Coyote from Yellowstone. Photo credit: Jim Peaco

My Borders, Bossy and Bark, normally sound off when an off-leash dog approaches us. But not yesterday.

Yesterday at Hilton Falls we met one of our resident Coyotes as we crested a hilltop. It’s the second time in the last six months we’ve been lucky like this. Last time we were coming around a corner on a forest path and I thought I was seeing the hind end of a young deer.

This time, the Coyote was out in the open.  At first I thought I was seeing an off-leash German Sheppard running towards us. Expecting a vocal explosion from my terriers I stopped and looked around, preparing to ask the owner to recall his dog.

But when we stopped, the ‘dog’ stopped.  And for a few seconds of suspended time we all gazed at each other, the ‘dog’ looking straight at us without a hint of confrontation in his body or attitude. No owner in sight. Certainly not a Sheppard. A handsome Coyote instead.

Far too quickly he turned and vanished into the hillside woods behind him, running through a carpet of fall leaves without making a sound.  Bossy and Bark didn’t make a peep either. Just like when we met the Deer-Coyote in the woods in the summertime.  A silent communion. Some amazing grace.

Terrier Logic Nominated for Liebster Award

Border Terrier Gets Ahold of A Liebster Award

I think that nomination is for me, Mom.

A young woman with her eye on the skies, Tin Liu, author of http://astronomybythecosmos.com is also grounded enough to discover Terrier Logic.  It’s literally been months since she did and nominated Terrier Logic for a Liebster Award. Life got crazy. But I haven’t forgotten.

For those unfamiliar with The Liebster Award, it carries some obligations:

  • When you are tagged/nominated, you have to post 11 facts about yourself.
  • Then you answer the 11 questions the Tagger has given you and make 11 questions for the people you are going to tag.
  • You tag 11 more Bloggers and tell the people you tagged that you appreciate their work.
  •  No tagging back.

11 Facts About Myself (Toni Terrier):

  1. A puppy changed me.  Two changed me even more.
  2. I love having both of my terriers curled up on my lap–although they don’t fit.
  3. I love learning new tricks. Like blogging.
  4. I’m a proud Canadian.
  5. My dogs helped me become a better horsewoman.
  6. I bellylaugh when the dogs rough-house.
  7. I prefer tall trees over tall buildings.
  8. Lyme Disease nearly took me out early.  (Protect yourself from tick bites).
  9. This blog is a Learning Lab as well as a reason to write and share one of my passions.
  10. I was a Girl Guide and Girl Guide Leader. Among what I learned: try to leave the world better than you found it.
  11. I’m a lot like my terriers.

11 Answers to the Questions Posed By My Nominator, Tina Liu http://www.astronomybythecosmos.com

1.  Which of the eight planets is your favorite? Why?  Earth. I’ve lived here for years and I quite like it.  None of the other planets have the really good stuff like compassion, surf and wildlife.

2.  How many countries have you been to? Which ones? Coincidentally 11: Many parts of Canada, United States (continental and Hawaii), Mexico, Dominican Republic, England, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Thailand, China (Mainland, Hong Kong and Macau), and Japan. All wonderful and not nearly enough of each. Only a fraction of where I want to go, before I go.

3. Name one person who has inspired you.  There are many but I’ll pick Richard Branson. Years ago he faced true uncertainty up in a super-high altitude hot air balloon when a fuel tank was accidentally jettisoned.  Of course he kept going and I was riveted to his courageous video chronicle of the event. Glad he made it back safely.  

4. What was your first memory?  Jack rabbits in the Arizona desert.

5. What do you imagine the world to be like in a thousand years?  Different but (still) determined to survive.

6. If you could, what superpower would you choose? Invisibility, super strength, clairvoyance, or super speed?  FLIGHT would the superpower I’d really want. The closest to that is probably “super speed.”

7.  Which of the twelve Olympians in Greek mythology is your favorite? Why?  The modest and apolitical, Goddess of the Hearth, Hestia. She inspired entire towns to keep a perpetual flame in honour of children and families.

8. What is your favorite genre of books?  Oh sure, ask a really hard question. Science-or literary-fiction, if I had to choose.  But, please, don’t make me.

9. If you had an unlimited supply of money, how would you spend it?  On making money irrelevant for the survival, health and happiness of all life on earth.  Somewhere in there, I’d build a links-style golf club for my husband. That would definitely make him happy.

11. How many languages do you speak? Which ones? Only one well: English. And on some days I’m not even sure about that.  Un peu Francais. Un poquito Espaniol. Learning more Canine and Equine every day. Just starting to pick up HTML.

11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? With those I love. After that, somewhere in a mountain range with water nearby.

My 11 Questions To Those I’ve Tagged (Inspired by Terriers and Other Dogs):

  1. What will you hang onto in life—no matter what?
  2. What’s your great life obsession?
  3. What are you most curious about and like to dig into the most?
  4. About which human value are you most tenacious? Honesty, integrity, etc.
  5. What are you driven to rid from the world?
  6. What do you enjoy doing most with a/your dog?
  7. Why do you enjoy it? (See Q6)
  8. Who was the most memorable dog character you’ve ever read about in a book?
  9. Where’s the craziest place you’ve seen a dog sleep?
  10. What would you protect if you had to?
  11. With which breed of dog do you feel the most kinship?

My 11 Liebster Award Nominees:  

  1. Reading Interrupted 
  2. Donnell & Day Architecture Journal
  3. Long Life Cats And Dogs
  4. Daily Doodle + More
  5. 1 Year, 365 Moments
  6. Barbara’s World
  7. Dreamcatcher Farm
  8. Dirt Road Journal
  9. MariAnne MacGregor Photography
  10. The everyday collides-susan reilly
  11. Airquoted

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.