Terrier Type

Scan through descriptions of terrier breeds, and you will notice that several terms pop up with great regularity, including:

Intelligent, Fearless, Game, Spirited, Lively, Stubborn, Alert, Sturdy, Strong-Willed, Confident, CleverBOLD

For anyone new to terriers, these words can be interpreted in many different ways. For anyone familiar with terriers, these terms carry powerful and distinct meanings!

While no creature is solely defined by their family of origin, terriers possess some very strong familial traits. Certain terrier breeds, in particular, tend to also possess stronger levels of “true terrier-ness” than others. Long-legged terriers, the prime subject of this blog, are some of the oldest, and most natural terrier breeds that exist. At the heart of this family are the Black and Tan terriers, today known as Welsh Terriers. Welsh Terriers are an example of true, “full strength” terriers, with instincts little removed from their not-too-distant working origins.

People who know terriers know that they can, by nature, be challenging pets. Everything is relative — and when I say challenging pets, I mean in comparison to many other types of dogs. Terriers are a type of their own. These dogs were bred to hunt on their own — to pursue, confront, fight, and kill without fear or hesitation. With the exception of Airedales, most breeds of terriers were never bred to possess the skill sets necessary to encourage them to work obediently beside humans. Rather, terriers were bred to possess the complete opposite: to be self-directed, alert, and always game to pursue and kill their prey.

Painting of a Wire Fox and Welsh Terrier, by Colin Graeme Roe (1858-1910)

These are the ratters, the vermin hunters, and the badger, bear, and fox killers. While there are a wide range of personalities in any family, it isn’t surprising that a lot of terriers fit the above descriptions strongly. They were bred for a job, and to do it well. True “full strength” terriers are intelligent, fearless, game, spirited, strong-willed, stubborn, alert, sturdy, and lively. True “full strength” terriers by nature are always on alert, are highly drawn to fast moving prey-like objects, and at the blink of an eye, they can go into full-on tunnel-vision hunting mode, with their “eyes on the prize” — often to the detriment of their own safety, and in certain situations, the safety of those around them.

In the “pet” lifestyle, a lot of these “full strength” terriers struggle to adapt. For new owners, these ingrained traits can prove quite the unexpected challenge. This blog aims to show how terriers can be taught to learn live as beloved human companions. It isn’t always easy: but take a trick from the “full strength” terrier mindset: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.

Full-strength terriers are some of the most misunderstood dogs, but also, dogs with nearly unlimited potential. In my training practice and through this blog, my goal is to demonstrate how when we work with rather than against terriers, they truly can be the most amazing teammates.

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