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, Clever, BOLD
For anyone new to terriers, these words can be interpreted in many different ways. For anyone familiar with terriers, these words can carry powerful and distinct meanings!
While no creature is solely defined by their family of origin, most members of the terrier family possess some familial traits. That is because we have bred terriers to do the highly specific job of protecting our food sources from predators and pests. With the exception of Airedales, most terriers were not bred to work beside us. Rather, they were bred to be self-directed, alert, and always game to follow their instincts.
Painting of a Wire Fox and Welsh Terrier, by Colin Graeme Roe (1858-1910)
Terriers have been our vermin, rabbit, badger, bear, and fox hunters for around 600 years. While there are a wide range of personalities in any family, it isn’t surprising that many terriers fit some of the above descriptions. They were bred for a job, and to do it well. By nature, “full strength” terriers are always on alert and are highly drawn to fast moving prey and prey-like objects. At the blink of an eye, they snap immediately into tunnel-vision hunting mode, with their “eyes on the prize.”
Many of the classic “full strength” terrier traits that have traditionally helped humanity can cause terriers to struggle to adapt as pets. For people who are new to terriers, or those just becoming acquainted with a “full strength” terrier, ingrained traits can prove quite the unexpected challenges. It isn’t always easy to figure out how to live or work with a “full strength” terrier, but let us take a trick from the 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, despite being unquestionably intelligent and hardworking. These are dogs with nearly unlimited potential, if we can learn how to work with them and embrace who they are. In my training practice and throughout this blog, my goal is to demonstrate that when we work with rather than against dogs such as terriers, they can become the most incredible, life-changing companions.
Welcome to Miles & Emma.