The word terrier comes from the Latin word, ” terra” and means earth. Terriers were developed to be effective rat catchers and control vermin. They are athletic, intelligent, friendly, funny, high spirited, tenacious – which can also mean stubborn – fearless, feisty, courageous, energetic, vocal, happy, playful, independent, confident, curious, loyal, and problem solving escape artists who will work with immense pleasure trying to find ways to escape from an enclosed backyard. One of their true joys in life is digging anywhere and everywhere. But, there is reason behind their desire to dig and it’s based on the job terriers were bred to do and the personality traits that help them accomplish their tasks.
Terriers have a fierce attitude to match the fearless fighting nature of the prey they were bred to hunt and control. These are hard working dogs with a high prey drive and plenty of stamina to hunt all day to root out vermin like fox, badger, and rats. They are effective at doing their job and were bred to go to ground to drive prey from underground dens and bark to scare the animal out of its hole, which is why terriers love to dig and can be barkers. Both are hardwired instincts that can be difficult to control if you expect your terrier to stay inside a fenced in backyard, out of your flower or vegetable garden, and quiet. If he can’t dig out to escape his fence, he’ll try with all of his might to climb over, regardless of how high a fence is.
Breeds in the Terrier Group are mostly small with the Airedale Terrier, “King of Terriers,” as the largest breed in the group standing 21 to 23 inches at the shoulders and weighing 40 to 65 pounds. The Norwich Terrier is one of the smallest breeds standing 10 inches at the shoulder and weighing 11 to 12 pounds. But, regardless of their size, the terrier attitude is to never back down. Badger, fox, weasel, otter, and rats are capable of fiercely defending themselves and some of the terrier breeds used to hunt vermin are smaller than their prey. They need a larger than life attitude to go head to head with a critter cornered underground. It’s the fiery temperament that gives a terrier the fighting spirit needed to win his battles. However, the same personality traits that allows a terrier to do his job means he may not be a good choice for a family with multiple dogs, cats, or small children. Terriers raised with other dogs, cats, and kids can learn to get along with them, but most terriers prefer life in a one dog home. Most terrier breeds are wary of other dogs and people they don’t know. They work alone when hunting vermin and have more of an independent nature than most other breeds. Known for their gameness, a terrier won’t back down from a larger dog that issues a warning and is more likely to issue his own challenge, which can escalate quickly into a fight.
It’s a must to be your dog’s leader and train him so he knows what you expect from him. Although, his stubborn streak can get in the way. He understands what you want, but may decide it’s more fun to disobey, especially if it involves chasing a squirrel, rabbit, or cat. These are not dogs that should be let off leash or allowed to roam outside of an enclosed area. Never leave a terrier or any other dog unsupervised around small children.
Terriers have a friendly personality and will be a good pet for the right family, however, you need to make sure to give your dog lots of opportunities to get rid of excess energy and provide him with plenty of mental stimulation. Otherwise you will have a bored dog looking for something to do, which is usually something destructive. These are dogs that can think for themselves and won’t enjoy sitting around the house all day.
Don’t let a terrier’s small size fool you. They are very athletic canines and excel at dog sports like, agility, fly ball, Earthdog trials, obedience, lure racing, Rally O, and Frisbee. Terriers are super intelligent and willing to learn anything you want to teach them as long as you are consistent, use positive reinforcement, stay calm, patient, and understanding of the confident and independent personality of the terrier breeds.
Terriers have a fun-loving and happy personality. They are tough little dogs that can be a good running partner. If you enjoy taking long walks, hiking, or jogging, a terrier will always be ready to go with you. Despite their stubborn desire to dig and bark, they have a loyal affection for someone they respect and share a bond with and will defend their home and family. Terriers are also alert watch dogs. Do your homework on the different terrier breeds before getting one. You will find distinct differences between the breeds that make up the Terrier Group.
Pictured: Jack Russell Terriers
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