How Well Do You Know Your Terrier?

December 28, 2015

terrier wiggleBy Linda Cole

Terrier breeds come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but even the smallest among them have big personalities and were bred to be feisty for a reason. Terriers are intelligent, tough and energetic working dogs with a proud, stubborn and confident attitude that can get them into trouble if you don’t understand the Terrier personality.

Terriers in the Toy Group are companion pets that weigh just a couple of pounds. Working Terriers are farm dogs and hunters that track, trail and pursue rats, fox, badger and other small prey underground if necessary – although not all working Terriers go to ground. The Airedale Terrier, also known as the “King of the Terriers,” is too big to go to ground. He was bred to hunt down river rat, otter, fox and other larger prey. Bully breeds are powerful dogs bred to bait bulls. However, regardless of their shape or size, what’s common in all Terrier breeds is their feisty, loyal, happy, mischievous and never-give-up personality.

Some Terrier breeds are quieter than others, but canines that pursue prey underground were bred to bark so their owner could find them in a hole and dig out a stuck dog. These excitable canines have an independent streak that can make training challenging. However, when you understand the instincts bred into these dogs, you can meet the challenge – as long as you’re patient, always positive, consistent and fun.

Terriers are smart and learn fast, but become bored quickly. If you don’t keep this dog’s training sessions short and make learning fun, a bored Terrier will leave you standing alone with your bag of CANIDAE treats while he goes looking for something more interesting to do.

Fierce and Fearless Hunter

Terriers have a high prey drive and will rarely be intimidated by another animal or human. These fearless hunters were bred to take on prey larger than they are, and Terriers instinctively ignore pain, injury or exhaustion during a battle. Bred to hunt solo, they can be aggressive with other dogs, cats and small household pets. A Terrier may not start a fight, but you can bet he isn’t going to walk away from one.

Escape Artist and DiggerDog-Animated-no-offer

Because Terriers were bred to dig out critters from underground dens and burrows, they are expert excavators and need a dig-proof fenced in area. Still, it’s difficult to keep a determined Terrier from escaping his enclosure. These dogs are problem solvers who can find ways to escape that would amaze Houdini. If you dare leave a Terrier alone in your backyard, you’re likely return to find a minefield of holes randomly excavated by a busy and inquisitive dog.

Selective Hearing

No matter how well trained your Terrier is, never let him off leash. If he sees something to chase, he’ll be long gone before you can yell his name. Even if he hears you calling him back, once a Terrier has his focus on the chase he’s not likely to obey your command. That intense focus can also put him at risk if his quarry leads him across a busy road.


Athletic with plenty of energy to burn, Terriers need daily exercise and enjoy long walks, hiking and jogging with their human. They excel at agility, Earthdog trials, flyball, lure coursing, scenting and other dog sports that provide him with a challenge and mental stimulation.


There are a few Terrier breeds, such as the Airedale Terrier, that don’t bark a lot, but for the most part Terriers aren’t shy about using their voice to express their happiness, excitement, annoyance, frustration, boredom or curiosity. They will bark at a leaf sailing through the air, a bug crawling in the grass, or anything else that catches their attention, especially small critters like squirrels or rabbits.


Terriers were bred to hunt down and kill vermin on farms and they have a stubborn and independent streak that matches their tenacity. Their job didn’t require instructions from terrier jukkaan owner, and these dogs have no problem working on their own and making decisions. When they are focused on a task, they are quick and stick to it until the chase has ended.

Usually Not a Cuddler

All of the Terrier breeds are friendly and happy to be with people. Some of the best therapy dogs are Bully breeds. However, most Terriers aren’t as likely to want to cuddle with you on the couch or be held as much as some other breeds. Of course, dogs are as individual as we are.

Terriers can be a handful for someone who doesn’t understand their spirit and personality. They are, however, great pets for the right family. A Terrier will steal your heart with his feisty attitude.

Top photo by Wiggle Butts Pet Photography/Flickr
Bottom photo by Jukka/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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