GUEST POST on Terrier Training by Amy Green from Patterdale Terriers.
Terriers are extremely intelligent dogs – they are often food motivated and eager to please. So you’d think that they would be really easy to train, right? Wrong! The answer is that it depends a great deal on the age of the dog, any mistreatment from previous owners, and how strong their hunting instinct is.
Easy to Train a Terrier Puppy
The first thing to note is that it is much easier to train a terrier as a puppy. That’s the reason why many families go for puppies rather than adopting a previously owned adult dog. They will want to stay by your side and so it’s great to start their off lead training as soon as they have had their injections and are allowed out.
A puppy will be without any previous mental scars or fears that could have been inflicted by an abusive owner, or previous bad experiences such as a car crash.
Adopting an Older Terrier
Of course, there are benefits to adopting an older terrier. There are many dogs who have been abused or thrown out in need of a home. Dog rescue can be extremely rewarding and so don’t rule it out if you have the training experience and suitable environment to rescue.
But, if you adopt an adult dog, you will need to learn about him or her for the first couple of months that you spend together. What makes them tick? What are they scared of? This will help you in your training. When you adopt an older dog, allow him or her a couple of weeks or months to settle in before you start intensive training.
What Terrier Training Techniques Work Well?
Terriers (and in fact most dogs) don’t respond well to punishment, In fact, if you physically punish or tell off a dog it can seriously negatively impact your bond with him or her and make your terrier less responsive to training.
Needless to say that 9 times out of 10 the dog won’t even know what he is being punished for. It is the same with deterrent methods such as shock collars – they are not only cruel but also ineffective.
What does work well with terriers is positive reinforcement – praising your dog when he or she does something right. As terriers are very food motivated, this works well if you treat your dog within 5 seconds of him or her demonstrating the desired behavior.
You can also use clicker training with your terrier. The click of the clicker marks good behavior and is a sign to the dog that the treat is coming. Get them used to the clicker first by practicing click > Treat. Then when they know what it means you can start to click to mark the good behavior and again treat within 5 seconds.
You can use healthy grain-free dog treats. If you need something really tasty to motivate your pooch you can use bits of cut-up chicken or sausage.
Toilet Training Terriers
Most adult terriers will pick up toilet training within days – if not hours – of using positive reinforcement training to mark the good behavior. Keep taking your terrier outside to his toilet area every couple of hours. When he does his ‘wees’ or ‘poos’ in the correct place immediately give the treat within 5 seconds. After two or three times your dog will master it.
This may take a little longer with puppies and initially, you could use puppy pads or paper and move this closer to the door and finally remove it when they start going outside.
Puppies will have a very strong tendency to stay near their owners and so recall and off-lead training is very easy with them. Therefore if you have a pup then it is a good idea to train them off lead straight away as soon as they start going out, in areas where it is safe to do so.
If you are trying recall with an adult terrier, this can be very challenging, particularly if they have a strong chase instinct or have been used for hunting. Therefore it’s really important that you don’t let them off the lead until fully trained with 100% recall – even when there are distractions around such as kids, bikes, and other dogs.
A good idea for recall training an adult terrier is to get a long line of about 30 m and use this to start practicing the recall with treats on return. When your dog returns and gets treated for coming back, let him go and play and run again, so that the recall is not a punishment – it is simply to get your treat for coming back to your owner….and continue!
What terrier training techniques work with your terrier? Let us know!