Experience with Ratting-Type Terriers

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Experience with Ratting-Type Terriers

This is a discussion on Experience with Ratting-Type Terriers within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi, all! I apologize as this post will likely be long-winded, please bare with me. About a year and half ago, I adopted Zarya, a ...

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Old 05-14-2019, 02:31 PM
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Question Experience with Ratting-Type Terriers

Hi, all! I apologize as this post will likely be long-winded, please bare with me.

About a year and half ago, I adopted Zarya, a then 12-week old "lab mix" from a local rescue. She has since grown to be a 25 pound terrier mix, my best guess is a Patterdale / Jack Russell Mix.

Being that I was working from the baseline of "lab mix," I did not work nearly hard enough to get Zarya to the best version of herself. I consider myself lucky after having researched ratting terrier breeds and what aggressive terrors they can sometimes be in the hands of poorly-educated owners such as myself.

Zarya is good with other dogs, particularly other small-medium, high-energy dogs. She does sometimes push boundaries with bigger dogs and can get aggressive (snapping/open-mouth growing/lunging) when they respond in kind, particularly in a group setting like the dog park or a play group. As a result, we keep her away from the big-dog area at the dog park and other settings where groups of large dogs are off lead.

In terms of human aggression, I have seen rare, mild signs. Zarya generally loves people, especially kids, and displays excited, happy body language when meeting new people at the front door or out in public. In one instance though, Zarya was having her usual day with me (I work from home) when my husband brought a visitor home with him through the garage. Zarya seemed thrown off that someone besides my husband or myself was coming in that way and she stood at the end of the hall, growling and barking with her teeth bared and hackles raised. I picked her up (a decision which I am now unsure was a good response - probably reinforced that she should be fearful) and petted her while the visitor approached; she got a couple of pets from the visitor before I set her back down where she proceeded to act like her normal, happy self. Any thoughts on how to curb this "stranger danger" fear? I am also curious if anyone has any creative tips on how to prevent jumping, specifically on guests - Zarya seems to have gotten that she can't jump on me, but she absolutely tests every new person she meets to see if they have the same standards.

In terms of exercise, I am upping her daily walking time having now realized just how high her exercise needs are. Zarya has done some simple nose work, with play reinforcement (versus food) which she seems to be averagely good at. I am also considering trying some basic agility with her in an effort to knock out some of both her need for physical and mental exercise in one activity. Do you have any additional suggestions on how to burn energy and keep her entertained?

On a final note: prey drive. I am now well aware that Zarya will never stop being just a little bit of a jerk to her feline sister, but I'm curious if you all have any experience with helping to maybe temper or even redirect prey drive so that she doesn't outright chase the cat? Currently Zarya chases the cat occasionally, nearly exclusively after hearing a doorbell or a knock (whether actually on our front door or on TV, the radio; any vaguely knock or bell-type sound can incite this). I am working on counter-conditioning her to stay calm with this type of stimuli, but it is a slow process and I wonder if there are methods I could use to help work the issue from both the reactivity and prey-drive angles.

Thanks in advance for helping this gorgeous working girl who I have unknowingly trapped into suburban life
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:53 PM
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I am going through this myself with Laurel. There is so much breed prejudice against Terriers but they are wonderful dogs once you get used to their ways. All I knew about Yorkies before her was "nasty yappy silly little dogs" like Miss Andrew's Lark in the Mary Poppins book and an even less appealing fictional literary foil called "Miss B. Lovely" at the "Eastminster Dog Show" in an even more obscure children's book.

That's not the dog's fault. Yorkies are no bourgeousie--they were bred to do the job of much bigger dogs for essentially the same reasons why so many Lab people are deliberately getting Terriers today: the landlords' weight restrictions.

A JRT is going to be sturdier and have higher exercise requirements. Once I realized Laurel was most likely part Yorkie, I stopped worrying about overexercising her as much as just enjoyed my full on fearless little hiking buddy who is at her best when she can put 5+ miles of trail behind her every day.

Laurel isn't aggressive, but people sometimes perceive her as that way because she is so friendly and her feelings are hurt that people don't think she is as cute as they used to now that she is a tweenager.

Once I did my homework and understood how terrier minds work, it seemed to be more a matter of managing the environment and other humans' breed prejudice than anything else. I lightened up on her about barking and now I thank her for keeping me safe and tell her that her job is done and she doesn't have to bark any more.

I still want another cat someday. I'd make sure that Zarya's feline sister has some sort of dog-free space of her own, even if the best you can swing financially is a cat tower or even just a windowsill that is private for the kitty.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:15 PM
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I have been lucky! People generally find Zarya's goofy excitement adorable and "big dog people" are forever commenting on how much they love her moxie. I chalk this up to people not recognizing her breed; the second they hear "JRT mix," they suddenly pity the fool (me).

She's a hilarious and endearing companion and I LOVE that I can pack her up and hike full-on mountains with her or I can tie her to my chair and hang out with her on a brewery patio. But I am so, so glad to have a better idea of her breed now because it makes navigating those behavioral issues we are having so much more manageable.

The kitty gets the master bathroom to herself all the time and about half of the house to herself during the day; she can often be found on the other side of the baby gate, terrorizing the dog. They're an absurd duo, honestly - they ring very true of biological human sisters.
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