Terriers are vibrant dogs with charming personalities that exude positive energy in their environment and space. Just watching them can be exciting and inspiring.
But do these qualities make them good with other dogs?
Terriers are generally not good with other dogs and animals despite their charming aura. They are mostly hyperactive and aggressive towards other dogs and many smaller animals. And that is mainly because they have a genetic history of being bred to hunt for prey which involved working solo. So, they tend to be at their best when working alone and independently.
Terrier Temperament And Aggressive Traits
Here are the most dominant traits in terriers:
Independence: Terriers tend to respond to situations based on their feelings. As a result, they are not so easy to control. You may be disappointed if you expect them to hang on to every word or obey all of your commands.
It is rare to find a traditionally obedient terrier breed. So, if you are looking for a dog that will answer your beck and call, a terrier might not be the best option.
Destructive: Terriers, if not properly trained and guided, can be destructive to your home and property. This is more common when the dog is restricted or confined to a particular area or space.
Noisy: Terrier dogs can be nuisance barkers when they get bored, stressed, excited, or when left alone at home. This can be a problem if you stay in an environment where noise is not appreciated.
Alert: Due to their history of hunting and watching out for vermin, terriers are usually very alert. So, it will be the first to alert you virtually about anything, especially a potential threat, and take any action that it feels necessary. This is one of the reasons it makes a good guard dog. It’s not uncommon for it to pace around perimeters, ready to handle anything unfamiliar.
Fun and Active: Terriers are usually adventurous by nature and exude a great deal of energy. It is this hyperactive nature that makes them great playmates. Despite their small size, they enjoy running, jumping, walking, and other exercises. This makes them the best fit for adventurous owners that are happy about getting out and about.
Territorial: Terriers are extremely territorial and tend to be fearless. They will chase almost anything that moves, even when it’s seemingly bigger. Consequently, they are best kept as lone pets.
Hunting: It is not uncommon for terriers to dig up large holes, and burrow out animals hidden underground. One way to stop them from digging around the house is to create a digging pit for them. Also consider erecting a fence or structure on your property, if you don’t have one already, to prevent them from accessing your neighbor’s yard or they might end up digging there too.
Why Terriers May Not Be Good with Other Dogs
Terriers are lovely to watch but they hardly get along with other dogs. This has everything to do with their instinctive nature and strong personalities. They were bred to locate and kill vermin very quickly, and thus had little need for socialization.
However, if introduced early to other dogs, a terrier might learn to adjust and get along with them. But certain terrier breeds will never be good with other dogs due to their high predatory drive.
Besides the lack of socialization, other reasons why a terrier may not get along with other dogs include:
As earlier indicated, terriers are highly territorial. And this stems from their little need for socialization. Thus, a terrier can be very aggressive and overprotective if it feels there’s an invasion of its territory.
As a result, terriers generally make loyal family dogs. They are always ready to defend their homes in the face of a potential threat. So, it’s not uncommon for them to bark at strangers entering the house.
A past experience or history can also affect how a terrier interacts with other dogs. For instance, if a terrier was previously used as a guard dog or for dog-fighting, there’s a huge chance it will be aggressive and cold towards other dogs. In this case, the terrier may view other dogs as potential threats or enemies.
Terriers rescued from hostile environments with a history of trauma, which could stem from trauma, may also have behavioral issues.
A terrier can also display dominant aggressive tendencies when it’s encountering another dog. It may growl or bare its teeth in an attempt to make itself look bigger and more frightening. In such situations, the dogs must be separated as soon as possible, or else, it can result in a fight, nipping, or lunging.
An underlying medical condition or pain from physical injury or arthritis can also affect a terrier’s behavior towards other dogs. Conditions like hypothyroidism or issues affecting the brain, spinal cord, or nerves can induce aggression. So, if you notice a terrier become overly aggressive, that might be an indication that it’s sick.
If you’re not able to determine what’s causing the offensive behavior, you may want to visit the vet’s office and have him carry out a full examination of the dog.
How to Make Your Terrier Good With Other Dogs
Despite their aggressive tendency, terrier dogs are usually smart and can be made to adapt to having other dogs around. All they need is the right type of training and socialization, or addressing any underlying cause of their aggression. Here are three main ways you can make your terrier get along with other dogs.
As earlier indicated, socialization plays a vital role in addressing the aggressive traits in terriers. It simply involves getting the terrier to become familiar with its environment and the world generally by introducing it to a lot of things – smells, sounds, sights, and people. This greatly helps to prevent it from becoming anxious, fearful, or overprotective, which causes aggression.
Most well-behaved terriers are usually socialized from an early age. This also applies to other dog breeds.
So, if you have a terrier pup, whether it’s a Boston, Border, or Jackson Russell, try to introduce it early to people of different ages and genders, as well as pets including other dogs and cats. This ensures it becomes comfortable interacting with other dogs and people and grows up used to them. You can socialize an older terrier in the same way, but it might take longer.
Obedient training can also help to subdue aggressive tendencies in a terrier. The training usually involves teaching the dog to follow basic commands like come, sit, heel, stay, and lay down. This helps you to keep it under control when it’s with other dogs.
It’s also a good idea to give the dog a special treat or some verbal praise whenever it behaves well or follows a given command.
There are many books and manuals on terrier training on the shelf; one of the ones we recommend is Terrier-centric Dog Training by Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell.
But if you don’t welcome the idea of training the dog yourself, you can hire a professional dog trainer. Look for trainers that are qualified and with proper certifications. If you’re thinking about becoming a trainer yourself, consider taking this FREE dog training course on Alison.
Play & Exercise
One of the ways to ensure your terrier doesn’t display aggression or other undesirable traits is to allow it to get a lot of physical exercise. Keeping it in one place every day, without exercise or play, can lead to a situation where it starts to act out when other dogs or pets are around.
In worse scenarios, the dog can also become aggressive towards the owner. So, it’s highly recommended you take it out for daily walks, and also have playtime whenever you can.
In addition, it’s also important you establish yourself as the leader of the back. This is critical to address dominant aggression by terriers when interacting with other dogs. You want to set boundaries and rules on what they can and cannot do.
Address Any Medical Issues
Finally, if you have a terrier that use to be calm but suddenly became fiesty or overly aggressive towards other dogs, you want to check if there are no medical conditions causing the dog to behave in that way. In this case, it’s highly recommended to take it to a vet. If there are any of such medical issues, the vet will be able to point it out and tell you the next steps to take to address the problem.
Socializing a Terrier Puppy – How to do it
Generally, puppies are socialized in the first few weeks and months. They are usually most sensitive and receptive during this stage. Here are some helpful tips on how to socialize a terrier puppy.
Besides extensive socialization, which should include diversifying what the terrier sees, going for daily walks is also important as it allows the dog to get more comfortable and acquainted with the environment and people in it. This can help take the terrier out of its usual nature. Also, remember it’s a form of exercise, which is good for its physical and mental health. If possible, allow people to make contact with the dog.
Furthermore, consider proper training, either by you or an experienced dog trainer.
It’s important that you start early, usually when the terrier is 3-12 weeks old. Anything beyond this can make things a little more difficult.
How to Socialize Older Terrier Dogs
Due to their natural makeup, it might be difficult to socialize a terrier at an older age. Nevertheless, it can still be done with the proper approach.
Here are some tips to consider:
Engage in constant dog walks
Exposing older terriers to an atmosphere they are not familiar with is a great start. This way it gets to experience new sights, sounds, smells, humans, and other animals. You should aim to do this every day until it gets used to “mingling”. In a situation where it barks or responds in a negative manner, refrain from scolding it, as this creates a negative experience for the dog. On your part, try to avoid places or events that might give the dog a negative feeling and aura.
Visit a dog park
A dog park is another good ground to enable an older terrier socialize but this should be done with care in a progressive manner. You can start by walking the dog around the perimeter of the park and allow it to watch other dogs from a distance, playing and interacting. Allow it to sniff and handle places or things it wants to while holding it. Again, if you want to avoid events that can get the terrier feeling nervous or aggressive. After visiting the park for some time, the terrier should become freer and may start mixing with other dogs. But you should still keep a close eye on it.
Turn to professionals
If your dog is not responding well to other methods, you may want to get expert help. In this case, we highly recommend taking it to a dog behaviorist.
Behaviorists do better jobs when it comes to understanding a dog’s phycology and behavior. They will tell you the proper way to correct a stubborn or aggressive terrier and when you need to involve a veterinarian.
Terriers can be a lot of work to handle, and that is why it may not be the best fit for you if you’re a first-time dog owner. If you already have a dog and you’re looking to get a terrier, make sure the dog can also get along with the terrier.
Having said that, it is your call to fix any behavioral problem from your terrier towards other dogs. The good news is that this can be done by following the right approach. It is best to start socializing the dog at an early age, and this requires consistency, patience, and proper training. You should also be an attentive owner.
In addition, you may consider opting for terrier breeds that are calmer. Two good examples are Boston terriers and Border terriers.