Thursday, May 14, 2009

Notorious terriers

In my previous blog, What’s better, treats or toys? I wrote about how some dogs are motivated more by their prey drive than their food drive, and how it can be more effective training these dogs by utilizing that prey drive.
Terriers are notorious for their prey drive. Most were bred to be ratters — digging out rats from holes in the ground — or other types of small game hunters.
One terrier breed in particular has quite the reputation for its prey drive making it difficult to handle.
No, it’s not the pit bull.
It’s the jack — that little, wiry-hired dog best known as the Jack Russell Terrier. Recently, the American Kennel Club changed it’s name to the Parson Russell Terrier.
After the sitcom Frasier featured a Jack named Eddie, the popularity of the breed skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, many of these dogs ended up in shelters after their owners discovered their dogs to be high energy, independent, squirrel-chasing little troublemakers.
The prey drive for this breed is very strong. They are well-known to become obsessive over birds, squirrels, rabbits or any other kind of small game that frequents their yards.
Their independent streak makes it even more difficult to get a handle on these dogs.
As barnyard ratters, jacks were used to living an independent life. Because of that history, they have a great propensity to be independent-minded — meaning, of course, their minds aren’t always on what their owners want from them.
They’re also small little bundles of energy. These dogs can be on the go longer than the Energizer Bunny.
So what makes a good home for a jack? Someone who can give them daily exercise and keep their minds stimulated in other ways too.
Training games that incorporate their prey drive and athleticism are great ways to both build a strong, respectful relationship with dogs of this breed, and keep them well-balanced and well-behaved.
I’ve written about one local woman who gets her jacks involved in agility competitions. She reports that all of her jacks have excelled at this sport, and that it gives them all the stimulation and exercise they need.

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