I came across a video on YouTube the other day, which has prompted me to further clarify about Border Terriers. So, are Border Terriers easy to train, are they a good family dog? My answer will be with no shadow of a doubt a big fat YES – I’m sure like all dog owners with their own hounds, I believe my Indy is the perfect dog and that the Border Terrier breed is the perfect breed. But, there is a ‘but’.
Training Border Terriers
By all means, Border Terriers are trainable. They are quickly adaptable, and in my experience they are highly intelligent. But their intelligence also enables them to adopt a witty and cheeky attitude toward their handlers. Add to that the fact that Borders retain strong terrier instincts and are highly independent, and you will understand how, in spite of learning fast, Borders often like to follow their own ways.
On the lead I lead, off the lead Indy leads
For example, Indy is very good at walking on the lead by my side – something Cesar Millan would be really proud of. Nevertheless, he may want to take the lead in ‘deciding’ where to go, often directed by where his nose and sense of smell want to take us. And, if left off the lead on a country lane, Indy will not walk straight, but he will walk in zig-zag mode, crossing from one side to the other of the path, again as his nose needs to explore all terrain and cannot afford to leave any stone unturned.
For the same reason, Indy lacks road sense, as if left off the lead along a busy road driven by vehicles or even push bikes, even at his older age, he will shoot himself across the opposite side if his attention is taken by food or another dog.
So, how to train a Border?!?!
As Borders like food and squeaky noises resembling the noise made by vermin or squirrels or rodents – which they are naturally bred to run after and catch – the best technique you can adopt to train your Border is with treats or squeaky toys. When we adopted Indy, he was already house trained, but we had to train him on using the dog flap on 2 separate occasions, and again we would on many occasions have to dissuade him to let go of handbags, woolly hats or jumpers, or even Christmas toys bought not for Indy, but for humans. Well, treats played the trick.
Indy’s ongoing battle, especially in his younger years, has been occasionally with other dogs. At one point I started using treat to deter Indy’s attention from dogs I knew he didn’t like. This exercise proved not successful as far too quickly Indy learned that every time he was starting being naughty to another dog, he would be ‘rewarded’ with a treat – the naughtier he became, the more treat he was getting. So, the next approach was for me to use the next thing that would capture his attention, the squeaky toy. As he started an attempt to launching himself at another dog, I would squeeze the squeaky toy in my pocket, so he would start looking in my direction and forget about the passing-by dog. Then, so long as he kept leaving the other dog alone, he would in the end get the treat. And the use of the double tool in the end has paid off as well.
In passing, with older age, and with us moving house last year and leaving behind ‘his old territory’, Indy now seems to have calmed down a lot – mind you, he’s still a while yet to reaching perfection!
To sum up Border Terriers: inquisitive, obedient, amicable
The independence in Border Terriers is naturally dictated by their inquisitive nature. Whilst they have a docile and lay back attitude within the family domestic environment, they are very inquisitive towards any other living creatures or any nooks and crannies that attract the attention of his olfactory senses. As such , you as owner need to be prepared to keep your Border entertained with the right activities and the right level of energy. Indy, and I know of other Borders too, loves searching for a tennis ball hidden in an old sock – he will tear the sock to pieces until he gets to the ball, which then he will entertain himself by trying to munch for a good half an hour. Another activity Borders will cherish is searching from treats hidden under the sofa cushions or under their bed blankets.
A Border Terrier will not be the right dog for you and for your family if you haven’t got time to dedicate to him in the same way as you would dedicate time to your children. This doesn’t mean that your Border wants constant attention. Borders can be attention seekers – or rather, they want to be part of the family, and want to be with their family. For this reason, I believe Borders are most suitable to families – they will enjoy their walks with one adult in the same way as with the whole family.
But in the home Borders are also extremely laid back, mild mannered and laid back. They are most loyal and want to please their family in virtue of their sensitive attitude. In many TV programmes on dogs I have seen experiments run on dogs where their owners pretended to cry to check on the reaction their dog may have. Well, my Indy will know when I am angry with my son, or more so will know when I cry, as he will gingerly walk to me and sit by my feet, as to make sure that I am not upset with him, but also as if he knew that his presence is going to make it better for me.
Would Cesar Millan ever be called to rehabilitate a Border Terrier? Never!!
In one of my previous posts – How Do You Become Pack Leader Of Your Dog? – I questioned why Cesar Millan had never done a training programme on Borders. My husband keeps saying that the reason may be that Borders are far too independent, even for the Dog Whisperer. And that stance may lead to believe that Borders are very difficult to train. In fact, I do not think that Borders are any more stubborn than any other terrier. If at all, their cheeky and witty attitude makes them funnier and more individual and unique.
If there is a reason why Cesar Millan never needed to dedicate one of his episodes to Border Terriers is purely for the fact that Borders are in fact most level headed. Yes, they have the strongest terrier instincts amongst all breeds of terriers. But they are also the most adaptable, easy going and pleasing of all terriers. Which makes them, to me, the most desirable of breeds.
If you have not experienced this side of Borders, or indeed you have come across a reformed Border, or if you would like to share any training technique, please leave a comment below.