Terriers: Frequently Try to Outsmart Humans

It sometimes takes days, even weeks, before a dog’s nerves tire.
In the case of terriers it can run into months.
— E. B. White

 It is the ancient instinct of terriers and policemen to chase anything that runs away.
— Terry Pratchett

We could create a post filled with nothing but quotes about the terrier temperament, and we’ll add one more that we just made up: Yell “fire” in a theater, and you’re apt to get arrested if there isn’t one. Yell “fire” at an outdoor dog show, and you’re very likely to have dogs running at you, all of them, save one, a terrier, and all of them saying, “You called?”

It is a fact that the word “fire” appears in the AKC breed standards of only one type of dog except for one, and that type of dog is the terrier. Fire either describes temperament, attitude, or expression in the eye, and if eyes are the windows to the soul, then “expression” simply reveals the fire burning in the breed’s temperament and attitude! To wit:

Miniature Bull Terrier: “The temperament should be full of fire and courageous;”

Irish Terrier eyes: “Full of “fire and intelligence,” and it is of “utmost importance that the Irish Terrier show fire and animation.”

Scottish Terrier attitude “should convey both fire and control;”

Wire Fox Terrier eyes should be “… full of fire, life, and intelligence;”

Border Terrier eyes “…full of fire and intelligence;”

Smooth Fox Terrier eyes “full of fire.”

Certain terrier breeds can be notoriously feisty with other terrier breeds, usually because they were bred to hunt independently with little time for coddling or need for sociability. The symptom is “trash talk,” something we experience first hand at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show were we’ve been privileged to sit ringside during group judging since 2009. We hear the terriers long before we see them. What sounds like grumbled barks to the uninitiated is easily translated by anyone who has ever lived with a terrier:

“Cross this line, I double-dog dare you.”

“I’m busy right now, can I ignore you another time?”

“My handler is better than your handler, you loser;”

“I’d respond if that small bit of energy was worth wasting on you, but I’ve got this dog show to win….”

On and on the posturing goes until it’s show time, and then it’s all business.

Lisa Kleypas wrote in, Love in the Afternoon that terriers frequently try to outsmart humans, and that makes them highly entertaining in their bold craftiness.  We think English writer and humorist, Jerome K. Jerome, had it right when he said that Fox Terriers are born with about four times as much original sin in them as other dogs, but personally, we think the line is applicable to a lot of other terrier breeds. 

And finally……

By now, you might be wondering what breed that isn’t a terrier has a standard that includes the word, “fire.”  Pug people will have recognized their own. From the Pug’s standard: “when excited [they are] full of fire.”

Image: Smooth Fox Terrier ©Alexander Bukin/Dreamstime.com

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