We had a 6 month old Cairn Terrier stay with us. (January 2011) She's probably the easiest-going Terrier I've met in a long time. While every dog is an individual, Terriers in general tend to be known as being pretty persistent, feisty and confident. If you're bred to go into deep dark holes after rodents, you've got to be pretty persistent and feisty! But not this little girl. She's very sweet and easy-going. When she attends our Puppy Recess Socialization, she's always the one rolling over and submitting to everyone else.
While that personality is much more likely not to cause trouble with other dogs, I do like to see a well-socialized dog who will stand up for herself when necessary. Plus, it's a lot more fun playing with other dogs if she can hold her own.
Enter Romeo. On the other end of the spectrum is the dog who likes to play rough and can be a bit of a bully if left to his own devices. Much as I would prefer that not be the case, yes, Romeo has a tendency to be a bit of a bully sometimes if I don't monitor him closely. So, I knew it would be an interesting test – and one that would need close supervision and some intervention – when these two dogs spent five days together.
At first, the play ensued as I suspected. Romeo was thrilled to have a little playmate, but he could be pretty pushy and overbearing at times. I made sure he took lots of breaks and that I intervened on the Terrier's behalf before Romeo got out of hand.
However, as the days progressed, the little Terrier started standing up for herself. She started to gain some confidence once she knew that I would help her out if needed.
She also tried to win over my Greyhound. My Greyhound doesn't want to play with Romeo often, but when she sees him beating up on another dog, she will often step in and push him around a bit. At nearly twice his size, she's pretty good at knocking him around and giving him a taste of his own medicine.
The little Terrier picked up on this quickly, and decided the Greyhound would be a great ally to have on her side. She tried time and time again to suck up to the Greyhound and make friends. Unfortunately, my Greyhound has no interest in making new friends. But that didn't stop the Terrier from trying over and over and over again. There's that persistent streak coming out!
By the end of her stay, the little Terrier had gotten in touch with her “inner Terrier” and was doing a much better job at holding her own when playing with Romeo. They would play tug with toys or sticks, and she was holding on much longer. She would occasionally get hold of the toy herself and was getting better at keeping it away from Romeo. She was getting better at chasing after him to try to get the toy. She was holding her own better at wrestling and coming back in for more when I thought she'd had enough.
With many Terriers – and those like Romeo in touch with their “inner Terrier” – we're trying to tone down the feisty, persistent, overconfident behavior. But in the case of this little Terrier, I think it was a valuable lesson in building her confidence and helping her get in touch with her “inner Terrier.”