Living with a Terrier

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

Terriers have character all of their own! This is instinctive behaviour that has been developed over centuries and gives terriers their unique personality. Once understood and respected, terriers make  great companions and adapt superbly to modern society. But a terrier requires a firm hand and must be taught exactly what is expected of him. Here are some general guidelines.


Terriers have lots of energy and a show judge expects them to be 'on the tiptoe of expectation'. Bred to follow vermin beneath the ground and bark once it is found, leaves us with aspects of Terrier behaviour which could become a problem in modern society. But terriers are also clever. Because they learn fast, below are 3 organised disciplines which suit terriers' natural instincts and can satisfy them in ways that both you and your terrier can understand and enjoy.

1. Flyball

Tenterfield Terrier FlyballTenterfield Terrier Flyball

Flyball is relay race between 2 teams of 4 dogs each. Each dog must jump over hurdles, retrieve a ball by triggering a flyball box pedal and then return over the hurdles to the start/finish line. It is great fun for both you and your terrier. But because terriers are not natural retrievers, when training your terrier, if you reward him with a treat every time he brings the ball back to you, he will soon learn. You would doubtless enjoy the spectacle and comradeship of barracking for your terrier and his team as they race.

2. Earthdog Tests

Parson Russell Terrier 'Earthdog'Parson Russell Terrier 'Earthdog'

The next organised activity in which the smaller breeds of terriers love to participate is 'Earthdog'. Here terriers are encouraged to follow scent through artificial man-made underground tunnels of increasing difficulty. A series of tests assesses the terrier's instincts to follow scent by running through the tunnels leading to the quarry. Once discovered, they must bark, dig, growl, or signal the find  in some other way. Passing Earthdog tests mean the terrier can earn titles!

3. Lure Racing

Racing one dog against another has been popular since the mid-1800's. Historically knock-out competitions in which 2 Sight Hounds at a time competed, led to the modern sport of Greyhound Racing[1].

Tenterfield Terriers Lure RacingTenterfield Terriers Lure Racing

The modern activity Lure Racing is quite different. Usually run over a straight, flat course of around 80 to 100 meters,  4 terriers or small dogs race in series of a knock-out heats. The final race declares an ultimate winner. More advanced courses can include hurdle races and water jumps. The actual lure is a moving object or toy, dragged along by a rope.

In Victoria there are different competitions, with eligibility determined by height at shoulder. 'Starting' boxes are used to co-ordinate the start of each race. This ensures all 4 competing dogs begin simultaneously. As all terriers love to run flat out and chase, this is a yet another fun activity you can enjoy with your terrier.

Passive Recreation

Fox Terriers (Smooth)Fox Terriers (Smooth)

Terriers will usually happily run around, chase birds, play and dig in the area allocated to them. But if you are garden conscious, giving your terrier it's own area should mean it leaves your precious garden alone. But the terrier's area must have secure boundaries which means he cannot dig under, jump over, or fit through gaps in the wire or within wooden fences, or gate fittings.

Excessive energy can be burnt off by putting aside time each day to take your terrier for a walk. If you live in suburbia, there are usually local laws governing the use of public open spaces, particularly beaches. Pestering you for a daily walk can motivate you to increase your present level of activity and at the same time calm your mind. Dog owners talk to other dog owners they meet. So, a serious commitment to a daily walk can be just as beneficial and enjoyable for you as it is for your dog!

Terriers with small Children

Bull TerrierBull Terrier

A child raised with a loving companion dog in their life should be a pleasurable experience for both the child and the dog. A child who grows up without having an animal friend misses an essential lifetime experience. From the day the dog is introduced into the house, adult supervision is essential. This is because dogs are pack animals and dogs sometimes try to dominate children, treating them like another dog. As this could mean a bite, it is important that an adult remains in control at all times. Then the dog learns to respect the child and play their games, like the Bull Terrier on the left.

Norwich with Assistance DogNorwich with Assistance Dog

On the right we have a wonderful example of a lasting positive experience a dog can give a small child. This Champion Norwich Terrier is part of a reading assistance programme run by the local library in Ashburton, in the Canterbury Region of the South Island of New Zealand. This gorgeous little dog is trained to sit patiently and listen attentively while children, one at a time, read it a story. In this day and age, what an amazing experience for all the small children this dog meets!

General Information

In Australia, you are required to register your dog with your local government body just like you must register your car. If you do not own your home, or are in a unit or retirement village, make sure you comply with all restrictions on keeping dogs.


We have now published a unique Terrier book 'Terriers Unveiled' Available at our sister site:

References and Further Reading

Published as

  • 2020 - Jane Harvey - 'Living with a Terrier' - Published in 'Dogs Victoria Magazine'  (The Victorian Canine Association Inc. Cranbourne, Vic) Volume 97 No. 12 Page 5

[1] Jane Harvey From Kangaroo Dogs to Greyhounds

Published in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 8, 2015 Page 10, also

  • "An image of a Kangaroo Dog' Published in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 6 June 2018, Page 10