Fit to own one? We do ask this question and you have to also seriously ask yourself this; but we are talking mental fitness. We have people who have owned an old Labrador and wanted to ‘down scale!’ Bought a pup and are now out of their depth. People used to a 14-16 year old terrier in their seventies buying a pup or asking us for a very young Patterdale, but not a puppy ‘because they can’t manage the housetraining”. Taking on a young working type terrier is no mean feat, intense socialisation is required with sleeves rolled up. That commitment could be 15-16 years and how old and fit will you be then? Breeders may not be concerned and they will sell you 2 without a backward glance, but Rescuers are concerned; we stand by our dogs for their entire lives.
We don’t want to put you off terriers, but we will ask you “why a terrier”? Is your life dog centred, it needs to be with a working breed. Who is the main ‘dog carer’ in the family? One partner may love them, but is it the other who will be doing the training, caring and walking. There are easier dogs and easier terriers like Jack Russells or Westies. We would love to home a terrier with you, but we don’t want you to resent their presence in 6 months time. In truth we have had so many people apply for a terrier with us and to their total surprise when asked what you want from your dog they aren’t describing a terrier at all. We have successfully homed Staffies who are easier family centred dogs with such families. Don’t believe everything you read in the press.
Patterdales are like Collies, you get some who have working minds and you need to employ those minds and teach them to relax and enjoy downtime. Others are ‘softer wired’ and aren’t going to follow you from room to room. One Patterdale was owned by an older lady who loved her dearly, but was barking at her a lot of the time and trying to control and push her owner into ball play. Meg had been demoted to a retirement home at the age of 2, had lost her pack and ‘quest’ in life. She went to live in a rural setting with another dog and chickens behind a tall mesh enclosure. She never bothered the chickens and played with her new companion who happened to be a ‘Red Fell’.
So strong stance, sense of humour and lots of forgiveness plus enjoyment to be out in all weathers makes you fit to own one. If you want to own a puppy, but reject an adult dog, make sure you aren’t going to reject your adult dog when the going gets tough at 9-15 months when the “puppy” becomes the puppy dog! We often say the puppy period is a tiny fraction of the dog’s life. A very important period: There are no guarantees on the adult dog that emerges; a lot depends on strength of working instincts which emerge at 8-15 months old.
Active and keen People always state Patterdales need a lot of exercise and need to be off lead! Well excuse us; we are experts, with our teachers being our Patterdales. They actually need mental stimulation and physical exercise, but both are easily achievable via an extender lead or a long trailing line. Above all they need safety. A Fell Terrier owner has to be able to trust their terrier 100% off lead on encounters with other dogs and recall. They also have to be on “mental alert throughout their walk”, keeping their terrier in vision and scanning the horizon. They watch their terriers for the slightest behavioural change, to be able to check them before committal, bring them back into check and distract using their relationship. Clipped on to the lead to avoid them flying off to chase, meet or greet. So often the owner’s mindset of wanting a ‘free range’ terrier wants an easier dog. BUT if you take on a ‘working type’ terrier either your dog or your mind is ‘contained’. Few terriers can handle a loose and free regime outside unless tied into a trustworthy pack. Their instincts call and their master is somewhere over there, but here in front of me is my calling!
Our main message is why buy a puppy when you don’t know what dog will emerge as Patterdales are instinct bound, which determines their make-up. Why encourage people to breed these specialist dogs. Patterdales in truth, have a small audience of specialist homes who can effectively meet their needs. Why not be there for an older dog whose instincts and issues are clear and can be matched to your lifestyle. We rescue the dog in need, we don’t select on age or looks. We assess and home that dog carefully into dog centred families. In the wrong hands Patterdales are misunderstood, set the agenda of chaos and are at strong risk of being killed on the road.