Patterdale terrier Aggression is a very difficult thing to deal with as a dog owner. They are not naturally aggressive to their owners, but need socialisation and training to avoid aggression to other people and dogs. There are three main reasons why I have seen aggression in some Patterdale terriers. The first reactivity is due to lack of exercise and training, the second is aggression due to past experiences (e.g. abuse) and the third is aggression due to resource guarding.
Aggression due to lack of Training and Exercise
Patterdales that are not adequately exercised and mentally stimulated can divert their energy to other things. As they love to chase and are bred for chasing, this could involve nipping at small and fast moving children.
If either your Patterdale has not been socialised with adults, children or other dogs AND trained well from a young age, then it may be too aggressive to be a family dog. This is why often when families get Patterdales they get them from puppies, because they can bring the puppies and children up together and train the pup from a young age.
Dog-aggression or leash reactivity is often a problem for owners — it can be embarrassing and also dangerous to walk a leash aggressive dog. This is often due to lack of socialisation and training with other dogs and so it’s important that you enrol your puppy in a puppy class if possible. Adult Patterdales with this problem might have to have one to one training before joining a class.
Never get a Patterdale unless you can give it the love and exercise it needs, which includes at least an hour of walking per day, plus extended walks on weekends and hiking holidays where possible. This means that Patterdales are great for countryside settings and very active families. You also need to mentally stimulate a Patterdale so that could including giving them food through a Kong Extreme or interactive dog toys.
Some Patterdales have had Bad Past Experiences that Make them Aggressive
Unfortunately some rescue Patterdales can be aggressive based on their past experiences. When we got our rescue Patterdale Blake, he came from the RSPCA and due to living with a violent man, he was VERY scared of strange men and would actually bite. We had no choldren and plenty of time to train Blake, but it would not have been suitable to take him if we had young kids at home.
Patterdales that have been mistreated may be aggressive because they are scared. These dogs are often best in an adult pet free household so that they are the only dog in the home. They need a great deal of love, patience and positive experiences to rehabilitate them. Even then, they may always be a little predictable.
Although we always encourage people to rescue if they can, for some families, certain rescue dogs are not suitable. It is the responsible to do — to get a dog that can be trained and fit in well with your household. Otherwise, even more dogs can end up in shelters and some dogs who came from the shelter are returned. This is very traumatic for the dog.
Aggression due to Guarding Behaviour
Patterdale terriers often develop guarding behaviour which means that they guard a resource such as a bone, food bowl or even a person. If anyone else comes near their prized possession they can snap which can be dangerous especially for kids.
Never let children near your Patterdale terrier while he is eating as this is when they are most likely to be aggressive. Also, you can get your dog used to allowing someone near his food by playing the ‘Trade’ game. When he/she gives something up, he gets an additional reward. This could be more food in the bowl or getting a different toy or treat to the one that was taken away.
I am a big fan of ‘It’s me or the Dog!’ and there is an episode where a Patterdale terrier has become particularly aggressive when people approach his beloved ‘Bex’ — the teenager of the house. The dog would bite other family members and her friends if anyone came near. This was making life hell for the mother of the household and having a negative impact on Bex’s social life as she couldn’t have friends round. They resolved it by doing positive reinforcement dog training — this involved clicker training so that the dog got a reward every time someone got closer to Bex.
Aggression towards other Dogs
Some Patterdales can be aggressive towards other dogs. This may even happen when they were socialised well as puppies — patterdale terrier aggression can develop in adulthood for a number of reasons. It’s important to socialise pups and to continue to socialise dogs as an adult. Remember to socialise with well behaved dogs and not other dog reactive dogs, otherwise this could make them worse.
If you can, find another dog who you can go walking with while they are on lead. You can also pratcie positive enforcement techniques on dog reactive Patterdales, such as a click treat every time you see a dog. If they don’t respond to basic treats you could try upping the anti and going for high value dog treats such as chicken or ham!
You can also find one to one trainers who bring ‘stooge dogs’ who are well trained and well behaved dogs to socialise and train your Patterdale with.
Should I Muzzle my Patterdale?
It may be a good idea to consider a baskerville muzzle if it means that your dog and other dogs (and people) will be safer. In some countries it is the law to muzzle aggressive dogs. However, introduce the muzzle slowly in training with lots of positive reinforcement and building up exposure. Your dog may grow to like it if it means he is going out!
Whatever the reason for Patterdale terrier aggression, it is important to seek support (get a 1–2–1 trainer if possible) and to continue with training and socialisation.