by Pat Rock
Many thanks to Pat Peters for her years of writing the Gazette columns. She has passed the baton to me and I would like to take this opportunity to remind the readers that this column belongs to you. Please email me with topics you would like addressed, and with feedback on the columns.
One of the objectives of the breed columns is to inform readers who might be interested in owning the breed about characteristics that are unique to Lakeland Terriers, so I will begin with that topic.
Terrier trainer extraordinaire Pat Muller (inventor of the highly successful Manners in Minutes method) summed it up best when she used a military analogy to categorize various breed personalities.
“If you compare dog breeds to the military, terriers would be the Special Forces. And Lakelands would be black ops!”
Lakelands are constantly analyzing situations to determine what is to their best advantage, a heritage from their working origins. For a Lakeland to be included in the original gene pool, they needed to have enormous intensity and bravery, but tempered with ability to read the actions of not only their quarry, the Fell fox, but a pack of hounds and unfamiliar terriers so as to emerge intact from a day’s hunt.
How does that translate into today’s Lakeland? Here’s an example: I took a Lakeland back to re-home for a family. They loved him, but he was out of control (as usual, nothing wrong with the dog, just bad handling by the family, beginning with the housekeeper squealing and running from the puppy when he would nip at her heels.) He would bite the 13 year old boy, but not the 10 year old.
This pup was a master of reading body language indicating vulnerability. The topper was the dog’s self-taught game of attacking people putting on socks. The father in the household had a bad knee. The dog would just stand there and let him put a sock on the good leg, but when the man would start to put a sock on the stiff leg the dog would fly in and grab the sock (and sometimes toes). Even though this was just a game, survival instincts ruled the dog’s actions and he waited to attack until the “prey” was at its most vulnerable. This dog was successfully rehabbed, and a retired show dog (with manners!) placed with the family with no further incidents. This wasn’t a bad dog, just a bored, clever one.
All the earthworking terriers get mislabeled as stubborn when they are really not.
They are tenacious, which is not the same thing. While Sporting, Working and Herding breeds have been selected for hundreds of generations to take orders, earthworking terriers have been selected to make decisions. For Lakelands and some others terriers expected to kill formidable quarry, these are life-and-death decisions. No way are they going to defer to a human unless they trust that human with their life. That trust must underlie all training (with fairness and consistency), and Lakelands do not suffer fools gladly. And if you do not make it clear that you want a partnership with a Lakeland, they turn into cats. The classic situation is a person who has a multidog household,, another breed. They admire the look of the Lakeland, their success in the Group ring, so they obtain one. So often they complain that the dog is aloof and cat-like. Of course; to a Lakeland, if you don’t love him best, or at least make the effort to have a special relationship with him or her, why should the dog make the effort?
I’ll discuss unique aspects of conformation next time.