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Care Guide

CARE AND BASIC TRAINING

Irish Terriers love to live in close contact with their families and absorb a great deal of household behaviour without being taught directly. Rather in the way that some working breeds have an instinct for herding or retrieving, Irish Terriers seem instinctively to fit in with their families and know exactly what each member is about. They have a great facility for understanding words and will recognise their own and everyone else's names very quickly. Most owners confess to resorting to spelling words or even speaking French if they don't want the dogs to understand.

Irish Terriers, however are not naturally obedient; they are not programmed to take instructions. After all, you need to be a free thinker to catch a rat or a rabbit, not wait to be told what to do. They get bored easily, but they love to please you and, with lots of praise and time, will learn almost anything. Individuals vary considerably in their aptitude, but no terrier should be expected to behave instantly like a guard or police dog. Irish Terriers often come up with tricks of their own.

NAME

To begin with, repeat the puppy's name clearly whenever you are talking to him: "Come here, Jack" - "Sit, Blarney." If you decide on an older dog, it is best to keep the original name, but Irish Terriers have no problem in learning a new one, especially if you say both names together: Jack Rufus or Blarney Rose.

VOICE
Tone of voice is important when training puppies. Don't be too stern over little misdemeanours, which are probably just due to high spirits, or you will have nothing left for the real crimes. Keep your strict voice for the chewed carpet or hole in the lawn.

BASIC COMMANDS

Practising the following simple commands should be a part of the pup's everyday routine. Let it be part of his playtime and make sure that everyone in the family can manage him. It should always be fun for him, and can help to build the great bond of trust and affection. Praise is the key, so say "Clever boy" effusively whenever he gets it right.

Keep it up, with short learning sessions three or four times a day. Do not become over enthusiastic and set goals and targets to compete with the pup next door. Just like children, puppies need time to develop and understand things at their own individual paces.

SIT

Irish Terriers need to learn the important command, Sit. It is the first lesson in obedience and is essential in controlling and excitable puppy.

Call your puppy at dinner time and, placing your hands on his hindquarters, push down gently, saying "Sit". When he sits, praise him and give him his dinner. You can train him with special titbits following the same idea.

LIE DOWN

You can go from Sit to Lie Down,. It requires great patience, so keep the lessons short and never get cross. Make him sit and gently pull his legs forwards so that his body goes down. Say "Lie down." He'll probably roll over and play at first, but will eventually get the idea.

STAND

If you are considering showing your pup, it is a good idea to teach him to stand 'correctly' right from the start. Stand astride him and, lifting him up under his chest, place his front legs straight and in line with his shoulders. Ease them forward so that his hind legs are stretched out slightly and try to keep his head facing front. He will not stand for long, but encourage him, saying "Steady", "Stand", or any word you choose.

NO

As your puppy grows he (or she) will probably become rather more rough and exuberant. She will almost certainly jump up to greet anyone and everyone, standing on her hind legs and trying to get her nose up to their faces. This can be a hazard to older people, and children too can be knocked over. Quite apart from muddy feet and scratching claws, cups can be sent flying and drinks spilled.

This behaviour has to be discouraged, kindly but firmly. Hold shoulders in both hands and push her down, saying "No!" very sternly. Try to make her sit quietly for a few moments, and praise her at once when she does. It is not easy, especially as she is expressing her joy, exuberance and affection for you, so you must not react too harshly.

COME

Some people like to train their dogs to a whistle, which you can buy in a pet or gun shop. The dog is usually intrigued by the sound and comes running to you. Praise her for coming, pat her and make a fuss - "Good dog." You can use the whistle to play a game, pretending to run away. The puppy will be frantic to follow you. I have never used a whistle, but I have a high-pitched call and can whistle pretty loudly through my teeth.

Playing hide-and-seek is an excellent way to make a pup come to your call. Ask someone to hold her, and run away and hide. Call loudly from your hiding place and she will be most anxious to seek you out. Make it fun, and tell her how good and clever she is to have found you.

GIVE

You need a word that means 'give up or release something from your mouth instantly'. Hold the pup's cheeks just below her ears and, facing her, say "Give" firmly and open her mouth, removing the object. It is important, as it could be anything from your best shoe to a duckling. Praise her as soon as she complies.

Dogs can be very possessive about their toys, and older dogs especially need to be approached with care. Children need to understand this, and it should be one of the strict rules of the household.

LEAD TRAINING

The early lessons should be kept short and frequent. Be gentle and full of praise and remember that the aim is to walk your dog, even in the show ring, on a loose, not a tight lead. Titbits as rewards are not a good idea as they can prove distracting. A clever terrier will want to empty your pockets before she will begin to concentrate on anything you are trying to teach her. Try not to over-excite the puppy with too much praise. A pat or stroke on the head or back and a quiet, encouraging voice are all that she needs or should expect.

COLLAR

It is a good idea to get your puppy accustomed to wearing a very small collar when she is small enough not to notice it.

LEADS

Attaching the lead to the collar can, for some pups, be a signal to leap about and play. They often hold the lead in their mouth, shaking and chewing hard. You have to give a firm "No!" and try to extricate the lead. Use another toy to attract the puppy if you are desperate. Walking sensibly on a lead is important.

When you first try to walk your pup on a lead he well almost certainly tug forwards or drag behind you, or even rear up. Try to steady him, placing him firmly on his four feet and always on your left-hand side. Hold the lead firmly, and hold it with your other hand so that you have what is called a 'short lead'. This gives an immediate check on him, and you are less likely to lose the lead should he suddenly turn away. It sometimes helps to walk him along a wall or fence, or even along a path. This seems to focus him better.

Start walking with a steady stride and, if the pup pulls ahead, give him a sharp tug backwards and say, "Heel, stop", steady him and start again. If he lags behind, a sharp forward tug is required. Try to keep walking, but you may well have to stop and start, bending over to straighten him up firmly and kindly.

When he does manage a few good paces, try to urge him on, saying quietly, "Good dog", "Clever boy", or any other words you have chosen. It is better not to praise him too much by stopping and fussing, as the intention is to move on without interrupting his rather fleeting concentration. Should he start to pull away, keep a firm hold on the lead; he will get the idea eventually,

KERB DRILL

Once your puppy is walking well on the lead, start to introduce the idea of kerb drill, Encourage him to sit on command and "Wait" as if you were waiting to cross the road. Say "Walk" as you move forward and then "Heel" if he moves too far ahead. Introduce the idea of "Stand," meaning 'stand still,' at this stage, too. It will prove useful if you intend to show him later on.

CLASSES

There are professional trainers around, but these are much more costly than joining a local dog training class. It is sometimes thought that; while your puppy may behave like an angel with his trainer, he will is still unruly when out with you. In any case, training him yourself will foster the deep bonding between you. It is sensible to find out about local training classes before you are ready to join. They are very helpful and popular, and there may well be a waiting list. It is also a good idea to look in first without your puppy to see exactly how they are organised. You can obtain a list of classes, with necessary telephone numbers, from The Kennel Club, your vet, your local library or the pet shop.

AT HOME

What you decide is suitable behaviour for your dog in your own home is entirely up to you. Do try, however, to be consistent and, once the rules are set, to keep to them, as you would for children; it is very confusing if you keep changing them,. It is tempting to allow puppies on beds and chairs only to change your mind as they grow older. This is unfair. Begging for titbits from the table may seem rather cute from a small pup but is totally unacceptable from a grown dog who keeps trying to sit on your lap or put his paws up on the table. With Irish Terriers, even the best-disciplined puppy will try every trick in the book for the rest of his life to do what he finds comfortable or amusing - always in the nicest possible way. As a breed, they're do funny and charming that it is difficult to be cross. It is quite unnecessary to become angry with a puppy. It is rather like having a lively, buoyant child whose energy and adventures you may as well enjoy, even if sometimes you have to pick up the pieces. If you are a control freak, and Irish Terrier is not for you.

DISCIPLINE

It should not be necessary to hit or even to smack your Irish Terrier, and certainly not as part of his everyday training. Irish Terriers are extremely intelligent and sensitive to your disapproval. However, rather like children, they need to know the limits and where and when your patience is likely to snap.

HOUSE TRAINING

Irish Terriers are not usually a problem to house-train. You must understand that s small puppy, rather like a baby, has neither the muscular control not a large enough bladder to be completely clean, so be patient. The garden can be wet and muddy, too, or very cold, and that is the last thing you want for either of you, as no pup should be shut out alone to begin with.

Put down newspaper, sprinkled if you like with a special product from the pet shop that is supposed to encourage the pup. Choose some words - "Good Girl/Boy" or "Clean Dog" will do - and, whenever the pup begins to squat and is about to puddle, lift it on to the paper, repeatedly saying the chosen phrase, If there has already been a mishap, don't panic. Put the puppy immediately on to the paper and deal with the puddle.

Be careful about your choice of disinfectant. Most pet shops sell them with a build-in deterrent to discourage the pup. Some household bleach, even when dilute, can damage carpets and fabrics, although they may be useful on tiles or stone floors.

WALKS

At about three months, when his immunisation programme has taken effect, you need to take your puppy out into the big, wide world. Some puppies are a little shy and need to be reassured at first, and possibly picked up and comforted,. Most Irish Terrier pups, however, are bursting to get out, and you need to keep a sensible control on the excitement.

You will have taught him already to walk on the lead. Make sure he understands, keeping him on your left side. Do not let him off the lead to begin with. This would invite disaster. Take things in easy stages, as he needs to learn about traffic and how to approach other dogs,. You can graduate to using a retractable lead, which gives more scope for him to play, but keeps him safe and close to you.

You will probably find that all the careful training on the garden has suddenly been forgotten. Every blade of grass will be sniffed, and every lamppost inspected. You need to be very firm, and to establish that walking on the lead means actually moving forward. Urge him on, saying "Leave" if he stops to sniff for too long.

You have to reach a compromise, It is amazingly new and exciting for him, and walking should only happen in short burst. Try not to tug and get at odds with each other. You do not want your pup sitting on his haunches, throwing his head about and pulling in the opposite direction. It is better to pick him up and calm him before trying again.

You will have plenty of advice from passers-by; we all love to stop and talk to a puppy. This is not good for discipline, but excellent for fostering the Irish Terrier's instinctive love of human beings. It is sensible to begin somewhere quiet, where there may be fewer distractions and less traffic about. It would be foolhardy to go shopping at this stage and, in any case, many shops do not admit dogs. No puppy should ever be left tied outside a shop. It is unsafe, possibly terrifying, for the puppy, and puppies are not infrequently stolen.

Be absolutely sure that your puppy will return to you before you allow him off the lead. He needs to be clear about traffic and crossing roads (see KERB DRILL).

Your pup will have to learn not to dash up to other dogs and expect an instant welcome. There is a code of behaviour among dogs, as among people, and sometimes an exuberant pup has to learn a few painful lessons.

HAZARDS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE

LIVESTOCK - If you are in the country, keep well away from sheep or any livestock and game birds. Farmers have every right to shoot a dog for pestering sheep or other animals and in any case, you could be prosecuted and fined. Quite apart from the financial loss you may incur, it is extremely cruel and irresponsible to cause alarm and pain to domesticated animals that can neither escape nor defend themselves.

WATER - Some terriers dislike water, and most hate the rain and even tiptoe gingerly across grass wet with heavy dew. Nevertheless, many are excellent swimmers and will sea bathe or paddle into rivers or ponds. Be absolutely certain that the water is safe and unpolluted. Some lakes contain algae that are dangerously poisonous to dogs. The sea has tides and currents, and canals have steep sides that are real hazards. Check carefully before you allow your dog into any water at all;' you will not be popular if the area is for fishermen who may be disturbed.

In winter, a fall through ice into freezing water can very quickly prove fatal. Avoid any possibility of accidents on ice. No terrier has the fat on its body to withstand the cold for long.

ROLLING - All dogs occasionally indulge in the maddening trick of rolling in the foulest smelling things they can fine. It seems to happen most often when they have been bathed and stripped and is looking particularly clean and smart. Horse dung, cow pats and dead rabbits all provide delightful possibilities for rolling. It is a very primitive urge that has never been fully explained. You need to be watchful and severe in your disapproval. If there is no suitable water to hand, wrap your dog up and hose him down or wash him in a bucket when you get home. He will hate that and, with many muttered curses from you and a little luck, you may avoid repetitions.

BITCHES ON HEAT

To walk your bitch in a public place when she is on heat is a serious nuisance to other dogs owners. Sprays and deodorants provide only the mildest protection and you are quite likely to attract a whole battalion of admirers.

Male dogs may take off in pursuit if they scent a bitch on heat. You may have a few seconds to catch them when you see them sniffing excitedly on the ground and scenting the air.

AGGRESSION AND SOCIALISING

There should be no problem at all when you dog meets other dogs, especially if he has been to a dog training class. It is good for all dogs to have friends they know, but there is always the odd dog that can be aggressive.

CHASING
Young dogs sometimes chase after joggers and cyclists out of pure playfulness. This must be discouraged before it becomes a habit. You may have to resort to walking your dog on the lead again, pointing out each time he tugs that this is not in order. Make him sit and say "No, no!" as the jogger passes you.

CARS

Even before her immunisation programme is complete; it is safe to take your puppy out for short rides in the car. This gets her used to going out of the house and garden, and also to the motion of the car.

TRAVEL SICKNESS

Some puppies are very travel sick, especially if they have just been fed, but a short car ride each day helps to accustom them to the motion. Take a friend with you to hold your puppy, or put her in her cage. Should the sickness persist, your vet may prescribe a travel sickness remedy. Do not scold her for being sick; it is not something she can control. Try to combine a short car ride with a long walk, so that she begins to associate the car with pleasure and fun,. This will encourage her to get over her sickness.

BARKING IN THE CAR

Barking in the car can be a nuisance with Irish Terriers. They have a strong guarding instinct and are great protectors of property. Anyone approaching the car will prompt noisy barking.

HEAT

Summer heat, or direct sunshine at any time of the year, can lead to an overheated car, with fatal and tragic results. Conversely, young puppies left in cars in winter may become ill with a severe chill when the temperature drops.

Note that estate cars are cooler than hatchbacks, as the sloping hatchback window attracts the heat and the car can become a deadly furnace. Take some old blankets or bedspreads, or even large, old towels, and throw them right over the car, especially where the dog or dogs are sitting. This helps to keep the car cooler. Keep a bowl and a bottle of fresh water in the car (a plastic two-litre screw-top bottle is ideal) and always give your dog a drink after a long, hot walk.

RESTRAINT

Experiments have shown that we are all safer when travelling with fastened seat belts. It is now considered necessary and safer to restrain dogs with a seat belt, harness or wire cage. The use of a harness may soon become law. Dogs should never be allowed to move or leap about, as they may then distract you and cause an accident.

SEAT COVERS

Seat covers made of a strong, waterproof fabric are available, and you can buy them at shows and large pet shops.

BUSES AND TRAINS

Do not attempt any long journeys until your dog is safely house-trained. Make sure, before you set out, that the chosen transport will carry dogs.

Be very careful indeed on the underground or anywhere that has escalators. You will have to carry her on escalators, as dogs can get their feet caught, which can cause dreadful injuries.

Steps up into trains can be steep and dangerous, and often there is a yawning gap between the platform and first step. Take great care to lift or guide her upwards.

AIR TRAVEL

Should your dog need to travel by air, very specific procedures have to be followed. No pup under 12 weeks is accepted, and there is a mass of paperwork to put in order first. Your vet will advise you about immunisation certificates and the airline of your choice will provide export details, which need careful attention. Travel cages are made to specific measurements and purpose-built for air travel.

HOME ALONE

There may be occasions when you have to leave your puppy alone. It should not be for more than an hour or two when she is very young. Train her from the start to spend little time on her own, even if you are only in the next room. Make sure she is well exercised before you leave, as she is far more likely to settle down and sleep if she is tired. Leave some toys and chews to amuse her. Her water bowl should always be full. Some people think that leaving a radio on makes a dog think someone is still around. Confine her to one room - the kitchen or utility room is best as linoleum or tiled floors com be moped if necessary and there is less to damage through chewing. It is not wise to leave a young pup alone with an older dog or dogs until she is an established member of the household. Keep her in a separate room or put her in her wire cage, if you have one, where she will be quite safe.

BARKING WHEN LEFT

Irish Terriers are born guard dogs who bark loudly to announce the approach of strangers. It is a wonderful, deep-throated bark and is not usually excessive or continuous.

HOLIDAYS

IF YOU ARE TAKING YOUR DOG - Some hotels and guest houses do welcome dogs, but you need to check carefully when booking. Beaches are increasingly out of bounds for dogs in the summer months. If you are a towns-person, be very aware of and abide by the countryside code. Holidays need to be planned carefully with the dog's enjoyment as part of the package.

IF YOU ARE NOT TAKING YOUR DOG - If you are going abroad, you will need to make careful arrangements for the care of your dog. Unlike cats, who do not mind, it is absolutely out of the question to leave a dog alone in a house, even with people popping in and out to feed him. It is cruel and, if reported, you may be prosecuted. It is increasingly popular to have a house-sitter for your dog. You may persuade a member of the family or a friend who knows your dog., Failing that, there are reputable agencies that provide an excellent service. You may need to take up references first. The alternative arrangement is a good local boarding kennel. A word-of-mouth recommendation from your vet or a friend is helpful.

PARTIES, CHRISTMAS AND BONFIRE NIGHT

Although Irish Terriers are famous for their pluck and courage, some find Bonfire Night a dreadful ordeal. Make sure your dog has been out before dark, and then put him safely indoors, draw the curtains and turn on the television or radio,. If he is still very shaky and distressed, you should stay with him, giving constant reassurance. At Christmas, households can become noisy and disorganised. Puppies can get out, eat the wrong things and be sick, chew up Christmas presents, make puddles and generally increase the chaos. Parties and weddings can also prove hazardous to your dog's welfare. With many new people around, and much going on can prove disastrous if everyone is too busy to check the puppy. Her may become nervous of the music and escape out of the house, with all the dire consequences that may involve. A few hours in a freezing garden can be enough to kill a puppy, quite apart from the accidents that may occur. Always remember, when arranging family celebrations, to consider you dog's safety and welfare as part of the preparations.