Valuable Tips From a Veteran Norfolk Owner
First Printed in the ANTIC September 2009 Written By Sue Ely
Living with two Norfolk Terriers does not constitute a pack experience, but the minute there are more than two dogs in the household, especially if they are all of one gender, there is a pack; and the owner needs to be the leader of the pack or there will be trouble if the dogs run together. On the other hand, if each dog is kept in a run, they will not form a pack, and the only issues may be occasional fence fighting, running or spinning obsessively, and a lot of barking.
Norfolk Terriers were famous in English hunting kennels for being good pack dogs because, for the most part, they are hardwired and competitive as some of the other small terriers. They got on with other dogs, and mostly, with each other as long as there was a center of control, a leader to follow.
In a wild pack, that is the top dog. In a domestic pack, that is the owner/huntsman. Ever since the late 60’s, I have had a pack of Norfolk in my home – both genders, related and not related. In that time I may have had an occasional skirmish, but never an injury, or a death.
Speaking From Experience
What follows here are some suggestions, from experience, as to how you can maintain more than two Norfolk in our house without disaster.
Make a conscious commitment to being, without question, the leader. Teach every dog it’s name well enough so that when you say it, the dog looks at you no matter what! Since not all the dogs arrive at once, this is an individual training program, along with housebreaking, for every dog that joins the household. It is best to work with the new dog alone at first, and then on a lead with the pack around for a while till you have proofed the basic commands and given the pack a refresher on pack etiquette, too.
Then teach the basic house/yard/pack commands: Quiet! Leave it! Enough! Off! Come! Whoa Get Here! (or whatever words you use for control.) All preceded by the dog’s name. Work with the new dog on a long lead, accompanied by a few older dogs, at first, and then by the entire pack. Do this exercise several times a day, after meals, or whenever you want the dogs to be out in the yard, until it becomes routine. The most dangerous time comes when the dogs first go out in the morning and everyone is frisky; it is not unwise to keep a troublemaker on lead till that first energy wears off.
If a dog ignores you, walk it down, if necessary, get hold of it, and remind it firmly what you have asked it to do. Don’t yell, don’t hit, just make the dog do what you asked, then say “good dog” and let it go. If the pack looks overly interested in the discipline say “Leave it.” If the miscreant persists in the error, leash it until it remembers what it has to do… don’t remove it from the pack. AS each dog joins the household, it learns the commands and learns to be respectful of you and the other dogs.
Dogs Require Supervision
Never let the dogs run about, inside or outside, if you are not with them…not in the next room…with them, rain or shine. To be on the safe side in your yard, carry a long walking stick and put a slip leash in your pocket so you can reach out and touch a dog to remind it you are there, or leash it for better control.
Watch the dogs carefully, reading body language and expressions so that you can disperse any behaviour that looks like it could escalate into an argument. Don’t wait to see if a moment of enmity will pass; diffuse the situation quietly, and firmly and immediately using a pack command, and then praise the dog that has been corrected.
Never forget that these are dogs and there are all sorts of triggers that can spark trouble: another dog yelping from a bee sting or catching a toenail on the porch steps, a rabbit, a deer, a bear (!) outside the fenced yard, a cat or a groundhog inside the fence, two dogs playing and jostling a third who gets annoyed, the UPS truck driving up, etc., etc.
It is your job to be on top of these things, to anticipate and diffuse them, and to provide the structure of the house commands to avoid trouble.
Avoid squeaky toys, bones and chewies. Dogs can have the latter in their crates, but take them up before you let anyone out. Use plain rope or clothe tugs that don’t excite prey drive.
Pack action is electric, instinctual and compelling to a dog; even well trained dogs can jump into the deep end over some minute thing. The more you can do to focus and calm life in the yard and in the house, the less apt this is to happen.
Don’t ever pick a dog up out of the pack for any reason, and then put it down without saying BACK!!
Make sure all your dogs get a good amount of exercise, singly and in groups: walk them on a leash, in a dog park, in the village; take them to town with you to get mailand then walk around the block, or to the bank, or… if you take two at a time, vary the pairings. The one thing that I haven’t mentioned is what to do when you have a bitch coming in season. Clearly she cannot run with the pack, and clearly she is also apt to spark a lot of tension. I send my bitches away when they are in season, and, though it costs money, it costs a lot less than the vet bills engendered by a pack fight, whether it is between bitched or dogs.
In her book, Animals Make Us Human: creating the best life for animals, Temple Grandin quotes another dog behaviourist as saying, “People who have more than one dog are in a special club, [they] know that two dogs are twice as much work as one, and that three dogs are as much work as you expected seven to be.”
In my experience, no trouble has ever started when I was there, being the leader. If I have gone in to talk on the phone, or do something else, then the trouble has happened. I am convinced that time spent on careful training and supervision will make a pack action a rare occurrence, but I am also convinced thatpeace is feasible as long as the pack in question consists of both genders and a variety of ages, and, most importantly as long as the leader of the pack is there whenever the pack is out and about.