Saturday, February 15, 2014

Toto: The Other Side of the Story

Written by Michele Stadnick
Toto aka Terry

So, "The Wizard of Oz" is your favorite movie, you just LOVE Toto, and have always wanted a dog just like him? A dog who's small, cute, lovable, and doesn't shed all over your couch? 

You've done your research and learned that Cairn Terriers are (take your pick):

  • Good with children
  • Friendly
  • Loving family dogs
  • Adaptable to living in small apartments as well as large homes
Well, YES and NO…
Emma Lou and Friend
Probably NO ONE ever told you that Cairns will almost INVARIABLY:

  • Chase squirrels
  • Chase bunnies
  • Chase bugs
  • Chase bikes
  • Chase paper fluttering down the street
  • Chase anything that moves
  • Chase things that aren't moving, just to GET them moving so they'll have something to chase
  • Bark at cars
  • Bark at bikes
  • Bark at birds
  • Bark at trikes
  • Bark at trucks
  • Bark at the phone
  • Bark at fireworks
  • Bark at thunder
  • Bark at the doorbell
  • Bark at the doorbell on TV
  • Bark to hear themselves bark
  • Bark just to get your goat -- or your attention
  • Or both
  • Bark sometimes just cause it feels so damned GREAT
  • Dig up that mouse hole
  • Dig up your tulips
  • Dig up your roses
  • Dig up your lawn
  • Dig under your fence
  • Dig under your shed
  • Dig up your linoleum
  • Dig up your carpeting
  • Nip at people's feet if you haven't redirected their intense prey drive
  • Nip at your hands too, if not trained properly
  • Try to control their universe and everything in it -- INCLUDING YOU
  • Will succeed at this unless YOU intervene. And even then, they'll try again. And again. And again and again and again and again.
  • Lunge at other dogs on leash
  • Lunge at people, unless trained not to
  • Lunge ‘cause it feels good and they're in a hurry to get where they're going, and you're the only thing holding them back from experiencing the next exciting adventure around the corner or around the world.
  • Bolt out any open door in the blink of an eye
  • And won't return until they're good and ready.
  • Sometimes not even then
  • Refuse to come -- unless they want to
  • Refuse to sit -- unless they want to
  • Refuse to stay -- unless they're bored silly, and if so, that's the BEST time to move around to stir up the action anyway
  • Refuse to stop barking -- unless there's something in it for a fabulous treat
  • Refuse to do what you want at the PRECISE moment that it's most important that they when you're trying to show off how obedient and well-trained they are (which is, of course, a grand delusion on your part).
  • Nor, it seems, has anyone told you:
  • A Cairn can never, ever, ever be trusted off-leash, EVER.
  • Not even for a second. Regardless of how well-trained you have deluded yourself into believing he is
  • That all the dogs you've had before and have trained so well don't matter...if they weren't Cairns.
  • Because Cairns are different.
  • Very different
  • That they're generally NOT the best breed for a home with small children.
  • That one bears repeating: Cairns are generally NOT the best breed for a home with small children.
  • That Cairns WILL shed a little (or a lot) if you don't groom them properly.
  • That they're relatively resistant to housebreaking (don't expect them to be housebroken in a week, or even a month)!
  • And even when you think they're housebroken, if they've got something else on their agenda at the moment, they're likely to conveniently "forget."
  • That they are affectionate -- on their terms, not yours.
  • That they are stubborn and hardheaded, not to mention incredibly independent
  • That obedience training is a necessity, not a luxury. And that it's just the FIRST step in the process.
  • That you should read the previous sentence again, and forget everything you think you know.  If you haven't owned a Cairn, it doesn't apply.
  • That they were bred to hunt and kill, and their intense prey drive can NEVER be trained out of them.  Toto may not have KILLED those flying monkeys, but that's only because Toto KNEW they were fakes.  Otherwise, they'd have been dead, not merely outwitted.
What they SHOULD have told you is:

  • They're wonderful for THE RIGHT OWNER
  • They're smart -- PROBABLY SMARTER THAN YOU
  • They're sweet -- WHEN THEY WANT TO BE
  • They're good with GOOD, WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN WHO HAVE GOOD, RESPONSIBLE PARENTS.  And if they haven't had a bad experience previously with ill-behaved kids. Otherwise, it's a recipe for disaster.
  • They're strong
  • They're hearty
  • They're brave
  • They're relentless
  • They're devious
  • They're insightful
  • They're indomitable
  • They're energetic beyond description
  • They're intelligent beyond belief
  • They're the BEST dog you'll ever own
  • BUT...they just may be the WORST dog you can imagine.
Abbie and Gem
Oh, and by the way, Toto was actually a GIRL!


Anonymous said...

This is my second cairn..and Yes...I trust my OFF leash. Maybe it's because I've spend an inordinate amount of time with them...we walk up to THREE hours per day....sometimes more..but, never less than one and a half even in the winter snow in upstate NY. I truly believe if you don't/can't/won't give a cairn at least 2 hours of vigorous walking per day you are abusing them and do not deserve them.

Kathie said...

Please read the piece called "A disease called Trust". It is super important to remember. It is on lots of rescues websites. The first one I found was bullmastiff so this is what you get. But it is also on the Col. Potter site. I just can't find it there now .

Elizabeth O'Brien said...

i have 3 adopted CP's and yes, i do trust one off leash in VERY quiet areas. she is an abused mill mom that has taken me, an experienced terrier owner, 3 years to entrust. she will not leave my side...CAVIAT! what if there was a situation that flipped her out and she bolted? it just is not worth the risk despite the "confidence" one may have in their dog. better safe than sorry and to have to flat blade a loved one off the pavement!

Anonymous said...

Oh man did you ever nail the Cairn personality... We have two girls, one 10 yrs old and one 4 yrs old, and they required persistent, consistent and patient training when they were young. The results, however, are worth it. Our billion dollar furbabies are a joy.

Anonymous said...

I first read 'Toto: the other side of the story' in 2006 when Bella was 4 years old. It seemed very fitting then - but I don't think I fully appreciated how accurate it is. I've just reread it and it is soooooo true! She is indeed the best dog ever.