Patterdale Terrier behaviour problems

Patterdale Terriers are brilliant dogs to own, as long as you fully understand their traits and how to care for them. Unfortunately, many owners fail to read up on their breed, leading to a number of common Patterdale Terrier behaviour problems. 

To solve this issue, I’ve put together a guide on the most common behavioural problems Patterdale Terriers have and what you can do to prevent and minimise them.

Behavioural Issues in Patterdale Terriers

High Prey Drive

Originally bred as working dogs, hunting rabbits, foxes, and badgers, Patterdale Terriers have an incredibly high prey drive that can be very difficult to change. 

It’s in their nature to chase small animals, so even if they’ve been raised as non-working, Patterdales will still do this. Whether you’re on a walk through the countryside or simply going about your day as usual, if your Patterdale spots a squirrel or a rat, for example, it will go crazy. 

Everything in its mind is telling them to go and get its prey; this can lead to the dog ignoring your calls to return, something that can be incredibly dangerous depending on your surroundings at the time. 

Their high prey drive can also cause issues indoors if you have other pets at home; these pets will ignite the Patterdale’s prey drive, whether a cat, a hamster or a guinea pig. 

To prevent any accidents, mixing small animals with Patterdales should be avoided at all costs! Patterdales can get used to small animals if brought up together from a young age; however, it’s still a risky decision.

To deter your Patterdale from chasing wild animals whilst out and about, you should aim to keep them on lead and avoid areas you know to have wild rabbits and squirrels. 

The prey drive of a Patterdale is not something you can avoid or remove, no matter how much training and work you do. So instead, you should read up on prey drive and things you can do to prevent further issues. 

Of course, the prey drive of a Patterdale isn’t always a negative thing. Patterdale Terriers are brilliant working dogs for this exact reason – for example, my Patterdale, Buster, is an expert pest controller! 

Working patterdale terrier in front of dead rats

Strong-willed Nature 

As a Patterdale owner myself, I can conclude that the most annoying behavioural problem on this list is this one: their strong-willed nature. Imagine the most stubborn person you know and times it by 10. 

While I admire their strong will at times, attempting to train your Patterdale Terrier is not one of them. If your Patterdale does not want to do something that you want them to do, be prepared to tell them 100 times! 

If you find your dog is being particularly stubborn during a training session, try taking a break. Patterdales are highly intelligent, but they can get bored very easily. 

If a task is not fulfilling their needs, they simply won’t cooperate. So try playing with them instead, or perhaps going for a walk to break up the training and try another time.

Whilst it can be a pain, especially in the early years of owning a Patterdale, it is worth remembering just how intelligent they are. Once you learn to keep their attention and get them to follow your instructions, you’ll never have to teach them the same trick again!

Another key thing to remember: Patterdale Terriers are highly motivated by food. If you’re struggling to teach a particular command, try again with high-value treats and foods that should keep your dog focused on the task at hand.


Through no fault of their own, if Patterdale Terriers are not adequately stimulated, they can become bored and more often than not, this boredom can display itself as aggression. 

Sadly you will see a lot of Patterdales in rescue centres that have been given up by owners saying they are aggressive. This is often caused by the owners not knowing enough about Patterdales, particularly the amount of physical and mental stimulation they require. 

On a more positive note, such dogs are easily turned around when taken in by owners who understand the breed and can fulfil their requirements!

Patterdale Terriers may also display aggression if they were never properly socialised with other dogs from a young age. They tend not to be the biggest fan of other dogs; however, this can be worked upon. 

If you take on a Patterdale as a puppy, try to introduce them to dogs you know and show them there is no need to be aggressive. The same goes for people outside of your household and particularly young children. 

If your Patterdale is overly aggressive and you just can’t seem to train it out of them, then perhaps you should visit a dog trainer for one on one assistance. 


Another Patterdale Terrier behaviour problem, along with many other dog breeds, is barking. Some Patterdale owners will tell you that their dog rarely barks, while others may moan about how their Patterdale never stops barking – it does ultimately depend on the dog and its training.

There are many reasons that a Patterdale may bark, including:

  1. Aggression – As previously mentioned, some Patterdales display aggressive behaviour in certain situations. More often than not, this aggression will come out in the form of barking. An aggressive bark is easily identifiable as growls and snarls usually accompany it. 
  2. Warning – Patterdale Terriers are highly intelligent and will use their voice to communicate with you, barking to tell you they need something. Crying may also precede this type of barking, with the bark used almost as a last resort! You can expect to hear this type of bark when your Patterdale needs to go outside to the toilet, when they’re hungry or when they want attention. 
  3. Playing – Like children, Patterdales get very excited when playing and can often express this excitement through barking. It will sound different to their usual bark, usually more high-pitched. You may also hear this type of bark if you stop playing with your Patterdale Terrier before it is satisfied; “play with me!”.
  4. Alerting – Patterdale Terriers are protective dogs who will use their voice to alert you to any potential threats. This includes someone knocking at the door or ringing the doorbell, or even just walking past! They are simply protecting you and guarding their territory; however, you can train this out of them using positive reinforcement if it becomes too much of an issue.  

Separation Anxiety

Patterdale Terriers form incredibly strong bonds with their owners, which has got to be one of the best things about them. Unfortunately, this can lead to behaviour problems such as separation anxiety when they are left on their own for long periods of time. 

Separation anxiety in Patterdale Terriers will display itself in the form of whining, howling and barking, and in more extreme cases, will lead to destructive behaviour. 

To combat separation anxiety, you should aim to get your dog used to being left alone for short periods at a time and slowly increase the intervals. This can help to reinforce to your Patterdale that you will be returning. 

To calm your dog while you’re out, you could leave puzzles or treats hidden around the house. Patterdales love these mentally stimulating tasks, and it will help to take their mind off the fact you are not home. 

How to calm a Patterdale Terrier?

Don’t let this list of behavioural problems put you off of Patterdales. No dog is without its flaws, and there are a number of things you can do to minimise these issues. 


Many of the problems mentioned above stem from the Patterdale Terriers high levels of energy and intelligence. Therefore to deter them, you should give your Patterdale plenty of exercise every day – both physical and mental. 

Take your dog on long walks and let them run off lead if you can. Play with your dog and their favourite toy, whether it’s a game of tug of war or throwing a ball in the garden. It’s all physical exercise and will help to develop the bond between you. 

The market is full of dog puzzles you can use, or if you’re on a budget, why not make your own? Hide treats in old cardboard boxes or even just around the house, and let your dog use their nose and brain for a rather stimulating game of hide and seek. 

All of these will tire out your Patterdale Terrier and keep their mind off of whatever may be bothering them. It’s’ a win-win for you and your Patterdale.

Crate Training

Crate training is one of the most important things for all dog breeds, especially Patterdale Terriers. Unfortunately, crates often get a bad rep, with some claiming they are ‘prisons’ or are ‘unkind’. 

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Think about a dog in the wild; they would have a den – somewhere quiet where they would eat and sleep, away from others. A crate provides dogs with a similar area, giving them their own space in your home where they feel at ease. 

Teach your dog that the crate is a safe space for them by making it comfortable with lots of blankets or their favourite cuddly toy, or even try feeding your Patterdale in the crate to reinforce positive feelings towards it. 

Using a crate is one of the best methods for combatting separation anxiety. If your Patterdale is crate trained, you can place them in their crate when you leave. Allowing them to remain at ease in their safe space. It may also save your furniture if your dog is particularly destructive!

Place Command 

One of the most essential commands you can teach your dog is ‘place’. It can help your dog to remain calm in many situations – whether that be someone knocking at the door, when you returning home at the end of the day or when your dog is out and about off lead. 

Using the place command gives your Patterdale a task to do so that their mind is focused and not on the distractions around them. Using place essentially tells your dog to go to a specific location and stay there until you ask them to release. 

Of course, every dog is different. Try various methods to deter particular behavioural problems that you find your dog displays. While it can be easy to get frustrated at your dog’s bad behaviour, it can be rewarding to learn more about the breed and discover why they may be displaying such behaviour. 

I find that when you understand the root of a problem, you can deal with it much more effectivel.! Check out our section dedicated to Patterdale Terriers here, and learn about your dog in depth.

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