ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Border Terrier

Border Terrier
John Walton
Written by John Walton

If you are looking to add a gentle lap dog to your family, the Border Terrier will most likely disappoint. Although gentle and affectionate with their family, they are most definitely not lap dogs. Many people are fooled by their small build and clever gaze, not understanding the breed’s mentality.

The Border Terrier originated in England and the breed was specifically designed for hunting purposes. Their slight frame allows them to squeeze into tight spaces and flush the prey out for the hunters, with great stamina allowing them to keep up with the horses.

  • Intelligent, agile and feisty? Yes.
  • Couch potato lap dog? Most definitely not.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityHigh
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog breed group: Working Terrier dogs
Height: 10-14 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 11-16 lbs
Life span: Approximately 12-15 years

The Border Terriers are the less flashy of the Terriers. With their happy-go-lucky attitude and unassuming looks, they are perhaps the more laid back Terrier of the bunch. They do have some of the typical Terrier characteristics such as high energy levels, and ability to find mischief wherever they go.

They are surprisingly great jumpers and escape artists. A secure fence and supervision is required to keep them from running away, and possibly putting themselves in harm’s way. They need plenty of exercise and long daily walks. They will do best in active life style families and can adjust quite well to apartment living, as long as they are given plenty of opportunities to vent their energy, which they have in spades.

Children will find a great friend in the Border Terrier, and will enjoy their funny antics and hyper personality. The neighbourhood cats probably not so much, as their high prey drive will make the Border Terrier chase anything in sight. They will do well with cats they were raised with but should not be trusted with small animals, as the relentless little Border Terrier could possibly hurt them and even kill.

Main Highlights
  • The Border Terrier is the more sensible and laid back of the Terrier breeds.
  • Their sensitivity and intelligence makes them great therapy and guide dogs.
  • Due to their slight build, the Border Terriers are more prone to obesity than other Terrier breeds. They need to be regularly exercised and provided with proper diet to avoid becoming pudgy.
  • The Border Terriers are not well suited companions for other two and four legged critters; their strong prey drive will have them chasing anything that runs.
  • They do well in agility classes, hunting and tracking events.
  • The sensitive Border Terriers don’t do well with harsh training or handling and might become depressed as a result.
  • They are very good jumpers, and need secure fences and supervision to keep them safe.
Breed History

The Border Terriers originated in Cheviot Hills, England, sometime in the 18th century, and are arguably the oldest Terrier breed in the United Kingdom.

They were called Redesdale Terriers or Coquetdate Terriers before their present name was adopted. It is suggested that they are the descendants of Bedlington Terriers and the Dandie Dinmont Terriers.

They were specifically bred for hunting purposes. Their small frame allowed them to squeeze into small hiding holes to flush out the foxes, otters, badgers and other vermin. Their legs made them able to keep up with the hunters and horses, and their bark could be heard from 10 feet underground to alert the hunters of the prey.

The double coat was also designed for optimal hunt, as it is weather and dirt resistant. The skin is very loose fitting and thick so that it couldn’t be easily punctured by the game, and hurt the Border Terrier during the hunt. The high stamina of the breed as well as the strong prey drive are strongly present in the little sturdy dogs to this date.

Although highly prized by hunters the breed wasn’t very popular, and it wasn’t until 1920 that they’ve became widely recognized in England and the United States. Today, they are the 81st most popular breed in the world.

Size

The bold Border Terrier is a small dog breed measuring at 11-14 inches tall at the shoulder, and weighing at 11-16 lbs., with the females generally being slightly smaller.

Personality and Character

This small size breed definitely has plenty of character, and can be a handful for the average owner. Many new owners don’t fully understand what they’re getting into when they bring the little Border Terrier home. This breed has some of the characteristics of the other Terriers, they have plenty of energy, and they are avid chewers and diggers, and most excellent jumpers.

The Border Terriers love their families and love to be with them, being involved in many activities and considered as part of the pack. They will do well in an apartment as long as they are regularly excised, and have access to a fenced yard. A secure fence is a must when dealing with a Border Terrier as they are quite capable and were bred to weasel their way out of any obstacle.

No wall or fence is a match for the hyper breed. Actually, the saying ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way’ accurately describes the Border Terrier, as they have plenty of will. As much as they enjoy the challenge of escaping their yards, they love their pack and won’t do well as a backyard dog.

They become easily bored and thrive when given something to do. Otherwise they might become excessive barkers and a nuisance, digging, and chewing on your prized possessions and looking cute while doing it.  The friendly breed is not usually a barker, they will bark mainly out of boredom or to alert you to new things, making them a great watchdog.

They do well in agility classes, hunting and tracking events and generally like to be kept busy.

They’re usually friendly to everyone and have good doggy manners, unless they’re bored, or if you happen to be a strange cat, bird, or a squirrel. In that case, you don’t want to meet the Border Terrier as their strong prey drive will unfortunately out run you, and in most cases, seriously injure or kill.

As with most breeds, early socialization is very important for a well-rounded dog.

Health and Potential Problems

Generally a very healthy and sturdy breed, the Border Terriers have been exposed to some ill breeding that left them vulnerable to health issues. Before adopting a pet please make sure the dog has been checked by a vet.

Never buy a dog from a puppy mill! Make sure the person you are buying from is a reputable breeder who understands and loves the breed.

Another thing to consider with your Border Terrier is that they were bred for hunting, which means they have a high threshold for pain. The Border Terrier might hide their discomfort very well and the only way to tell they’re sick is noticing any behavioural changes.

Every dog is different, but knowing your companion and being alert to any changes in behaviour, eating habits or activity levels could be vital for early diagnosis and life-saving treatment. The diseases that are most common to the breed are:

  • Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome: A genetic disorder associated with the Border Terrier, often misdiagnosed as Epilepsy. Could be considered as a muscle or neurological disorder.
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition that is caused by the body’s inability to maintain proper thyroid hormone levels and is managed by medication. Symptoms may be obesity, dry skin, baldness or slow heart rate.
  • Cryptorchidism: A common health problem in small dog breeds. It might require surgical intervention when the testicles fail to descend.
  • Slipped stifles- Another common health issue in small breeds. A condition where the calf, thigh bone and the knee cap fail to align correctly, and may cause pain and lameness. Severe cases require surgical intervention.
  • Seizures: A condition with no known cure or source, is usually treated by medication. Symptoms may be urination, shaking, muscle spasm and fainting.
  • Malocclusions: A condition which causes the jaws to not align together properly. Many cases are resolved by themselves, or surgically corrected to avoid further complications.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A common condition in dogs, in which the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. Commonly treated with medication to manage pain and discomfort, or surgery.
  • Pulmonic Stenosis: A heart disorder common among the Border Terriers which effects the valve that separates one of the heart chambers from the lungs.
  • Heart murmur: A heart disorder that restricts the blood flow through the heart. It is commonly managed by medication, exercise restrictions and diet adjustments.
  • Obesity: The Border Terrier breed is more prone to obesity than any other Terrier breed and should be supplied with high quality dog food and sufficient exercise.

A healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and regular vet checks will ensure that your loyal companion will remain by your side for many years to come.

Care Features

The Border Terrier is highly intelligent and easy to train. Although they have a stubborn streak and are independent thinkers, they are also eager to please their human. They will do very well with a handler who understands the breeds mentality and history and uses their fearlessness and intelligence to their advantage.

The breed requires plenty of praise and positive reinforcement as well as treats, rewards, their training needs to be kept fun and interesting, as well as consistent as they are easily bored. The Border Terriers learn commands very quickly, however sometimes decide they know better and don’t follow them.

Any harsh training or handling should be avoided at all causes as the Border Terriers are very sensitive to it, and might become depressed as a result.

Crate training is also highly recommended as if left by themselves for long stretches of time, they will chew and destroy anything in sight. Also hardy chew toys are a must for the Border Terrier.

Leash Training from a young age is also a must, as the Border Terriers have a tendency of bolting after the first distraction that comes in their way.

Their natural knack for digging might frustrate you. Instead of trying to train it out of them, it might prove more productive if they are provided with a special spot they could dig, or engaged in fun activities that will utilize their natural instinct for digging. If all else fails, they might succeed in getting you to China via your own personal tunnel in your backyard.

The Borders will do very well with a calm, assertive pack leader to avoid unwanted issues such as separation anxiety or the dreaded small dog syndrome.  As with many smaller breeds, the Border Terrier is also in danger of developing the small dog syndrome. Due to their size, many owners will let the smaller dog get away with unwanted behaviours like displaying leader of the pack mentality such as jumping up, leading on walks, growling and generally setting the rules. Left unaddressed and corrected, the smaller dog may become aggressive and ill mannered.

Feeding Schedule

The nutritional needs are determined by size, age, and activity levels and are individual to every dog. The Border Terrier will generally require 1-1.5 cups of high quality dog food a day, divided into 2 meals.

Due to their slender build, the Border Terriers are more prone to obesity than other Terriers. They need to be exercised daily and be supplied with high quality, no filler or grain, rich in meat protein and vitamins, dry dog food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Scruffy little breed is neutral looking with weather and dirt resistant double coat that was designed for the perfect hunter. The undercoat is dense and short for insulation, making them fit for any weather, the outer coat is wiry, short and dirt repellent.

Common colours are Tan, grizzle and tan, fawn, or red.

Brushing once a week is highly recommended as well as hand stripping at least 4 times a year to reduce excessive shedding. Some owners prefer clipping the coat, but it must be taken into consideration that the hair will grow back to be softer and less weather resistant if clipped.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Children will find the lively Border Terrier a great companion with plenty of energy to keep up with them, and a knack for mischief they undoubtedly will find hilarious and entertaining.

The unstoppable Border Terrier might be a little too much for younger children due to their high energy levels and the habit to jump up when excited.

As with other breeds, play time between children and animals should be supervised at all times, and any tail or ear pulling should be discouraged immediately. Both need to be taught respect and space for one another.

Other animals will not enjoy the Border Terrier’s company as much but they are fairly friendly toward other dogs and cats they were raised with. Their high prey drive makes them not trustworthy with any other animal they will perceive as prey such as strange cats, birds, rabbits, or hamsters. In so many words, if it’s moving, the Border Terrier will chase it, and possibly maim or kill.

They are not an aggressive breed and are considered the most well-mannered out of all the Terriers, but it is important to remember that they were bred for hunting, and excelled at it before becoming a house pet. The Border Terriers are a versatile breed, they can still be found on farms, working their tail off to minimize vermin population, but mostly they have become a family pet.

They can be a handful of trouble and love as they are independent thinkers that could frustrate the most patient human, not because they don’t understand the command, but simply because they think they know better. Their energy levels are high and they can go on for what feels like ever, and require plenty of exercise and play.

The little hunter will chew your favourite couch and dig under the fence if left unattended, but they are little bundles of energy that will provide hours of laughter and joy, and unconditional love.

The loyal Border Terriers are friendly with children and almost anybody. They’re clever and fearless, devoted to their families and are eager to please, making them very trainable. They adapt well to new situations and environments, and could live in the city or in the country, as long as they’re regularly exercised.

They have a natural ability of getting into trouble, and perhaps chasing a squirrel or two, but as long as you have a good sense of humour, the Border Terrier will have you in stitches with their antics.

This tireless little bundle of joy has a lot of love and affection to give. Their friendly demeanour and happy-go-lucky attitude will provide you and your family with years of happiness. The chew marks on the couch will seem like a small price to pay for this loyal family member by your side.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Emily B.

    It is similar to the common street dog: same color, the shape of a muzzle. But I think this breed has one of the best characteristics according to your website, it is very interesting.
    I’d like to read more about it.

  • It may be one of the least striking in terms of appearance, but its personality and overall demeanor will definitely win your heart.

  • Marco Medina

    Remember that since the Border Terrier is full of boiling energy, this dog must keep the one who is able to give her the opportunity a lot and often run. He needs large spaces for walks.

  • Regularly scheduled walks around the compound or the community can address its rather extensive exercise requirement. Running or walking around is a good, stimulating exercise.

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