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Border Terrier

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 Border Terrier

The Border Terrier is a small purebred dog with talents in various areas such as tracking, agility, hunting and competitive obedience. It was bred to hunt vermin and fox and to be able to keep up with hunters on horseback it was small but has legs long enough. It is an alert, energetic and good natured dog who will play hard and love deeply.

Here is the Border Terrier at a Glance
Name Border Terrier
Other Names None
Nicknames None
Origin UK
Average size Small
Average weight 12 to 16 pounds
Average height 10 to 11 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Wiry, dense, harsh, thick
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Blue, wheaten, tan and red
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 82 by the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm and fairly hot but nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good – able to handle most cold weather but not extreme
Shedding Low – good breed for people who do not want hair around the home and on clothing
Drooling Low – not a breed known for slobbering or drooling
Obesity High – prone to being overweight, food and exercise must be monitored
Grooming/brushing Moderate – needs regular brushing and clipping
Barking Frequent – will need training to control
Exercise needs Fairly active – has a fair amount of energy to burn
Trainability Moderately easy – process is gradual
Friendliness Very good – quite a social dog
Good first dog Good but best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is very important
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization is very important as has a high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization – very approachable
Good apartment dog Very good – size means it is well suited but does bark frequently
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being alone, can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly good – some issues include hip dysplasia, heart problems, jaw problems and seizures
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $495 a year for basic training, license, toys, grooming and miscellaneous items
Average annual expense $1005 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1000
Biting Statistics None reported

The Border Terrier's Beginnings

The Border Terrier was bred in the UK on the border between Scotland and England, hence the name that developed in the late 1800s. It is thought it might be the oldest British terrier bred sometime in the 1700s and was first called Redesdale Terrier or Coquetdale Terrier. It was bred at first to help farmers to hunt vermin, badgers, otters, martens and foxes who were a problem as they killed stock. The Border Terrier was small, flexible, long and narrow enough to get into the ground after the fox. A common practice amongst farmers then was to underfeed the dog so its hunger drove it to hunt harder.

During the 1800s and into the 1900s it often accompanied fox hunters on horses. While it was small enough to go to ground it was also bred to have legs long enough to keep up with mounted hunters and had great stamina. The foxhounds that also accompanied the hunters could run a fox to ground but were not small enough to follow it in. Around the borders it was well known and prized but elsewhere in England or Scotland it was not.

New Lease on Life

In the late 19th century the breed could be seen in agricultural shows in Northumberland but it was not until the early 20th century that dog fanciers took any notice. The first Border Terrier registered in the English Kennel Club in the any other variety heading in 1913. The Border Terrier Club was formed in 1920 and the KC recognized the breed that same year.

In 1930 the first Border Terrier was registered in the US and was recognized by the AKC. While it can still be used as a working dog and hunter, it is mostly a companion dog today. It is currently ranked 82nd most popular registered breed by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This small dog weighs 12 to 16 pounds and stands 10 to 11 inches tall. It is a sturdy dog though with a narrow body, straight front legs and a moderate length tail that tapers to the tip. Its coat is double, soft, short and dense underneath and harsh, wiry and close lying outer. Common colors are red, wheaten, tan and blue. Some have some white on their chest.

Its head is otter shaped with a short muzzle, broad skull and ears that sit on the side of the head and hang towards the cheek and are v shaped. It has wide set eyes that are medium sized and dark. The nose is black and sometimes the muzzle is dark.

The Inner Border Terrier


The Border Terrier is a typical terrier, energetic, alert, independent, smart and bold. This is a great watchdog, it will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. It is friendly but has some terrier stubbornness to it so while a new owner could be okay some experience would make things easier.


As active as it is, it is also an affectionate dog with its family and is a good family dog for the right owners. It is not aggressive towards people and is fairly mild mannered once it becomes an adult as long as it gets enough physical activity. Socialization will be important too as some can be timid, and socialization can help with that as well as with the high prey drive. It does not like being left alone so can have problems with separation anxiety. Be sure you can give it the attention and company it needs without over spoiling it which can lead to small dog syndrome where it becomes hard to control, snappy, destructive and high strung.

It is a frequent barker so neighbors should be considered if they are close. Training can be done to control it but it will not ever be a quiet dog. It gets on well with strangers, can be feisty, loves to play, can be impulsive and bossy. It is a very loyal dog, adaptable too and loves to sit and watch the world in between its bouts of activity.

Living with a Border Terrier

What will training look like?

Training this breed is moderately easy, it is intelligent and generally eager to please but it can have a mind of its own and that can make things more gradual. Be patient and very importantly be consistent. It needs to know that you are confident and in charge. Be firm but also use positive techniques like rewards, treats, encouragement and praise. It can be willful and independent so it will test you sometimes, you need to be able to stick to the rules as do the rest of the family.

Early socialization is important so that it can grow into being the best and most confident and trustworthy dog it can be. Introduce it to different places, people and animals and teach it what responses are appropriate or acceptable. This breed should be easy enough to house train as long as you stick to a schedule, give it lot of chances to go out and do its business and consider crate training.

How active is the Border Terrier?

The Border Terrier is fairly active, it has a lot of energy and will need plenty of play time, walk time, mental stimulation and interaction. It can live in an apartment as long as it gets outside at least twice a day but does best when it has access to even just a small yard. Taking it to a dog park on a regular basis is a good way to ensure it has safe off leash time, play time with you and a chance to run and socialize. It should have at a minimum a half an hour out walking each day but more likely that will stretch to up to an hour a day, two half hour walks.

Because it is very good at digging and escaping it is important if you have a yard that it is well fenced, high enough it can't get over and with sink wire to prevent digging under. It is true that some are happier to have more chill time than others but for the most part the title of the article says it all, this is a dog that plays hard. Make sure it has plenty of toys to rotate through.

Caring for the Border Terrier

Grooming needs

This is a dog that has moderate grooming and maintenance needs. It will need at least two or three trips to a professional groomer for stripping or trimming a year. It sheds a low amount so it does not cause a lot of extra work cleaning up loose hair, and it could be good if you have an allergy sufferer in your family. It should be brushed about a couple of times a week at least to remove debris and keep the coat softer. If you do opt to clip the coat it can change the color and texture and it can mean it is not as weather resistant as a result. Only give it a bath when it needs one using a dog shampoo to avoid drying out its skin.


It should also have its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week and its ears checked for infection and wiped clean at least once a week. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long, if you are not familiar with this process have the vet or groomer do it for you as bleeding and pain can be caused by people who cut too low.

Feeding Time

This dog will need ½ to 1¼ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much it needs exactly can vary from one Border Terrier to another as it is based on its size, metabolism, activity level, age and health. Take care with this dog as it does love its food and it will over eat and can have problems with obesity. Watch the treats and the food and make sure it is well exercised.

How is the Border Terrier with children and other animals?

Border Terriers are very good with children with socialization. It will happily play with them, is lively with them and also loving and affectionate towards them. The Border Terrier is one of the more social terrier dogs. Children should be taught how to touch and approach it in a kind way and not to tease it or hurt it. Because it can be rambunctious it may be best to have them in homes with children older than 6 years.

If raised with other pets like cats, and if socialized it can learn to get along with them. With other small pets like hamsters, birds or rabbits it has a strong prey drive and will want to hunt and chase them, and likely injure or kill them as it would wild animals or strange pets it sees beyond the yard or out walking. The urge to chase is so strong in fact that it will even run in front of cars, these are dogs prone to such accidents which is why keeping it on a leash and well fenced in is so important.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 12 to 15 years the Border Terrier is a fairly healthy breed but there are some issues it can be prone to such as epilepsy, hip dysplasia, Perthes, heart problems, eye problems, CECS, Malocclusions, Patellar luxation, Cryptorchidism and hypothyroidism.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people causing bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, the Border Terrier has not been specifically mentioned. However while it may not be an overly aggressive dog, like any breed if it is provoked, not well raised, startled, or even just having a bad day, it can snap. Key to having dogs you can trust is to only have ones you are capable of caring for. Only have an active dog like this if you can be active and are happy to be so. Make sure you can give it the attention it needs, socialize it and engage with it.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Puppies of this breed will cost around $1000, some good breeders of pet quality dogs will charge $900 and some go up to $1600. For show quality dogs though from top breeders that is shooting up into several thousands. Take care where you buy from, there are a lot of backyard breeders and puppy mills whose prices vary widely, some have little to no knowledge of good breeding skills and they also often care very little about the welfare of their animals. If you are happy to offer a dog a new home, and want something less costly there is always the great option of getting one from a shelter or rescue for $50 to $350. Granted it is more likely to be a dog rather than a puppy but you get the bonus of having some of the initial medical concerns taken care of for you.


When you have your new pet you will need some items for it. A crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and so on. These will cost about $120. Then there are initial medical needs like getting it neutered or spayed, micro chipping, deworming, blood tests, shots and a physical exam by a vet. These will cost about $270.

Yearly costs will include things like medical needs, food and other miscellaneous costs and items. A good quality dry dog food and treats for a year for the Border Terrier will cost about $75. Medical needs for just basic care and pet insurance will come to around $435 a year. License, basic training, grooming, toys and other miscellaneous items will cost another $495 a year. This gives a total starting figure of $1005 a year.


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A Border Terrier is not just a simple lap dog easy to look after and easy to love. It is a spirited and free thinking dog, it is lively and needs lot of mental and physical stimulation, and barks often and digs a lot. It does not shed a lot and does not need a lot of extra care in terms of grooming, but it does need attention, it does not like being left alone so if you are put 12 hours a day for work this is not the dog for you.

This is a friendly breed, one of the more sociable terriers but it is still a terrier so beware if you have other small furry or feathered pets. Also it cannot be stressed enough how good an escape artist this dog is! Make sure it is well trained and socialized so that it can be the best dog it can be and you have a great loyal best friend as long as you are ready for its energy and antics.

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