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About the Border Terrier

History of Border Terriers

The Border Terrier traces back to a large group of terriers that existed for centuries in the Cheviot Hills, running along the border of Scotland and England. That’s how the Border got its name. The Border Terrier descended from a blend of old strains of working terriers and is closely related to the Dandie Dinmont, the Lakeland, and the Bedlington. 

The farmers of this region kept Borders because they would destroy foxes and other vermin. The Border Terrier’s combination of courage and good sense has always been its asset. Originally bred to run and work with Foxhounds, they must energetic and built for such work. They combine activity with gameness. Border Terriers are sturdy little dogs. They are a “no frills” working breed.


 The Look and Feel of a Border Terrier

The Border has many looks, depending upon the length of coat. Some people say they look much like mongrels. I think they look like “ewoks” when their hair is long and tussles about. 

Males usually weigh 13 to 18 pounds. Bitches weigh 10 to 16 pounds. Although the standard does not specify height, males usually measure 13” and bitches, approximately 12”. 

The Border Terrier’s body is slightly longer than its height. It is not meant to be square. In fact it should be able to twist so as to touch its nose to the base of its tail. Their heads are very distinctive, and similar in structure to that of an otter. The ears of a Border Terrier are small, V-shaped drop ears. They have a thick, loose-fitting hide, and a harsh, wiry outer coat.

Border Terriers are a versatile and adaptable breed. They are equally at home living a hard working terrier’s life or as a house pet. They are excellent house dogs because they don’t need a lot of space. They are unobtrusive and sensible. In general, they do not crave attention at all times by constant nudging their owners, although some can be described as “needy”. 

For sure, they are devoted pals, game for anything, be it ratting, learning tricks, running agility, or sitting on a couch. Because Border Terriers were bred to hunt vermin, it is best that they be brought up with such pets as cats. Borders need to be taught how to interact with them. I do not recommend them living with rodents, such as guinea pigs and rabbits.


They are not generally a noisy breed, but some show a zest for some activities, like eating or running out the door. Most groups of Borders will howl or sing several times a day. Mine do this. This characteristic was probably acquired from many generations living in hunting kennels. Border fanciers describe their singing as an angel choir.


Thinking About Buying a Border?

 When you buy a Border it should be from someone who is active in the breed and a member of the AKC parent club, Border Terrier Club of America (BTCA). The national club for requires that breeders sign a code of ethics and support the health testing of breeding stock. The BTCA recommends that the following health evaluations be performed:

OFA Hip; OFA Patella; OFA Heart and CERF Eye


General Care and Health of Border Terriers 

Border Terriers are healthy and strong, overall. Congenital heart problems are possible. Some have been found to have hip dysplasia or loose patellas. And a few have been found to have youth cataracts. The best assurance a buyer can have in purchasing any dog is to have such validations of health done on the sire and dam. Certifications don’t preclude health problems, but do provide some degree of assurance. 

Some Borders may develop skin allergies, during flea and tick season, and in dry environments. Most Border Terriers lose their lives because they have been hit by a car or have had some misfortune happen due to being off lead or having escaped from the yord.


Even though the Border Terrier is a small breed, they need sufficient exercise to keep fit and happy. Long walks, on a leash, are best, whether the dog’s home is in the country or in the city. Excursions can be interspersed with yard time, but care must be taken that yard time does not become boring. The Border Terrier has an active, working heritage and likes to have something to do. They usually love to travel in the car.and like to meet people, especially children.


A Border's Coat

The Border Terrier has a harsh wiry outer coat. Even a good coat needs trimming to appear neat. Head, feet, neck and the tip of the tail need to be tidied, and the long hairs on the body need to be stripped. This process is that of pulling the coat by its root. You can use your finders to pluck the coat or purchase a grooming tool, called a stripping knife.  Softer coats are more challenging. 

There is a certain amount of molting throughout the year and the coat needs stripping three - four times a year. I always say that when the dog's hair begins to part, it is time to strip. In between plucking the coat needs only regular brushing and maintenance. By nature, Border Terriers are clean but there are always exceptions. I usually bathe mine two to three times each year. In between baths, I groom their coats and use dry shampoo.


Training a Border 

Commands are easily taught to Border Terriers. However, some can be rather independent and do not instantly obey. Many Borders make an attempt to be obedient. They can, however with skill and patience, be trained to high standards as is needed for obedience, rally and agility competition. 

Some Border Terriers need to be socialized and taught how to interact with strange dogs. Some puppies are may feel intimidated while others are excited to play. They are not usually aggressive, but, if challenged, will not back down. They can forever hold a grudge against their aggressor. When living with more than one Border care must be taken not to allow the circumstances to occur which might start a fight.

Children and Borders 

Borders are good with children, tolerant and patient. Many are drawn to them. However, no dog should be left alone with an infant nor should an infant be placed on the floor. The infant can be hurt because dogs may not recognize them as human. When infants start crying, any dog can become frantic. 

When young children run and squeal Borders may react out of excitement. Children must be taught how to appropriately play and give attention and affection to a dog. Borders need to be taught not to leap and nip out of excitement. 

Children should not carry Border Terrier puppies. Even adults need to be careful carrying them. Hold them close to your body with both hands! 

Other Important Information 

Anyone who likes terriers should enjoy a Border Terrier. They have pleasant personalities, are easy to care for, reasonably obedient, humorous and entertaining, and have an irresistible impish appearance. Because Borders hunt, care must be taken when they are not leashed. They are very friendly and likely to bolt off to visit people or other dogs as well. All in all, Border Terriers are splendid companions; definitely a dog lover's dog!

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