The cute Border Terrier is a rugged and tough breed of dog. They make affectionate and low-maintenance companions for people, and they are known for getting along well with other dogs. As adults they weigh between 11.5 and 15.5 pounds, growing up to 15 inches tall. This breed makes a popular lapdog.
In this article, we will help you decide whether this small but personality-packed puppy is the right choice for you and your family.
What’s in This Guide
Breed at a Glance
- Popularity: Top 20 in the UK, top 100 in the US
- Purpose: Fox hunting originally
- Weight: 11.5-15.5 pounds
- Temperament: Friendly, tough and trainable
Follow the links below to quickly find information about health, temperament and other important details about the Border Terrier.
Border Terrier Breed Review:
- History and original purpose
- Fun Facts
- Border Terrier appearance
- Personality and temperament
- Training and exercising
- Border Terrier health and care
- Do they make good family pets
- Rescuing an adult Border Terrier
- Finding a Border Terrier puppy
- Raising a puppy
- Popular breed mixes
- Products and accessories
History and Original Purpose
These dogs originated along the border between Scotland and England. At one time they were known as Coquetdale or Redesdale/Reedwater Terriers. The name was standardized to Border Terrier in the late 1800s.
Terrier means “of the earth” which is quite fitting for this group of dogs. The terrier group includes a range of breeds. Most were originally bred for working underground for vermin control purposes.
Border Terriers were, and still are in places, used for pest control. They were originally used to defend against hill foxes that preyed on sheep in the borderlands. They would bolt foxes or hold them so their handlers could dig them out.
In 1920, the Kennel Club officially recognized the Border Terrier breed in the UK. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club just ten years later.
Fun Facts about Border Terriers
A Border Terrier, named Owney, was an unofficial mascot for the US Postal Service from 1888-1897. He liked to sleep on mailbags and traveled with them around the country.
Owney was featured on a commemorative stamp in 2011. His preserved body is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
Border Terrier Appearance
The Border Terrier is a small but nicely proportioned dog. However, he has longer legs than other terriers his size. Their head is often described as otter-like, making them easy to distinguish from other small terriers.
Their tails are moderate in length, straight, thick at the base and tapered toward the tip.
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Their V-shaped ears tip forwards onto their cheeks.
Their coat is wiry and coarse to the touch due to their weather resistant outer coat. However, the undercoat is soft and helps keep them warm, dry and clean.
Border Terrier Colors
Border Terriers come in a range of brown, gray and red tones. The American Kennel Club and Kennel Club officially recognize only the following colors as standard for the breed:
- Blue and Tan
- Grizzle and Tan
Other combinations of those colors exist and are considered non-standard. All Border Terriers have black points marking their faces and extremities. Overall this breed is a healthy-looking dog, with a balanced and natural appearance.
Border Terrier Temperament
The Border Terrier is a tough little dog. He enjoys hunting, chasing and playing. But he also likes to cuddle up next to you on the sofa at the end of a busy day.
Known to be friendly and affectionate, the breed is intelligent and eager to please and therefore easy to train. However, they are also very independent. That independence means that they are not unfailingly obedient. If that’s what you want, a Border Terrier may not be the dog for you.
Although now primarily kept as companion animals, their hunting and chasing instincts remain. They should not be off-leash unless in a securely fenced area. They get along well with other dogs but may aggressively chase any other animals they see.
Training and Exercising Your Border Terrier
The low-maintenance Border Terrier makes a wonderful pet, but training is important.In fact, the independent streak of this little dynamo makes training critical for a healthy dog and a happy owner.
Although this is a small dog, he is packed with personality. He is also loaded with generations of prey drive and instincts to catch and kill small creatures. For that reason, Border Terriers are best kept on a leash during walks. However, you should still train for recall. You can set the foundations for this from the word go by using positive training techniques.
Remember that your recall will need to be taught and carefully proofed to distractions like wild animals over a period of months. Patience will be important.
A High Energy Breed
These dogs were bred as country dogs and are used to plenty of activity and exercise. However, they do make wonderful city pets as long as they get daily exercise. A healthy Border Terrier has no special needs. He will be delighted to participate in a range of sports and activities.
From hiking to tracking, obedience to agility, this clever and lively little dog will excel in these environments. You can even work up to long distance running with him, provided you both build up your fitness and stamina at a sensible rate. Special activities aren’t essential. He’ll be happy with a daily walk or half-hour of playing fetch or Frisbee in the backyard.
Border Terrier Health and Care
Border Terrier care is nice and straightforward. These are low-maintenance and generally robust dogs. Like every dog, they need access to water at all times and a good quality, balanced-nutrition dog food.
They are free from disabling conformational defects, however like every pedigree there are some inherited health problems to be aware of.
Spike’s Disease, also known as canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS) is an inherited disorder similar to canine epilepsy. During an episode dogs will have obvious difficulty moving. They may also suffer from vomiting and diarrhea during and soon after. Dystonia (twitching) is another common symptom.
Ask any Border Terrier breeders you’re considering whether there is any history of epilepsy in the parents’ backgrounds. If so, you would be advised to find another litter of puppies to reduce the chances of your dog suffering from this.
Hip dysplasia can be a problem for some Border Terriers. Although not as bad as in some other breeds, this issue is still relatively common in these dogs. Therefore, good breeders ensure that their parent dogs are hip scored. Ask any Border Terrier breeders you’re considering about the parents’ hip scores.
In the US, make sure that both parents’ hips are graded excellent or good. If you are looking a Border Terrier puppies in the UK, make sure that each parent has a hip score lower than four. The lower the cumulative score the better, and the more even each side’s score is the better.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a genetic condition that causes a dog to gradually lose its sight. There is a DNA test for PRA, so it’s important to look for a breeder who has tested for this disorder. One or both parents should be clear. If both parents are carriers, your puppy could develop PRA blindness.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, or simply Perthes disease, causes affected dogs to go lame, have trouble walking and suffer pain. Dogs with Perthes disease will normally begin to show symptoms at around six months of age.
Although this is believed to be an inherited disease, there is not currently a DNA test available. You will need to ask your breeder of any history of it or any issues with lameness in their dog’s lines. If you have any concerns with their responses, politely walk away and find another breeder.
As well as those detailed above, Border Terriers have been known to occasionally be affected by heart problems and juvenile cataracts. Make sure that your new pup’s parents had clear eye tests and low hip scores before you commit to buying a puppy.
The grooming needs for these dogs are fairly minimal.
Border Terrier Grooming
These dogs have easy to manage coats. They need weekly brushing, and during shedding season, you may want to strip their coat to keep it looking neat and tidy.
You only need to bathe your Border Terrier if he gets himself into something mucky or smelly. He should keep himself nice and clean for the most part.
You will need to check their ears twice a week to make sure there is not build up of wax and clip their nails if they start to get too long.
Border Terrier Shedding
You may have heard that Border Terriers are hypoallergenic or non-allergenic. Sadly, there is a popular and persistent myth about hypoallergenic dogs.
No dog is truly hypoallergenic. Allergy sufferers react to a dog’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva and/or urine. Since all dogs have all of those, there is always the possibility of an allergic reaction. However, all is not lost. Some dogs do cause fewer problems than others, and allergy sufferers react differently to different dogs and breeds.
If someone is highly allergic to dogs, it’s probably best for them not to live with one, but for someone with a milder reaction, exposure to the animal under consideration is the only way to know for sure how they will react.
Border Terrier shedding is not as bad as some dogs, but they do molt at least twice a year and will leave fur around your home. Regular vacuuming and washing of their bedding will help to keep this to a minimum. Stripping their coat by hand or with a stripping tool will also help minimize furballs around the house.
Border Terrier Lifespan
The typical lifespan for this breed ranges from 12 to 15 years. The average lifespan is about 13 years.
Do Border Terriers Make Good Family Pets
Border Terriers can make great pets for active families. They are loyal and loving dogs, but they are also often fairly independent characters.
This means that as long as you slowly get them used to spending time apart from puppyhood, they should be happy to be left at home for two or three hours at a time during the day if you need to.
Border Terriers and Children
Many Border Terriers live happily in homes with children. They are small, playful dogs who can make great companions for kids.
These dogs have a high prey drive and kids can be accidentally rough. Complete supervision and separation if you are not in the room will keep them both safe and happy. Proper early socialization to children is essential if you want them to be confident in their company growing up.
Rescuing a Border Terrier
Purebred dogs are occasionally relinquished to shelters and rescues for a variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with the dog. So, don’t discount these sources when searching for an adult. However, a more likely source is a purebred rescue organization. We’ve included rescue links for some of the most popular ones later in this article.
A rescue dog is a great option if you prefer not to deal with the puppy stage. Although, puppies and young dogs are sometimes available through rescue organizations.
Finding a Border Terrier Puppy
In most parts of the world, dog breeding is unregulated. Anyone can join in! Bad breeders are only in it for the money, and it’s important to find a breeder that really cares about the dogs in their care.
Use our guide to select a puppy for your best chance at avoiding a dog with serious health or behavioral issues.
When you are looking for your new friend you need to approach this search with a clear head and start by finding reputable breeders.
A good breeder will fully health test their dogs and make sure that any they are mated to has also been health tested. They may keep their terriers as beloved pets or loyal working dogs, but they will have a purpose beyond producing offspring. Make sure when you visit that the dogs all seem to know their names and have a bond with the breeder.
Ask Lots of Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and make sure that you are happy with the parents’ temperaments. The mother, and father if he is there, should be pleased to see you with wagging tails and happy, open mouths.
Take the time to find the right breeder, one who has selected parents with great temperaments and clear health tests. You will then have a companion who you can hope to have many years of fun companionship with.
Puppies should be lively and alert and in a good condition.
Border Terrier Price
The cost for Border Terrier puppies will vary depending on where you live.
In the US, puppies from a reputable breeder will cost between $800 and $1500. In the UK, the cost will be between £600 and £1000.
You may find purebred Border Terrier puppies for sale at far lower prices than these. Those will be from breeders who have not incurred the costs for health testing and screening.
Puppies from such breeders carry a significant risk of serious health problems and heartbreak.
Of course, you should understand what’s involved in raising a puppy before you bring one home.
Raising a Border Terrier Puppy
Caring for a vulnerable Border Terrier puppy is a big responsibility. There are some great guides to help you with all aspects of puppy care and training. As a terrier breed, your puppy will need to be well socialized to other animals. This will help him to learn to live alongside them.
Make sure that you introduce your puppy calmly to numerous cats, and if you have other pets like rabbits or guinea pigs help him to practice sitting around them and ignoring them. They tend to be good with other dogs having originally been used to accompany hounds and other terriers out hunting.
However, it is still a good idea to let them meet lots of nice dogs when they are young to help them learn how to interact and be confident.
Are They Noisy Dogs?
This terrier breed are often inclined to bark and whine. They are vocal dogs, who have been bred to make noise when they find a prey animal underground.
If you want your dog to be fairly quiet, find a litter from quiet parents and practice training the click for quiet technique from the time you bring him home.
If you’re not sure about a Border Terrier, how about considering a mix instead?
Popular Border Terrier Breed Mixes
If you are looking for a Border Terrier, then pedigree puppies are not your only choice. You might consider one of these mixes. These breeds can be wonderful pets too.
- Affenpinscher–Border Terrier (aka Affen Terrier)
- Alaskan Malamute–Border Terrier Mix
- Border Healer
- Beagle–Border Terrier Mix
- Border Collie–Border Terrier Mix
- Boston Border
- Border Bulldog
- Cairn Terrier–Border Terrier Mix
- Chihuahua–Border Terrier (aka Chi Border)
- Corgi–Border Terrier Mix
Be sure to investigate the other breed in the mix to know what to expect in terms of temperament, health and care. Make sure that each parent is health tested for those diseases that could affect their offspring.
Crossbreeding does not remove the risks entirely.
Here are some other small terrier breeds you might want to consider:
- Cairn Terrier
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrier
These terriers have a lot in common, but each has its own characteristics that may or may not suit your lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of Getting A Border Terrier
It’s important to know the pros and cons so that you can choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. Careful selection helps ensure you can create a lasting bond and have a cherished companion for years. Keep these things in mind as you consider whether this is the right dog for you.
- Very independent
- Strong prey drive
- Tendency to dig
- Bold and brave
- Low maintenance
- Friendly, happy dogs
You as an owner will need to have the energy to keep them exercised, the time to train them and a commitment to working around their natural prey drives.
When trained and socialized properly, this dog makes a happy and devoted companion both indoors and outside. Keep these factors in mind and look for the pros and cons of any other breeds you might be considering to make a fair comparison.
Once you decide on the right pup for you, the right products and accessories will help you prepare for your new pup’s homecoming.
Rescue dogs make wonderful pets too.
If you think this is the right dog for you, please consider giving a home to a dog in need.
If you are looking at adopting this breed, then you will probably not find out anything about their parents. The adopted dog might be older or mixed with another unknown breed.
The adoption center should be interested in how well suited a dog is to you and your family. You should make your decision based upon the dog’s character and current health.
Below is a list of Border Terrier rescue organizations in the USA, the UK and Canada.
You may also find this breed at rescue organizations that don’t focus on a specific breed.
If you know of a rescue not already listed, please share it in the comments.
Do you have a Border Terrier? If so, tell us about your pup in the comments.
References and Resources
- Adams VJ, et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- American Kennel Club
- Black, V. et al. “Phenotypic characterisation of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome in the Border terrier“
- British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club. “Breed Specific Hip Dysplasia statistics“
- Duffy D, et al. 2008. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behavior Science.
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats, 3rd edition. Wiley Blackwell.
- O’Neill, et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned in England. The Veterinary Journal.
- Summers, J.F. et al. “Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 2: Disorders that are not related to breed standards“
Border Terriers are the best. Have had them for years. Showed them also. They get along with all dogs…I recently lost my 18 year old border. I realized that in all her 18 years, she never barked..the one I have left barks at squirrels it nothing else. There are a lot of good breeders in America. Do all health testing,etc.
peg schwind says
looking for a Boston terrier for my daughter, her dog is 14 and having health problems, I would like to surprise her with a new puppy.
if anyone can direct me I would appreciate the help
Kenneth Izer says
My wife and I are retired and four years ago we rescued a one year old male Grizzled Border Terrier. His colors are blond, tan, red, black and sandy. When we first brought Muttley home he was high energy. But, he endeared himself to us, quickly settled down and became used to our daily routines. We are never without him. I feel he loves us as much as we love him. He’s smart, athletic and is the light of our lives. I swear he tries to talk to us using his wonderful personality along with vocal half howl tones, side to side head cocks and eye contact when he gets excited or wants something. He does this while setting as a human would while expressing something. He’ll most likely not be the last Border we will have.
I have a 12 year old and recently rescued an 8 year old from the border terrier welfare
She has fit in with my family do well, Jude my old boy has been amazing , she goes to the dog sitter with him when I work and mixes with all types of dogs , I have to say I have had an easy ride no chewing no bad behaviour nothing , Jude was left in my care from an ex and I’d never thought about a border … but owning one now I’d never have anything else …. my little fur balls are my whole world
Mike staley says
I have 1 1/2 yr old border terrier. I need help finding out if anyone has a border terrier that their dog suffers from OCD. My dog licks everything, carpet floor,people’s legs face chases her tail and pulls hair from her tail. I have done everything I know to chance these traits but nothing has worked. Help!
i am in hunt of trying to find a breeder looking to find a breeder i have looked NH.ME,NY,MA if amyone has any idea where i may go to find a breeder please email me.
Sharee Schroeder says
There are several breeders in Michigan and Ohio . Our current border came from Cincinnati. This is our 2nd border. We love the breed. Try going to an AKC dog show. There you will find your breeders. Good luck.
Maureen OBrien says
Our lovely 8 month old border is great but barks at everyone passing the house but never barks when we take him out, he left bed other dog
However he had separation issues we put him in his cage if we go out and he cries destroys his bed and throws water every where the neighbour says he cries/barks for the duration we are out, any suggestions please
Just rescued 2 Border Terriers and they are wonderful busy inquisitive sweet dogs.
Bought home a Boston Terrier puppy and all three get along great the borders are teaching the Boston it’s running and playing and it’s crazy having three dogs. Everything said about this breed is right on . Terriers are true the best dog ever own love them to death
Love our 3yr old Border Terrier Peter Nathaniel (aka-Peter Nat). At the most Peter Nat was about 3 months old as a stray who wondered up to our home 2 different times in a months time, still had his baby teeth. First time I told him to go home, not sure if he did, he’s never really said?
Seems his owners never cared about him just letting him wonder our very busy city streets day/night as we learned very fast after we posted him on Facebook & our online lost/found to find his owners the second time.
So many people who knew him all said ” He’s always posted here” and said he lived a few blocks over but since he had epileptic seizures they simply didn’t want him anymore. Basically threw him out hoping he’d run away or be ran over imo is his true story. Just didn’t care!!
After almost 2 months I removed the adds around town and online as nobody who owned him ever answered them nor called shelters/dog pound who had my number. I myself stuck 2 letters with our contact info in his owner’s mailbox with no replies. They knew where he “was” and “is” still till this day.
So’ Peter Nat found him a home here just over 2 1/2 yrs ago. He has a seizure every few months, had a few bad ones but since the wife and I are retired we are always right there with him.
Now’ one thing for sure he is exactly like all descriptions of Border Terriers state they are right to a tee. Independent! Independent! These dogs are very Independent and could care less what you want him to do, where you want him to be, how to act, he really don’t need me, he’s proved that..lol Soo Faaast..Kills Birds, squirrels & Rabbits so not even for food am I needed.
Maybe from being left to defend for himself made him more like that but it is in their DNA too.
I read in the Terrier books these are not a dog park animal so take that to heart. Do not let a Border Terrier off a leash in a dog park, you will have to go locate him and drag them out. It will take you hours too, as it’s a pure fact it’s in their DNA to simply wonder. It makes no matter if it’s rainy, stormy, snowy or sunny he’ll come in only when he chooses too. If there is one complaint I have with Peter Nat it’s just that he is indeed nuts! Do normal dogs sit in the middle of a yard with rain pouring down and winds at 50mph like he’s ready to chase whatever moves? You know’ “anything” like the wind? So’ ya’ he’s nuts!
But’ again as also described here no matter how long/far he roams our home or out in the yard or how much he chases the Rabbits, Squirrels or Cats out our yard at some point you’ll certainly find him cuddling beside you at the end of his long day. I do mean at the end of “his” day too, till this day he’s not once bothered asking me how my day ever went.
William Bruce Andrews says
I love my border Terrier, he has a few issues i hope will sort out with age. He is 7 month. he gets excited about everything and usually has a wet. He is bright but takes no notice most of the time especially when i let him off lead. I really worry he will run off. He chew’s everything, carpet’s, shoes, wallpaper,plants, really, anything he can get at. But i love him to bits.He Would eat for England if i let him. lol. Great little dog.
I just adapted a puppy they said is is a border terrier He looks like I miniture Rottwiller it smaller. The shelter had the mother but we don’t know what the father is hope he will be a great dog. I always had rottwiller but I am older now and wanted a smaller dog.love him already.
Can a border terrier look like a Rottweiler in color and markings
I am on my fourth, from the age of six all you are describing is a border Terrier XB
Marianne M Literati says
We love our 6.5 year old border terrier. I know all dogs vary, but a couple of things strike me about this dog, as opposed to the other 4 I’ve owned:
He is a food hog. I mean, all dogs like their food, but this one is CRAZY for food. Something about how the breed developed?
He will play ball until he drops. In fact, anything moving – blowing weeds or trash – sets him off in a big way. We play and play with this guy. He is certainly enthusiastic about playing ball. But he refused to run with me after a few tries. I even kibble to tempt him, but he started hiding as soon as I got my shoes. We walk him daily, and he is good with that, but will dawdle when he can.