A complete guide to the bold, beautiful Border Terrier dog breed. Giving information on temperament, training, shedding, breeders, rescue and more.
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.
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
- Border Terrier at a Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- Border Terrier Training and Care
- Pros and Cons of Getting a Border Terrier
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
Border Terrier Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose
- Fun facts about Border Terrier
- Border Terrier appearance
- Border Terrier temperament
- Training and exercising
- Border Terrier health and care
- Do Border Terriers make good family pets
- Rescuing a Border Terrier
- Finding a Border Terrier puppy
- Raising a Border Terrier puppy
- Popular Border Terrier 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. The Border Terrier would bolt foxes or hold them so their handlers could dig them out.
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.
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.
Border Terrier tails are moderate in length, straight, thick at the base and tapered toward the tip.
Their V-shaped ears tip forwards onto their cheeks.
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.
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
Training is important for all dogs and the Border Terrier is no exception. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a Border Terrier.
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.
Finding a Border Terrier Puppy
Anyone can breed their dog and sell the puppies. In most countries, there are no laws restricting or regulating dog breeding. That means that there are good dog breeders and there are bad dog breeders.
The worst breeders don’t care about the animals other than how much money they can make. So, you need to pick your puppy supplier very carefully indeed.
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.
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.
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.
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, a Border Terrier 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.
Border Terriers 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.
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. Border Terrier mixes can be wonderful pets too.
Affenpinscher–Border Terrier (aka Affen Terrier)
Alaskan Malamute–Border Terrier Mix
Australian Cattle Dog–Border Terrier (aka Border Healer)
Beagle–Border Terrier Mix
Border Collie–Border Terrier Mix
Boston Terrier–Border Terrier (aka Boston Border)
Bulldog–Border Terrier (aka 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.
Here are some other small terrier breeds you might want to consider:
- Cairn Terrier
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrier
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 a Border Terrier 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.
Border Terrier Products and Accessories
- A Complete Guide to the Best Wet Food for Your Dog
- Dog Grooming Supplies for Keeping Their Fur Looking Fabulous
- Noisy Toys for Active Dogs
- Dog Training Treats for a Super Successful Training Session
Rescue Border Terriers make wonderful pets too.
Border Terrier Breed Rescues
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 Border Terrier 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.
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.
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 Behaviour 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“