Border Terrier

Breed At A Glance


Alert, lively and mild-mannered

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
Males 13-16 inches; Females 11-14 inches

Average Weight
Males 13-16 lbs; Bitches 11-14 lbs

Coat Color
Grizzle and tan, blue and tan, red grizzle, or wheaten (always with dark muzzle)

Coat Length/Texture
Coarse and wiry double coat

Shedding Propensity
Very little or not at all

General Temperament

Much calmer than most other terrier breeds, the Border Terrier is an even-tempered, affectionate and intelligent companion pet, as well as an energetic hunter. Like many terriers, they are very intelligent and highly trainable, excelling in hunting and agility trials. They are a highly adaptable breed, able to adjust to almost any climate or activity level provided by their owner. The Border loves attention from it’s family and is especially affectionate with children.

Border Terriers usually get along well with other dogs, but will not hesitate to start a fight with a dog they don’t like, and it can be tough to stop them. Early socialization is important to minimize timidity and dog aggression. They get along well with cats they are raised with, but it is their nature to chase other cats and small animals. Their origins as ratters make them natural diggers so be sure to reinforce or deeply bury any fenced enclosure. Luckily, they do not have a tendency to wander too far from home.

Borders love to bark and will do so to announce the arrival of visitors, but are never aggressive towards people and will greet strangers happily. They do not do well if left alone for long periods, sometimes becoming destructive if bored or lonely. If your Border will be alone for long periods, such as work days, it may be a good idea to get a second dog to keep him company. (They will function best with a second dog of the opposite sex to minimize dominance issues.)

Border Terriers will be happy living in an apartment, as they are calm as adults and can adapt to whatever level of activity their owner provides. But as with any breed, sufficient exercise is recommended to maintain good health and mental stimulation.

Breed History

The Border Terrier takes it’s name from it’s land of origin, that being the border areas between Scotland and England. The local shepherds and farmers required a small dog with a long stride that could keep up with a horse on the hunt with a weather-resistent coat. They were initially used to control populations of nuisance pests such as rodents and foxes, but that responsibility extended to hunting small game such as otters and badgers.

The first Border Terrier was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1930.

Body Structure and Composition

The Border Terrier is longer-legged than some of the other small terriers. They are of medium bone and are narrow in the body, but do not have a delicate appearance. The skull is broad and the muzzle is short and squared. The V-shaped ears are set to the sides of the head and flop forward towards the cheeks. Border Terriers have a thick neck and level topline. The legs are long and “racy,” which gives the dog speed and a good length of stride. The tail is fairly short, starting out thick at the base and tapering towards the tip. The broken coat of a Border Terrier is coarse and wiry, with a dense and softer undercoat.

Medical Information

The Border Terrier is generally considered to be a healthy breed to due generations of careful breeding, but there are a few hereditary diseases that exist within this breed. Eye problems such as juvenile cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA, a degeneration of the retina that leads to blindness) can be present in some lines.

There are also some bone-related issues that can be problems for the Border Terrier. Hip Dysplasia, a condition in which the head of he thigh bone no longer fits into the cup provided by the hip socket, can cause arthritis-like symptoms and lameness. Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle”) occurs when the kneecap dislocates and surgery is required to correct it.

Some Border Terrier lines can have heart defects, epilepsy or Canine Eptiloid Cramping Syndrome (CECS, also known as “Spike’s Disease”). CECS is a recently discovered disease that is often confused with canine epilepsy, and there is no current test for the disease. Additionally, dogs with CECS will sometimes only have one episode, making distinguishing the disease from epilepsy or another seizure-related disorder difficult. There is no 100% cure for this disease, although many cases have seem to have been controlled with dietary changes.

The Border Terrier should be brushed every week and their coats must be professionally stripped twice a year, both of which serve to remove dead hair. This breed has a high tolerance for pain and often will not show signs of injury or distress, so be sure to closely monitor their health. Do not overfeed a Border, especially if they have a low activity level, as they have a tendency toward obesity.

Border Terriers are sensitive to anesthesia and can be difficult to induce. When in the market for a Border, be sure to locate a veterinarian that is familiar with the breed.

Anecdotal Information

The Border Terrier has been featured in many Hollywood Films, including Puffy in There’s Something About Mary and Baxter in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

More Border Terriers have won the American Kennel Club’s Earthdog trials than any other terrier breed. This contest consists of 9” x 9” tunnels dug underground with at least one turn, with a caged rat or rodent at the end; the dog enters the tunnel to seek out the cage and is judged on how quickly they find their prey.

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