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Border Terrier

Popular for their natural, "scruffy" face and persistent nature, Border Terriers are alert, active and agile. Originally a fox-hunting dog, the Border is a fine working animal and companion.

Physical Characteristics

The Border Terrier’s long legs are crafted for the endurance, agility, and speed needed to run behind a horse through every kind of terrain. Its gait exhibits good stride. The medium-boned Border Terrier is also tall in proportion to its length, while its narrow body help it pass through thin passages during a fox hunt.

The Border Terrier's unique "otter" head is a typical feature, a reflection of its alert expression and temperament. Its skin is loose-fitting and very thick, thus protecting it from an attacker's bite. The double coat comprises a straight, wiry, outer coat and thick, short undercoat.

Personality and Temperament

The obedient, amicable, busy, and inquisitive Border Terrier can be independent, and is not fond of hunting. It has been bred to run fast in packs, making it is among the few terriers with this quality. Of the terrier group, it is the most tractable and friendly. If given an opportunity, it will wander.

A perfect companion for all, the Border Terrier is also gentle with kids. The breed also tends to bark and dig, and is prone to escape attempts. Usually the dog behaves well with cats and other dogs, but is not good with rodents.


Even though it can live outside in cool climates, this terrier is better when it has access to the yard and the house. The harsh coat demands weekly brushing and dead hair should be stripped four times a year so that it looks tidy.

As the Border Terrier enjoys activity, it should be provided with an adequate exercise routine such as a vigorous game, an off-leash expedition in a secure place, or a daily on-leash walk.


The Border Terrier, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, is prone to canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and heart defects. The breed may also suffer from minor health issues such as patellar luxation. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may conduct hip and cardiac exams on this breed of dog.

History and Background

Touted as among the oldest British terriers, the Border Terrier developed near the Cheviot Hills between England and Scotland. Originally, the dog was bred to chase and kill foxes that caused trouble for farmers. The Border Terrier, which was the smallest among long-legged terriers, had to be very swift to match the horse’s pace and yet be of small size, to dig out or follow a fox into its burrow.

The first record of this breed dates back to the 18th century; its ancestors were said to be associated with the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. The name Border Terrier was chosen in 1870, although it was sometimes referred to as Coquetdale Terrier. By the early 20th century, the Border Terrier had surpassed many of its earlier functions, and was valued as much as the Fox Hound during the gentry’s hunting expeditions.

The Border Terrier, which was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, still remains a favorite among hunters and has even become popular as a show dog and a loveable pet.

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  • My nightmare border puppy
    03/25/2014 10:03pm

    I read your intro when researching which puppy to get last year among others. For us, TEMPERAMENT was the most important thing. Six months after getting our lovable border terrier, I am still waiting for any signs of obedience and intelligence to come through. She is the hardest to train dog I have ever had and, believe me, as a sideline from my regular vet job, I used to treat dog behavioural problems and rescued and rehomed a number of problem dogs.
    We got her at 7 weeks from a reputable breeder, saw both parents and I have a well-behaved 7 year old crossbreed. My friend had a half sister from the breeder last year who was fine. I am at home with her most of the time.
    She has an attention span of a few seconds even now and doesn't seem interested in much, even food. Housetraining her has been a nightmare. Cookie's passions are chasing, yapping and play-fighting with my other dog. When you pick her up, she usually doesn't even want to make eye contact but she's quick enough to move if she thinks you are going to take a toy off her. I'm NOT giving up on her and we are now gradually making progress.
    I've heard various other similar horror stories from other border terrier owners I have met subsequently in the park and I am not writing this to whinge - merely as a warning to other potential owners that they aren't necessarily the best breed for an inexperienced owner. I do love her though and she does make us laugh - a kind of 'Cookie' equivalent to 'Marley' the Labrador!!

  • 04/06/2014 08:27am

    The lack of interest in anything, even food(!) sounds horribly unusual and sad, poor cookie, very different from the experiences I'm having with my two little puppies just now. Bracken a purebred Border at 13 weeks old and Benjie is a Border cross two weeks younger - and though they are amazingly different from one another in character and interests they are both madly devoted to food. Little Benjie is definitely the brainier boy, a positive infant prodigy; at 9 weeks he could already walk at heel on the leash and fetch a ball at request! Bracken finds walkies a bit of a challenge although he is learning, but the idea of fetching does not enter his head and probably never will; maybe he's not very bright. Then I see him reading all the smells in the air when we're out in the fields and remind myself that he's a dog not a schoolboy and has strengths of his own . . . Bracken does have a serious problem however. He is alarmingly timid about strange situations and moveable objects like doors, and has found it difficult to approach right up to the hand, even mine. He didn't have the best start in life, poor wee chap, but I have come across references to a timidity strain in some of the Borders and wonder if that's what is wrong. The contrast with super-confident Benjie could not be greater, and yet they came from the same unfortunate source and Benj is the baby. People warn against taking two pups together, but I'm really glad that I did. They play so wonderfully together and Bracken is so happy at home and gaining somewhat in confidence too. (As I was typing this he woke up and came hurrying right up to my hand, to belie what I'd just been saying about him!)
    If you have any experience of timidity, or two pups together, or anything in fact about Borders, yours included, I'd be happy to hear.

  • 07/28/2016 12:43pm

    I have had 3 Border Terriers and they have all been easy to train. Although they can be stubborn, they are quick to please. Mine have learned tricks in a day, especially if I use food as a reward.

  • My gorgeous baby border
    09/01/2016 08:13am

    My border terrier "Kaiser", is without doubt the best thing I have ever done. We chose the bread primarily because of size and temperament, but I also wanted a dog that knew his own mind. Oh boy, did we get that. He was difficult to train, or was he? I learned that he did know what was required, he just chose not to. Which I LOVE! He is incredibly lovable, gentle, playful, inquisitive. Yes I'm biased, but he is just perfect. He has even cured a friends child of her fear of dogs - what could be better.

    I am surprised Fran that your puppy is not interested in food, mine is driven by it. He will literally do anything for a treat. Maybe you just need to try different foods. We had a few stressful weeks when we first got Kaiser as he refused to eat kibble. It took a while, but we eventually learned that he loves par boiled and raw vegetables, especially red peppers and frozen sprouts bizarrely, so he has veg and 25g of mince twice a day, with the meat sometimes swapped for raw egg or oily fish. Our vet is constantly pleased with his general health and coat.

    As for intelligence, Cookie is probably just playing you as I found with Kaiser. At 5 years old, he is still not good off lead, as he wants to say hello to everyone we pass, and play with all the other dogs. So we just keep him on lead - he is still happy, and I am happy as I know he is safer. Unfortunately where I live there are lots of dog thieves. Training in the house was pretty easy, we just used training treats. I still use them frequently (no he is no overweight). Have a look at Nina Ottosson toys, they are brilliant, and really good for mental stimulation. Kaiser loves them.

    We have really made Kaiser a part of our family, he loves nothing more than play and cuddles. He hates it when we are all sat at the table, playing cards or whatever, because he is not involved. So as long as we are not eating, he sits on somebody's knee. Then he is quite happy as he is involved. He is incredibly affectionate, in touch with peoples emotions and constantly my shadow.

    He is the first dog I have owned and I could recommend the breed to anyone. Yes he was hard work at first, but I had nothing to compare him with, other breeds may be easier to train. Nothing would make me chose a different breed now, he is truly amazing, everything I wanted in a dog.

    Fran, I really hope you have made some progress, I notice your post was some time ago, but I would be interested to know how you are getting on now.



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