Border Terrier: Powerful Hunter And Digger

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Border Terrier is a good-natured and alert dog who was originally bred to assist in foxhunts. Read more on this exceptional breed.
Dog Breed Group:
Terrier Dogs
10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
11 to 15 pounds
Life Span:
12 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The affectionate and happy Border Terrier was originally bred to assist in foxhunts by driving foxes out of their hiding places and out into the open for the hounds to chase.

Today, they are more great family members who are crazy about their family members. Some may still end up in the care, shelters, or rescues, so consider adoption if you already know that this breed is for you.

Border Terrier Quick Facts

Real name: Border Terrier
Origin: UK – Scotland / England
Breed type: Terrier Dogs
Weight: Male 13–16 lb, (5.9–7.1 kg), Female 11–14 lb, (5.1–6.4 kg)
Height: Male 14.17In-15.74 (36-40cm), Female 11.02In-14.17 (28-36cm)
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Litter Size: 2-8 puppies
Color: Red, wheaten, grizzle and tan, or blue and tan
Coat: Harsh and dense; with close undercoat

Border Terrier History

Near the Scottish-English border, old-time farmers developed agile terriers to help them with everyday tasks. Farmers especially needed help with sheep-stealing predator – the large and powerful hill fox.

This is why farmers need fast and active terriers with legs long enough to run with foxhounds and huntsmen on horseback. On top of that, they had to be small enough to dig into the fox’s lair and force it into the open.

These dogs, who are direct ancestors of today’s Border Terrier, were strong, energetic, and tireless, with weatherproof coat to protect them from the rain.

A breed historian described this breed’s working ability as “There is no wall he cannot get over or wire entanglement he cannot scramble through. Should the fox run to earth, he will bolt him every time, or stay the night in the earth until the matter is settled.”

Early breed names included the Redwater Terrier, Ullswater Terrier, and Coquetdale Terrier, all derived from place names in the north of England where these rugged little dogs plied their trade.

For this breed, the most important place in Northumberland, England’s northernmost county, where the breed earned its enduring reputation as a fox-hunter, adapted perfectly to work with hounds.

Early evidence of the breed includes a 1754 painting by Arthur Wentworth of two Border Terriers.

While the breed was prized in England’s border country for his fearless and implacable nature, the Border Terrier was little known elsewhere.

This breed was the first time noticed in the early 20th century. In 1920, he was recognized by England’s Kennel Club, and a breed club was formed.

The first Border Terrier registered in the United States was Netherbyers Ricky, in 1930. Currently, he ranks 84th among the 193 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.

Border Terrier Physical Appearance

Border Terrier is an active terrier of medium bone. The body is covered with a somewhat broken though close-fitting and intensely wiry jacket. The breed’s head is distinctive, and his temperament ideally exemplifies that of a terrier.

Eyes are dark hazel and full of fire and intelligence. Ears are small, V-shaped, and of moderate thickness.

Muzzle short, and darker tones are preferred. The nose is of a good size and black, while teeth are strong, with a scissors bite, quite large in proportion to the size of the dog.

The neck is muscular and long enough to give a well-balanced appearance. The body is deep and of sufficient length to avoid any suggestions of lack of range and agility.

Shoulders are well laid back and of good length, while forelegs are straight and not too heavy in bone. The feet are small and compact. Hindquarters are racy and muscular.

The coat is short and dense, covered with a very wiry and, in a way, broken topcoat.

Border Terrier Personality

Border terries are often described as friendly and rarely aggressive dogs. They may occasionally be stubborn because they were bred to hunt, so they are accustomed to having a path of their own.

They do great when they have something to do, like other dogs. For small size dogs, Borders are exceptional jumpers, so make sure that the backyard is well secured. You want to avoid a number of possible accidents. They are excellent in agility training, and they are extremely trainable.

Borders will learn new tricks easily and fast, as long as you provide positive reinforcement. They are intelligent and eager to please, and they are huge people lovers.

Due to their calm temperament, they are great therapy dogs, especially for children and the elderly.

Borders are occasionally used to aid the blind or deaf. Borders can adapt to different environments and situations easily, and they are ok with temporary change.

If raised with cats they will be gentle toward feline but may chase other cats and small animals such as birds, mice, rabbits, rats, squirrels, and even guinea pigs.

Therefore, keep your Border on the leash when in the walk, because you will have difficulties catching him.

As mentioned earlier, borders are loyal and independent, while some are known for being territorial and protecting their homes. Don’t let their size fool you. Because they will be ready to fight any stranger stepping into their territory, and they won’t mind being vocal.

They have a strong smell, and can always tell when danger is near. Borders are also great observers, and they love sitting and watching what is going on. Walks with Borders will often involve them sitting and lying in the grass to observe the environment around them.

Border Terrier Training

Just like with any other dog breed, early socialization is crucial when it comes to a well-behaved dog.

It’s important to expose your Border terrier puppy to new people, environments, and smells, once the puppy vaccination is complete of course.

When it comes to training, it’s important to start early, have proper training supplies, and have a lot of patience.

Borders love spending time outdoors. This is a small-size dog, but he will need two hours per day of physical activity. That time can be used for fun training sessions.

This breed may show stubbornness, but positive reinforcement and well-planned training should keep your Border active and eager to please.

Always use only positive reinforcement, and never aim to break the dog’s spirit.

Also, if you want a dog who will listen to 100% don’t get Border Terrier, because he has a personality of his own, just like humans do. Don’t forget that this breed can’t resist a chase and should only be off-leash in securely fenced areas.

Border Terrier Exercise

People usually believe that small-size dogs are couch potatoes. In reality, they are very active, and they need plenty of exercise daily.

Perfect outdoor time for your Border terrier would be between one to two hours, but a brisk half-hour walk or even better play session should be enough to keep a Border healthy and happy.

If you don’t have enough time for longer walks, think about hiring a dog walker. Because of their instinct to chase small animals, a Border Terrier must always be walked on a leash.

Due to the same instinct, the training sessions would take place inside a fenced-in yard or another secure area. This breed is known for lowing to dig. Since they are diggers, ideally, any backyard fencing will extend underground for at least 18 inches.

They also love dog sports, and are happy to participate in tracking, agility, earth dog, and lure coursing, and even flyball.

Border Terrier Grooming

The Border Terrier has a double coat: a hard, wiry outer coat over a soft, fluffy undercoat. This coat means that you can expect seasonally shedding.

A quick brushing every week or two should be enough to keep the coat in good shape.

During shedding season, you should invest a half-hour or so every day stripping out the dead hair, either with hands or with a stripping tool.

If your Border gets dirty, he will be easily cleaned up with a towel and a brush. Always bear in mind that dogs don’t need to frequent baths as humans do.

Nails should be trimmed regularly, and gums checked every week. Dogs’ teeth are a mirror of their health, so provide food that promotes teeth healthy.

Have proper grooming tools on hand and if you need extra help when it comes to grooming, think about professional groomer.

Border Terrier Health

Overall, the Border Terrier is a healthy breed.

Responsible breeders will always screen breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, heart problems, allergies, retinal atrophy, and even juvenile cataracts. Moreover, they will show you the documents.

You should be careful during the hot days. Some Borders are less tolerant of hot weather, and its a base for a possible heatstroke. To avoid this situation and similar, outdoor exercise should be kept to a minimum when the temperature gets above 85 degrees F.

The Bottom Line

Border Terriers are friendly, little dogs with cute faces and a big heart. They love being surrounded by their people, and they enjoy every outdoor minute.

Although they were working dogs for centuries, today they are true companions. Still, they don’t lapdogs, because they won’t fear anything or anyone to defend what’s theirs. Don’t forget that this is a TERRIER!

If you are ready to invest your time to provide your Border enough exercise, high-quality food, and a huge amount of love, next to health support, you may welcome Border Terrier into your home.

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