What are Border Terrier's like?
Border Terriers are plucky dogs with a love for people. They make paw-some pets even for a family, and can live almost anywhere. This easygoing dog is as happy to go hiking with you as they are content to stay inside cuddling you all day.
Cheerful and confident, Border Terriers make both beloved pets and hardy working dogs. Their affectionate and even temperament and their adaptability means that they are just as content living in a flat as they are in a country estate. As long as they get to stretch their legs and spend plenty of time with their humans, they’re happy little dogs. It also makes them a su-paw choice for a family dog, or as a companion for active older folk. They’re just an all-round good dog!
Considering they are a working terrier, Borders are a surprisingly laid back breed and usually just want to join in with whatever their humans are doing. That means your Border Terrier will be excited to join you for a run or a walk but equally would be paw-fectly content to spend plenty of time lazing on your lap and having a love.
Their nature and the fact they are not a high-maintenance dog makes them paw-fect pets for a variety of homes. They have pretty low grooming requirements, only needing a weekly brush and very infrequent baths. Borders also have bags of energy and character without being overly boisterous, and they’re more sociable with other dogs than most terrier breeds, so they make fun fur-iends.
One caveat though is that Border Terriers do have quite a lot of energy and a high prey drive. This means that you will need to provide plenty of enrichment for them to keep them occupied, and to prevent bad behaviour caused by boredom.
You will also need to keep your pooch on the lead anytime you’re out together, and they aren’t suitable for households with any small furries due to their strong instinct to chase (and kill) prey.
The history of Border Terriers
Border Terriers are one of the most pup-ular and oldest breeds of terrier, emerging sometime in the 18th century, making them a well-established breed. In 1914 they were pitched to the Kennel Club but were rejected, but in 1920 breeders tried again and were successful and the Border Terrier was finally recognised as a distinct breed by the Kennel Club.
Because Border Terriers were kept for hunts and pest control for decades, they weren’t pup-ular pets right away. It means that even today a Border Terrier must be “essentially a working terrier” who is active, able to follow a horse, and showing gameness. Gameness is a word used to describe the drive and desire to hunt.
It gives these dogs their prey drive, but it also means they won’t back down from confrontation should it arise. So if another dog starts a squabble, don’t be surprised to find your dog squares up to them. Generally, Borders don’t go looking to start fights, but there is a chance they’d end them.
However, despite their drive and zeal as a working dog, Borders are much more laid back at home. This is a dog that seems to understand that there are different times and places for different things, and in the house, they’re pretty easy-going.
Where are Border Terriers from?
As the name suggests, they originated in the land on the border of England and Scotland, and they could originally be found on farms and estates throughout the Cheviot Hills which form the national border. The region of their origin and utility lends itself to their thick, coarse double coat which helps to repel dirt and water to keep them clean and dry even on cold and drizzly days.
They weren’t always called Border Terriers though. Once upon a time they went by the names of the Coquetdale Terrier or the Redesdale Terrier. Again, these names are taken from the breed’s home turf. Redesdale is in west Northumberland in the northernmost part of England, and Coquetdale is the area around the river Coquet, also in Northumberland.
Although they don’t look very alike, the Border Terrier has shared ancestry with the Bedlington Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier which also grew up in those parts.
What were Border Terriers bred for?
The breed was developed to be a versatile vermin hunter. Their most common role was hunting foxes, rather like a Jack Russell Terrier. Borders are longer legged than most terriers because they were bred to have the stride and stamina to follow horses on a hunt. They were then used to “go to ground” and chase foxes out from their underground dens and lead them back out into the open where the hounds could begin the chase again. Because they needed to head into tunnels, the dog had to be small and flexible enough to follow a fox into their hidden dens.
Foxes weren’t their only prey though and these pooches were also used to catch rats and they were even used to hunt badgers and otters.
Because the Border Terrier was used on hunts and often kept in kennels alongside the hounds, these dogs were bred to have an agreeable temperament. Hunters wanted dogs that would know their place and not cause trouble with the rest of the pack, which is why Border Terriers are surprisingly sociable with other dogs when compared to other terrier breeds.
Modern Border Terriers
The hunting instinct does mean that the breed has moderate energy levels and a high prey drive even today. Borders are often used in earthdog trials, which are competitions to test the hunting instinct and ability of vermin hunting breeds.
Because of their genetic disposition to chase, it is advised that Border Terriers do not live with any other small animals, except another dog and possibly a cat, but only if the cat was in the house first and the dog was introduced as a puppy.
Their strong hunting instinct also means that they will run after anything they see on a walk, be it a squirrel or rabbit. Their desire to chase is so strong that many breeders and enthusiasts advise that Border Terriers are never let off the lead unless they are in a secure environment.
A secure environment is needed at home too, as these terriers are known escape artists. With a hound like Houdini, you won’t want to leave them unsupervised outside, not least because they are avid diggers, another trait stemming from their use on hunts.
Border Terrier stats
Female Border Terriers are a little smaller and lighter than boys of the breed. Regardless, you can expect your pooch to be over a foot tall and weigh about 6kg.
Here are the average statistics for a Border Terrier:
|Average Height (Withers):||33-40 centimetres||28-36 centimetres|
|Average Weight:||6-7 kilograms||5- 6.5 kilograms|
|Lifespan:||12-14 years||12-14 years|
Border Terrier facts
Favoured by famous faces
Plenty of celebrities have owned Border Terriers over the years, from Andy Murray and Eva Green, to David Walliams and Lorraine Kelly. Even James Wight (better known by his pen name, James Herriot,) had a beloved Border Terrier.
Watchful but not yappy, low-maintenance, trainable but independent, active but cuddly… The Border Terrier is a bit of a mixed bag and their balanced needs and affectionate paw-sonality lead many enthusiasts to claim they “Border” on perfection as far as dogs go. Back in 2012, Country Life called them the near-perfect dog. Paw-haps it’s subjective, but it’s definitely good to know if you’re considering bringing a Border Terrier home!
Owney might be credited as a terrier mix, but looking at photos of this prestigious pup it’s easy to see he probably had a bit of Border in him. Owney used to go to work at the Post Office with his owner and soon earned a reputation for guarding mail bags and bringing good luck to postal trains. The pup became the unofficial mascot of the US postal service, travelling through 48 states during his lifetime. In 1895, he even ventured on a global adventure with the mail, becoming an international celebrity. Wherever Owney went, people made dog tags for him, and he amassed such a collection that they jingled like bells whenever he walked and he had to have a special coat made to display them all.
Border Terrier puppies
Border Terrier puppies are prolific chewers, and owners should be warned that this isn’t always a trait that your dog will grow out of. The chewing will be especially noticeable when your pup is teething, so you should make sure that you provide plenty of sturdy chew toys for them to play with. Otherwise, they might turn their teeth onto the furniture.
Given their vermin-hunting instincts as a Terrier, you should supervise your pup with any soft toys or squeaky toys they own. They’ll enjoy ragging and “killing” the toy, and the squeak supposedly sounds like a dying rodent, so it will probably trigger their instincts and have your pooch doggedly determined to “kill” it.
Torn toys and removed squeakers are a choking hazard, which is why you should always supervise your dog with any toy and take away any broken parts or busted toys. Remember, there is no such thing as an indestructible toy, especially not with a terrier around.
When is a Border Terrier fully grown?
Your Border Terrier should reach their adult height between 9 to 12 months old. However, they don’t tend to reach their adult weight until a little later. Borders, like many dogs, tend to take longer to mature mentally and aren’t considered mature until they are around 18 months to 2 years old.
Many people ask at what age a Border Terrier calms down, and the answer is usually around 2 years and the time they start to fully mature.
Are Border Terriers easy to house train?
Like house training any dog, house training a Border Terrier will take time and patience. However, they are quite smart and eager to please so provided you are persistent, patient, and consistent then they should get the hang of things pretty quickly.
The method you use to house train your dog will also affect how long it takes to teach your pup to go to the toilet outside.
Border Terrier names
Given their salt and pepper markings and distinguished whiskered appearance, it can be more than tempting to give your Border Terrier a refined and gentlemanly name. You could also borrow a name from a few famous Borders, like Eccles from Coronation Street.
Border Terrier appearance
What do Border Terriers look like?
Borders Terriers are small and racy, and could sometimes be confused with a Norfolk Terrier. They have a dense, wiry coat that makes them look scruffy when left unstripped, and gives them expressive eyebrows, as well as a little beard.
They have a distinctive “otter” head which is broad with a shorter snout and round, dark eyes with a cheerful expression. They have V-shaped ears that drop forwards, and a thick tail that only slightly tapers towards the tip.
As the Kennel Club puts it, their appearance is that of “essentially a working terrier.” They have narrow shoulders and are very agile, which was essential for them to be able to follow a fox underground and drive it back out into the open.
Border Terrier size
Border Terriers are classed as a small dog, and females are a bit smaller and lighter than males. Your pooch could stand anywhere between 28-40 cm tall and will probably weigh between 5-7kg.
Border Terrier colours
There’s a pretty consistent colour palette when it comes to this breed. Border Terrier colours are pretty limited, and dogs are usually some shade of red or brown. Some pooches have blue markings, and this colour is sometimes so dark it appears black. Some Borders might also have a very small white star or flash on their chest.
Many Border Terriers sport a “grizzle” pattern, which is a coat pattern where a dog has two different colours of fur where the different coloured hairs are mixed together with no clear pattern or markings.
The standard Border Terrier colours are:
|Blue & tan||Dark grizzle||Dark grizzle & tan||Dark red grizzle||Red grizzle|
|Grizzle||Grizzle & tan||Light grizzle||Red||Wheaten|
Border Terrier temperament
Are Border Terriers good family pets?
Border Terriers do make good family pets for an active household. However these dogs are energetic and like rough and tumble play, so they might not be the best breed for any family with very small children. But usually, as long as the dog and child both know how to interact safely and are under adult supervision, they all get along paw-fectly.
Border Terriers love cuddles, playtime, and human company so they make paw-some companions that are sure to keep you entertained with their cheeky antics and cheerful disposition. Border Terriers are also quite sociable with other dogs thanks to their hunting background, as they were often kenneled with hounds and had to know how to live amongst the pack.
However, Border Terriers are not known for their friendliness towards other animals. In fact, their high prey drive means that even a squeaky toy isn’t safe, never mind a small furry creature. It also means your dog might try to chase any cat or squirrel you see on a walk, which is why it’s recommended that Border Terriers are always kept on the lead.
Although most Borders are even-tempered and gentle, this is not a dog suitable for a house with other pets like hamsters or guinea pigs, as the dog’s hunting instincts will take over.
Border Terrier enthusiasts will even admit that even the most well-trained dog can’t be stopped from going on a hunt, which is again why they are not a good choice for a home with other animals and they need to be kept on the lead unless you are in a secure, enclosed area.
Are Border Terriers good with cats?
Generally, no, Border Terriers are not good with cats because of their high prey drive and instinct to chase (and kill) other small animals. However, if you already own a cat and decide to buy a Border Terrier puppy, it might be a different story.
If your Border Terrier puppy grows up in a house alongside an adult cat, they will usually develop a respect for the cat and treat it like any other dog or human in the house. In these situations, Border Terriers do tend to get on quite well with cats. The opposite is not true though, as an older Terrier won’t tend to learn how to live with a new cat.
Are Border Terriers easy to train?
Border Terriers are usually pretty easy to train because they are active, smart, and very willing to please their owners.
However, these dogs are also quite independent and can have a stubborn streak like most terriers, which means getting them to obey you once they’re trained is another matter entirely. They will do what you ask, but on their terms and in their own time.
There is an ace up your sleeve though, Border Terriers tend to be very food-motivated. The breed is known for being quite greedy, so if they know there’s a treat and praise to be won they are usually very willing to work for them both. These Terriers are pretty sensitive too, so you need to remain patient and fair but firm throughout their training.
Some owners also think that a Border Terrier who lives alone tends to be better behaved than a household with several Borders in, as several living together tend to lead each other into mischief. In general though, Border Terriers are alert and biddable and their strong bonds with their owners mean they are typically easy to train.
Can a Border Terrier be left alone?
This really will vary between individual dogs because Border Terriers are both quite independent, but love human attention. As long as your dog is well trained and well kept, they should be quite comfortable with being left alone for a few hours.
Some dogs are content to be alone while their owners are at work. However, other individuals can develop separation anxiety because these pups thrive on human company. The breed isn’t especially prone to separation anxiety though, again, it’s very much an individual thing.
Puppies should never be left alone for long though because they require very regular meals and toilet breaks, as well as adult supervision to keep them safe. An adult dog will probably be fine with some alone time.
However, never leave your Border Terrier alone outside just because they may get into mischief, or make a bid for freedom given their escape artist antics.
What problems do Border Terriers have?
Generally, Border Terriers are a pretty hardy and healthy breed. There are a few uncommon conditions which they might inherit, but responsible breeders should screen for these issues before mating dogs.
Equally, there are a few problems Border Terriers have that are simply common to small breeds in general, such as luxating patella. So what problems do Border Terriers have?
Border Terrier health problems could include:
Many small breeds, including the Border Terrier, are more likely to develop certain joint problems including Luxating Patella. This is where their knees are predisposed to dislocation, due to the bow-legged nature of Terrier breeds.
There are many different skin problems and just as many causes. Border Terriers seem to suffer from sensitive skin issues more often than some other dog breeds.
Border Terriers seem to be prone to ear infections, which could be caused by allergens or irritants similar to many skin problems.
Make sure you regularly check and clean your pooch’s ears and if they seem to be getting regular skin problems or ear infections, discuss with your vet how to manage the condition.
Epilepsy and Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome
Despite the similar names and symptoms, these are different conditions. Although “Epileptoid” is in the name, CECS is not a form of epilepsy. However, both conditions result in tremors, seizures, and spasms.
Little is known about CECS but like epilepsy, it will affect the dog for life and episodes could occur frequently or very rarely.
Both are uncommon, but Border Terriers seem to be slightly more prone to epilepsy than some other breeds, while CECS only affects Border Terriers.
Colitis is an uncomfortable condition that affects the gut and could be acute (sudden and one-off), or chronic (long-term.) Colitis can affect any dog breed, but some breed clubs mention that the Border Terrier is a bit more at risk than most dogs.
Shaking Puppy Syndrome
Shaking Puppy Syndrome is a newly-recognised and uncommon condition which causes tremors in puppies at a very early age. It’s believed to be caused by an inherited defect, and there is no treatment.
Many puppies survive and tend to appear normal by their first birthday. However, affected dogs will sometimes have mild tremors for the rest of their life.
How long do Border Terriers live?
The average Border Terrier lifespan is between 12-14 years. However, plenty of dogs have been known to reach 17 or 18 years old. They’re a hardy and relatively healthy breed, so as long as they’re well looked after and fed a healthy diet, your pooch might live well into their mid to late teens. Either way, a Border Terrier’s lifespan is pretty good.
Living with a Border Terrier
Where can a Border Terrier live?
Border Terriers can live anywhere really. They’re a small, happy, and easygoing dog, and are just as content to live in a flat as they would a large house and garden. They don’t need acres of space to play in, as long as you provide them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and active.
How much exercise do Border Terriers need?
Although they are a relatively high energy breed, Border Terriers are fairly easygoing. They definitely need a good daily walk of up to an hour, but some individual dogs are content to have a shorter walk and would rather spend their time playing and cuddling their humans. Generally, you should expect to spend an hour of physical activity and another hour of mental activity.
Although they like to lounge on their owner’s laps, Borders were bred to hunt and have enough stamina to follow horses, so they can easily accompany you on an all-day hike and appear seemingly tireless. They have plenty of energy, stamina, and drive so you do need to provide them with plenty of exercise and games for mental stimulation.
Do Border Terriers bark a lot?
Border Terriers aren’t known to be big barkers, and are certainly not as yappy as other small breeds. They do make quite good watch dogs as they are very alert, and will probably bark anytime someone comes to your door.
A bored or lonely Border Terrier is much more likely to bark. Making sure your dog is used to spending time alone and has access to plenty of toys and activities to prevent boredom will help to hinder any barking caused by boredom or loneliness.
If you want to get a handle on their barking, you can train them to be quiet on command, which is especially useful if you and your pooch live in a flat and you don’t want to annoy the neighbours with any excessive barking.
How to groom a Border Terrier
Border Terriers are not high-maintenance dogs in the grooming department. You will need to brush their fur every week or two with a sturdy brush to keep their coat in good condition and help to remove any dead hair and dirt. You will also need to clip their claws regularly as you would with any other breed of dog.
One thing you will need to make a habit of is regular teeth brushing. Due to their small jaws and scissor bite, Border Terriers can be prone to some dental problems, but regularly brushing their teeth can help to prevent any trouble and keep that dreaded dog breath at bay.
You will also need to check and clean your terrier’s ears regularly, paw-haps once a month. Just give them a gentle wipe and check that there is no wax or dirt build-up, and that there are no signs of infection. If you need to, you could also use a cleaning solution every few weeks.
Bathing and grooming a Border Terrier
As a double-coated breed, Border Terriers can seem to have a self-cleaning quality. Their coarse outer coat is weather-proof and helps to keep water and dirt out of their undercoat, keeping them dry and clean under the surface.
You won’t need to bathe them too often, and usually a quick rub with a towel if they’re wet or dirty will remove any muck that’s still on their fur, and a quick brush when they are dry will get rid of the rest. You can give them a good wash every three months or whenever they are so dirty that they need it. Otherwise, Border Terriers really don’t need a lot of regular grooming except for a twice-yearly strip.
Your dog should visit the groomer at least twice a year to have their coat hand-stripped, or you can learn how to do it yourself. Hand stripping involves gently pulling dead hair out of your dog's coat using your finger and thumb, and although it might look painful, it does not hurt the dog at all. (Some pups even enjoy it!) However, it is a lot of handling and some dogs aren’t happy about it, paw-ticularly when it comes to cleaning their ears or backend.
Stripping their coat effectively removes dead hair and minimises shedding whilst keeping their fur in good shape, maintaining the texture and colour of their coat. However, some owners prefer the shaggy dog look and opt not to have their Border Terrier’s fur stripped.
Although it is tempting to have the dog clipped to minimise shedding, this will change the nature of their coat and dead hair will still stay on your Border. Borders need help removing their dead fur, such as stripping, and a clipped dog’s fur will have a completely different colour and texture, becoming soft and losing it’s wiry, weather-resistant and water-proof properties.
Their coarse outer coat also helps to keep them clean as well as warm by helping to repel dirt, so a clipped dog might need a little more time spent on washing and brushing.
However, some individual dogs might need clipping instead. This is paw-ticularly the case with any older or neutered dogs as these animals sometimes grow softer coats which can’t be stripped easily. Some dogs also might be uncomfortable with hand stripping, in which case, the groomer should assess if it’s fairer to clip them.
Do Border Terriers shed?
Yes, Border Terriers do shed but it’s surprisingly little considering they have a double coat. The amount they shed will increase twice a year as they change from summer and winter coats. However, they can’t shed all their fur without help, so you might find your dog rubbing against the furniture to shift their dead hair if you don’t give them a helping hand.
During the higher-shedding period, you might want to spend about half an hour every day brushing your dog with a deshedding comb or hand-stripping their coat to get rid of dead hair.
Regular bathing and a weekly brush with a stiff brush will also help to minimise the amount of hair your pooch sheds. But nothing beats hand-stripping when it comes to reducing shedding. Most groomers should be able to do this for you or you can even learn to do it yourself.
You book your dog in to visit the groomer twice a year to have their coat hand-stripped when they should be changing from their summer or winter coat. It’s a very effective way of minimising shed, but their coarse coat will grow back quite quickly.
Are Border Terriers hypoallergenic?
No, Border Terriers are not hypoallergenic. They do shed both fur and dander, so they might not be suitable for anyone who suffers from allergies. However, sensitivities can differ even between breeds, so it is best to spend some time with the breed of dog you like to see if they are suitable for you.
It’s also im-paw-tent to remember that even a “hypoallergenic” breed will shed some fur or dander, and that dog saliva is another common allergen. In which case, even those low-shedding breeds have the paw-tential to trigger an allergic reaction.
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