Learn More About Border Terriers – Your Family’s New Best Friend

Learn More About Border Terriers – Your Family’s New Best Friend

Admirers of the agile and upbeat Border Terrier cherishes their breed’s reputation as a demanding, no-frills working terrier.  These happy, plucky, and affectionate dogs are popular pets in the city and country. The wiry coat is easy to take care of.

Border Terrier Origin

The Border Terrier Club puts the origin of this strain in the rugged countryside across the Scottish-English boundary sometimes, from the mid-1800s. The dog is considered among the oldest terrier breeds and was bred by farmers to hunt the foxes that killed their livestock.

Initially, the border terrier went by several distinct names, like the Coquetdale terrier and the Redesdale Terrier, named for the regions of their origin. From the late 1800s, because of the breed’s association with the Border Hunt in Northumberland (a longstanding fox hunt), the title border terrier stuck. The breed was acknowledged by The Kennel Club of the Uk in 1920 and by the American Kennel Club in the 1930s.

Border Terriers, rising from 11 to 16 inches at the shoulder, are easy to recognize among other tiny terriers by their distinctive head shape–the strain has an “otter mind,” as fanciers say. Another distinguishing feature is that they are longer in the leg than other small terriers. The wire coat may be grizzle and tan, blue and tan, wheaten, or crimson.

Borders are called “hard as claws” when working, but they are affectionate, good-tempered, and trainable at home. Borders love exploring outside and create fine childhood playmates. Bred to be nation puppies, Borders adapt well to city life–as long as they get tons of exercise. Borders likely to get along with other dogs, though their hunting instincts can be stimulated when cats or squirrels cross their path.


The Border Terrier should do well on high-quality dog meals, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared, with your vet’s supervision and approval. Any dietary plan should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting obese, so watch your dog’s calorie intake and weight level.

Treats may be a significant aid in training, but giving too many can lead to obesity. Find out which human foods are safe for puppies and which aren’t. Check with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s diet or weight. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.

Monthly Grooming

The Border Terrier has a double coat: A hard, wiry outer coat on a soft, fluffy undercoat. Like many double-coated breeds, the Border sheds seasonally. The majority of the time, a quick brushing each week or two is sufficient to keep the coat in a good state.

Throughout the shedding season, owners can expect to invest a half-hour or so daily stripping out the dead hair, either using their hands or using a rake or stripping tool. The outer coating repels dirt, but bathing settles this ability. Usually, a filthy Border Terrier can be cleaned up with a towel and a brush. Like all types, the BT’s claws must be trimmed regularly.

Outdoor Activities

Borders are active dogs and need loads of exercise daily. A lively half-hour walk or play session with his owner and a ball or flying disk should be sufficient to maintain a Border healthy and happy.

Due to their instinct to chase small animals, a Border Terrier should always be walked on a leash, and play sessions must occur within a fenced-in lawn or another secure place. Terriers are diggers, so ideally, any garden fencing will expand underground for at least 18 inches. Border terriers enjoy engaging in tracking, agility, lure coursing, and earthdog, in addition to canine sports such as flyball.

credit: Jeff Smith

Dog Training

Early puppy training and socialization classes are essential for Border Terriers. The breed’s parent club notes: “A Border was bred to think for himself, which is both his most endearing and most bothersome quality. Told to stay, he’ll oblige for what he believes enough time, then slide off about his own company.

Confronted, he’ll behave sorry since he wants to please. Punish him, and you’ll break his spirit. If you prefer an unfailingly obedient dog, do not get a Border Terrier.” Keep in mind that Borders can’t withstand a chase and should only be off-leash in securely fenced areas.

Medical Issues

The Border Terrier is usually a healthy breed, along with a responsible breeder who will choose breeding stock for diseases like hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, heart problems, progressive retinal atrophy, seizures, and allergies. Some Borders seem less adaptable to hot weather, so outdoor activity should be kept to a minimum once the temperature gets above 85 degrees F.

Recommended Health Tests:

Hip Evaluation

Check for hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the femur does not fit snugly to the pelvic cavity of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can happen with or without clinical signs. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both back legs. As the dog ages, arthritis may develop.

The University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP) or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or can be screened for hip dysplasia. Dogs that have hip dysplasia should not be bred. If your dog shows signs of hip dysplasia, speak with your vet. Medication or surgery might help.

Ophthalmologist Assessment

During an ophthalmic (eye) examination, a veterinarian may conduct various tests. These tests can help identify (1) issues with the eyes or (2) underlying diseases that may affect the eyes. Your vet may run the exam or recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist (an eye-care specialist) to assess your pet.

Cardiac Assessment

Heart defects of different kinds can impact Border Terriers, the most common of which is pulmonic stenosis, a narrowing of the valve that separates the heart’s ideal chamber from the lungs. If your Border Terrier has a heart murmur, it might indicate he has a heart condition that will have to be treated and monitored. Heart murmurs are due to a disturbance in the blood flow through the chambers of the heart. They’re rated on their loudness, with one being very soft and six being very loud.

If the disease is evident, as diagnosed via x-rays and an echocardiogram, the puppy may need drugs, a special diet, and a decline in the amount of exercise he gets. The best way to prevent heart defects is to check that the breeder hasn’t used dogs with heart defects in her breeding program.


Meaning that the dog’s jaws do not fit together correctly, are occasionally found in Border Terriers. There are three distinct kinds of incorrect bites. An overshot bite is when the upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw. This causes problems in grasping; in more severe cases, the lower teeth may bite into the roof of the mouth, causing severe injuries. An undershot bite is if the lower jaw extends out beyond the upper jaw.

Even though it’s standard in certain breeds, it can result in problems in Border Terriers and might have to be corrected with surgery. The last sort of incorrect sting his wry mouth, a twisting of the mouth caused when one side develops more quickly than another. It causes problems with eating and grasping. Sometimes, puppies grow from those incorrect bites, but when the bite has not become regular when the pup is ten months old, it might have to be corrected surgically. If this is true, wait until the pup has finished growing. Corrective surgeries may include tooth extraction, crown height discounts, or using spacers. Even if the bite is corrected surgically, dogs with erroneous bites shouldn’t be used for breeding.

Seizures may be caused by a variety of factors and can happen at any time. Indications of a seizure include sudden trembling or shaking, abrupt shortness, stiffness, staring, slight muscle spasms, or even a loss of consciousness. Seizures are not curable, but they can be successfully managed with medication.

Patella Evaluation

Patellar Luxation, also called “slipped stifles,” is a frequent problem in small dogs. It’s caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf)-are not correctly lined up. This triggers lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, like a skip or a jump. It’s a condition in birth, although the actual misalignment or location doesn’t necessarily happen until much later. The rubbing due to patellar luxation may result in arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four levels of patellar location, ranging from grades I, an occasional mutation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grades IV, where the turning of the tibia is intense and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This provides the dog a bowlegged look. Severe stages of patellar luxation may need surgical repair.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the body can not maintain adequate levels of thyroid hormones. Signs include thinning coat, weight gain, dry skin, slow heart rate, and sensitivity to cold. Hypothyroidism is a progressive condition. If you see any of these symptoms, have your pet checked by your veterinarian. Hypothyroidism is easily handled with daily drugs, which has to continue throughout the dog’s life. As this is a disease of middle age, asking the breeder about the thyroid status of your pet’s grandparents may provide you a better idea of if the issue happens in the breeder’s lines.

Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both testicles on the dog don’t descend and is common in small dogs. Testicles should descend completely by the time the pup is two months old. If a testicle is stored, it’s generally nonfunctional and may become cancerous if it’s not removed. When the neutering happens, a small incision is made to remove the undescended testicle(s); if any, the normal testicle is eliminated in the normal way.

More About This Breed

The Border Terrier isn’t for everybody, and before taking one home, you should be completely committed to carrying his antics in stride with an amused shake of your head.

However, Border Terriers are wonderful dogs that play hard and love more challenging for the right individuals. They are ideally suited to busy families that can give them lots of exercises and keep them from practicing their escape-artist skills.

Border Terriers need a securely fenced lawn to keep them secure. Given a lack of oversight and sufficient time alone, they will dig under or climb over fences to explore. They will escape through holes in fences, through open doors and gates, or by any other way they can find. In actuality, they are bred to have the ability to cross any wall or scramble through any cable entanglement.

The drive to chase prey is just another intrinsic part of a Border Terrier’s character. He will run right in front of a car in pursuit of a cat or bunny. A Border Terrier more tends to die in an accident than old, so be ready to protect him from himself.

It’s also important to stop boredom. A bored Border — one who is left alone for extended periods — becomes dumb and destructive. This isn’t a dog that does well left out in the yard daily. You will probably come home to find your neighbors lined up to complain about the barking (which is intended to be heard from 10 feet underground) and your lawn full of holes indicating your Border is well on its way to China.

To maintain your Border and the neighbors happy and your yard free of holes, give your Border at least half an hour daily of vigorous exercise. Besides keeping him amused, exercise can help keep your Border trim — this little breed is prone to obesity.

With their needs for companionship and activity fulfilled, Borders are happy dogs that generally get along well with everybody from kids to strangers. They will bark at noises, making them wonderful watchdogs, but do not expect them to be ferocious guard dogs if an invader enters your residence.

The Border Terrier can make you happy and cry and laugh some more. He addresses training with an independent soul, But he wishes to please. If you praise him for work done well, he will quickly learn anything you can teach. He can be a handful, but he is always the apple of His owner’s eye.

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