Border Terrier

"The Purebred Mutt"

Photo of Border Terrier


One of Great Britain's original terriers, the Border Terrier descended from a variety of scruffy little fox-chasing dogs living along the border between Scotland and England. Possibly related to the Dandie Dinmont, the Border Terrier's long legs helped this small dog achieve the necessary speed for following fox hunters on horseback and helping ferret out the foxes after the Foxhounds had them cornered. Although a worker at heart, the Border Terrier began to make his mark as a show dog and pet in both Great Britain and the United States toward the end of the nineteenth century, and the AKC accepted the breed in 1930. Today, the Border Terrier is the 81st most popular breed.


The Border Terrier charms everyone he meets with his mild-mannered yet still terrier-esque style and tousled fashion sense. ‘Moderation' is the Border's buzzword – no one part is exaggerated, including his temperament, which tends to be agreeable, easy to train, friendly, and busy, but not in a tiresome way. Always alert, the Border will let you know when the mail comes, and he'll chase squirrels (and the family hamster if given the chance), but usually gets along fine with other dogs and even cats, not to mention children. Expect some vigorous backyard digging, and be ready to reinforce the fence. Border Terriers are clever at figuring out how to break free and go exploring.


A small dog on long legs, the Border Terrier has a head that is supposed to look like an otter, with a flat skull and wide-spaced, dark eyes. The Border Terrier's coat has a short, dense undercoat and a wiry, straight outer coat over thick, loose-fitting skin (for protection against vermin attacks). The coat should fit closely to the body, but if left unstripped it will look significantly shaggier. The Border Terrier's coat may be red, grizzle and tan, blue and tan, or wheaten, often with a darker muzzle. He always looks bright-eyed and alert, and when he's really paying attention, he carries his tail up.


If you think drilling the same command over and over is boring, multiply that feeling by ten and you'll know how your Border Terrier feels. Always willing to please, the Border nevertheless has limits, so keep training sessions short, fun, and interesting, change activities often, and always have a tasty treat waiting. Border Terriers will do almost anything for a treat (choose low-carbohydrate treats that won't contribute to a weight problem).

Grooming & Care

To maintain a true Border Terrier coat texture and look, dogs should be stripped about every three months, a tedious process of pulling out dead hairs by hand or with a stripping blade. Groomers tend to clip down the Border Terrier, which shortens but does not remove dead hair, and compromises coat texture, but this method may be more comfortable for older dogs and more convenient for busy pet owners. Also, trim nails and keep ears and teeth clean. Like all terriers, Border Terriers need regular, vigorous exercise, especially during the first few years. Hunting trips, walks in the woods, or explorations around the block will keep the Border healthy, busy, and interested.

Health Concerns

Generally healthy little terriers, Border Terriers gain weight easily so they should get enough exercise and a sensible diet without too many carbs or treats. Some Borders occasionally suffer from hip dysplasia, heart defects, seizures, allergies, and eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy (a degenerative eye disease causing blindness) and juvenile cataracts. Ask your breeder about these issues. Border Terriers also tend to be extra-sensitive to anesthesia. Mention this to your veterinarian before any surgery, including spay/neuter surgery.

Famous Border Terrier

Lassie's co-star, Toots; Puffy in the movie "There's Something about Mary;" Hubble in the movie "Good Boy."

Ideal Owner
Activity Level Moderate
Schedule Full-time but comes home for lunch
Personal Style Easygoing and casual, Friendly
Training Style Gentle, Creative and fun
Home Anything goes with enough exercise
Children Gentle and respectful kids
Experience Not necessary
Quick Facts
Size Small
Grooming Brush a few times a week
Exercise Moderate - needs to walk or play every day
Training Fast learner, Early socialization is very important
Temperment Goofy and playful, Intelligent
Challenges This breed has a high prey drive and tends to be a runner
Height 11 to 16 inches
Weight 12 to 20 pounds
Life 12 to 15 years
Home Alone Bores easily and can get into mischief
With Kids Excellent
With Strangers Cautious at first but okay with them if you are
Availability Rare and may have a waiting list

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