Border Terrier: All You Need to Know About the Fox Hunting Worker Dog

Last Updated on April 24, 2023

The Border Terrier is a small dog breed from the terrier group. Border Terriers are also known as borders, Coquetdale terriers, or Redesdale terriers.

They are cheerful, good-tempered, and have a high level of trainability.

Portrait of purebred Border Terrier dog

This article will discuss everything you need to know about the Border Terrier’s personality, its characteristics, and interesting facts. We will also cover feeding, grooming, training tips, and the history of the breed. 

Where Do Border Terriers Originate? 

The Border Terrier was first bred for fox hunting in the 1800s in the United Kingdom. Farmers bred these dogs to help contain the fox and vermin population on Cheviot Hills, between England and Scotland. 

This breed’s history on the border in Northumberland is how the Border Terrier received its name. 

Since foxes were quick creatures, Border Terriers needed to be quicker. These dogs were bred to have long legs to be agile and fast for fox hunts. They also needed to be small to snuff their prey out of fox holes.

The border between Great Britain and Scotland provided cold and harsh conditions for these small animals, hence the Border Terrier’s wiry coat and resilient nature.

The dense undercoat helps the Border Terrier handle any weather conditions.

The idea was for Border Terriers to work with other dogs like foxhounds to sniff out prey, which is why they get along so well with other dogs today. 

The Border Terrier is part of the terrier group. Its ancestors are the Bedlington Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

The Kennel Club in England recognized Border Terriers as an official breed in 1920. In 1930, the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the United States followed suit. 

If you want to gauge a working terrier’s hunting aptitude, you can do so by filling out an Earthdog test on the AKC website. 

The Border Terrier Club of America also provides hunting certification for Border Terriers.

What Does a Border Terrier Look Like?

Young Border Terrier dog in a sunny day

Border Terriers have an “otter head” – small and round with a short snout and flattish face. Their ears are V-shaped and small.

Their legs, which are longer than most other terriers’, are skinny. Their bodies are petite, too, with narrow hips and shoulders.

The Border Terrier’s tail is short and curved; the base is thick and tapers off at the end.

Their eyes are dark hazel color, their noses are black, and they have dark muzzles. These dogs have a straight, strong, and muscular topline.

Is a Border Terrier a small or medium dog?

Border Terriers are small-to-medium-sized and range between 12 and 15 inches tall (30-38cm). The females weigh 11.5-15 pounds (5.2-6.8kgs); the males 13-15.5 pounds (5.8-7kgs).

Border Terriers love the outdoors, but at such a small size, they can adjust to apartment living too. 

If you must leave your Border Terrier alone, make sure you leave some toys behind to keep him preoccupied. Border Terriers are plucky dogs, so you’ll need to take them outside for some playtime.

A Border Terrier will reach its full size at 12 months of age. 

What type of coat hair do Border Terriers have?

The Border Terrier has a double coat, meaning the soft undercoat has shorter hairs than the topcoat. These dogs have a medium coat – meaning their outer coats do not shed.

But you’ll need to maintain these with a weekly brushing. The coat markings have black dots and points. 

Their coat is wiry and weather-resistant, though fluffy underneath. In color, the hair of a Border Terrier can be a mix of blue and tan, grizzle and tan, red and/or wheaten.

Some Border Terriers have a small patch of white on the chest. 

Border Terrier Temperament: Are they good pets?

Friendly, affectionate, and adaptable to different living situations, Border Terrier traits make these dogs wonderful pets. The video below will show you how obedient and easy to train Border Terriers are. 

Since Border Terriers were bred to be working dogs, they are highly intelligent

They’ll learn new tricks and directions fast and will have no trouble concentrating during training sessions. Border Terriers score well in intelligence amongst other breeds. 

Border Terriers make great pets for families. Being small in size and affectionate, they pose no threat to small children.

These dogs are renowned for getting along with humans of all ages. They can, however, be overzealous if they don’t receive discipline. 

Border Terriers are also amenable enough to get along with cats, but you will need to introduce them as puppies.

You can also count on your Border Terrier to be friendly towards your other family dogs – even the larger ones. 

As a hunting breed, Border Terriers have a high prey drive towards smaller animals. They will attack other cats they’re not familiar with, so be wary of the neighbors’ felines.

Border Terriers are friendly towards strangers, however, and will only attack humans if provoked.

The Border Terrier’s personality is exuberant and bouncy. They love to play, run around, and jump onto laps if allowed. 

That said, these dogs will calm down when their owners do. They respond to their owners’ moods, so you’ll be influential in how they behave moment to moment.

Border Terriers can tolerate being alone for a short time, but they crave their owners’ attention. 

Do Border Terriers bark a lot?

If a Border Terrier gets bored or needs some love, he might bark incessantly. Beyond that, these dogs are not prone to barking.

They will alert you to an intruder but are by no means yappy. This makes Border Terriers good watchdogs.

Separation anxiety amongst borders terriers is common, as this breed thrives on contact and attention.

Without stimulation like toys and other animals, Border Terriers should not be left alone for more than 6 hours at a time. 

At a push, a well-trained border could manage 8 hours alone, but you’re likely to return to a massacred couch or holes in your garden. These little escape artists love to dig when bored.

As worker dogs, Border Terriers are by no means lazy. When bored, they might appear so, but you can solve this with some playtime or petting.

These are bouncy, excitable dogs who enjoy adventures like long hikes, as long as the journey is not too arduous. 

Since Border Terriers are so trainable, they don’t need much more than simple training methods. If provided consistent guidance and discipline, a Border Terrier will learn who’s boss.

Once they understand that no means no, Border Terriers are obedient and behaved.

How to Take Care of Your Border Terrier

Sleepy Border Terrier dog rubbed by the owner
Source: @thearchiebean / IG

Border Terriers are a low-maintenance breed, requiring little in the way of time and money. They require weekly grooming, though this is not time-consuming, and you can do it yourself at home.

Border Terriers also have a weather-resistant coat.

Exercising your Border Terrier

Border Terriers have high energy levels and require plenty of exercise. They need to have at least an hour of exercise per day, as they love to play and move around.

As long as your pacing is moderate, you can walk your Border Terrier all day long if you wish. 

Do Border Terriers shed hair?

Border Terriers barely shed without the help of an owner. This is why owners take to brushing their Border Terriers regularly. Thankfully, these dogs are hypoallergenic as well, so they won’t affect your allergies. 

Since Border Terriers are scruffy, they don’t take much in terms of grooming. They are meant to look understated. That said, owners will need a grooming kit that includes a natural bristle brush and a fine-toothed comb. 

Brush the fur in the direction it grows, and don’t apply too much pressure. The aim is to loosen any dirt or debris without scraping the skin beneath the fur.

After brushing, you can towel the dog off with a damp cloth around the underbelly to remove any dirt. 

You won’t need to bathe your Border Terrier unless they are filthy. If they happen to have rolled in some mud, simply rinse the fur with lukewarm water and apply and lather dog shampoo.

Make sure the shampoo you choose is for a wiry, medium-coated dog. 

After bathing, you can use a towel to try off your Border Terrier. 

You should brush their dense coat at least twice a week to ensure your Border Terrier smells clean. You’ll also need to strip your Border Terrier – the process of plucking dead hairs from the dog’s coat.

You can strip them at home or use a professional groomer. Border Terriers will be ready for their first stripping at 11 months old and every 6 months afterward.

If you plan to do the stripping yourself, do not use clippers as this will ruin the texture of the Border Terrier’s coat.

The safest method is to pluck the dead hairs away by hand or take the Border Terrier to a professional groomer. 

Border Terrier Food Consumption

Fully-grown Border Terriers should eat between one and two cups of high-quality dog food each day.

This will depend on the dog’s sex and size, so it’s best to consult a veterinarian on how best to feed your Border Terrier. 

Split the dog food up into two meals per day, in the morning and night. It’s important to watch out for signs of obesity, as Border Terriers will overeat if you give them too much food. 

If a Border Terrier is younger than six months, you should split their food into three meals a day. Feeding pups “people food” must also be done sparingly, as this can cause an imbalanced diet.

The best option for Border Terriers is a brand name, species-specific dog food. 

Between medical care and food, the average yearly cost of taking care of a Border Terrier is $400-$800. But this will depend on your specific dog’s needs. 

What Health Problems Do Border Terriers Have?

Lazy Border Terrier dog lying on the bed
Source: @brucethebp / IG

Though they are active, tough dogs, Border Terriers are prone to some hereditary health conditions. Many of these conditions are treatable.

The best method to manage the Border Terrier’s health is to ensure a proper diet, continuous exercise, and regular veterinary check-ups. 

  • Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) Or Spike’s Disease is a movement disorder that causes movement difficulties. These can range from episodic walking difficulty to complete inability to stand. CECS also causes tremors and dystonia of the neck, head, and limbs.
  • Fanconi Syndrome is the abnormal functioning of the tubules found in the kidneys. This is a rare syndrome that results in the passing of nutrients and electrolytes into the urine – rather than absorbed by the body. This disrupts normal metabolic function. Look out for symptoms like excessive urination and frequent dehydration. Early diagnosis is the key to maintaining organ health. 
  • Hip Dysplasia occurs when the hip joint and socket joint grow at unequal rates. This causes grating between the joints during movement, which can result in a lack of mobility. Early signs of hip dysplasia include decreased activity and decreased range of motion.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative disease that causes photoreceptor cells to deteriorate over time, leading to eventual blindness. Sadly, there is no known cure for PRA.
  • Juvenile Cataracts are opacities in the lenses of puppies’ eyes. This will keep light from reaching the retina, affecting the eyesight. If left untreated, this could result in complete blindness. 
  • Seizures are a common affliction amongst Border Terriers. There are varied causes, including metabolic problems and physical trauma, strokes, and organ failure. You can treat these with medication and keep it in check with consistent blood tests, to monitor the symptoms and side effects. If your border suffers from a seizure, do not get anywhere near his mouth. Simply try to prevent him from injuring himself until the episode passes. 
  • Heart Problems and Heart defects can affect the vessels or walls of the heart. This can lead to heart failure, which is a common cause of death amongst Border Terriers. Conditions like pulmonic stenosis (PS), ventricular septum defects (VSD), subaortic stenosis (SAS), and mitral valve dysplasia disrupt the normal flow of blood through the body. A veterinarian can diagnose this. They will listen out for a heart murmur to come to a prognosis. 
  • Allergies in dogs cause skin itching called “atopy,” which is common in Border Terriers. Red, itchy skin irritation in the folds of the skin and on the belly will occur, leading to your dog licking itself excessively. Skin allergies are easily managed with chronic medication, however. 
  • Malocclusions are the misalignment of rows of teeth, leading to an overbite or underbite. This may lead to the loss of some teeth or a wry mouth – a twisting of the shape of the mouth due to unequal growth. While some Border Terriers will outgrow their malocclusions, others will need to undergo surgery. 
  • Patellar Luxation is the dislocation of the kneecap, which can occur several times depending on the severity of the problem. You may notice your Border Terrier shifting his weight or slightly limping, then suddenly walking normally again. You can manage Patellar luxation with medication or with surgery if necessary. 
  • Hypothyroidism is the body’s inability to balance the production of the thyroid hormone. This will lead to a dangerously high metabolic rate, as well as dry skin, weight gain, a thinning coat, and increased sensitivity to the cold. 
  • Cryptorchidism is a condition in which the male dog’s testicles do not descend properly into the scrotum – which should happen by two months. Testicles are cryptorchid if they have still not dropped when the dog is six months old. This can increase the risk of testicular cancer. Vets recommend having dogs with this condition neutered. 
  • Retinal Dysplasia occurs when the retina develops abnormally and can lead to detachment of the retina. Sadly, there are no mild systems of this condition; the inevitable result is blindness. 

Health screening is crucial to identify any health issues with your Border Terrier. The earlier you can diagnose the issues, the better. 

You can do these tests with a veterinarian to identify hereditary diseases. Otherwise, the breeder should list them on the breeder’s certificate when acquiring your Border Terrier. 

The Border Terrier lifespan is 12-15 years. Since they are prone to heart defects, these dogs usually die from the effects of heart problems. Cancer and old age can also affect the life expectancy of a Border Terrier. 

How Much Does a Border Terrier Puppy Cost?

Three adorable Border Terrier puppies inside the basket

Border Terrier puppies cost an average of $800-$1200. You can find these pups for sale at puppy farms and pet stores. Border Terriers females generally have litters of two to eight puppies. 

When buying a puppy, be sure to check for hereditary conditions with the breeder. This should be on the Border Terrier’s certification documents. 

Find Border Terrier breeders

You can find Border Terriers on the AKC Marketplace. These puppies are cared for diligently and are healthy dogs looked after according to strict regulations.

You can also find breeders through the Border Terrier Club of America directory. 

Find Border Terrier rescue

If you’re looking to adopt a Border Terrier in need in the United Kingdom, you can do so through Border Terrier Welfare.

This organization has first-hand experience with Border Terrier breeders and owners. After adoption, BTW’s can provide assistance and support to new owners. 

If you’re looking to rescue a Border Terrier in the United States, you can find one through Border Terrier Rescue. In Canada, you can find Border Terrier rescues via the Canadian Border Terrier Welfare Organization. 

Curious about Border Terrier Mixes? 

There are three mixes of Border Terrier breeds, each as cute as the last. These mixes were bred in different parts of the world and for diverse functions.

Border Terrier mixes are small dogs and vary in color and temperament. 

Border Terrier and Affenpinscher mix 

Portrait of Border Terrier and Affenpinscher mix dog

This mixed breed, also known as the Affen Border Terrier, is fluffier than Border Terriers and was first bred in Germany to hunt rats. 

Border Terrier and Alaskan Malamute mix 

Border Terrier and Alaskan Malamute mix dog lying in front of the food
Source: @seeyouonthetrail_  / IG

The Border Malamute Terrier has pointed, perked up ears and lighter eyes than the Border Terrier. These cute mixes also have lighter, amber fur. 

Border Terrier Chihuahua mix

Portrait of Border Terrier Chihuahua mix dog
Source: @seeyouonthetrail_ / IG

The Chihuahua Terrier are miniature dogs bred in Mexico. They have smoother coats and are yappy dogs but possess the Border Terrier’s affectionate nature. 

Who Should Get a Border Terrier?

Close-up portrait of Border Terrier dog

Border Terriers are great options for first-time dog owners since they are so amenable and trainable.

Their affectionate nature is a great way to get used to your first pet, not to mention their being so friendly with other dogs. 

They make great watchdogs, but being so small in size, they may not make excellent guard dogs. The prey drive with Border Terriers can also pose a problem, especially if you have neighbors with small pets and cats. 

Overall, though, the Border Terrier dog breed is sweet, plucky, friendly, and loyal. If you have any interesting stories about your own Border Terrier or questions about the breed, comment on this post below. 

Further reading: Similar breeds to Border Terrier

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