This is a work dog exclusively, very brave and strong-headed. Following a certain popular fad for the breed, the Border Terrier Clubs have fought to keep this dog’s hunting traits intact- he remains, as a result, a hunter. He is, however, very affectionate towards his owners and family. His biggest vice is that he gets into frequent fights with dogs of the same sex. He is not suitable for small children as he does not tolerate being treated like a ‘teddy bear’, and can react in unpredictable ways.
Key facts about the Border Terrier
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Origins and history
Originally hailing from the south of Scotland, from the Borders region which is his namesake, he is reportedly the result of a cross between an ancient version of the Bedlington, the Lakeland Terrier, and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. The breed was only officially recognised by the English Kennel Club in 1920, but is actually much older than that: it springs from a group of Terriers dubbed ‘working Terriers’. The Border Terrier took part in agricultural trade shows at the beginning of the 19th century, in the Borders county between Scotland and England.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 3 - Terriers
Section 1 : Large and medium sized Terriers
Physical characteristics of the Border Terrier
Female : Between 13 and 14 in
Male : Between 14 and 16 in
Female : Between 11 and 13 lb
Male : Between 11 and 15 lb
The coat can be red, wheaten, grey and tan or blue and tan.
Type of coat
The coat is medium-long.
The coat is dense and coarse to the touch, the undercoat is close.
The eyes are dark, with a very lively expression.
The Border Terrier is a very ‘original’ dog, on account of the shape of his head: strong and short, resembling that of an otter. The body, on the other hand, is rather slender and light. The skull is moderately large, the muzzle short and robust. The eyes are small and lively, exuding a very intense expression. The ears are small, v-shaped, and folded over, close to the cheeks. The limbs are straight, and have a rather dainty bone structure. The tail is moderately short, set high and sported cheerfully, but it should never curve upwards over the back.
Good to know
The border terrier is one of the most popular dog breed in the UK. They were once called Coquetdale or Redescale Terriers and we mainly used to hunt foxes.
Even if he is a work dog only, the Border Terrier can be openly affectionate (within moderation) with members of his social group, but will never stand to be treated like a mere teddy bear.
Very dynamic and rather jovial, this dog loves to play and is particularly keen on strategy games, which allow him to express his full potential. Warning- it is not advised that children be allowed to play unattended with this little, often unpredictable dog.
Calm is a state he can only find himself in if he has had his share of daily activities. Otherwise, he will certainly let it be known that he’s very bored (destruction, barking, etc.).
Work dogs are often more docile and clever than other types of dog, since they have the inbuilt skills needed to carry out very specialised missions as well as stay focused for long bouts of time. This is indeed the case of this particular dog, who is an excellent work partner to Man.
You can’t mention the word ‘terrier’ without thinking of a hunter, and the Border Terrier is indeed a very good hunting dog, originally used in fox hunting or as a companion to hounds.
Fearful / wary of strangers
With his strong character and his courage, this little dog definitely doesn’t fear strangers, with whom he would rather be curious and jovial.
Unlike most hunting dogs, and especially terriers, this dog is not very independent. He does, of course, appreciate his alone time, but must rely on his master a lot to feel fully at peace.
Behaviour of the Border Terrier
Finding himself alone is not a situation that this work dog prefers, though he can learn to manage it if he has been progressively and positively accustomed to loneliness, and especially so if this habituation has taken place from his youngest years.
Easy to train / obedience
The Border Terrier is a work dog, he does therefore absorb rather rapidly what is asked of him and takes great pleasure in interacting with his master if the latter is respectful, coherent and both firm and gentle at the same time.
Some basic discipline must be acquired from the pup’s youngest age in order to stop bad habits from developing. In fact, even if he is generally good-natured, his character remains rather strong, and without a strict framework, this dog could rapidly gain the upper hand and do as he pleases.
This dog is not a big barker. Even when he’s impatient and eager to go out and play with his master, he knows how to remain calm and not solicit attention in this way.
However, if left alone and dissatisfied, this little, generally sensitive dog, could start barking: in part to express his frustrations or, quite simply, to keep himself busy.
Tendency to run away
If he is not sufficiently expended or stumbles across an intriguing trail to follow, this hunting dog could indeed take leave. If he lives in the countryside, it is advised to really secure the home grounds’ perimeter by way of a solid fence.
Actually, even if hailing has been practised and mastered, you must retain that this in fact can never fully be the case with a hunting dog. That is why certain walks (in wide open spaces for instance) will have to take place on a leash.
When left alone for too long, it is more likely that this dog will take out his excessive energy and demonstrate the scale of his boredom by way of causing damage in the house. Actually, being the good terrier that he is, the garden will not remain unscathed by his digging either.
Greedy / Gluttony
The Border Terrier is gluttonous but not ravenous.
He can be a good watchdog since his intelligence and courage allow him to assess the potential danger of a person or situation. His small size, however, does not make him particularly menacing. It would therefore be rather futile to adopt him for this purpose only.
If you are a hunter, it is indeed a great idea to adopt the Border Terrier as a first dog. For the ‘average’ person looking for a companion dog, however, this breed is not suitable.
It will in fact be necessary to experiment and to have enough time and energy in order to meet this little hunting dog’s many needs.
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Border Terrier in a flat
He can live in a flat but that is not something that he is made for: the perfect habitat for him is the countryside.
You should never forget that this is a work dog, who will only feel good in his skin if he can express his full potential, out in the open, as often as possible.
A house with a garden where he can stretch his legs and take long walks in the woods seems to be the best possible setting for him.
Need for exercise / Sporty
A true and passionate hunting dog, and very enduring too (he can even follow a horse for several kilometres), he is best suited to owners who will know how to meet his needs.
Despite his small size, this dog possesses everything his larger cousins do, and requires much stimulation in order to remain content- both in physical and mental terms, but also in terms of his sense of smell.
Travelling / easy to transport
The small size of this dog allows him to accompany his owners everywhere. However, in order for travel to be a positive experience, it is important to socialise the dog towards humans and towards the various situations he might encounter throughout his life.
If, from his youngest years, the Border Terrier pup is accustomed to new experiences by his master’s side, prospective travel will be experienced more serenely.
Border Terrier and cats
This dog’s very evolved hunting instinct is, unfortunately, incompatible with the presence of a cat at home. Many exceptions do exist however, and even if it remains rare, cat and dog could develop a beautiful friendship and cohabitation if they have grown up side by side.
Border Terrier and dogs
This work dog is not very sociable, not to say an absolute lone wolf, especially with dogs of the same sex. The cohabitation of two males could turn out to be impossible, even if they are of the same breed.
A very thorough socialisation must be implemented from the Border Terrier pup’s first months if you want to have any chance at minimising potential damage.
Border Terrier and children
Even if he can get along with children and be a good playmate to them, it is best to limit his contact with infants who could (involuntarily) tend to be disrespectful of the dog.
At times unpredictable and somewhat aggressive in his reactions, this dog is not the safest bet for cohabitation with the little ones.
Border Terrier and the elderly
This dog is considerably too energetic and hungry for constant action to live with the elderly or with sedentary-minded people.
The price of a Border Terrier varies depending on its origins, age, and gender. You have to count an average of £720 for dogs registered at the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £20 per month.
The maintenance of this little hunting dog is not at all complicated, a few brushes a week will be enough to maintain the beauty and protective properties of his coat.
However, it will be necessary to take the dog to a professional for hair removal a few times a year. This is because the Border Terrier hardly experiences any hair loss or moulting seasons, he therefore needs to be ‘aided’ in the elimination of dead hairs.
Other than that, his ears need to be checked and cleaned regularly.
The Border Terrier is lucky enough to experience very little hair loss, even during moulting seasons, which go practically unnoticed with him.
Nutrition of the Border Terrier
A rather rustic dog, he is of the type that really prefers homemade or B.A.R.F food over kibbles. However, commercial food can satisfy his needs, as long as it is premium-quality.
Be cautious with homemade food as, being a very energetic dog, he needs a balanced diet that is well adapted to his daily expenditure. Veterinary supervision is recommended to ensure that he is neither malnourished nor overfed.
One portion a day is enough for a dog of this size, served preferably in the evenings, while making sure that he is not too active either before or directly after every meal, in order to avoid gastric torsion.
Health of the Border Terrier
The average life expectancy is estimated at 13 years.
Strong / robust
Rustic and quite robust despite his delicate appearance, this dog also enjoys a long life, generally over 15 years.
Very enduring and passionate when at work, this hunting dog can overcome the heat but it is nevertheless unreasonable to have him be very active during intense heat.
His double coat allows him to tolerate challenging weather without a problem, be it the cold of rain, since he is equipped with a dense coat and a close undercoat.
Tendency to put on weight
The large stores of energy this dog possesses leave no room for excess weight.
The Border Terrier is lucky enough to enjoy an impeccable health, his iron constitution and quality breeding have therefore shielded him from all hereditary disease.