Meet the Breed: The Border Terrier



  • Height: 11"- 16”
  • Weight: 11-16 pounds
  • Historical function: Hunting foxes, otters, and vermin
  • Modern function: Family companion
  • AKC classification: Terrier

Physical Characteristics:

The Border Terrier is a small, brown, understated terrier in appearance. Some would say this dog looks like a mongrel, but that is the charm of the breed - it is simply a good, all-around dog that is not flashy, and does his job without fanfare. The head is flat and broad with an otter-like appearance. The coat wiry and is usually hand stripped twice a year to get rid of dead hair and maintain their fuss-free appearance. Coat color can be red, grizzle and tan, blue and tan, or wheaten with a dark muzzle. The hide of the Border Terrier is to be thick yet loose, ensuring protection and maneuverability when underground.  

History of the Breed:

The Border Terrier was developed in the border areas of Scotland and was bred to be small enough to get into burrows to flush out foxes yet large enough to keep up with the horses and foxhounds. The Border Terriers were invaluable in this service as the foxhounds were too large to pursue foxes underground. Border Terriers were also used to hunt otters, badgers, and vermin.


The Border Terrier is a thinking, self starter, so can be somewhat stubborn, but he is simultaneously eager to please. He is more moderate an affable than most terrier breeds, and responds well to positive reinforcement training methods rather than harsh discipline. Because the Border Terrier was bred to work alongside other hunting dogs, they do not exibit the tendency towards dog aggression that other terrier breeds may be prone to. They are active, cheerful dogs that make wonderful companions. Has a strong digging and chewing instinct so reinforce fence lines underground and provide sturdy chew toys. This dog is not to be trusted off leash as they will chase animals and cars.

  • Best suited for: Families that will keep this dog in the midst of activities, allergy sufferers, retirees, apartment dwellers. As a vermin hunter, do not trust this dog with small pets such as rats, hamsters, or birds. May chase cats and even kill strays that wander onto the property (because of the fox hunting programming), but will tolerate cats they are raised with.
  • Preferred living conditions: This adaptable dog will do well nearly anywhere provided he gets to be near his people, has plenty of exercise and has adequate sturdy chew toys.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Expect to hand strip this dog twice yearly to remove dead hair and keep them at their best. Sheds very little when maintained in this way. Bathe rarely.
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk.
  • Life expectancy: 15+ years.
  • Health concerns: Generally quite healthy but may be prone to hip dysplasia, Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS). Prone to weight gain so a moderated diet is required.

Breed Club Links: The Border Terrier Club of America. This site is very well done, and worth a visit. Perfect Pairings: Tough chew toys (preferably ones with chew guards in them!)

Have any stories about a ? Please share!

Photo courtesy of jlhopgood.

This entry was posted by Mary.
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