Category: Dog

Top 10 facts about the Border Terrier

If you’re a fan of this breed, these intriguing facts should be of interest to you. Enjoy!

  • Border Terriers have a double thickness coat
    This double coat protects them from the elements and sheds a small amount. It’s described as being “wiry”. To keep the coat in good condition, a special technique called “stripping” is used where the loose fur is pulled from the root.

  • Border Terriers are brilliant at Earthdog trials
    Earthdog trials are for Terrier breeds and are designed to test the working ability of participating dogs. A typical trial involves man-made tunnels which the dogs have to navigate in order to find the particular “quarry” or game that has been placed there. No animals are harmed in these trials. They are particularly popular in the US and Canada.

  • Border Terriers belong to the Terrier group of dogs
    The word Terrier comes from the Latin “terra” which means “earth”. This group of dogs have been used as hunting dogs and were trained to follow their quarry into burrows, sets and dens in the earth, hence their names.

  • The Border Terrier is named after his home region
    Border Terriers were developed in the border counties between England and Scotland, which is where they get their name from. Originating in the Coquet valley, these dogs used to be known as the Coquetdale Terrier.

  • One of the most famous Border Terriers was owned by the animal author James Herriot
    Herriot’s Border Terrier was called Bodie, and is credited with having made the breed very popular in the UK.

  • The Border Terrier’s most distinguishing feature is his head
    The breed standard for Borders states that they must have a distinctive otter shaped head.

  • The first Border Terrier to be registered with the British Kennel Club was called Moss Trooper
    and was registered as “unclassified” in 1913, long before the official recognition of the breed in 1920.

  • The Robson family in Northumberland is credited with developing the Border Terrier breed
    The Robsons were founders of the Border Hunt which took place in the border areas between England and Scotland.

  • The Border Terrier is described as being “game”
    This means these dogs have a strong drive to chase and hunt down smaller animals. So, they aren’t an ideal breed to have if you own small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs or hamsters.

  • Border Terriers were originally rejected by the British Kennel Club
    This was the first time breeders applied for it to be a recognised breed, back in 1914. However, the breed was accepted on its second attempt, in 1920.

Looking after an elderly Border Terrier

Do you have a Border Terrier that’s in his elderly years? You may have noticed your little dog slowing down recently or sprouting a few grey hairs. If this is the case, you need to be ready to make life more comfortable for your dog. Here are some useful tips for looking after a senior Terrier.

Knowing the signs of old age

Border Terriers have a lifespan of about 12-15 years, which is quite a long time. Since most dogs reach their senior years at about 75% of their lifespans, the Border Terrier is considered to be elderly from about 8-9 years old. It might be sooner than this or earlier, but you will notice some subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour when old age begins. For one thing, you’ll notice a scattering of grey hairs appearing on your dog’s muzzle and face. He will become less active, and will probably have a lot more nap times than he usually would. He may either lose or gain weight in response to this change in lifestyle. Deteriorating eyesight or hearing is also common, as well as a lack of bladder control. At this stage, the teeth and gums might also deteriorate. The Border Terrier’s usually dense coat will begin to thin out as he experiences some hair loss.

Keep your Border Terrier warm

Older dogs, especially small breeds like the Border Terrier, need to be kept warm when they get older. You might want to consider a doggy jacket for walks in winter time. If your dog shows signs of being too cold, for example if he starts to shiver, then it’s time to take him back inside. The cold is not good for an elderly dog’s bones or their immune systems.

Move the dog bed somewhere cosy

Now that your Border Terrier is in his golden years, it might be time to reconsider where he sleeps each night. Move his bed somewhere very warm, perhaps beside a radiator. Make sure there are no draughts in the sleeping area.

Take your Border Terrier for regular health check-ups

It can be very easy for misguided owners to dismiss the signs of illness and pass them off as the symptoms of old age. To be on the safe side, you should always bring your dog to the vet if there has been any major change in behaviour, appetite or toilet habits. Your dog could be in real discomfort without you knowing it and, in a lot of cases, your vet will be able to ease the symptoms with the right treatment.

Make your home safe

With an elderly dog, mobility problems and poor eyesight are common. So, you will need to cast a critical eye over your home and be sure that your Border terrier will be able to get around easily. For example, does he have to cross a large distance, climb steps or walk over a slippery floor to get between his bed and his food bowls? Eliminate all the obstacles you can think of and you will limit the chances of your dog having an accident. You might want to block off the stairs in your home completely, or even install a ramp if there is a single step elsewhere in your home, and put down a rubber-backed mat to avoid slippery floors

Health problems in Border Terriers

The Border Terrier is, in general, a sturdy, healthy little dog. However, like all breeds, there are certain health conditions which can be inherited in this breed. Here are the major ones to familiarise yourself with.

Hip dysplasia

Most dog breeds have a risk of developing this genetically inherited hip problem. It happens when the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into its socket in the hip joint. The condition causes lameness and can be very painful. Later in life it can develop into arthritis. The good news is that today’s breeders know enough about this condition to screen against it before breeding. But just to be sure, you should check with your breeder whether their dogs have been given a “hip score”.

Heart conditions

Some Border Terriers are prone to heart defects like pulmonic stenosis which is where one of the heart valves is narrower than usual. A heart murmur is a good indicator that a heart condition is present.

Patellar luxation

When the patella or knee cap fits loosely into its socket, this causes a lot of friction and pain. You might notice that an affected dog will stop mid-walk to pop the knee back into place. They may walk with a hop or a limp. They might have a bow-legged appearance. The condition is present from birth but often the symptoms won’t become apparent until the dog is older. Surgery is sometimes possible to treat it.


Seizures are caused by neurological abnormalities and can be controlled with medication. When a seizure happens, you will see your dog trembling, shaking and falling unconscious for brief periods. There is very little you can do during a seizure other than wait for it to pass. Regular seizures usually come with a diagnosis of epilepsy, a condition which can be managed but not cured.


When the thyroid gland is under active, it results in a condition called hypothyroidism. Weight gain, a dull coat, dry skin and a slow heart rate are common symptoms. A dog with this condition will need to be on medication for the remainder of its life.

Now that you know some of the most common health issues in Border Terriers, the best thing you can do to avoid them is to get your puppy from a diligent, responsible breeder who will only breed from stick that is completely healthy.

Grooming a Border Terrier

Border Terriers have a rough haired coat which needs special attention from time to time in order to look and feel its best. If you prefer not to spend money on professional grooming services, don’t worry – here are some useful techniques you can try at home.

Brushing your Border Terrier

About once a week, you’ll need to take a natural bristled brush and give your Terrier a thorough all-over brushing. If you don’t want your home to be littered with fur, you can do this outside, weather permitting. Brushing is good for the coat as it helps to spread the natural oils throughout the fur, making it look glossy and healthy. You can also take this time to do a quick check of your Terrier’s general health. For example:

  • Check that the eyes are bright, clear and free from discharge
  • Look at the ears to check they are clean and free from parasites
  • Feel the skin for unusual lumps and bumps

“Stripping” the Border Terrier’s coat

There is a technique used on rough haired breeds known as stripping, which should be done twice a year when the coat is in a state where it will “lift” (usually during a moult). This is when you pull out dead fur either by hand or using a special stripping tool. It helps the coat to retain its rough-haired appearance and also helps to reduce the amount of shedding that happens between grooming sessions. You can buy a stripping knife (a small comb with very shallow teeth) from specialist websites, and you might find a pair of dog clippers is handy to have too. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t try to strip your Terrier if he has just had a bath – the fur will be very difficult to grab a hold of
  • Use the stripping knife to collect small amounts of fur and pull it out from the root (don’t twist the fur or it will break)
  • Avoid the delicate area below the eyes but do the rest of the face if you can
  • Work your way from the head down towards the tail, taking care in sensitive areas like the armpits and undercarriage
  • Work carefully and if your dog shows signs of pain, you should stop
  • When you’re finished, the dog’s coat should look smooth and short as only the soft undercoat will remain

It’s probably best not to do this in winter as your Border Terrier needs his overcoat to protect him from the elements. However, in summer this technique will be a great help in keeping him cool. It’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to strip the coat if you don’t feel it’s beneficial. Many owners can happily live with the normal, rough coated look in its natural state.

Common mistakes made by Border Terrier owners

Apart from the usual doggy habits of jumping up and barking, BorderTerriers can sometimes misbehave in other ways. If this is the case, it is almost always the fault of the owner, and you will need to honestly ask yourself what is causing it. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

Reacting to bad behaviour

If your Border gets a reaction from you, or receives more attention (good or bad) when he misbehaves, then he has learned that this particular behaviour gets him the attention he wants. Instead, you should follow this simple rule: reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. Ignoring bad behaviour might include turning your back on your dog or simply walking away. He will soon learn that this behaviour is futile.

Forgetting to socialise a puppy

It can be so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind romance of a new puppy, but cuddling and feeding should not be the only things on your agenda. Border puppies need a large amount of exposure to different people, dogs and environments from a young age. This process is called socialisation and is absolutely vital to ensure that your pup grows up to be a calm, well behaved canine citizen. People who forget to undertake this process will only have themselves to blame when the puppy grows into a badly behaved, or reserved adult.

Not giving enough exercise

Physical activity is important for the development of muscles, bones and joints but it is also a vital source of mental stimulation. A well-exercised Border will be calmer, happier and much easier to discipline in the home. Giving your dog enough quality exercise is one of the most rewarding and important things you can do for him.

Forgetting to research the breed

Each breed is going to come with its own set of behavioural traits, urges and instincts. The Border Terrier has the heritage of the working terrier, with all of the digging, scent trailing and game chasing instincts this brings. Once you recognise these traits in your dog and where they come from, you will find it much easier to understand what is causing their behaviour and how to solve it.

Choosing a Border Terrier

Now that you’ve decided that the Border Terrier is the breed for you, it’s time to make some important decisions. You’ll need to well informed when it comes to choosing both your breeder and your puppy. Here are some tips for making the right choices.

Choosing a Border Terrier breeder

The right choice of breeder can make or break your future relationship with your dog. This is because a Border Terrier that comes from a reputable, responsible and caring breeder is going to have a much better temperament and will generally be in better health too. So, choosing wisely now can make your life much easier later on. Take the time to shop around and talk to several potential breeders. Look for those with good reviews online where possible. Speak to other Border Terrier owners to see if they can recommend a breeder. You can also search the Kennel Club website for a registered breeder or find your local Border Terrier breed club.

Asking the right questions

Once you’ve found a breeder you like the sound of, it’s time to give them the Spanish inquisition! Don’t worry about being forward – it’s more important that you find a healthy puppy. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Can I see the mother of the pups? How healthy/well behaved is she?
  • Have you screened against the common Border Terrier diseases before breeding?
  • How old are the puppies? (They should be at least 8 weeks old)
  • Have the puppies had any vaccinations, worming or flea treatments?
  • Are the puppies microchipped?

If the breeder is unable to answer your questions or they don’t seem to know too much, it’s your sign to look elsewhere.

What kind of Border Terrier do you want?

There isn’t too much variation in appearance within the Border Terrier breed, although the coat colours might differ slightly between litters. However, there can be a difference in temperament and physique between those which have been bred for field work and those bred as family pets. Ask plenty of questions about the bloodline of the litter and see if you can assess the temperament of the pup’s mother to see what you can expect. Ask the breeder about the energy levels of both parents, and whether they are good around other dogs.

Choosing a Border Terrier pup

When you go to pick out a puppy, don’t just look for the cutest one of the bunch. Pay close attention to the pup’s demeanour, physical health and personality. Make sure you find a pup that has:

  • Bright, clear and well-focused eyes
  • Happy, confident disposition
  • Responsive to loud noises
  • No signs of being timid or aggressive
  • Playful and energetic
  • Good condition coat and skin
  • Normal gait with no signs of lameness

Border Terrier History

Have you fallen in love with the Border Terrier? If so, you’ll want to know all about this spirited little dog and where he came from. Here is a brief history of the breed.

A British dog

The Border Terrier is from the British Isles and the breed was first developed in the 18th century. This makes it one of the oldest British breeds of all the “modern” dog breeds we keep as pets today.

Terrier blood

The Border Terrier is from the Terrier family of dog breeds. Terrier comes from the Latin word terra, meaning “earth”. These small, plucky dogs were bred for hunting, and their smaller size made them ideal for following rodents, foxes and rabbits into their underground burrows in order to drive them out. A lot of the Terrier breeds, like the border Terrier, were developed in England. In the early days of the Terrier, there were two distinct types: from Scotland came the shorter legged, rough coated Terriers, and from England there were longer legged Terriers with smooth coats. The Border Terrier differs from these two groups; he comes from the border between England and Scotland, and his legs are of medium length. The farmers of the border counties kept Border Terriers and trained them to hunt vermin and foxes – controlling their numbers made it easier to farm in these areas since it was safer for their sheep and, without these predators, allowed for higher numbers of small game.

Early Border Terriers

The Border Terrier was also called the Elterwater Terrier or the Coquetdale Terrier. We know that people like Lord Lonsdale of Lowther were breeding Borders as early as the 18th century. During their heyday, almost every farmstead along the border had one of these little dogs. These dogs were bred selectively for their hunting skills, with very little regard for colour or appearance. All they really needed was a good set of jaws for closing in on game and a double coat to protect them from the elements. The legs needed to be long enough to keep up with horses on hunts, yet short enough to allow them to enter burrows and dens.

Breed recognition for the Border Terrier

The Border Terrier Club applied for the breed’s official recognition in 1914 but the Kennel Club turned them down. Later on in 1920, they applied again and were accepted.

Border Terrier FAQs

Have you got some burning questions about the Border Terrier? Here are the answers you’ve been looking for.

What are some of the behavioural problems Border Terriers come with?

Coming from the Terrier family, Border Terriers have a few behavioural traits which they are known for. Digging is one of them. These little dogs were bred to follow foxes and rabbits into their burrows, and they often had to dig out their prey too. So, there is a strong instinct to dig which you will need to be prepared for if you are in any way proud of your garden. At the same time, Border Terriers are escape artists and they will be able to dig their way out of a garden that isn’t securely fenced. You might find you need to purchase some chicken wire for the perimeter of your garden fence, to stop your dog digging his way out in pursuit of an interesting scent. In addition, these dogs are bred to be hunters and so they may not be safe around smaller pets as they will feel the urge to give chase.

Do Border Terriers bark a lot?

The Border isn’t a yappy dog like some of the Terrier breeds. However, he can become a nuisance barker if he is bored, which usually happens if he is left alone for long periods. The bark itself is quite loud, because on hunts it had to be heard by the hunting pack over great distances.

Are Border Terriers good with children?

Border Terriers are great companions for children because of their small to medium size and their high energy levels. However, small children should be supervised because these little dogs can be boisterous and bouncy.

How much grooming do Border Terriers need?

The Border Terrier has a rough coat which needs to be brushed about once a week in order to maintain a good condition. Every once in a while the coat will also need “stripping” which is a method used for rough coated breeds where the dead hair is removed using a special stripping tool. As for bathing, your Border shouldn’t need a bath very often, and should really only be shampooed if he starts to smell or if he has rolled in dirt If you do need to give your dog a bath, make sure you use a shampoo that’s been designed for dogs, as human shampoos can be far too harsh on the coat and skin.

Can I keep my Border Terrier outside?

In general it’s not recommended. Border Terriers should be kept indoors within the family home, where there is plenty of warmth and human company. It’s true that in the past, hunting Border Terriers may have been kept in outdoor kennels with large numbers of other dogs, but today’s modern Border is really a house pet, and should be kept inside.

Border Terrier Behaviour

The Border Terrier is a spirited, plucky little dog that is usually well behaved when raised well from puppyhood. However, bad breeding, instinctual urges and a lack of knowledge in the owner can result in these little dogs developing certain behavioural problems. Here are the most common ones to expect.

Digging and escaping

The Border Terrier is an excellent little digger and like most Terriers he was bred to be able to follow small game like foxes and rabbits into their underground burrows in order to drive them out. When this wasn’t possible, he simply dug out his prey instead. As a result, the instinct to dig is quite strong in these little hunting dogs, and you will need to be aware of this if you are in any way proud of your flower beds! If it helps, you can provide your Border Terrier with a designated digging area in your garden so that he learns to avoid the most important areas. It’s important to be aware that a good digger makes for an excellent escape artist, and your Terrier will easily be able to dig his way under a fence if he wants to. In order to combat this, you might want to invest in some chicken wire to go into the soil at the bottom of the fence which will help to prevent any escapes.

Trailing scents

These little dogs just love to go sniffing after interesting scents, which is another product of their hunting ancestry. If you are going to let your Terrier off the lead in the countryside, you must be careful to keep him within your sight and to call him back if he is about to wander out of earshot Once these dogs catch wind of a scent they sometimes develop selective hearing and this can lead them to wander away from you if you don’t keep a close eye on them.

Prey drive

The reason that the Border terrier gets so fixated on trailing scents is that he has a high drive to hunt small game. So, you will need to be extra careful if you are near small animals, other pets and wildlife. Even with cats, you will need to be careful that the urge to chase and hunt doesn’t come over your Terrier.

Destruction in the home

If the Border Terrier is left home alone for too long he will probably get so bored that he will resort to chewing your furniture and creating a mess wherever he can. These intelligent little dogs crave mental stimulation and companionship and they simply aren’t designed to be left alone for several hours at a time.

Aggression with other dogs

Very occasionally the Border Terrier will become aggressive around other dogs. This is usually the result of having had bad experiences with dogs as a youngster. It’s absolutely essential that you give your border Terrier pup plenty of positive, rewarding experiences with other dogs while he is still at an impressionable age.

Are you the right person for a Border Terrier?

The Border Terrier is a sturdy, endearing little dog, but before you choose one over hundreds of other breeds out there, be sure to do your research. Here are the major signs this breed might be right for you.

You want a small dog, but not a lapdog

The Border Terrier is a fantastic size for people who are too frail to handle a large dog, and he is also small enough to be trusted with children. However, don’t let his compact size fool you! Border Terriers are not lapdogs and will not follow you around the house waiting to be petted. They are free-spirited and, like all Terriers, do like to be kept busy. They will really only want to settle down and cuddle once they have been well exercised and fed.

You prefer a “no frills” appearance

The Border Terrier has a cute, slightly scruffy appearance which no amount of primping or pampering will change. There will be no creative hairstyles or ponytails either! This is a no nonsense breed. He can however, be clipped and “stripped” to tame the wiry hair, and this can make for a somewhat neater appearance.

You’re looking for a sociable dog

The Border Terrier isn’t as feisty with other dogs as some of the Terrier breeds. This is a relief to many owners as it means he is well behaved and relaxed when meeting members of the local canine community.

You don’t mind a bit of digging

The Border Terrier tends to love a good dig in the garden. So, if you’re a fan of immaculate flower beds, this may not be the breed for you. However, if you’re prepared to sacrifice a selected part of your garden to let your Terrier indulge in a bit of digging, then you could make a good owner for this breed.

You like to keep active

He may have short legs compared to some breeds, but the Border Terrier can keep up with the best of the canine athletes. This breed was trained to be able to run long distances when hunting and keep up with horses. He likes to be active and run around sniffing out interesting scents. If you’re one of those people who prefers to be on the move rather than sit on the couch, you will love this breed.

You have allergies

The Border Terrier sheds only a small amount, so if you have allergies or you prefer a tidy house then this could be a good choice of breed for you. However, it should be added that no dog is completely allergen free. The best thing to do is to spend some time around Border Terriers before you make your decision, to see if this breed is a good match.

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