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Border Terrier

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Strong, feisty and durable, border terriers are highly active dogs with big personalities. They relish a copious amount of exercise and are easily bored. Owners must devote a great deal of time to keeping the dogs occupied, otherwise they can be destructive both inside and outside the home. But these affectionate chaps love people and can be wonderful pets if properly socialised and trained.

Which breed group is the border terrier in?

Breed group: Terrier

Border terrier breed history

This feisty breed originated in northeast England. Its ancestors are thought to include several different terriers including the dinmont, Bedlington and Patterdale. They were bred to help shepherds and farmers control the fox population and were evolved to be strong and durable so that they could cope with the bleak weather in the region. Their long, narrow and flexible bodies enabled them to access small holes to flush out the foxes while their long legs helped them to cope with following horses during a lengthy hunt.

Border terriers emerged towards the end of the 18th century. Their impressive stamina and tenacity made them invaluable to the huntsmen in the border country. However, the dogs were rarely seen elsewhere until the 20th century. The breed was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1920 and the first example of the breed was registered in the United States in 1930.

Border terrier breed characteristics

Compact and sturdy, the border terrier possesses amazing stamina. Their weather-resistant coat perfectly equips them for life outdoors while their loose skin is hard for prey to grip on to. The dogs possess moderately broad heads, short muzzles and narrow bodies. Their feet are small and their eyes appear alert. Their short tails taper at the tips and are carried high. The border terrier boasts a short, coarse top coat with a softer undercoat. Coats can be a variety of colours including red, wheaten, blue and tan, grizzle and tan.

  • Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Height: up to 40cm
  • Weight: up to 7kg
  • Long legs and bodies
  • Narrow bodies
  • Small feet
  • Loose skin
  • Coarse top coats
  • Dense undercoats
  • Variety of colours
  • Strong prey drive
  • Robust
  • Impressive stamina
  • Affectionate
  • Love to dog
  • Escapologists
  • Easily bored

Health issues with border terriers

Border Terriers are robust and durable little dogs. However, there are several genetic health disorders that are known to affect the breed:

  • Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Legg Calve Perthes disease
  • Juvenile cataracts
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS)
  • Various cancers
  • Cushing's disease
  • Seizures
  • Allergies
  • Sensitivity to anaesthetic
  • Heart diseases

What is the border terrier bred for?

This dog was bred to find, flush out and overpower foxes in the border country of northeast England. The breed was developed to feature the physical attributes required to cope with the lengthy hunts and challenging conditions. Those attributes together with breed’s tendency to fun-loving natures lend the dogs to agility competitions.

What sort of owners does the border terrier suit?

Affectionate and adaptable, the border terrier can be an excellent family pet but one which likes to bark and very loudly. This could upset close neighbours and makes the dogs unsuitable for life in apartments. This breed loves being with people and the dogs tend to be both characterful and mischievous.

Border terriers should be socialised with other dogs from an early age, otherwise they may be aggressive towards any dogs that they do not know. They require a significant amount of exercise and so are best suited to people who live active lives. These little terriers also need constant stimulation and will suffer from separation anxiety. It is essential that at least one member of the household is home all day.

Border terriers can become destructive when bored and love to dig up gardens. They are skilled escapologists which can dig their way out of almost anywhere and they will seek out any holes in fences or open gates. Their strong prey drive makes them poor choices for households with cats and small animals. Border Terriers learn quickly but this includes picking up bad habits. They demand a consistent approach to training and respond badly to harsh handling which could mean that first-time owners struggle to work with them.


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