Border Terrier

Border Terrier dog breed

Though not particularly eye-catching in terms of looks, the Border Terrier is an ideal dog for all those who value a robust, adventurous companion.

Natural beauty

Non-specialists frequently confuse the Border Terrier with mongrels: this unassuming British dog only catches the eye upon the second glance, and then mainly due to its attentive and curious expression. Weighing up to just 7kg, the British terrier has harsh, wiry fur that offers protection from the weather. The fur comes in the colours red and tan, as well as grizzle and wheat. The Border Terrier has small lop ears and a striking flat, moderately broad skull with a short snout – the head shape is similar to that of an otter. The long, graceful legs indicate the terrier’s endurance.

Origin: border crosser on the hunt

The name says it all: The Border Terrier comes from the border between England and Scotland. The breeding objectives were originally solely aimed at hunting, with the dogs to have sufficient speed and endurance to be able to run alongside the horses. At the same time, however, they should be small enough to access narrow foxholes to force foxes out of hiding. An attractive or breed-typical appearance was completely irrelevant at the onset of the breed, since performance alone counted. Although dogs similar to the Border Terrier in terms of appearance can be admired in paintings from as early as the 18th century, the breed was not established until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1920, the Kennel Club officially recognised the breed. The Border Terrier population varies in different European countries. In Britain, for instance, they have always been frequently encountered up to the present day and are still deployed for hunting. Furthermore, they are considered popular family companion dogs. The breed is less commonly found in other countries, but has gained popularity in the last few decades. In Germany, the Border Terrier Holly belonging to the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has made the breed considerably more well-known.

Cheerful and adventurous

Things are never boring with a Border Terrier around, since they are always lively, fearless and up for new adventures. What’s more, they are cheerful, playful and intelligent and show neither stubborn nor aggressive tendencies. Although they bark a lot in order to show interest, they aren’t yappers. Since their hunting ancestors were deployed in a large pack and strife was undesirable, Border Terriers to this day still get on well with other dogs and prove socially compatible. A Border Terrier is curious and loves to check out hedges, undergrowth – or even the garden pond, since their past as former otter hunters makes them highly skilled in water. In combination with their hunting instinct, this makes good basic training particularly important so that the Border Terrier doesn’t develop the tendency to stray.

Training: for consistent beginners too

The breed is generally considered easy to train when one of the key training rules – consistency – is observed. The Border Terrier then happily accepts you as the leader of the pack – however, they will put you to the test from time to time, since they are used to making decisions independently as hunting dogs and therefore have a certain sense of stubbornness. If you want to let your Border Terrier off the lead, you have to make sure the little hunter can be called back without fail. This should be trained from an early age. A well-trained Border Terrier can be called back easily even when they spot a squirrel, but this does require a bit of training work. You’re best off attending a dog school with your puppy – here it has plenty of contact with other dogs, which will also help its socialisation.

Straightforward grooming

If you regularly pull your Border Terrier’s fur – consisting of undercoat and top coat – into shape, you’ve got a low-maintenance canine housemate that hardly sheds any hair. Border Terriers with few whiskers are generally easier to groom, as they have silkier hair that is less thick. Thoroughly brush the fur once a week and check it for parasites or alterations to the skin. Twice a year, you should trim your Border Terrier either yourself or take it to a dog hairdresser. Here clippers should definitely not be used, since they damage the raw hair structure. In order to clean your dog’s teeth, you can get it used to special dog toothpaste and toothbrushes from an early age. This grooming ritual prevents tartar. Equally, commercially available cotton knot rope toys are a good preventive method, along with nibbling at carrots or rumen. Keep an eye on the length of the claws and cut them if necessary. When doing so, don’t forget the dew claws, the so-called wolf’s claws.

Nutrition with a bite

Like all dogs, Border Terriers too are carnivores and therefore require a diet primarily consisting of meat. When giving out dry or wet food, make sure that meat comes at the top of the ingredients list. Protein quantity of around 20 percent is sufficient for an adult dog’s diet. Use the manufacturer’s specifications as a guide regarding quantity, but keep in mind your dog’s waistline: If it is now marked by little rolls of fat, you should adapt the amount of food accordingly. When it comes to snacks between meals, consider that these should be included in your dog’s daily allowance. You should always change the food on a gradual basis only, by mixing the new food into the familiar one. You can slowly increase the amount of the new food. Two meals per day are sufficient for an adult dog, whereas younger dogs should eat up to four times per day. Dry chews such as cattle ears or hooves from specialist stores are suitable for dental care.

Healthy insider tip

The Border Terrier’s rather unspectacular appearance has protected it from being bred purely for fashion purposes. Since targeted breeding commenced, quality rather than physical characteristics have been the priority. Thankfully, this has generally led to the Border Terrier being relatively free of breed-typical diseases in comparison to other breeds. However, a few dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, the ocular disease progressive retinal atrophy or cardiac illnesses, for which reason it is incredibly important to choose a responsible breeder, since targeted pre-selection can minimise the risk of these diseases. Furthermore, Border Terriers can be affected by canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS). The origin of this disease, which manifests itself through seizures, remains unknown. It is hereditary and mainly only emerges at the age of 2-5 years. Speak to your breeder about this disease and preventive measures. The little bundles of energy can also have a tendency to become overweight – keep in mind the daily food allowance and if necessary weigh portions on a daily basis. In good health, these robust dogs can live to be 17 years in age.

Activities in the woods and stream are the favourites

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the little legs: Border Terriers need lots of exercise. These nature dogs like being outdoors best of all. As working dogs, they need lots of activity – on a mental level too. Dog sports such as agility or dog dancing that combine movement with little tricks are suitable for them. These hard-working terriers also enjoy scent work. The breed’s affinity with horses should be highlighted, which is why the Border Terrier makes an excellent companion dog for riding. They will of course also accompany you when jogging or hiking. When riding or jogging with your dog, make sure to slowly increase the intensity of training so as not to over-challenge it. In any case, your dog should have already reached adulthood before taking part in endurance sports. As much as the breed loves activity, at the same time you should ensure that your Border Terrier can enjoy some downtime. Otherwise, the former hunter could constantly demand more and more exercise, leading it to become a hyperactive whirlwind. Training your Border Terrier to be a therapy dog could be an interesting addition to dog sport.

Is a Border Terrier right for me?

Despite its cute look that makes it attractive for people looking for a straightforward, manageable dog, the Border Terrier is only suitable to a certain extent for beginners or elderly people. The former should read up in depth on the necessary training work and seek expert advice on how to assert themselves in training matters when faced with the terrier charm. The latter should be able to offer the dog lots of exercise. The breed is well suited to sporty people who like to get out and about with their dog. You should ensure that the Border Terrier is well stimulated regardless of weather conditions – only then can one be kept in an apartment. The bigger the pack, the more at ease they are. This makes them good family or second dogs, because they have most company in such cases. These little dogs are also quick to find a place in their hearts for children. However, they can at times be very boisterous when playing, particularly in their younger years, which you should definitely bear in mind with small children. If you make your offspring familiar with the basic rules for treating a four-legged family member with respect, a friendship for life can blossom.

All family members should expressly agree to a Border Terrier entering your home before the big move takes place and should also be free of allergies. In case of doubt, ask your doctor. If you rent accommodation, clarify whether your landlord agrees to you keeping a dog and if this is not clearly outlined in the rental contract, seek written approval. Plan how you will handle future holidays: Will you dog be in good hands with relatives, friends or in kennels at home, or are you allowed to take it with you on holidays? Numerous hotels and B&Bs now welcome pets. With its manageable size and friendliness to people, the Border Terrier is fundamentally a suitable companion for walking holidays or the like.

Before you take on the responsibility for a dog that will keep you company for many years, you should envisage the costs: Along with the purchase costs for buying a dog from a breeder, there is the initial outlay in the form of bowls, chest harness or collar, lead, basket and blanket, car insurance and grooming accessories such as a brush and mild dog shampoo. Ongoing costs are incurred for high-quality food, dog tax and liability and visits to the vet, which can turn out more costly should your dog fall ill.

Where do I find my dream Border-Terrier?

If you’ve decided to make a Border Terrier your new housemate after considerable reflection, you can get started with the search. If you wish to opt for a puppy, you should be on the lookout for a responsible breeder. They stand out by their membership of a dog breeding association and adhere to its stipulations, which should offer you certain reassurance. The parent animals must pass some health- and character-based breeding examinations before they are allowed to be mated. Females should receive sufficient recuperation time between litters. A good breeder will let you get to know your dream puppy in peace at their home and will answer all your questions about Border Terriers and their particular breed. Puppies and parent animals should come across as cheerful, healthy and even-tempered. After the purchase, the breeder will happily act as your point of contact for specific questions about their charge, because it’s important to them that their animals have a happy life. With this in mind, it’s likely that they will ask you too a few questions about your experience with dogs, expectations and living environment. You can then be happy to have found a responsible breeder!

Don’t buy any Border Terrier puppies without a pedigree certificate – by doing so, you’re encouraging the spread of diseases in many cases. In addition, most puppies from such vendors aren’t well socialised and their parents live in loveless conditions. Although they may at first seem cheaper, these breeders focusing on quantity over quality earn more than responsible breeders who generally invest money, time and passion in rearing healthy puppies true to the breed type.

If you wish to give an older Border Terrier a home, you can also contact an association, since some breeders have to leave elderly animals from time to time or are aware of former charges who have lost their home. Associations specialising in rehoming terriers that occasionally re-home Border Terriers are another point of call. Of course, there may well be a Border Terrier in your local animal home just waiting for a new family, but the chances are low. It’s more probable that you will come across mongrels there, who may be similar in terms of looks and character but nevertheless remain a surprise package – which of course doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In any case, you should gather thorough information about the characteristics of second-hand dogs too. Rehoming organisations will generally offer in-depth advice to determine whether you and your dream dog are a good fit for one another.


We wish you lots of joy with your adventurous Border Terrier!

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