Closeup of Border Terrier dog breed
Border Terrier dog
Border Terrier dog
Border Terrier
Border Terrier dog
The people-oriented Border Terrier is more laid-back than other terrier breeds. His size makes him portable, and he’s a great companion and watchdog for a moderately active family. Bonus: The Border Terrier is also very trainable. Although he’s not as flashy in appearance as some of his terrier relatives, the Border Terrier is still pure terrier, living life with great gusto, whether out and about with people or digging a hole in a flowerbed. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that he isn’t more popular, given that he’s one of the healthier purebred dogs, is less driven to hunt than most other terriers, and is fairly flexible about exercise. He’s robust, sturdy, and great with children, making him one of the top terrier contenders for a family pet.

The Border Terrier may be small — 15 pounds or less — but he’s neither tiny nor fragile. He’ll happily roughhouse with kids, and he’s athletic enough to keep up with anyone, which is why he’s one of the few terriers well represented at such canine competitions as agility. Border owners also compete with their dogs in obedience, agility, and the show ring.

If you want a stellar companion, give him the opportunity to get out and run, smell, walk, and play a couple times a day — preferably behind a fence or on a leash, because he’s definitely fast when it comes to chasing creatures like squirrels and neighborhood cats. The Border Terrier is a people dog who’s prone to make a lot of noise and a big mess if left to his own devices, so he needs to live indoors as a member of the family.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Border Terrier is characterized by his rough coat, “otter”-shaped head, and an “at the alert” attitude.
  • As a breed, the Border Terrier has changed little over the years, aside from becoming more consistent in appearance.
  • Border Terriers have thick, loose skin, which protects them from adversary bites.

The History of Border Terriers

The battle between farmers and foxes in the border country between England and Scotland called for a rough and ready weapon: the Border Terrier. Developed in the early 18th century, the fearless and implacable Border had a long, narrow, and flexible body that could squeeze through narrow dens in order to reach quarry. He could also run alongside hunters, following the foxhounds until they found the fox, at which point the Border would roust the fox out of his den.

Farmers treasured him for his stamina and willingness to take on the toughest of prey, but few other people took much notice of him: The Border Terrier wasn’t recognized by Britain’s Kennel Club until the early 20th century. The Border Terrier Club of America was formed in 1920, and the American Kennel Club began registering the dogs in 1930. The Border Terrier ranks 83rd among the breeds recognized by the AKC.

Border Terrier Temperament and Personality

The Border Terrier has a distinctive temperament to go along with his distinctive looks. When it comes to vermin, he has Terrier fire, but he’s also more malleable than most other terrier breeds. A Border who growls or stares at other dogs has the wrong temperament — he’s not supposed to be feisty or excitable. After all, he was bred to work in concert with foxhounds and other terriers, so it’s important for him to have an amiable attitude toward other dogs.

With his family, he’s affectionate but self-reliant. And he can be an escape artist! Thanks to his intelligence, good-tempered nature, and willingness to work, the Border can adapt to life in any environment, city or country, and is highly trainable. He excels in Earthdog and agility trials, plus he’s capable of therapy work in nursing homes and children’s hospitals. Some Borders have even been trained as hearing dogs.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

What You Need to Know About Border Terrier Health

Border Terriers are a relatively healthy breed. The most serious breed-specific health problem affecting the Border is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS), a seizure-like disorder sometimes confused with epilepsy. There is currently no genetic screening test for CECS, but several studies are underway to develop one. If your dog is diagnosed with the condition, visit the Border Terrier CECS website to find out how he can participate in the ongoing research project.

Veterinarians can’t predict if an animal will be free of inherited maladies, so it’s important to find a reputable breeder and insist upon seeing independent certification that the parents of the dog have been screened for defects and deemed healthy. The Border Terrier Club of America (BTCA) participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program (CHIC), a health database. For Borders to achieve CHICcertification, they must receive cardiac evaluations prior to being placed in new homes, as well as hip and knee evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the database, which can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.

Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop one of these diseases. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. And remember that you have the power to protect your Border from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Border’s life.

The Basics of Border Terrier Grooming

The Border Terrier has a double coat composed of a short and dense undercoat and a wiry topcoat. His coat fits closely to the body, like a jacket, and comes in a few colors, including red, grizzle and tan, blue and tan, and wheaten. To keep his coat healthy, simply brush or comb him weekly. Even in the show ring, he only needs a little tidying of his head, neck, and feet, although most breeders “strip” the coat — pluck out dead hair by hand — for a less scruffy look. The Border Terrier Club of America offers advice on grooming through its website. The rest is routine care: Trim his nails every few weeks, and brush his teeth for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Border Terrier

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Border Terrier Breeder

Selecting a respected breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome questions about temperament and health clearances, as well as explain the history of the breed and what kind of puppy makes for a good pet. Don’t be shy about describing exactly what you’re looking for in a dog — breeders interact with their puppies daily and can make accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

Lots of breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags to look out for: multiple litters on the premises, puppies always being available, having your choice of any puppy, and being offered the option to pay online with a credit card. Breeders who sell puppies at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

To start your search, check out the website of the Border Terrier Club of America and select a breeder who has agreed to abide by the BTCA’s ethical standard, which specifies that members not place puppies prior to 12 weeks of age, prohibits the sale of puppies through pet stores, and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances before breeding.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of a Border Terrier puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles (ideally working or hunting) that the puppy’s parents have, and whether the puppy is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. If you put as much effort into researching your puppy as you would when buying a new car, it will save you money in the long run.

Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Border Terrier may better suit your lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a good deal of time and effort before they grow up to be the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training, and he’ll probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Border Terrier Rescue or Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for a Border Terrier in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Border Terriers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Border Terrier. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love Border Terriers love all Border Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Border Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Border Terrier rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Border Terrier home with you to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Border Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, take your Border Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.