The Complete Guide to: Border Terriers

Work-hard, play-hard Border Terriers are an affectionate, funny and excitable breed that make perfect companions. Tough and cute in equal measure, they are just the pet for people who love dogs but don’t want a high-maintenance breed. Here’s what makes the Border Terrier so special.


Border Terriers were originally used as vermin hunters. Small, robust and eager to seek out prey, they were the ideal breed for the job. As time went on, people started to use them on fox hunts. Rather than running with the other hounds up front, they followed the horses. Despite their diminutive size, they had bundles of energy to spare and could keep pace with the hunt. They were also small enough to scrabble into small spaces to flush-out foxes.

Just like other border breeds, they have a name-check for their place of origin, which was the border counties between England and Scotland. The name was coined in the 1880s after the dog achieved celebrated status in farming communities in their constant quest to control fox numbers. Locally, they were also known as Reedwater Terriers and Coquetdale Terriers.

Although terrier-type dogs have been around since at least the Middle Ages, today’s Border Terrier is easy to spot. They are characterised by their bravery and tenacity and will pursue their prey across and below ground relentlessly.


Compact and sturdy, the Border Terrier has comparatively long legs and a muscular little body. With a short, thick and somewhat wiry coat, they are perfectly suited to scrambling in the countryside - but that does put the onus on you to groom them regularly.

Their coat does shed, so you’ll need to brush them at least once a week. You’ll also need to strip their coat every few months, to get rid of messier hair and encourage healthy hair growth. When it comes to colours, Border Terriers are commonly seen with a white bib-like patch on their chest. Their coat varies in anything from tan to blue, fawn to red.

Cheeky, intriguing and plucky, their sparkling eyes, otter-like heads, and floppy ears are perhaps their most endearing qualities. Depending on the gender, Border Terriers weigh between around 6.4 kilos to 7 kilos when full-grown. And they can grow to around 15 inches.


With all their energy and an innate desire to seek prey, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Border Terriers could have a temper. In fact, they’re actually good natured dogs who love nothing better than to please their owners.

As with most terrier type breeds, they can sometimes get nippy if threatened, so it’s always safer to keep an eye on them with small children.However ifthey’re well trained, andtheir boundaries are respected, they make lovable family pets.They are an intelligent breed, so areveryamenable to training,yet with that innate terrier willfulness and tenacity, sometimes that training gets forgotten if they catch sight of something small and furry whilst out on walks!

Because of their enthusiasm and tenacity, they love to frolic and playand they can beextremely loyal and feel happiest when their owners are close by. This cuddly nature doesn’t always extend to other pets though, especially smaller ones. Their hunting instincts are more than likely to take over, so don’t expect them to befriend your rabbit!


Border Terriers don’t have much going against them when it comes to training. They will chew on things given half the chance, so that’s something to work on from day one, but generally, they’re easy to train and will enjoy the challenge, asthey just love to learn.

Due to their smaller size, they only need around one hours’ exercise a day too, however that exercise does need to be varied to keep things interesting for them. They are also prone to run off on walks, so investing in a good lead and keeping them on it is a priority.

Training Tips

  • Socialisation and crates – a general tip for any breed, but early socialisation and getting them used to their own company are two things you can try as soon as they’re old enough. This will help build their confidence and interaction skills with other people and dogs.
  • House training – chewing is one thing; toilet training is another. Border Terriers require a bit more work in this department than some other breeds. They’re naturally obstinate, so you’ll need to stay consistent. Positive reinforcement and lots of encouragement will help you get through this potentially painful period.
  • Scent tracking – feed their need to hunt with scent tracking activities. This will add variety and excitement to their lives and help engage their minds. You can do this outside, or even around the home building in treats and favourite toys. This is another way to reduce stress levels and any potential anxiety when you leave them at home alone.
  • Recall – Border Terriers are independent dogs, and they can also be great escape artists. That makes digging under fences to breakout and suchlike a common issue. So, recall training is a must. Rewards and accessories like clickers to help you train them will help you develop their recall ability. You’ll probably use that ‘recall’ request more than any other!

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