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Breed information

Group: Terrier
Life span: 12-15 years
Height male: 33-41 cm/ 13-16 inches
Height female: 28-36 cm/ 11-14 inches
Weight male: 6-7 kg/ 13-16 pounds
Weight female: 5-6 kg/ 11-14 pounds
Character: Affectionate, Alert, Even Tempered, Fearless, Intelligent, Obedient


Originally the Border Terrier was referred to as the Coquetdale Terrier or Redesdale Terrier from the area in which it evolved, but by the late 1800s it was generally known as the Border Terrier, probably because of its long history with the Border Hunt in Northumberland. It shares its ancestry with that of the Bedlington Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. It was recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1920, the same year The Border Terrier Club was formed. Their original purpose was to bolt foxes which had gone to ground. They were also used to kill rodents, but they have been used to hunt otters and badgers too.

The first Kennel Club Border Terrier ever registered was The Moss Trooper, a dog sired by Jacob Robson's Chip in 1912 and registered in the Kennel Club's Any Other Variety listing in 1913. The Border Terrier was rejected for formal Kennel Club recognition in 1914, but won its slot in 1920, with the first standard being written by Jacob Robson and John Dodd. Jasper Dodd was made first President of the Club.


He is an active terrier of medium bone, strongly put together, suggesting endurance and agility, but rather narrow in shoulder, body and quarter. The body is covered with a somewhat broken though close-fitting and intensely wiry jacket. The characteristic “otter” head with its keen eye, combined with a body poise which is “at the alert,” gives a look of fearless and implacable determination characteristic of the breed. Since the Border Terrier is a working terrier of a size to go to ground and able, within reason, to follow a horse, his conformation should be such that he be ideally built to do his job. No deviations from this ideal conformation should be permitted, which would impair his usefulness in running his quarry to earth and in bolting it therefrom. For this work he must be alert, active and agile, and capable of squeezing through narrow apertures and rapidly traversing any kind of terrain. His head, “like that of an otter,” is distinctive, and his temperament ideally exemplifies that of a terrier.


Borders are a generally hardy breed, though there are certain genetic health problems associated with them, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Perthes disease
  • Various heart defects
  • Juvenile cataracts
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Seizures
  • Canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS)

A UK Kennel Club survey puts their median lifespan at 14 years.


A sturdy dog with roots as hard farm workers, Border Terriers aren't as high strung as other terrier breeds. Their individual personalities can vary from confident and outgoing, to shy and timid, but all Border Terriers are curious by nature and will want to be included in all family activities. Their playful nature makes them great dogs for families with children.

Activity Requirements

Border Terriers can live happily in just about any environment be it an apartment, a house with lots of children, or a farm. They don't need an excessive amount of exercise, but should be allowed to walk several times a day and be allowed to run in a yard or park a few times a week. Yards should be fenced because Border Terriers will chase birds, squirrels and cats. Farmers like Border Terriers because they are very reliable ratters and keep foxes at bay. They enjoy challenges and new tasks, so they need lots of mental activity as well. Challenging toys or hide-and-seek games are right up the Border Terrier's alley.


Border Terriers are easier to train than their terrier counterparts. They can be stubborn but will focus intently on the task at hand, as long as the reward involves a treat. Harsh discipline should be avoided with this breed, as they will become unresponsive to training. Consistency, confident leadership and lots of positive reinforcement are the best formula for training a Border. This breed was designed by farmers and herders in the borderlands Scotland and England to hunt rodents and keep small predators at bay, and they made a reputation for themselves as being efficient ratters and fearless fox chasers. Modern Border Terriers still enjoy the hunt, so activities that involve “hunting” for toys and treats in the backyard will keep them happily entertained. They excel in agility courses and enjoy taking on new challenges.

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Behavioral Traits

Borders are terriers, so Borders bark at just about everything. When they are left alone for long periods of time without enough exercise or activities to keep them busy, their high pitched bark can drive neighbors crazy. Another terrier trait they share with their brethren is the tendency for aggression towards dogs of the same sex. They usually get along just fine with dogs of the opposite sex, but early socialization to be open to new situations can stop same-sex aggression from becoming a problem. Digging can also be a problem with this breed and if left unsupervised they can tear up a flowerbed in record time. They have also been known to dig under fences in search of new adventures.


Border Terriers' coats require some brushing and stripping. Weekly brushing will keep the coat neat and free of tangles and stripping (pulling dead hair out by the root) is required two times a year. Stripping can be done by hand or with a stripping tool, and a groomer or breeder can teach the technique. Full stripping takes only about 30 minutes. Some owners clip the coats of their companion dogs, but this makes the coat soft and less weather resistant. Show dogs should never be clipped. Baths should be given on an as-needed basis. Over bathing a Border Terrier can change the texture and weather resistance of the coat. Nails should be clipped monthly and teeth and ears should be cleaned weekly to promote good health.

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