About Border Terriers.

Border Terriers are medium sized members of the Terrier Group, although still quite a small dog; they are valued for their good nature and gameness. They are bred as working animals but their adaptability and intelligence makes them active family companions. Each Border Terrier is an individual, and knows it.

The Border Terrier requires only small amounts of food. They are not fussy eaters but have a good appetite and will become overweight if overfed or not regularly exercised. On average they cost about £8.50 each a week to feed on quality dry food (which I thoroughly recommend - prices UK Jan 2015).

They are generally a fit and healthy dog with few genetic dis-orders (over-bite and under-bite in the lower jaw are most common) so veterinary expenses are usually low. Professional grooming will be required (circa £40 each time depending on location and ability of groomer), unless you learn to hand strip (see my book). And in between strips they do lose hair. I recommend a routine comb through of the coat at least every week.

Puppy prices can vary considerably from around £350 to £850, depending on the pedigree of the dog. Some very good pedigree Border Terriers with Champion parents and an excellent lineage may cost much more. Please make sure when you buy a puppy that you see the Mother and please do not buy from a puppy farm.

The Border Terrier is a fairly long lived breed and can expect to reach 15 years or more. Litter sizes can vary from 2 to 8, but the normal is 4 or 5. Borders have characteristic otter-like heads. with harsh, dense coats with close undercoats. They are primarily working dogs and look it. They are strong, active, keen of eye and all terrier (which means they are courageous and will dig; especially after rabbits and ground vermin that disappear down holes).

The Border Terrier first appeared in the 18th century and has changed very little since. They were used as working terriers in the English / Scottish Borders hunting foxes which preyed on livestock. Their appearance was never of great concern to their owners but their ability to go to ground after a Fox was, so they were bred to have strong jaws, to be well boned but not heavy and to have a chest with sufficient capacity but narrow enough to allow them to get back out of any earth hole they entered. Their extra length of leg enabled them to follow a horse over fairly long distances and they had to be there when when they were needed. During their history they were known as the Reedwater Terriers and the Coquetdale Terriers but nowadays are referred to only as Border Terriers. They are still working terriers in the countryside but in urban areas are mainly family companions. Bitches are regarded as better working dogs. Both sexes are very good river swimmers.

Border Terriers are a complex mix of many other terriers and it is possible that far back even working Collies "had a look in." It should therefore not be surprising to see so many different variants all called Border Terriers. In the same litter there will often be a mix of colours. A good Blue and Tan will look very different from the more common Wheaten or Tan variants while red wheatens are quite rare. It is this tremendous range of different types of terrier along with a mix of "other dogs" that gives the Border Terrier its character and spirit.

They are very intelligent and trainable; but they are independent dogs so require firmness and patience in their training which should start early. If cuddled, fussed and over fondled as puppies they will become very "soppy" with their owners as they reach adulthood and overly defensive when outside the home environment. 


The head of the Border should be broad with a short, strong muzzle (and as mentioned before a bit Otter like). The mouth should have a scissor bite (overshot or undershot bottom jaws can occur and maybe problematical). The nose should preferably be black but liver or flesh coloured ones are tolerable. The eyes should be dark with a keen expression and the ears small, v-shaped and dropping forward, close to the cheek (although some may have slightly longer ears). The neck should be of moderate length and the body should be deep, narrow and fairly long. The legs are moderately long, not heavily-boned and feet are small with thick pads. The tail should be not too long, set high and carried gaily and happily. The coat is harsh and dense with a close undercoat and the skin must be thick. The preferred colours for the show-ring are red, wheaten, grizzle and tan or blue and tan.

I can tell you that the Border Terrier is an affectionate, fun-loving dog. They are brave, adaptable and good with people, especially with old people and children. They are often used as "Well Being" dogs used to visit care homes and hospices. 


They are reliably easygoing but have independent natures and like to make their own decisions. They love to chase Rabbits, Squirrels, birds etc. but will live in harmony with other household pets if the other pets are there first. Do not try and introduce Cats or Rabbits once a Border Terrier has arrived at your home because your trusted friend will display his hunting and killing instincts which supported by his territorial defence instinct will turn him / her into a murderer.

They are equally at home in the town or country and as you may have guessed are very adaptable. Puppies may go through a shy phase in their new homes and it is particularly important to ensure that they are adequately socialised with humans and other animals especially dogs, (but not over fondled - see above) as soon as possible after they arrive home and continuously until they are adults.

If you intend taking your new baby in the car as an adult, take your new baby out every other day for short trips. There will be accidents to start with so be prepared (baby wipes and small food bags are excellent - and I recommend you keep some in the car all the time even when your friend is grown-up).

Borders mostly have quite long coats if left to grow naturally. The short coat is only maintained by weekly stripping (or 'rolling') which can be quite time consuming and there is a technique involved. A specialist groomer is required until this has been learnt (see my book). A puppy can be left unstripped until the coat is 'blown', usually at about 6 to 7 months of age for a tan or wheaten and about 8 to 9 months for a blue & tan, but it will then need a full hand strip. 


Clippers must not be used on the first strip as the under coat will grow quicker than the outer and you will have taught the the coat to be fluffy and soft (still recoverable but over a period of 18 months). The Border Terrier coat becomes "mature" around the age of three.  A full strip by hand  can take 2/3 hours. 

Eyes, ears and teeth should be checked regularly and check your friends "undercarriage" and legs once in awhile for ticks, cuts and scratches; bad cuts should be seen by a vet straight away. If you let "him" loose in the country side be warned that his hunting instinct will take over on sight or smell of catchable prey - this will on every occasion override your command until the chase is over (quickly with rabbits - longer with foxes and birds): you've been warned. As part of this warning, Border Terriers no matter how old or wise they become, never learn that roads are dangerous places and will chase a Cat across a road without fear. They can be obedience trained but their hunt instinct is strong in the face of prey.

The Border Terrier comes in a variety of colours including red, wheaten, grizzle and tan, or blue and tan; and is a moderate coat shedder. As I've said previously Border Terriers do need hand stripping (or clipping for older dogs - see my book) at least twice a year and in between they will shed hair so you will need a pet hair vacuum cleaner. 

It seems there are a few warnings, but this should not deter you, simply recognise his basic character and instincts, help shape his personality and love and look after him. You'll never have a better friend or a more loyal companion.