Border Terrier

Table of Contents

border terrier portrait
Welcome to the world of the Border Terrier, a breed that packs big personality in a small package! Known for their otter-like faces and robust nature, these tenacious yet affectionate dogs are adventurers at heart.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

If you’re an active individual or family who loves outdoor escapades, the Border Terrier could be your perfect match! These dogs thrive in energetic environments and adore being part of the action. Their friendly disposition and unwavering loyalty make them a fantastic choice for those seeking a canine companion with gusto!


ORIGINUnited Kingdom
BREED GROUPTerrier Group
HEIGHT12-15 inches
WEIGHT11.5-15.5 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
border terrier walking at a park
Photo: RebaSpike/Pixabay


The Border Terrier is an irresistible bundle of charm and vitality. Don’t be fooled by their small stature – these dogs are sturdy and well-proportioned. Weighing in at around 15 pounds and standing approximately 12 to 15 inches tall, they might be small, but they’re certainly not delicate.

The first thing you’ll notice about a Border Terrier is their captivating otter-like face. It’s one of their most distinctive features, setting them apart from other breeds. Their skull is moderately broad and flat, framed by a pair of alert, dark eyes that sparkle with curiosity and intelligence.

Their V-shaped ears are set to the sides of their head, falling towards their cheeks, adding to their overall adorable appearance. The space between the eyes is relatively wide, giving them an endearing expression that’s hard to resist.

Border Terriers have a short, dense undercoat covered with a wiry topcoat. This double coat is designed to withstand all types of weather, making them perfect companions for outdoor adventures. They shed seasonally, so regular grooming will keep their coat looking its best.

Their bodies, though narrow, are robust and muscular. These dogs were originally bred for fox-hunting, so they’re tougher than they look! Their strong, medium-boned body can effortlessly navigate through rough terrains, making them excellent companions for those who love nature walks and hikes.

A Border Terrier’s tail is moderately short, thick at the base and tapering to a point. It’s carried gaily when the dog is excited, but never curled over the back. The tail’s position often mirrors their mood, wagging enthusiastically in moments of joy or excitement.

Their skin is thick and loose, which was historically useful for protection during their fox-hunting days. Today, it contributes to their rugged, rustic appeal.

In essence, the Border Terrier is a delightful blend of strength, agility, and charm. Whether you’re a seasoned dog owner or a first-time pet parent, you’re sure to fall in love with this breed’s endearing looks and lively spirit.

border terrier walking at a park
Photo: RebaSpike/Pixabay


The Border Terrier, with its otter-like face and wiry coat, is not only a visual delight but also a treasure trove of personality. These dogs are known for their vibrant spirit, endearing charm and an infectious zest for life that’s hard to resist.

At the heart of a Border Terrier lies an adventurer, eager to explore the world around them. They’re curious and intelligent, often using their sharp minds to solve problems or seek out new experiences. This makes them interesting companions, as there’s never a dull moment with a Border Terrier around.

Despite their adventurous streak, Border Terriers are also known for their loyalty and affectionate nature. They form strong bonds with their human families and love nothing more than spending time with their loved ones. Whether it’s cuddling on the couch or playing fetch in the garden, these dogs cherish every moment spent with their people.

Border Terriers are also incredibly sociable. They get along well with other dogs and enjoy making new friends, both canine and human. Their friendly disposition makes them the life of the party, always ready to greet everyone with a wagging tail and a joyful bark.

However, don’t let their friendliness fool you. Border Terriers are also quite tenacious and bold. They were originally bred for fox hunting, which required them to be brave and persistent. These traits are still evident in the breed today, making them determined and sometimes stubborn.

But, their undeniable charm and loveable character easily make up for any stubbornness. They have a way of winning hearts with their expressive eyes, playful antics and unwavering loyalty. Their cheerful demeanor can lighten up even the gloomiest of days, making them wonderful companions to come home to.

While they’re generally good-natured, Border Terriers also have a sensitive side. They respond best to positive reinforcement and gentle handling. Harsh words or treatment can hurt their feelings and may lead to behavioral issues. Therefore, patience and understanding are key when dealing with these sensitive souls.

One unique trait of the Border Terrier is their ‘talkative’ nature. They’re known to make a variety of sounds, from barks and howls to grumbles and purrs, to express their feelings. This makes them quite communicative, often ‘talking’ to their owners about their day or their needs.

border terrier running at an open field
Photo: Carmelka/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

If you’re considering welcoming a Border Terrier into your life, it’s important to understand the ideal environment for this lively breed.

Ideal Owner

When it comes to their human companions, Border Terriers are active, adventurous, and love to be part of the family action. Therefore, an active household that can provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation is perfect for them.

They adore children and their playful nature and sturdy build make them excellent playmates for kids. However, as with any breed, it’s crucial to teach children how to interact appropriately with dogs to ensure a harmonious relationship.

Other Pets

Border Terriers are extremely sociable. They get along well with other dogs and pets, especially if they’ve been raised together from a young age. This makes them a great addition to multi-pet households. However, their strong prey drive means they might give chase to smaller pets, so supervision is necessary.

Physical Environment

In terms of physical environment, a home with a secure garden or yard is ideal. These dogs love to dig and explore, so having an outdoor space where they can indulge these instincts is beneficial. However, the garden should be securely fenced to prevent them from wandering off in pursuit of adventure!

Despite their small size, Border Terriers are not apartment dogs. They need space to roam and expend their energy. Therefore, a home with ample room both indoors and outdoors suits them best.

Climate Adaptability

As for climate adaptability, Border Terriers are quite versatile. Their dense, wiry coat protects them from cold weather, and they generally fare well in cooler climates.

However, they do not tolerate extreme heat very well. During hot weather, it’s important to provide plenty of shade and fresh water, and avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day.

border terrier standing on a tree branch
Photo: robbinsbox/Getty Images


Maintaining the scruffy charm of a Border Terrier requires some grooming, but don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it might seem! These sturdy little dogs have a dense, wiry coat that’s designed to withstand the elements, which means their grooming needs are relatively low compared to other breeds.

Coat Care

Let’s start with their distinctive coat. Border Terriers have a dense undercoat and a harsh topcoat that protects them from harsh weather conditions.

Unlike many breeds, they don’t require frequent baths – every three to four months should suffice unless they’ve rolled in something particularly smelly. Overbathing can strip the natural oils from their coat, leading to dry skin.

Border Terriers do shed, but it’s usually seasonal and not heavy. Regular brushing – about once a week – should keep loose hair under control. A slicker brush or a hound glove is ideal for this purpose, as these tools can efficiently remove dead hairs and keep the coat looking its best.

An interesting aspect of Border Terrier grooming is ‘stripping’. This involves plucking out the loose, dead hairs of the topcoat by hand or using a stripping knife. It keeps their coat healthy and maintains its texture and color. Stripping is usually done once or twice a year, and many owners opt to have a professional groomer do it.

Dental Care

Now, let’s talk teeth. Dental care is crucial for all dogs, and Border Terriers are no exception. Regular brushing of their teeth can prevent gum disease and bad breath. Aim to brush their teeth at least two to three times a week, although daily brushing is ideal. Using dog-specific toothpaste and a suitable toothbrush makes this task easier.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is another important part of grooming. Border Terriers’ nails should be trimmed regularly, usually once a month, to prevent overgrowth and splitting. If you hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s a sign they’re too long. Some people are comfortable doing this at home with a dog nail clipper, but if you’re unsure, a groomer or vet can handle this task.

Ear Care

Lastly, don’t forget those ears! Check your Border Terrier’s ears weekly for any signs of redness, bad odor, or irritation. Gently clean them with a cotton ball dampened with a pH-balanced ear cleaner to keep them clean and prevent infections.

border terrier's face close up
Photo: Dodge65/Getty Images


Think of a Border Terrier as the energetic friend who’s always up for an adventure! These dogs are brimming with vitality and require a good amount of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They’re not the type to laze around all day – they love being active and on the move.

Exercise Amount & Types

Typically, a healthy adult Border Terrier needs about an hour of exercise each day. This can be split into two walks or play sessions. But remember, these dogs are adventurers at heart, so a simple walk around the block might not cut it. They love exploring new trails, sniffing out interesting scents, and romping around in open spaces.

When it comes to types of exercise, variety is key. Border Terriers are intelligent and enjoy activities that stimulate their mind as well as their body. Incorporating games like fetch or hide and seek into their exercise routine can keep them engaged and excited. They also excel at agility courses, which provide both mental and physical stimulation.

If you’re an avid runner or cyclist, your Border Terrier will likely be thrilled to accompany you. Their strong legs and stamina make them great companions for long runs or bike rides. Just make sure the weather isn’t too hot to prevent overheating.

Dog Sports

Border Terriers have a natural talent for certain dog sports. Their history as fox-hunting dogs makes them excellent at earthdog trials, where they navigate underground tunnels in pursuit of a scent. They also shine in obedience and agility competitions, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please.

border terrier relaxing by the beach
Photo: Dodge65/Getty Images


Training a Border Terrier can be an adventure in itself! Known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, these dogs are generally quite trainable. However, they do have a streak of independence and can be a bit stubborn at times, which adds a dash of challenge to the mix.

Border Terriers respond best to positive reinforcement training methods. They’re sensitive souls, so harsh punishments or loud voices won’t work with them. Instead, use praises, treats, or toys as rewards for good behavior. This will encourage them to repeat those behaviors, making the training process more effective and enjoyable for both of you.

Begin with basic obedience training – commands like sit, stay, come, and heel. Once your Border Terrier has mastered these, you can move on to more advanced commands or tricks. Remember, these dogs are smart and love mental stimulation, so don’t hesitate to challenge them!

Socialization is another crucial part of training. Expose your Border Terrier to a variety of people, places, and situations from a young age to help them grow into a well-rounded adult. This breed is naturally friendly, but early socialization ensures they’re comfortable and confident in different environments.

Given their history as hunting dogs, Border Terriers have a strong prey drive. Training them to have a reliable recall command is essential, especially in areas where they might be tempted to chase after squirrels or birds.

One unique aspect of training Border Terriers is their affinity for digging. It’s part of their nature and can’t be completely eliminated. However, you can manage it by designating a specific area in your yard where it’s okay for them to dig.

border terrier running in a garden
Photo: CBCK-Christine/Getty Images Pro

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Border Terrier is more than just filling their bowl. It’s about providing them with the right nutrients they need to live an active, healthy life. These dogs are energetic and lively, which means their diet needs to fuel their adventures!

What to Feed & How Much

When choosing food for your Border Terrier, look for high-quality dry or wet food that follows the AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines. These foods have been formulated to provide a balanced diet for dogs, ensuring they get all the necessary nutrients.

If you’re considering a raw food diet or home-cooked meals for your Border Terrier, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian or a pet nutrition expert. They can guide you on how to provide a balanced diet that meets your dog’s specific needs.

The amount of food a Border Terrier needs can vary based on their age, size, and activity level. As a general guideline, an adult Border Terrier requires around one to one and a half cups of food each day, divided into two meals. Puppies, being more active and growing, may require more frequent feedings.


Treats are a great tool for training, but remember, they should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Choose healthy options like carrot sticks or apple slices, or specially formulated dog treats. Always avoid foods that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, and onions.


Border Terriers, like all dogs, also need access to fresh, clean water at all times. Make sure their water bowl is filled and check it regularly throughout the day, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

border terrier's face close up
Photo: Dodge65/Getty Images


Border Terriers are generally a hearty breed, known for their good health and long lifespan. With proper care and regular check-ups, these dogs can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years, sometimes even longer! However, like any breed, they can be prone to certain health conditions.

Here are health issues that Border Terriers may be susceptible to:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common condition in many dog breeds, where the hip joint doesn’t fit together perfectly, leading to potential pain and mobility issues.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, which can lead to weight gain, lethargy, and skin problems.

Heart Problems: While not overly common, Border Terriers can be susceptible to certain heart conditions such as heart murmurs or congestive heart failure.

Allergies: These can manifest in various ways, including skin irritation, digestive issues, or respiratory symptoms. Allergies can be caused by many factors, including certain foods, environmental triggers, or fleas.

Seizures: Border Terriers can be prone to a condition called “Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome” (CECS), which can cause seizure-like episodes.

While this list might seem daunting, remember that not all Border Terriers will get any or all of these conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups can help catch any potential issues early, and vaccinations can prevent many common canine diseases.

A balanced diet is also vital for your Border Terrier’s health. Feeding them high-quality food that meets AAFCO guidelines can ensure they’re getting the right nutrients to stay healthy.

border terrier sitting on the sand
Photo: Katrinbechtel/Pixabay


The Border Terrier, with its rugged charm and spirited personality, has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century. Originating from the border region between England and Scotland, hence their name, these dogs were bred for a very specific purpose – fox hunting.

The rough terrain and harsh weather of this region required a tough, tenacious dog, and thus, the Border Terrier was born. These dogs needed to be small enough to chase foxes into their dens, yet agile enough to keep up with horse-mounted hunters. They also had to be fearless and persistent, traits that are still evident in the breed today.

Interestingly, Border Terriers share their ancestry with two other breeds from the same area – the Dandie Dinmont Terrier and the Bedlington Terrier. However, it’s the Border Terrier’s unique blend of grit, determination, and affectionate nature that sets them apart.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Border Terrier in 1930, and since then, the breed has steadily grown in popularity. They currently rank 95th on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds. While they may not top the list, anyone who’s ever loved a Border Terrier knows that these dogs are number one in their hearts.

In popular culture, Border Terriers have made quite a name for themselves. Perhaps the most famous Border Terrier is Baxter, the adorable but mischievous dog from the movie “Anchorman”. In the literary world, author J.K. Rowling, famous for the Harry Potter series, owns a Border Terrier named Bronte, who has become a celebrity on social media.

Today, Border Terriers make wonderful companions, winning hearts with their lively character and unwavering loyalty. Whether they’re romping around in the countryside, chasing after a ball, or curled up on your lap, these dogs bring a touch of rustic charm and lots of love into every moment.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Border Terrier breed in the U.S. is the Border Terrier Club of America, Inc. (BTCA). Founded back in 1949, the BTCA has dedicated itself to protecting the characteristics and natural instincts of this endearing breed.

For more information about the club, its activities, and how to become a member, you can visit their official website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Border Terrier’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

border terrier puppy climbing a tree branch
Photo: MGStockPhotography/Getty Images


Thinking of bringing a Border Terrier into your life? That’s exciting! Before you do, it’s important to prepare. Make sure you have the time, energy, and resources for an active and intelligent dog like a Border Terrier. If you decide to buy, always choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes health and temperament over appearance.

However, why not consider rescuing? Many Border Terriers are waiting in shelters for their forever homes. Not only will you be giving a deserving dog a second chance, but you’ll also gain a loyal companion. The American Kennel Club and the Border Terrier Club of America can provide resources and guidance to help you rescue a Border Terrier.

Remember, it’s not just about finding the perfect dog, but also about providing the perfect home. Welcome to your new adventure with a Border Terrier!


Are Border Terriers good pets?

Yes, Border Terriers make excellent pets. They’re intelligent, affectionate, and adaptable, making them suitable for various living environments. They’re great with kids and can get along well with other dogs if properly socialized.

Do Border Terriers bark a lot?

Border Terriers are not excessive barkers, but they will bark to alert you of visitors or unusual activities. Proper training from a young age can help manage their barking behavior.

Will a Border Terrier protect me?

While Border Terriers are not typically aggressive, they are loyal to their families and can be protective when necessary. They’re more likely to alert you of a potential threat by barking rather than physically confronting an intruder.

What happens if you don’t strip a Border Terrier?

Stripping is the process of removing dead hair from your Border Terrier’s coat. If you don’t strip them, their coat can become dull and matted. Regular stripping helps maintain a healthy, shiny coat and reduces shedding.

How much exercise does a Border Terrier need?

Border Terriers are active dogs that require at least an hour of regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. A couple of walks a day, combined with some playtime or mental stimulation, is usually sufficient.

Are Border Terriers easy to train?

Border Terriers are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. However, they can also be independent and stubborn at times. Positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed.

Can Border Terriers live with cats?

While Border Terriers can get along with cats they have been raised with, their strong prey drive might lead them to chase unfamiliar cats or other small animals. Early socialization is crucial if they’re to share a home with a cat.

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