Dog Breed Review

Border Terrier




With their otter like head comes the Border Terrier, a small breed with high energy built for multiple purposes. The BT is one of the most popular dogs in England, and most likely to win an Earth Dog competition.

While most dogs in the Terrier group have a feisty temperament, the Border Terrier is quite the opposite. Many laud this breed as the quiet version of the terrier prototype, which runs in harmony with other breeds during a hunt.

So what is it that makes this breed such a popular choice in England and around the world?

Here is what you need to know about the Border Terrier.


The story of the Border Terrier dates back to the 19th century along the border of Scotland and England. However, many BT fanciers believe that the breed dates back further than the mid-1800’s. Some paintings describing a dog resembling today’s version of this breed. That said, there is no categorical proof that the breed was in fact the Border Terrier.

Farmers and fanciers in 19th century England, and most prominently, Northumberland, wanted a dog that could run with horses and foxhounds, but small enough to burrow inside fox lairs. The other goal was to bred a dog that would chase out these hill side foxes due to their predatory behavior.

Border Terriers did a great job working well with other breeds as well as keeping up with the horseback hunters. In fact, one of the laudable traits of this breed is their temperament. BT’s aren’t nearly as aggressive as the traditional terrier.

Proving their worth and impressing fanciers during the 1800’s, Border Terrier owners began showing off their dogs at shows. The first appearances of the Border Terrier were in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The breed made quite the impression at the famous Bellinham Show. 

For the better part of the 19th century, BT’s went by the names of Ullswater Terrier, Coquetdale Terrier and Reedwater Terrier. It wasn’t until the early 1880’s, that the name “Border Terrier” would become common use. 

Thanks to the efforts of Jacob Robson, E.L and Simon Dodd, a standard and name was given to the breed. The British Kennel Club would register the first Border Terrier in 1913. However, the club would refuse the breed as its own. They would end up classifying them as “foreign dog.”

That would change in 1920, when the Border Terrier gained recognition by the U.K Kennel Club. Ten years later, the American Kennel Club would recognize the breed as well.

Although the Border Terrier is popular in the states, it is England where this breed thrives. In fact, during 2006 and 2008, BT’s would end up in the top ten UKC popularity rankings. 

Today, the breed enjoys more of a companion role among those in American households. Border Terriers are excellent competitors especially in the field of Earth Dog competition. According to the American Kennel Club, the Border Terrier ranks 86th most popular breed among their rankings.

Furthermore, aside from dog shows and competition, some BT’s are still working the fox holes, while others make appearance in movies and television.


Most kennel clubs classify the BT as a small breed of dog, that should reach a height of 12 to 15 inches.

However, when it comes to weight, males and females will differ. The American Kennel Club states that males should weigh between 13 to 15.5 pound, while females should weigh between 11.5 to 14 pounds.


The one quirk or difference between the Border Terrier and other terriers is how calm this dog is. In fact, it was their ability to work peacefully alongside the foxhound that made this breed the ideal choice during the 19th century in England.

That said, the Border Terrier is a low maintenance breed. You won’t have to worry about constant grooming or if the dog will get along with others. In fact, this breed plays nice with children and other pets. Of course, early socialization will help making your dog more friendly.

BT’s can adapt to just about anywhere, although they much prefer an open space where they can run around and burn off that energy. They may bark a bit and make some noise as most terriers do. Usually, this breed barks when it’s absolutely necessary. If you live an apartment or a smaller space, you’ll be fine with a Border Terrier.

Border Terriers can be stubborn at times especially during training. Usually they respond well to positive and consistent reinforcement. If you reward your BT after training or a trick, then they are more likely to pick up on new challenges and retain them.

This breed enjoys getting outside and stretching its legs, so to speak. You’ll never be short of finding a Border Terrier roaming the backyard and nosing around. There may be times where prey drive is an issue due to their natural traits, however, this shouldn’t be much of an issue again with early socialization. There’s been very little evidence to suggest this breed may have a knack of wandering off. That said, you should do your best to ward off the area so they can’t escape.


Border Terriers lead a rather healthy life. That said, if you have a dog that is highly active and works, there’s a chance issues affecting their joints may arise. Moreover, if you buy a Border Terrier, be sure that you purchase from a reputable breeder. This breeder should be able to provide you with proper documentation and health clearances to clear your dog. Couple that with routine visits to the veterinarian and your dog’s health will most likely improve.

The life expectancy of Border Terriers is between 12 to 15 years. Again, this is a healthy breed that may experience a low to medium level of occurrence for Hip Dysplasia. This condition is more common with breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier and Alaskan Malamute. However, if your dog suffers from this common condition it can be painful, uncomfortable and sometimes crippling.

In addition, a disease known as avascular or aseptic necrosis of the femoral head, Perthes Disease, in which the head of the femur wears over time resulting in arthritis is found with Border Terriers. Perthes Disease is more common with smaller breeds under 20 pounds like the toy group

You may need to keep an eye out for Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is when the rod cells inside the retina die, which may lead to partial or complete blindness. 

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome or Spike, is a hereditary disease that usually only occurs in Border Terriers. Many believe Spike is a result of Gluten influence. Staggering and trembling are signs to look for with this disease. A Gluten free diet is necessary to help reduce the chances of it progressing.

Other issues that may align with this breed are Luxating Patellar, Seizures and Cataracts.


Early socialization is key to raising a friendly and personable Border Terrier. This helps them integrate better with dogs, small children and strangers. The Border Terrier shouldn’t be aggressive, and typically is less aggressive than most terriers. You may need to watch them around other dogs, although they do work well with others. Border Terriers do fine at dog parks and will enjoy a good romp around the backyard.

Consistent and positive reinforcement during socialization and training is crucial. Rewards and treats should do the trick. This is a dog that wants something to do. Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation will help break this dog from boredom. You can leave this dog alone and you should be fine. 


Border Terriers are no different than any other dog. How much and what they eat will depend on their age, metabolism and activity rate. Spaying and neutering dogs can also have an effect on how much your dog will need to eat.

A Border Terrier can be a working dog, and if that is the case, they will need plenty of calorie replenishment. For instance, a working dog that is 11 pounds will need about 500 to 585 calories, while a 16 pound dog will need around 660 to 770 calories per day. If your dog isn’t a working pet, then a 11 pound Border Terrier will need 360 calories per day, as a 16 pound BT will require 487 calories.

Of course, replenishing calories is important but so isn’t their nutritional value. Because this breed is prone to certain health conditions and obesity, you should watch how often they do eat. For instance, a diet that is Gluten free will help this breed avoid a disease like Spike or Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome. Foods like chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, eggs and key supplements.

The Border Terrier should eat a high quality dry food with meat as the first ingredient. You can feed them a half to 1.5 cups per day. Most Border Terrier owners urge feeding twice a day. This helps the dog fall into a family routine and helps the dog avoid inheriting Bloat.

Of course, you should provide your dog with plenty of fresh drinking water. 


The Border Terrier is easy to care for and simple to groom. Brushing your dog once a week will keep their coats looking great and healthier. 

Border Terriers have a short and dense undercoat. The top coat should be wiry and close to the skin. You may need to hand strip their double coats twice a year or hire a professional groomer.

When it comes to the breed’s coat colors, the American Kennel Club allows blue and tan, grizzle and tan, red and wheaten. You may find this breed with black and red or grizzle coats. There are no markings for this breed that the AKC allows, however it’s not rare for certain dogs to have black points.

Fun Border Terrier Facts

  • Border Terriers have made many movie appearances over time. The list includes the breed appearing in the movies; Anchorman, 102 Dalmatians, Lassie,  and a dog character by the name of Puffy in, There’s Something About Mary.
  • This breed shares an ancestry with the Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Bedlington Terrier.
  • According to a Daily Mail Article, the BT is the perfect companion and many famous people agree including tennis star, Andy Murray, Elton John,  singer Will Young and James Bond girl, Eva Green.

Closing Words

There’s no shortage of influence or interest for the Border Terrier. In fact, this breed continues to grow in popularity, especially where they come from, England. Expect that trend to continue.

Perhaps it’s because of their intelligence and reliability as a hunter. Or their friendly nature as a terrier. Regardless of the single reason, one thing is for sure, the Border Terrier is a great hunting companion and excellent family pet that is here to stay.










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