All About Border Terriers
The Border Terrier is a small dog with strong instincts, intense loyalty, and a cheeky personality. These loveable dogs come with a large amount of terrier energy, and are highly intelligent. Border terriers can make excellent family pets, as they are extremely playful and easily trained too.
Border Terrier History
Originating from the North of England, Border Terriers were created as an extra weapon in the war between farmers and foxes. Border terriers were bred to have a strong and solid yet flexible body, but to be small enough to squeeze into foxholes. Their long legs also meant that they could keep up with the farmers on horseback during the fox-hunt. Other qualities that made them perfect for this job include excellent stamina, a coat resistant to the elements, and a strong instinctual drive to hunt. While they’re unlikely to be needed in a foxhunt in most family homes now, the breed still carries most of those traits to some degree.
Borders are pack-oriented dog breeds, so they should live indoors with the family and not outside – to exclude them from the activity of the household makes for one miserable Border Terrier. Borders definitely like to see themselves as one of the pack – these dog breeds don’t need to be treated like humans, but definitely need to feel like one of the family!
When it comes to training, Borders can be both a blessing and a curse; they learn the rules of the household very quickly, and are happy when they know where they stand within that hierarchy. Being consistent with what they are and are not allowed to do, will maintain this happiness.
When you move on to advanced training, however, you might find that they have “selective hearing”. During fox hunting they were required to work far away from their masters, meaning they needed to be somewhat independent. This trait is still prevalent in the breed, so prepare to be a little frustrated when you see that they hear your command, but sometimes choose to ignore it. Their strong instinct to hunt means that they will dig, and can jump very high, so they will sometimes go over or under your fence to explore – make sure your yard is Border-proof.
2. Border Terrier Personality
• Great temperament
Even though they are in the terrier family, they are affectionate, obedient, and intelligent, which is not often what you’ll associate with Terriers. In my experience, they make excellent members of the family. They are fun and absolutely love to play, but can match the mood if you’re relaxed and calm.
Most Borders are good at telling you when they’re bored, so it’s vital that you learn to read their signals. They key with any Border is balance – make sure they’ve had enough exercise (mental or physical) each day and they’ll be well behaved and happy in the home.
3. Food Obsessed!
While they don’t generally have any specific dietary requirements, Borders’ instincts are very strong when it comes to the pursuit of food. In their fox-hunting days many farmers would choose not to feed them before a hunt so they would work harder to catch their dinner. This means they’ll look for opportunities to eat wherever they can, even when you’re feeding them regularly.
They respond very well to positive training and treats, with emphasis on the treats, and have a very strong drive to get food wherever possible. They become overweight easily, so you have to be very watchful of how many treats they get. But, prepare to get some of your best laughs when watching your border’s sneakiness really shine when food is around.
Border terriers are just as suited to small homes as they are to large farms, and will be content in either as long as they’re getting enough exercise, both mental and physical. If you don't have a big, secure yard for them to run around in, it’s worth ensuring that your schedule allows a good exhilarating walk each day. Variation is key, switch it up! Leash walks with lots of sniffing allowed, a jog, brain teaser toys (snuffle mat, stuffed kong, puzzle treat toys), and safe chews are all great ways to stimulate mental and physical activity.
5. Border Terrier Grooming
• Border terriers have a double coat
• Relatively easy to groom once you know how
The Border Terrier actually has two coats, which is great for winter, but can be a problem if you live in a very hot climate. Their short, soft, and dense undercoat is covered by a wiry topcoat that protects them from the elements. This topcoat can then be hand-stripped every 4-6 months. Contrary to what you might find on the internet, Border Terriers are not 100% hypoallergenic, and they do shed.
• Very friendly
• Very gentle with children
In my experience, when it comes to children, Borders are friendly, playful, and most importantly gentle. While you should still watch any child and dog together at all times, Borders generally will adjust how aggressively they play depending on the age and size of the child. A well-trained border will be respectful of a child’s boundaries while still being affectionate and loving too.
7. Other Pets
• Socialising is VITAL
• Not great around small rodents
We don’t need to repeat how strong their instinct is, so introducing a grown border to a house with rodents or small birds can be a recipe for disaster. Their drive to chase and catch small animals will always be with them, and so your only chance of harmony is to introduce them to each other while your border is still a puppy. Another key point to remember is that if your border sees a small rodent, it will chase it no matter where you are, so you should keep them on a leash when near roads and cars.
Borders can get along with other dogs, as long as you make sure they’re socialised well in their early months. Otherwise, you might find that they can be difficult and territorial when new adult dogs visit the home.
• Healthy breed
• Low maintenance health regime
For some reason Border Terriers are still relatively not well known, so Borders have not yet succumbed to the popularity problems that come with over-breeding. They are very healthy dogs when bred properly, and are not expected to have any specific diseases like other pure breeds.
That being said, individual dogs can still have health problems so ensure regular trips to the vets, and regular health checks at home. The best way to ensure that your Border stays healthy is to make sure he has a good diet, with good quality food, and is not over fed.
• Extremely loyal 99% of the time
• Might sell you out for a quick snack
It’s true, Borders are incredibly loyal. Once you and your border bond, he’ll be obedient (mostly), loyal (nearly all of the time), and well-behaved in the home (as long as he’s exercised properly and not bored). As I’ve learned from experience, though, your border will sell you down the river if another family member calls them from the kitchen.
All in all, Border Terriers make excellent companions, with excellent qualities, which are only ever usurped by their sometimes independent personalities. But, on speaking with other Border owners, I think that’s what most people love about them. If you’re able to welcome a Border Terrier into your home, you’ll be welcoming another unique personality, one that I’m sure you’ll come to love.