Border Terrier – Alert, Loving, Even-Tempered

Border Terriers, sometimes shortened to just “Borders,” are a small working breed with an otter-like head. Border Terriers were called “Coquetdale Terriers” or “Redesdale Terriers,” after the areas where they were bred, but their official name eventually became the Border Terrier. This probably comes from their association with the Border Hunt in Northumberland.

Today, these dogs are known for their spirited and affectionate natures. They are an incredibly adaptable breed who will be perfectly fine in the country or the city. If you’re looking for a small, easy to train breed with a lot of energy, the Border Terrier might be the right breed for you.


  • Originally bred as hunting dogs
  • This breed has what is described as an “otter head”
  • This is an active breed with high levels of energy
  • Border Terriers have a rough, wiry coat


The Border Terrier was bred in the Scottish-English countryside to fend off the hill fox and keep the farmers’ flocks of sheep safe. While in the northern parts of England, fox hunting was considered a leisure sport, the places where the Border Terrier worked were full of working-class people. The Border Terrier was bred for its practicality.

Border Terriers needed to be both incredibly agile and intelligent. Physically, they needed to be able to keep up with hill foxes, as well as hunters on horseback. At the same time, in order to get into the foxes’ dens, they had to be relatively small dogs.

Border Terriers were first recognized as a distinct breed in England in 1920. In 1930, the AKC also recognized the Border Terrier.

Today, the Border Terrier continues to be a hard-working dog that is highly intelligent and incredibly adaptable.

Appearance and Vital Stats

Border Terrier muzzle

The Border Terrier is a long-legged yet small breed. They have a slightly rugged look about them, emphasized by their wiry coats. You might also notice that your Border Terrier’s skin is rather loose, which was an added protection against bites.

Dog Breed Group

The Border Terrier is part of the Terrier dog breed group. These are dogs that were bred to be energetic, eager, and intrepid animals. They were used primarily to hunt vermin and serve as protectors of the farm or home.


The Border Terrier is a small breed. They stand between 12 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder. Male Border Terriers will generally weigh somewhere between 13 to 15.5 pounds, while females typically weigh in at around 11.5 to 14 pounds. Their small size was ideal for getting into foxholes.

Life Span

Since they are a smaller breed, Border Terriers tend to have longer lives than larger breeds. Your healthy and well-cared for Border Terrier can expect a life span of about 12 to 15 years.

Coat and Colors

Like most other terriers, the Border Terrier has a wiry overcoat, which covers a shorter, dense undercoat. You might find that the Border Terrier’s overcoat can be somewhat broken, which is normal for the breed. It should lie closely against the dog’s body, and should be straight without any curl or wave.

As for color, you’ll see Border Terriers with a variety of shades. It’s common to see Border Terriers with coats that are wheaten, tan and grizzle, tan and blue, or red. Some dogs might have a small white patch on the chest. However, any white on the feet would be considered against breed standard by the AKC. Many Border Terriers also have black on the muzzle. Most Border Terrier breeders consider this a desirable trait for the breed.

The Border Terrier sheds seasonally. During this time, you can expect to spend part of your day removing the dead fur from your dog’s wiry outercoat. During the rest of the year, they’ll only shed a small amount, requiring a weekly brush at most.


The Border Terrier’s tail is thick at the base, and not very high set. It will taper to a point at the end, and isn’t very long. A Border Terrier will carry the tail straight, and it will not curl over towards the dog’s back.


A Border Terrier’s ears are fairly small. They’ll be V-shaped, and flop over against the sides of the dog’s head instead of standing upright. The ears might be a darker shade than the rest of the dog’s coloring, which is generally preferred by breeders.


A Border Terrier’s head is one of his most distinguishing features. They have what is commonly referred to as an “otter head.” This means that the cheeks are slightly full, with a fairly flat, broad skull, giving them an otter-like look.


Border Terrier Personality

Although they were bred originally as hunting dogs, you’ll find that Border Terriers are generally playful and affectionate dogs. They are incredibly loyal, as well as very spirited. They were also very intelligent dogs, which makes them extremely trainable. However, as with all intelligent breeds, they also tend to have a stubborn streak that can at times be frustrating. While training, make sure to use lots of positive reinforcement. Border Terriers will respond well to this, and despite their sometimes stubborn nature, will still strive to please their owners.

The Border Terrier is a very loving and playful breed. With such high energy levels, you might find them exhausting at times, but a Border Terrier will never fail to make you laugh. Despite their playfulness, the Border Terrier is a fairly quiet dog. Don’t expect to hear much barking from him!

One trait that truly sets the Border Terrier apart from other breeds is their loyal, loving nature. If you’re looking for a dog who will happily and fearlessly follow you to the ends of the earth, then the Border Terrier is the breed for you.

Apartment Living

Even though the Border Terrier originates from farmlands and fields, they are able to live well in apartments, provided they get enough exercise. This is a testament to the adaptability of the Border Terrier. Whether your home is in a high-rise complex or in the country, the Border Terrier will do perfectly well.

Children and Other Pets

Border Terrier puppy

These dogs get along wonderfully with kids, and their small size is an added bonus in that it’ll be harder for them to knock young kids over. They also tend to do well with other dogs, and in general they are a breed that makes friends easily.

When it comes to small pets, you’ll probably want to keep them away from the Border Terrier. These dogs have a strong prey instinct, which might be triggered by seeing smaller animals like rats or guinea pigs.



This small breed can be prone to obesity, so it’s important to make sure that, along with exercise, you’re also feeding your Border Terrier the right amount of food. You should be feeding your Border Terrier about 1 1/8 cups to 1 3/8 cups of high-quality dog food daily. You should also always make sure that your dog has access to clean water.


Like most Terriers, the Border Terrier requires a special kind of grooming to keep his fur healthy. This kind of grooming is called hand-stripping, which involves pulling dead hairs out by hand or with a special hand stripping tool. You can bring your dog to a professional groomer to perform this.

You can also have your dog’s coat trimmed or clipped, but be aware that this will change the wiry texture of your Border Terrier’s coat, making it softer. It will also make your dog’s coat less weather-resistant.

Aside from bringing your dog in to be hand stripped every six months of so, you should also brush your dog’s coat weekly using a bristle brush.


The Border Terrier is a highly active dog. If you prefer a couch-potato lifestyle, this definitely won’t be the right breed for you.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay active, a Border Terrier will definitely help you do that! These dogs require a lot of stimulation to keep them from getting bored and destructive. Border Terriers have a tendency to dig, so you’ll want to make sure he’s getting enough stimulation to keep him from digging up your yard. You should be spending at least 30 minutes a day making sure your dog is getting some vigorous exercise. Hiking and jogging are both great options for your Border Terrier.

You might also want to consider signing your Border Terrier up for dog sports like agility or flyball. Not only are these great ways to tire out your pup, but they’re amazing ways for you and your dog to bond as well.


In general, the Border Terrier is a very healthy breed. Like all purebreds, however, they can be prone to certain diseases and illnesses.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a painful genetic condition that affects the hip joint. While it tends to affect larger dogs more than smaller dogs, it is a condition that the Border Terrier can be prone to.

This disorder occurs when a dog’s ball and joint of the hip don’t fit together properly. While a healthy dog’s joints should slide into place, hip dysplasia means that instead the dog’s joints grind together. This can be painful, and might eventually lead to arthritis and lameness.

If your Border Terrier is beginning to limp, that’s a sign he might be suffering from hip dysplasia. You should bring your dog to the vet to be checked for other signs.

Perthes Disease

Similar to hip dysplasia, Perthes disease is a condition that will affect your dog’s leg. It tends to affect terriers more than other breeds. For this reason, your Border Terrier might be prone to this degenerative disease.

With Perthes disease, the head of your dog’s femur begins to degenerate, eventually leading to arthritis and a collapsing of the hip.

It’s unclear what exactly causes Perthes disease. Research shows that it might be caused by a disruption of the blood flow to the dog’s hip, which in turn could be caused by blood clots. This condition is most prevalent in smaller breed dogs.

If your dog begins limping, and it gets worse over several weeks, you should bring your dog to the vet to be checked for Perthes disease.

Heart Defects

Border Terriers can be prone to many different kinds of heart defects. The most common one affecting this breed is called pulmonic stenosis. This is when the pulmonary valve, which separates the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, becomes stiff or narrow. Heart murmurs are also an indicator that your dog has a heart defect.

If you are getting your Border Terrier from a breeder, make sure that the breeder has not used any dogs with heart defects in their breeding programs. A good and reputable breeder will always check their dogs’ hearts for signs of defects.

Similar Breeds

Russell Terrier

Russell Terrier

These little dogs are slightly smaller than the Border Terrier. Russell terriers stand at about 10 to 12 inches, and range from 9 to 15 pounds in weight. Their coloring is also different, with Russell Terriers usually being white and tan in coloration. In contrast to the Border Terrier’s long legs, the Russell Terrier’s legs are much shorter.

Like Border Terriers, Russell Terriers are lively and happy little dogs. They’re require a lot of exercise to keep from getting bored, and are highly intelligent.

Norwich Terrier

Norwich Terrier

The Norwich Terrier is a little smaller than the Border Terrier, standing at about 10 inches at the shoulder. They generally weigh about 12 pounds, and have coats in a variety of colors, including black, tan, or grizzle. The Norwich Terrier’s legs are shorter than the Border Terrier’s, and their triangular ears sit upright instead of flopping down.

Norwich Terriers share the same happy, affectionate nature as Border Terriers. Also like Border Terriers, they tend to do well with children and other animals.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier

Also originating from the Scottish countryside, these little dogs share the same love of digging that the Border Terrier has. Shorter than the Border Terrier, the Cairn Terrier measures up to 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder, and weighs in at around 9 to 15 pounds. You’ll find the Cairn Terrier coming in a variety of colors—pretty much any coloring is acceptable by the AKC’s standards except for white.

Like the Border Terrier, these are loving, cheerful, and active little dogs with a lot of personality.