The Border Terrier Club 
of Central Ohio

About The Border Terrier

Written by: Annette Neff

Border Terriers are sturdy little dogs. They are a “no frills” working breed. Some people say they look much like mongrels. Males usually weigh 13 to 15 1/2 pounds. Bitches weigh 12 to 14 pounds. Males usually measure 13” and bitches, approximately 12”. 

The Border Terrier’s body is slightly longer than it is tall. Their heads are very distinctive, and similar in structure to that of an otter. The ears of a Border Terrier are small, V-shaped drop ears. They have a thick, loose-fitting hide, and a harsh, wiry outer coat.

The Border Terrier traces back to a large group of terriers that existed for centuries in the Cheviot Hills, which run along the border of Scotland and England. That's how this terrier got its name.  Many believe the Border Terrier descended from a blend of old strains of a working terrier, closely related to the Dandie Dinmont, the Lakeland, and the Bedlington. 

They originated in the general area of northern England and southern Scotland. The farmers of this region kept this terrier for its remarkable ability to destroy foxes and other vermin. The Border Terrier’s combination of courage and good sense has always been its asset. Borders were originally bred to run and work with Foxhounds. They must be energetic and built for such work. They should be able to follow a horse and must combine activity with gameness.


Border Terriers are a versatile and adaptable breed. They seem equally happy living a hard working terrier’s life or the cushy life as a house pet and everything in between. Border Terriers make excellent housedogs, requiring very little space. Their feet are neat, so there are no large muddy footprints to contend with. 

They are unobtrusive and sensible. They do not crave attention from their owners at all times by constant nudging and encroachment. However, they are devoted pals, game for anything, be it ratting, learning tricks, or sitting in the laps of their owners. 

Because Border Terriers were bred to hunt vermin, such as rats and fox, it is best that they be brought up with such pets as cats and rabbits. Borders need to be taught how to interact with these pets.


A good coat needs a little trimming to appear neat. Head, feet, neck and the tip of the tail need to be tidied, and the long hairs on the body need to be plucked. The coat needs stripping out three - four times a year. Otherwise the coat needs only regular brushing and maintenance. 

By nature, Border Terriers are fastidiously clean though there are always exceptions. They are not generally a noisy breed, but most show a zest for certain activities and have a good sing several times a day. Howling was probably acquired from many generations living in hunting kennels, as this is a habit of hounds. Many Border fanciers describe their singing as an angel choir.

Commands are easily taught to Border Terriers, but are not always instantly obeyed. Borders will usually make an adequate compromise for obedience.They can, however, with skill and patience be trained to high standards for obedience competition. 

Borders like to stay out of trouble. They should not be aggressive like some of the other Terriers.  But, if challenged, they will fight heartily and forever hold a grudge against their aggressor. The thing is never to allow the circumstances to occur which might start a fight. Care should be taken when reintroducing a ‘pack’ terrier that has been out working, showing, having a litter, or even spending the afternoon away.


Borders are usually very good with children, tolerant and patient. However, as with any dog, children must not be allowed to torment or hurt them. Unnecessary risks should never be taken, such as leaving them alone with an infant that might start crying. In these circumstances any dog could become frantic. Neither should children EVER be allowed to interfere with a dog while it is eating. 

Border Terriers will demonstrate affection, understanding, or even humor, by leaping up and giving a quick, gentle nip on the arm or wrist. Though well meant, this behavior could terrify a child. Also, when a child dashes by, Borders may take a quick grab at the arm, out of excitement. 

Children must be taught how to appropriately play and give attention and affection to a dog, and Borders need to be taught not to leap and nip out of excitement. Children should not carry Borders. They are known to leap out of arms. Adults should carry, when necessary. Keep the pup close to your body and hold with two hands!


Border Terriers are healthy and strong, overall. Some may develop skin allergies, during flea and tick season, and in dry environments, such as an overheated house or apartment. Congenital heart problems are possible. Border Terriers are not a carsick breed. They usually love to travel in the car. 

Even though the Border Terrier is a small breed, they need sufficient exercise to keep fit and happy. Long walks, on a leash, are best, whether the dog’s home is in the country or in the city. Excursions can be interspersed with yard time, but care must be taken that yard time does not become boring. The Border Terrier has an active, working heritage and likes to have something to do.


Anyone who likes terriers should enjoy a Border. Borders have pleasant personalities, are easy to care for, and have an impish appearance, which makes them irresistible. Borders are very willing to hunt. Border Terriers are a rare and ‘unspoiled’ breed. Border Terriers are splendid canine companions. They are definitely a dog lover’s dog.

For more extensive information about the Border Terrier, click here for the BTCA Research page: