Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Border Terriers aren’t necessarily the most popular or well-known Terrier breed—but if you’re looking for a dog that’s independent and hard-working while still retaining a gentle, loving nature, you’re definitely going to want to give them a second look. Border Terriers bring the best of all worlds to their families; they have the terrier’s characteristic hardworking nature—but once the job is done, they’re some of the most affectionate, happy, and loyal dogs in the animal kingdom. They’re independent thinkers—but they’re also eager to please, making them easy to train. Basically, these pups have it all!
Curious to learn more about this breed? Let’s take a deeper look into everything you need to know about the Border Terrier:
Also Known As…
Otter Dog (due to their resemblance to otters). “Hey, that dog vaguely resembles an otter! Wouldn’t it be funny if we started calling it the Otter Dog?” “Ha ha, it totally would!”
The origins of the Border Terrier date back to the 1800s, when farmers and shepherds along the border of Scotland and England started breeding terriers to hunt their herd’s biggest predator—the hill fox. These terriers needed legs long enough to keep up with the larger hunting dogs and huntsmen (who were typically on horses)—but small enough to dig their way into the fox’s lair and chase them into the open.
Originally, these terriers were named after the respective areas where they were bred (like the Ullswater Terrier, Coquetdale Terrier, and the Reedwater Terrier)—but by the late 1800s, they were categorized as the more general Border Terrier.
The Border Terrier was officially recognized by England’s Kennel Club in the UK in 1920 and by the American Kennel Club in 1930—where, to date, the breed holds more Earthdog titles than any other recognized terrier.
Border Terriers are on the smaller side; fully grown, they’re typically between 12 and 15 inches.
The ideal weight range for a female adult Border Terrier is between 11 and 14 pounds. Male Border Terriers are slightly larger and typically weight in between 13 and 16 pounds.
Border Terriers are friendly, spunky, and have an energetic attitude that’s contagious. If you want a dog that’s equal parts fun and active, a Border Terrier will be a great fit for you.
Intelligence / Trainability
Border Terriers are independent thinkers with a bit of a stubborn streak—but they’re also intelligent and eager to please, so they are definitely a trainable breed.
Here are some tips to get the most out of training your Border Terrier:
- Work off your Border Terrier’s energy. As mentioned, Border Terriers are an energetic breed—and they’re not going to be as engaged in training if they’re bursting at the seams with energy. If you want your Border Terrier to pay attention and engage in the training process, make sure you exercise them beforehand.
- Use positive reinforcement. Border Terriers are loving, affectionate dogs who are eager to please. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats is a much more effective training tool than punishment, which can break their spirits (and actually make the training process more challenging).
- Understand their limitations. Border Terriers can be trained to be well-behaved, obedient dogs—but they have certain limitations you need to be aware of. It doesn’t matter how well you train your Border Terrier to come when called—their instinct to chase small animals is ingrained in their DNA, so you should never let them off leash. Understanding your Border Terrier will help you train them more effectively—and keep you from getting frustrated.
Border Terriers are adaptable dogs; they can thrive in a number of environments—as long as they get the exercise and mental stimulation they need to feel their best.
Border Terriers will do well with a home with a fenced-in yard—but they will also be perfectly happy in a smaller home or an apartment. If you don’t have a ton of space in your home, just make sure you’re taking your Border Terrier out for plenty of walks and exercise so they don’t get restless (and don’t get into mischief!).
Border Terriers are also an independent breed—so while they love being around their humans, they’ll also be fine on their own, making Border Terriers a great breed for people who work and can’t be at home with their dog around the clock.
Good For Families And Kids?
Border Terriers are great with children of all ages. In fact, they’re so gentle and even-tempered, they’re often used as therapy dogs—making them a fantastic choice for a family dog.
Border Terriers are healthy dogs with a long life expectancy; on average, this breed lives between 12 and 15 years.
Border Terriers are an overall healthy breed. But, just like any other breed, they are prone to certain health issues—and if you’re thinking about adding a Border Terrier to your family, those are issues you want to be aware of.
Some of the most common health issues amongst Border Terriers include hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, seizures, progressive retinal atrophy, and a variety of heart issues. Regular screenings from the vet will help to ensure the Border Terrier stays healthy—and any potential issues are dealt with early on.
Border Terriers are active, high-energy dogs—and in order for the Border Terrier to be their happiest, healthiest self, they need plenty of exercise for both their body and mind.
The best way to keep a Border Terrier’s mind and body engaged? Long walks. Not only will long walks help to work off their physical energy, but all the signs, sounds, and smells on a walk around the neighborhood will give a Border Terrier the mental stimulation they need to feel satisfied. Just make sure to keep the Border Terrier on a leash; because of their pedigree, they might be tempted to take off running after a squirrel!
Other ways to work off a Border Terrier’s energy include trips to the dog park, engaging toys, and plenty of playtime; as mentioned, Border Terrier’s have a playful side, so there are few things they’ll enjoy more than a good, old-fashioned game of fetch or tug of war!
Friendly with…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Thanks to their friendly, good-hearted nature (and the fact that they rarely show reactivity toward humans), Border Terriers are great with children (even younger kids!)—making them an ideal pet for families.
Because they were originally bred to hunt small game, Border Terriers may chase small animals—so if you have smaller pets (like a guinea pig), a Border Terrier might not be the best fit. Border Terriers may also be tempted to chase cats—but with proper training, they can learn to peacefully coexist (and even get along with) cats in the home. They are, however, great with other dogs—so if you’re a multi-pup family, a Border Terrier will fit right in.
Coat & Grooming
Border Terriers have a double coat—a soft undercoat with a more coarse, wiry outercoat. Grooming is fairly minimal; typically, a solid brush every week or so will keep the coat in tip-top shape. However, Border Terriers do shed seasonally—and during shedding season, you should expect to spend more time removing dead hair from the dog’s coat.
As far as keeping your Border Terrier clean, a quick rubdown with a towel is all that’s necessary. The Border Terrier’s coat naturally repels dirt—and bathing can actually compromise this natural ability.
Toys Border Terriers Would Like Best
As we’ve mentioned, Border Terriers are high-energy dogs who love to play. And one of their favorite ways to play? With plenty of dog toys!
Some of the best toys for Border Terriers include:
- Super Chewer Toys. Border Terriers love to chew—and they’ll easily (and quickly!) chew through less durable toys. Super chewer toys are designed for dogs with serious chompers—including the Border Terrier.
- Plush Toys. Border Terriers have a sweet, affectionate side—and what’s sweeter than a plushie?
- Tug Toys. Border Terriers love to play with their humans—and tug-of-war is easily one of their favorites. Tug toys are a great way to engage with your dog, work off their energy, and have fun at the same time!
Recommended Diet or Supplements
Like any other dog breed, a Border Terrier is going to feel their healthiest and happiest on a diet of high-quality dog food that’s free of any unnatural ingredients or preservatives. Supplementing with a daily multivitamin can also help ensure your Border Terrier gets all the vitamins they need to feel their best.
As they get older, Border Terriers may also need additional supplements to maintain optimal health. As always, consult your vet before administering anything of the sort.
This supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your BT with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
If your Border Terrier spends a lot of time chasing after tennis balls – or if they just enjoy a good lie down (because really, who doesn’t?) – it’s probably a good idea for them to have their own very comfortable bed.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for active and lazy dogs alike! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It offers the best therapeutic support for your Border. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Border Terrier Of Your Dreams
Ready to take the leap and add a Border Terrier to your family? Why go to a breeder when you can go to a rescue instead! Adopt, don’t shop—and check out one of these notable Border Terrier rescues (and give a Border Terrier in need a forever home!):
- North American Border Terrier Welfare, serving the United States
- Canadian Border Terrier Welfare, serving Canada
- Adoptable Border Terriers on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Border Terriers
Need your daily dose of adorable Border Terrier pics? If so, you’re definitely going to want to add these notable Instagram Border Terriers to your feed:
***Looking for a gift to blow your BT’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂
Featured image via MorrisTheBorder/Instagram