Border Terrier Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Border Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
In the home, the Border Terrier is milder mannered, more laid-back, and more sensible than most terriers. Yet in the field he is "hard as nails, game as they come, and driving in attack."
Some individuals are more work-oriented, while some are more mellow, but in general he is energetic and athletic. He tends to play rough and prefers vigorous exercise and interactive games.
He must not be let off-leash, for there is no terrier more determined to explore and pursue anything that runs (except, perhaps, for the Jack Russell).
Border Terriers are so inquisitive they often get themselves wedged into tight holes or crawlspaces. A secure yard, kennel run, crate, or personal supervision is essential.
Most individuals who have been extensively socialized are bouncy and kissy with strangers, though there is timidity in some lines.
Unlike most terriers, the Border is usually sociable with other dogs and not given to fiery posturing.
But he may or may not live peacefully with the family cat, and he is a businesslike hunter of anything else.
Generally willing to please and very sensitive to harsh correction, the Border Terrier responds nicely to motivational obedience training, especially if it includes food. But in moderation -- Borders live for food and can become pudgy if indulged.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small, but sturdy and tough -- not a delicate lapdog
- Has a natural appearance -- unexaggerated and rather plain-looking
- Has a coat that's easier to groom than most other wirehaired terriers
- Doesn't shed too much
- Likes vigorous exercise and athletic activities
- Is sociable with strangers and other dogs, and not given to fiery posturing like many other terriers
A Border Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The dynamic terrier temperament (see full description below)
- Providing enough exercise and activities to keep them busy
- Very strong instincts to chase other living creatures that run
- Stubbornness (mind of his own)
- Digging holes
A Border Terrier may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Border Terrier
If I was considering a Border Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- The dynamic terrier temperament. Most terrier breeds are remarkably similar. The same words are used over and over -- quick to bark, quick to chase, lively, bossy, feisty, scrappy, clever, independent, stubborn, persistent, impulsive, intense.
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Border Terriers are active go-getters. They MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things.
Terriers were never intended to be simply household pets. I strongly recommend that you get your Border Terrier involved in obedience classes at the intermediate or advanced level, in agility (an obstacle course for dogs), or in an earth dog club (terriers dig and tunnel after small critters who are secured in a sturdy cage so they can't be harmed).
- Animal aggression. Border Terriers are less scrappy toward strange dogs than many other terrier breeds, but they are still a determined force to reckon with if they decide to initiate or accept a challenge to fight. Most terriers have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!
Terriers cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs.
- Fence security. Many terriers are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. You may need higher fences than you might imagine for their small size. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks.
- Barking. Terriers are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. If you work all day and have close neighbors, terriers are not the best choice for you. For the same reason, terriers should NEVER be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. To make matters worse, some terriers have high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
- Mind of his own. Border Terriers are more willing to work with you than many other terriers. Many excel at the highest levels of obedience and agility competition. But the toughness that makes them suited to killing vermin can frustrate you when they decide to be stubborn. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your terrier to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Border Terrier Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Grooming. Border Terriers require regular brushing, and also clipping and trimming every few months.
I do NOT recommend terriers for small children. Many terriers simply play too rough. Many will not tolerate any nonsense from little life forms whom they consider to be below themselves in importance. Many terriers are quick to react to teasing, and even to the normal clumsiness that comes with small children (accidental squeezing of their ears or pulling of whiskers or stepping on their paw). Many terriers are possessive of their food and toys and will defend these from all comers, including children.
To learn more about training Border Terriers to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Border Terrier the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Border Terrier. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Border Terrier might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Border Terrier home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Border Terrier...
When you're acquiring a Border Terrier PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Border Terriers who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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