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Honest FAQ for Border Terriers (2022)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Border Terrier

The Border is an unexaggerated, workman-like terrier. Where other terriers in the dog show ring are coiffed and fiery, up on their toes sparring with one another, the plain brown Border looks like he belongs in a Disney movie. In fact, he looks a bit like Benji... and this is just as his admirers want him to remain.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Border Terrier have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Border Terrier temperament and behavior are:

spirited, athletic, tough, inquisitive, independent, determined hunter/chaser

I give you my honest opinions about Border Terrier temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Border Terrier Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were Border Terriers used for?

This hardy hunter of fox, badger, and barnyard varmints originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border between England and Scotland.

What traits would help Border Terriers accomplish their work? That's right... keen senses, strong drives to chase and grab things that run, spunkiness, agility, toughness, determination, persistence, independent thinking, and loyalty to his owner.

How big are Border Terriers? Height and weight?

About 12-15 inches at the shoulder, and 12-18 pounds, which puts them in the SMALL category.

What colors do Border Terriers come in?

Most Border Terriers are blue (dark blue/gray on a tan background) or grizzle (dark-tipped hairs on a red/tan background).

Do Border Terriers come in different "types"?

Sort of. In their native Britain, a few breeders specialize in producing Border Terriers for true working purposes, rather than for exhibition in the dog show ring.

But generally, you'll probably be acquiring a Border Terrier from a show breeder – preferably someone who ALSO demonstrates their dogs' responsiveness and trainability by participating with them in agility, obedience, etc.

How much exercise do Border Terriers need?

A moderate to high amount. All terriers need brisk walks, plus a decent yard for romping and exploring. Jogging on soft ground would be appreciated! Play games of fetch and tug. Set up a miniature obstacle course and run around it with him, or get involved in an official canine sport called agility.

Most importantly, get your Border Terrier involved in an AKC terrier-focused activity called Earthdog  – terriers love it. Another AKC activity that some terriers enjoy is called Scentwork.

You gotta do stuff with a Border Terrier! Otherwise they'll go over or under your fence in search of a more interesting place to live.

Do Border Terriers need a fenced yard?

Yes, with a HIGH solid fence that he can't climb! Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Border Terriers easy to train?

To be honest, no terrier breed is "easy" to train. Terriers are hardwired with an independent mind of their own. However, that doesn't mean you should just let them do what they want. It means you should expect more resistance than if you were teaching, say, an eager-to-please Poodle. But you should hold terriers just as accountable for bad behavior as you would any other breed.

The great news is that Border Terriers are more responsive than some other terriers, so if you have a confident personality, you should be able to establish a healthy leader-follower relationship with this smart little dog. With the proper pecking order in place, combined with loads of exercise, a Border Terrier can be great fun to own.

Are Border Terriers easy to housebreak?

They're about average.

Are Border Terriers friendly with people?

Most Border Terriers are friendly with everyone, but some are more cautious with strangers.

Are Border Terriers good with children?

I never recommend any terrier breed for children younger than about age 10. These breeds have a strong sense of pride and fairness and don't tend to put up with pushy children who step over the line. If you want a terrier, your kids should be older and have the kind of personality and behavior that can be relied upon to treat a dog with respect.

Are Border Terriers good with other dogs?

Border Terriers are more sociable with other dogs than most other terriers. That said, if you're hoping to combine a terrier harmoniously with another dog in the household, I always recommend opposite sexes.

Are Border Terriers good with cats?

Well, with his heritage, you should expect that small running pets will be chased... and grabbed if possible. So a Border Terrier might be fine with the family cat sleeping on the sofa, but outside in the yard it might be a whole different story!

How much do Border Terriers shed?

Border Terriers are average shedders, but more on the lighter side of average than the heavier side. Their broken, wiry coat sheds in the spring and fall.

Are Border Terriers hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. If you're allergic to dog dander... some people with (mild) dander allergies might not be badly affected by the Border Terrier. However, this breed isn't hypoallergenic to the same degree as a Poodle or Bichon Frise.

How much grooming do Border Terriers need?

Hardly any brushing, but a couple of times a year, you'll need to trim/clip the coat short, else it will become shaggy and unkempt.

What's a good training schedule for training Border Terrier puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Border Terriers: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Border Terriers tend to have?

As you might expect, leading the list is chasing things that run...  often followed by grabbing and killing things that run. Outside of a fenced yard, this breed should be kept on-leash.

Other Border Terrier behavioral issues include digging holes, digging under fences, climbing fences, and barking. Here's how to handle behavior problems.

What health problems might Border Terriers have?

Allergies that cause terribly itchy skin are very common in all terrier breeds. Eye diseases can lead to blindness. And heart disease and epilepsy are concerns in the Border Terrier.

What breeds are similar to the Border Terrier?

Like the Border, the Jack Russell Terrier, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Rat Terrier are tough, high-energy terriers with an enthusiasm for stalking and chasing things. In addition, all four terriers are more responsive/trainable than most other terrier breeds.

Where can I buy a Border Terrier puppy?

Show breeder, working breeder, pet breeder? Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Border Terrier?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Border Terrier. Which pages should I read first?

  • Border Terrier Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Border Terrier puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Border Terriers, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Border Terrier puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Border Terriers have pros and cons, and female Border Terriers have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Border Terrier puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Border Terrier breeder would ever place one of their Border Terrier puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Border Terrier puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Border Terriers?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Border Terrier to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Border Terrier until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Border Terrier, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Border Terriers that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.