5 Things to Know About Border Terriers

These small, scruffy dogs were once known to hunt foxes and vermin on the border between England and Scotland.

Border Terriers

AKC Group AKC Group
Weight Weight
11.5–15.5 lbs.
Height Height
12–15 in.
Life Expectancy Life Span
12–15 years

1. Key Characteristics of Border Terriers

Border Terriers are small, scruffy dogs once used to clear foxes out of their holes and hunt vermin and pests.

These dogs have dark-colored, V-shaped ears and dark hazel eyes. Their tail is tapered, and their feet are small and compact.

A Border Terrier’s weather-resistant double coat consists of a short, wiry outer coat and a dense, short undercoat.

Coat colors include grizzly and tan, blue and tan, red or wheaten. It’s also possible that some of these dogs carry white markings on their chest.

2. Where Border Terriers Came From

Border Terriers originated in Cheviot Hills, near the border (hence the name) of England and Scotland. This older breed of Great Britain hunted foxes, otters, vermin and badgers, to name a few.

The dogs were not well known throughout Great Britain, but the breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1920. The Border Terrier Club was also formed that year, and shortly thereafter the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1930.

Border Terriers
Border Terriers don’t usually have many health problems, but canine epileptoid cramping syndrome is one of them. Photos: localpups (Top: Roger Hall)

3. How Friendly Are Border Terriers?

Border Terriers are alert, agile, friendly and affectionate. They are easy to train and get along well with other dogs.

You shouldn’t leave yours alone with other pets, though — their high prey drive may kick in. However, they usually get along fine with cats if they were raised or socialized with them.

These dogs are fine with children and are usually good watchdogs, though they are not aggressive. We recommend training and socialization to eliminate the possibility of small dog syndrome.

Border Terriers like to dig, so set aside an area for your dog to fulfill this need.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs


HIGH: These little hunters need daily exercise. Borders have plenty of energy and stamina, although these gradually lower as the dogs get older (they are still active in puppyhood and for years after).

Border Terriers may chase non-canine pets, so keep your Border on a leash or in an enclosed area when outdoors.

Grooming Needs


MEDIUM: Brushing a few times per week is enough to keep your Border’s coat healthy. However, because the coat must be professionally groomed or hand-stripped 2–3 times a year or more, depending on the cut, we rank their coat maintenance as a medium.

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A Border Terrier’s coat doesn’t shed much, but regular grooming is important to prevent matting and knotting, according to Debbie Dee, author of The Complete Guide to Border Terriers.

“Most Border Terriers can benefit from at least monthly bathing, but if your dog has a penchant for getting dirty, you may want to do it as often as once a week,” notes Dee. “Make sure you pick a no-tear shampoo because the Border Terrier’s eyes and skin are delicate.”

Health Problems


LOW: The most prevalent health problem in Border Terriers is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS), a condition that mimics epilepsy in its symptoms.

Other health problems may include:

Watch this rowdy Border Terrier puppy get rid of some pent-up energy:

YouTube player

5. Where to Adopt a Border Terrier

We found several purebred and mixed-breed Border Terriers available for adoption during a recent search.

Check with your local shelters and rescues to see what dogs they have, or start your search now with Petful’s free online pet adoption search.

If you decide to buy a puppy through a breeder, be sure to inquire about the parents and health clearances (hip, eye and elbow, because a test to screen for CECS is not available and the condition is difficult to diagnose).

As always, keep vigilant for the warning signs that the breeder is operating a puppy mill.

Border Terriers in the Movies

A number of movies and TV shows have featured Border Terriers over the years. Here’s a sampling.


  • There’s Something About Mary
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  • Good Boy!
  • Return to Oz

TV Shows:

  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Additional Resources