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.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Terrier
  • Height: 11–16 inches
  • Weight: 11–15.5 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 15 years

Border Terriers, a.k.a. Borders, are small, scruffy dogs once used to clear foxes out of their holes and hunt vermin and pests. They have small, dark-colored, V-shaped ears and eyes that are a dark hazel and medium in size. The tail is tapered, and the feet are small and compact.

Their 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 They 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.

Borders were not well known throughout Great Britain, but the breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1920. The Border Terrier Club was formed within the same year, and shortly thereafter the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1930.

Border Terriers have few health problems, but canine epileptoid cramping syndrome is one of them. By: localpups (Top: Roger Hall)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Borders are alert, agile, friendly and affectionate. They are easy to train and get along well with other dogs. You shouldn’t leave them 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.

Borders 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. They 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).


Borders may chase non-canine pets, so keep yours 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 several times a year (2–3 times or more, depending on the cut), we rank their coat maintenance as a medium.

The 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,” says 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 Borders is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS), a condition that mimics epilepsy in its symptoms.

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

5. Where to Adopt One

I found several purebred and mixed-breed Borders available for adoption during a recent search. Check with your local shelters and rescues to see what Borders they have.

If you contact a breeder, inquire about the parents and health clearances (hip, eye and elbow — a test to screen for CECS is not available and is difficult to diagnose). Keep vigilant for any puppy mill red flags.

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