Border Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Border terrier standing on grass

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The border terrier is a small but perky terrier dog breed native to the United Kingdom with a short, wiry coat and a characteristic broad head with v-shaped ears. These dogs are generally friendly and affectionate. But like other terriers, they also can be vocal and stubborn, and they are prone to chase and dig.

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Height: 12 to 15 inches

Weight: 11.5 to 14 pounds (female), 13 to 15.5 pounds (male)

Coat: Short, wiry

Coat Color: Blue and tan, grizzle and tan, red, or wheaten; muzzle is usually darker

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Lively, bright, affectionate

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: United Kingdom

Characteristics of the Border Terrier

Border terriers typically have quite a loving temperament with their families, and they even do well with children when they have proper training and socialization. These dogs love to play—they are smart and moderately trainable, though they can have a strong-willed streak to their personality. 

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Border Terrier

The ancestors of the border terrier can be traced back to the Scottish-English border region. The breed is related to the Dandie Dinmont and the Bedlington terrier, which are also from that area. 

In the 19th century, farmers in this region wanted a dog that was athletic, brave, intelligent, and driven to help catch and deter foxes that were a threat to their sheep. The terriers had to have long legs to keep up on the hunt but small bodies that would allow them to burrow into a fox’s den and flush it out. The larger foxhounds in the area were not able to do this.

The Kennel Club of the U.K. first recognized the breed in 1920, and the American Kennel Club recognized it in 1930. Today it is a moderately popular dog breed in the United States and still quite popular in the U.K.

Border Terrier Care

Border terriers need quite a bit of exercise and playtime to be happy and healthy. They also require consistent training and socialization to be well-mannered dogs. Their grooming is fairly easy, though it becomes more involved during their shedding season.


Aim for at least a half hour to an hour of exercise per day for a border terrier. They generally love brisk walks, jogging, hikes, and playing fetch. These athletic canines also excel in dog sports, including agility, flyball, and tracking. These sports will provide excellent mental stimulation as well as physical activity.

Always keep your dog on a leash or in a secure area for exercise. Because of their high prey drive, border terriers will quickly take off chasing their quarry. Likewise, because these terriers are skilled diggers, make sure any fencing extends underground deep enough that they can’t get under it.


Border terriers are fairly low shedders with a wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. A weekly brushing should suffice most of the time to remove any loose fur and distribute oils. But these dogs will typically go through periods of higher shedding twice a year, often in the spring and fall. During this time, you’ll have to manually strip the loose fur from the coat on a daily basis with a rake or special stripping tool.

The coat of border terriers is naturally effective at repelling dirt, and baths can actually hinder this ability. So only very occasional baths might be required. Otherwise, you can clean your dog with a damp towel followed by brushing.

Check your dog’s nails roughly once a month to see whether they need trimming. And look in its ears at least every week to make sure there’s no dirt, debris, redness, inflammation, or other abnormalities. Finally, aim to brush your dog’s teeth daily.


Border terriers are bright and eager to please. That makes them adept at learning obedience commands. But they also can be independent thinkers and stubborn about when they want to obey.

Begin training your border terrier as early as possible, as it’s generally easier to form good habits in puppies than break bad habits in adults. Start with a puppy obedience class as soon as you’re able. Always use positive training methods; harsh corrections can cause a dog to shut down and not learn. Also, it’s key to be consistent with your directions.

Introduce your dog to different people, other dogs, and various environments, starting as young as possible. These dogs typically are adaptable and open to meeting people and even other dogs, especially if they’ve had positive experiences from a young age. However, their strong prey drive can make them poor companions for other household pets, including cats.

Border terrier puppy
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Border terrier running
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Border terrier sitting on a wall with a gray sky in the background
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Common Health Problems

Border terriers are typically a healthy and hardy dog breed. But they are prone to some hereditary health conditions, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your border terrier a high-quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet, and always have fresh water available. Most owners feed two measured meals per day. The type of diet and quantity can vary based on age, activity level, and other factors. So discuss this with your vet to make sure you’re providing proper nutrition. Also, remember to factor treats and other extra food into your dog’s daily intake to prevent overeating. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Border Terrier

Contact local animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups to find a border terrier in need of a home. If you're looking for a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $1,000 on average, though this can vary based on bloodline and other factors. For further information to connect you with a border terrier, check out:

Border Terrier Overview

  • Affectionate and friendly

  • Adaptable

  • Energetic and hardy

  • Can be strong-willed

  • Can have a high prey drive

  • Often prolific diggers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do diligent research before deciding whether a border terrier is the right breed for you. Talk to vets, border terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups.

If you're interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are border terriers good family dogs?

    Border terriers that are well trained and socialized can make excellent family dogs. As a breed, they are generally affectionate and good with kids.

  • Are border terriers aggressive?

    Border terriers typically aren’t aggressive and only have a moderate protective nature. But they can view small animals, including household pets, as prey.

  • Are border terriers good apartment dogs?

    Border terriers tend to be adaptable to different living situations, including apartments. But if they live in a small space, it's essential that they get out for enough exercise each day.

Article Sources
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  1. Border Terrier. American Kennel Club.

  2. Border Terrier Puppies For Sale. American Kennel Club.