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Border terrier

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 12-15 inches
  • Weight — 11.5-15.5 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short wiry outer coat, fluffy undercoat
  • Coat color — Wide variety of colors from red, tan, blue, and a wheaten blond. Many also sport a white spot on their chest.
  • Exercise needs — Moderate to High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Moderate barking/vocalizations
  • Life span — 12-15 years
  • Temperament — Playful, energetic, loving, prey-driven
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Great Britain

Border terrier fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Border Terriers Buddy; Max is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Border Terriers love Bella, then Lucy.

  • That cute otter face is a must. Part of the breed standard is that these dogs bear the short snout and beady eyes of the adorable otter.
  • They hunted alongside nobility. They might not look like it at first glance, but these little guys are formidable hunters and were often used alongside larger hounds to chase down and root out foxes.
  • The silver screen calls their name. Films like There’s Something About Mary and Anchorman feature this lively and photogenic breed.
White border terrier

Border terrier temperament and characteristics 

Border terriers are born to chase, zipping across yards and gardens in pursuit of birds, squirrels, and other small animals. When they’re all tired out from chasing prey, digging holes in the yard, or simply playing with their owners, this affectionate breed loves to cuddle up at home with the family. With their small size and trainability, this charming breed is a good fit for families with children of all ages, but you should, of course, supervise very young kids. They also respond well to newcomers to the home like visiting friends and even other dogs. However, given the breed’s powerful prey drive, households with smaller pets like cats should take care when adopting this breed.


Border Terriers have a medium-length, double coat comprising a wiry outer coat and a soft undercoat. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard, acceptable coat colors include shades of red, wheaten, grizzle and tan, blue and tan, or otter hound-type colors. White markings may be present on the chest.

Common border terrier health problems 

Fortunately, the border terrier deals with very few unique health conditions and is a generally healthy and vigorous breed. However, as with most dogs, there are a few common health conditions new owners should be aware of.

  • Hip dysplasia. Border terriers, even with their small size, can deal with hip dysplasia, a hip joint misalignment issue. Fortunately, this disorder is manageable; just be on the lookout for any discomfort when your pooch runs around.
  • Seizures. One ailment that seems to target border terriers more specifically is epilepsy, resulting in seizures. Consult with your vet as soon as you can if your new pet experiences any of these symptoms.
  • Eye conditions. While not especially prone to eye diseases and other afflictions, border terriers still contend with common canine eye conditions like cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Teeth conditions. Border terriers love to explore the world with their sharp, little mouths, so keeping those canines clean and healthy is vitally important. Brush your dog’s teeth and provide tooth-friendly snacks to avoid diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Cost of caring for border terriers

Even though border terriers are a healthy and generally low-maintenance breed with few health concerns, owners should consider options like pet health insurance or pet savings accounts to help pay for any unexpected health expenses that may arise from having such an active and enthusiastic breed.

Border terrier

History of the border terrier

As with many other terriers, the border terrier started off as a ratter, hunting down small vermin in farms and mills around the rugged border between Victorian-era Scotland and England. However, the breed’s enthusiasm and skill at chasing small critters into the open (often referred to as “bolting”) landed them a position alongside hounds on fox hunts of the wealthy class. This association with the elite sport ushered in a fandom for the tenacious breed, securing a place for them in the homes and showrooms of the fashionable and wealthy.

While the breed no longer tunnels underground in pursuit of prey, its charming otter-like face, playful energy, and determined loyalty make this dog a good choice for prospective owners looking for a smaller dog with a big personality and legacy.

Caring for your border terrier

Start off your new puppy adventure on the right paw by planning an early trip to your vet and scheduling all the appropriate vaccinations. With the border terrier’s need for stimulation and tendency to dig, puppy-proofing your home is also a must. And on the off-chance that your pup goes poof after bolting after a tempting squirrel, you’ll be happy to be part of a tracking service like FidoAlert to help you bring your pooch back home promptly.


Bred for running alongside horses and long-limbed hunting hounds, the border terrier is built for speed. And with all that energy comes a need for regular exercise and engagement. At least two half-hour walks a day paired with a few sessions of fetch or other active play are necessary to keep this mobile breed satisfied. Under-exercised border terriers can become a bit mischievous, and that digging instinct can poke holes in any homeowner’s plan for a pristine yard. Keep your pooch pooped with proper exercise to limit such behaviors.

Border terrier running


The border terrier sports a double coat, meaning it has a wiry outer coat that is great for repelling dirt and a fluffy undercoat to help the breed stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. As with other double-coated dogs, this breed sheds periodically, usually about twice a year when seasons change. During these times, proper grooming either by a professional or at home with daily brushing of the undercoat is necessary to prevent excess shedding.

You should also adopt a regular routine of nail trimming, cleaning ears, and, of course, teeth brushing to keep your border terrier looking and feeling its best.

No breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

All that playfulness and enthusiasm has to come from somewhere, and border terriers deserve the finest dog food to fuel their fun. On average, you’ll want to feed your adult pooch one to one and a half cups a day, depending on your furry friend’s activity level, and you should portion that out into two or three meals.

Growing puppies require more food, so make sure to consult with your breeder and vet to determine the best feeding schedule. Fortunately, dog food subscription and delivery services make staying stocked up on high-quality kibble easier than ever, and when selecting the specific type of food, consider options that balance high-quality protein and grains.

Training your border terrier

Highly intelligent and eager to please, border terriers are easy to train. Adopt a dedicated routine to build trust and a relationship with your new dog, and make sure to reward good behaviors consistently. Consider training with a small bag of kibble and a clicker for even more effective training sessions. Remember that border terriers are naturally inclined to dig into burrows after prey, so they love to dig. Proper training and exercise will help prevent this behavior, fortunately.

Border terrier training

Breeds similar to the border terrier

Not quite sure that a border terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Fox terrier. Another breed perfect for tracking down small critters is the fox terrier. Nowadays, it’s a friendly family dog who also happens to be quite vocal.
  • Jack Russell terrier. A challenging, yet rewarding dog, the Jack Russell is a great option for experienced dog owners looking for an energetic pup with plenty of brains and spirit.
  • Yorkshire terrier. Also affectionately known as Yorkies, this breed packs a lot of energy into a small, tenacious package.

Frequently asked questions

Is the border terrier a good family pet?

These dogs are good-natured and tend to get along well with families of all shapes and sizes. However, households with cats or other small pets should prepare for potential conflict there.

Do border terriers shed a lot?

As with many other breeds with a double coat, the border terrier sheds seasonally, but attentive grooming can help reduce shedding.

Can border terriers be left on their own?

These dogs grow to really love their owners and develop a tight bond. This makes them a bit prone to separation anxiety, so they should not be left alone for long.

Do border terriers calm down?

Puppies are known for their playfulness, and border terriers keep up that youthful energy well into their second year. Regular walks and playtime are necessary if you want your dog to settle down for a quiet evening.

What is border terrier singing?

Border terriers make a unique, high-pitch cry which points back to their time as hunting dogs where they would need to loudly signal when cornering prey.