Border Terriers

While perhaps not as flashy in appearance as some of his terrier relatives, the Border Terrier is still all terrier, living life with great gusto, whether he’s out and about with the people he loves or digging a hole in the flowerbed. The look of a mud-brown Border is more scruffy than tailored, but that only increases his charm.

Frankly, it’s a bit of a surprise the Border Terrier isn't more popular than he is, given that he's one of the healthier of the purebred dogs, is less driven to dig and hunt than many other terriers, and he's actually fairly flexible about how much exercise he gets. He’s robust, sturdy and good with children – one of the best contenders for a family pet among all the fiery little terriers.

Is the Border Terrier the Right Dog for You?

The Border Terrier may be small -- 15 pounds or less -- but he’s neither tiny nor fragile. He’ll happily roughhouse with the kids and is active and athletic enough to keep up with anyone, but not so frenetic that he’ll be bouncing off the walls if not constantly exercised. Flashy and stylish he’s not, but he’s an honest dog who’ll still do an honest day’s work if given the chance, which is why he’s one of the few terriers well-represented at canine competitions such as agility.

He’ll still try for a rat if he can: Border Terriers hold more American Kennel Club Earthdog titles than any other breed. Border owners also compete with their dogs in obedience, agility and the show ring. If you want him to make being a companion his career, be sure to give him the opportunity to get out and run, smell, walk and play a couple of times a day – behind a fence or on a leash, though, because while he may not be flashy, he's definitely fast, and the world is full of chaseable creatures like squirrels and neighborhood cats.

The Border Terrier's rough coat sheds, but it can be minimized with weekly brushing or combing, and occasional trips to a professional groomer. These dogs are “hand-stripped” for a proper terrier look for the show ring, a labor-intensive task that involves pulling out the dead coat a little bit at a time using a special tool. It’s usually more practical to have the dogs regularly clipped for neatness.

Border Terriers are people-oriented dogs and are liable to make a lot of noise and a big mess if left too much to their own devices. That's one of the reasons they can't live in the backyard. A Border Terrier needs to live indoors as a member of the family, or he's likely to turn into a noisy, destructive and very unhappy little dog.

7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Border Terrier Puppy

  1. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsociable and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  2. Start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Border Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and requires them to take lifetime responsibility for any puppies they sell if their owners are unable to care for them.
  3. Ask your breeder to show you written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) clearing your puppy's parents of genetic health problems. PennHip certification of hips is also accepted.
  4. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Border Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.
  5. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Border Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Border Terrier can live from 13-15 years, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
  6. Puppy or adult, take your Border Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.Your puppy should be examined by a veterinarian following the OFA guidelines for pediatric cardiac exams between the ages of 6 and 9 weeks.
  7. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Border Terriers

Border Terriers are relatively healthy for a purebred dog. In the hope of controlling the genetic diseases that already affect the breed and prevent any new ones from emerging, the Border Terrier Club of America participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).

CHIC requires that breeders test all their breeding dogs for heart, eye, hip and knee diseases that are prevalent in the breed, and recommends that all puppies have a cardiac examination prior to being placed in their new homes.

The most serious breed-specific health problem affecting the Border Terrier is canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS), a seizure-like disorder sometimes confused with epilepsy, for which there is currently no genetic screening test. A number of studies are underway attempting to develop one, so if your dog is diagnosed with CECS, visit the Border Terrier CECS site and find out how he can be part of an ongoing research project.


Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Medium $1,000-$3,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Border Terriers

Pet insurance for Border Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Border Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Border Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Border Terrier is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.