Border Terriersare medium sized
members of the Terrier Group, although still quite a small dog; they are valued
for their good nature and gameness. They are bred as working animals but their
adaptability and intelligence makes them active family companions. Each Border Terrier is an individual, and knows it.
The Border Terrier requires only small amounts of food. They are not fussy
eaters but have a good appetite and will become overweight if overfed or not
regularly exercised. On average they cost about £8.50 each a week to feed on
quality dry food (which I thoroughly recommend - prices UK Jan 2015).
They are generally a fit and healthy dog with few genetic dis-orders (over-bite and under-bite in the lower jaw are most common) so veterinary expenses are usually
low. Professional grooming will be required (circa £40 each time depending on
location and ability of groomer), unless you learn to hand strip (see my book). And in
between strips they do lose hair. I recommend a routine comb through of the coat at least every week.
Puppy prices can vary considerably from around £350 to £850, depending on the
pedigree of the dog. Some very good pedigree Border Terriers with Champion
parents and an excellent lineage may cost much more. Please make sure when you buy a puppy that you see the Mother and please do not buy from a puppy farm.
The Border Terrier is a fairly long lived breed and can expect to reach 15
years or more. Litter sizes can vary from 2 to 8, but the normal is 4 or 5.
Borders have characteristic otter-like heads. with harsh, dense coats with
close undercoats. They are primarily working dogs and look it. They are strong,
active, keen of eye and all terrier (which means they are courageous and will
dig; especially after rabbits and ground vermin that disappear down holes).
The Border Terrier first appeared in the 18th century and has changed very
little since. They were used as working terriers in the English / Scottish Borders
hunting foxes which preyed on livestock. Their appearance was never of great
concern to their owners but their ability to go to ground after a Fox was, so
they were bred to have strong jaws, to be well boned but not heavy and to have
a chest with sufficient capacity but narrow enough to allow them to get back
out of any earth hole they entered. Their extra length of leg enabled them to follow
a horse over fairly long distances and they had to be there when when they were
needed. During their history they were known as the Reedwater Terriers and the
Coquetdale Terriers but nowadays are referred to only as Border Terriers. They
are still working terriers in the countryside but in urban areas are mainly
family companions. Bitches are regarded as better working dogs. Both sexes are
very good river swimmers.
Border Terriers are a complex mix of many other terriers and it is possible
that far back even working Collies "had a look in." It should
therefore not be surprising to see so many different variants all called Border
Terriers. In the same litter there will often be a mix of colours. A good Blue
and Tan will look very different from the more common Wheaten or Tan variants
while red wheatens are quite rare. It is this tremendous range of different
types of terrier along with a mix of "other dogs" that gives the
Border Terrier its character and spirit.
They are very intelligent and trainable; but they are independent dogs so
require firmness and patience in their training which should start early. If
cuddled, fussed and over fondled as puppies they will become very
"soppy" with their owners as they reach adulthood and overly defensive when
outside the home environment. The head of the Border should be broad with a
short, strong muzzle (and as mentioned before a bit Otter like). The mouth
should have a scissor bite (overshot or undershot bottom jaws can occur and
maybe problematical). The nose should preferably be black but liver or flesh
coloured ones are tolerable. The eyes should be dark with a keen expression and
the ears small, v-shaped and dropping forward, close to the cheek (although
some may have slightly longer ears). The neck should be of moderate length and
the body should be deep, narrow and fairly long. The legs are moderately long,
not heavily-boned and feet are small with thick pads. The tail should be not
too long, set high and carried gaily and happily. The coat is harsh and dense
with a close undercoat and the skin must be thick. The preferred colours for
the show-ring are red, wheaten, grizzle and tan or blue and tan.
I can tell you that the Border Terrier is an affectionate, fun-loving dog. They
are brave, adaptable and good with people, especially with old people and children. They are often used as "Well Being" dogs used to visit care homes and hospices. They are
reliably easygoing but have independent natures and like to make their own decisions.
They love to chase Rabbits, Squirrels, birds etc. but will live in harmony with
other household pets if the other pets are there first. Do not try and introduce Cats or Rabbits once a Border Terrier has arrived at your home because your trusted friend will display his hunting and killing instincts which supported by his territorial defence instinct will turn him / her into a murderer. They are equally at home in the town or country and as
you may have guessed are very adaptable. Puppies may go through a shy phase in
their new homes and it is particularly important to ensure that they are
adequately socialised with humans and other animals especially dogs, (but not
over fondled - see above) as soon as possible after they arrive home and
continuously until they are adults.
If you intend taking your new baby in the car as an adult, take your new baby
out every other day for short trips. There will be accidents to start with so
be prepared (baby wipes and small food bags are excellent - and I recommend you
keep some in the car all the time even when your friend is grown-up).
Borders mostly have quite long coats if left to grow naturally. The short coat
is only maintained by weekly stripping (or 'rolling') which can be quite time
consuming and there is a technique involved. A specialist groomer is required
until this has been learnt (see my book). A puppy can be left unstripped until the coat is
'blown', usually at about 6 to 7 months of age for a tan or wheaten and about 8 to 9 months for a blue & tan, but it will then need a full hand strip. Clippers
must not be used on the first strip as the under coat will grow quicker than the outer and you will have taught the the coat to be fluffy and soft (still recoverable but over a period of 18 months). The Border Terrier coat becomes "mature" around the age of three. A full strip by hand can take 2/3
hours. Eyes, ears and teeth should be checked regularly and check your friends
"undercarriage" and legs once in awhile for ticks, cuts and scratches; bad cuts should be seen by a vet straight away. If you let "him" loose in the
country side be warned that his hunting instinct will take over on sight or smell of
catchable prey - this will on every occasion override your command until the
chase is over (quickly with rabbits - longer with foxes and birds): you've been warned. As part of this warning, Border Terriers no matter how old or wise they become, never learn that roads are dangerous places and will chase a Cat across a road without fear. They can be obedience trained but their hunt instinct is strong in the face of prey.
The Border Terrier comes in a variety of colours including red, wheaten,
grizzle and tan, or blue and tan; and is a moderate coat shedder. As I've said
previously Border Terriers do need hand stripping (or clipping for older dogs - see my book) at least twice a year and in
between they will shed hair so you will need a pet hair vacuum cleaner.
It seems there are a few
warnings, but this should not deter you, simply recognise his basic
character and instincts, help shape his personality and love and look after him. You'll never
have a better friend or a more loyal companion.