Border Terrier Breed Profile

Border Terrier Breed Profile

KC Group Terrier

Size Small

Weight Dogs: 6 - 7kg; bitches: 5 - 6kg

Height Up to 40cm

Average lifespan 13 - 14 years

Good with children? Yes

Good guard dogs? Would bark

Moulting level Low

Grooming Moderate

Exercise requirement Moderate

Jogging partner Yes

Colours Red, wheaten, grizzle, and tan, or blue and tan

Temperament Active, hardy, intelligent, and affectionate 

Border Terrier Breed Profile

The Border Terrier is an active dog who was originally bred to keep up with mounted hunts and go to ground after foxes. Needs an active lifestyle.

Border Terrier health

The Border Terrier is considered to be very healthy. The main issue is spongiform leucoencephalomyelopathy (SLEM), also known as shaking puppy syndrome, which is an extremely rare condition where young puppies show severe tremors in their hind limbs when learning to walk and, sadly, die. The Kennel Club has recently approved a new official DNA testing scheme for this neurological condition which, if used correctly, will stop adult carrier dogs being bred to other carriers.

Canine epileptoid cramping syndrome (CECS) — a seizure-like disorder — can also affect a small minority of BTs. The Border Terrier Club encourages all BT owners to participate in the breed health survey which helps the club get a better picture of the breed’s health.

  • A hardy breed, generally enjoying excellent health.
  • Regular health checks are recommended as he's a stoical dog who won't let on if he's in pain.

Border Terrier temperament

  • Loyal - to all his family, not just one member.
  • Gentle.
  • Affectionate.
  • Intelligent.
  • Biddable.
  • Cheeky.
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Border Terrier lifestyle

  • An active dog who was originally bred to keep up with mounted hunts and go to ground after foxes. Needs an active lifestyle.
  • Would thrive in the countryside but is very versatile and will happily adapt to town life.
  • Doesn't enjoy being alone; he loves human attention.
  • Loves to have a routine.
  • Gets on well with children, but will put them in their place if they become too rough.
  • Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise, his mind needs to be kept busy.

Border Terrier trainability

  • Biddable nature means he's eager to please.
  • Don't forget he's a true terrier and training must be firm and consistent.
  • The Border Terrier does have an independent streak; he will often acknowledge you but do what you want him to in his own time.

Activities suitable for the Border Terrier

Although the Border Terrier is relatively short and stocky, these are very active dogs, who enjoy plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. The need to be busy and burn energy is hard-wired in the breed’s personality as they were originally developed on the Scottish/English border by farmers and shepherds to help control the local fox population. Their job was to keep up with the hunt and go underground after foxes, or alert the hunt to a fox’s presence so they could dig it out; the BT would be capable of killing the fox.

Although this strong work drive makes this terrier highly likely to chase a cat if they spot one while out on a walk, it also means that they are a really fun pet to own, because they can have a go at many different activities. They are particularly good at agility due to their speed and athleticism. Early socialisation and training is paramount as this helps to control some of their natural desires, making them more obedient, well-rounded family pets.

Border Terrier coat care

The breed has a thick coat, consisting of a dense top coat and a thick under coat, which can vary in colour from blue and tan (large areas of blue/black coat) to red (where the coat is mostly reddish-brown).

A BT’s coat reaches a certain length before it dies and is pushed out by new hair, which means that it’s important to hand-strip the coat at least twice a year - in spring and autumn - to remove the dead hair. If you’re buying a BT from a breeder, they should be able to advise you about the best way of doing this, and professional groomers should be able to offer this service too. Clipping is strongly advised against as it can make the coat appear very woolly and less wiry.

  • Needs little grooming - a brush over once a week is sufficient.
  • Seldom requires a bath - though a twice-yearly one will keep him smelling sweet.
  • His wiry coat means that mud and dirt will brush off easily.
  • Carefully monitor food portions. The Border Terrier is very greedy and would eat his weight in food if given the chance.

The ideal home for a Border Terrier

Border Terriers aren’t big dogs so they don’t need a large house or garden to live in. However, you do need to ensure that your garden is safe and secure. Due to them being bred to go down holes after foxes, they are excellent escape artists and can dig out of gardens and fit through very tight spaces in fences and hedges. Similarly, if you live near a busy road you need to be very careful as their hunting instincts are so strong they could easily run out in front of a vehicle to follow their nose.


It’s not a good idea to get two Border Terrier puppies at the same time as the puppies will bond with each other, rather than you. If you want more than one BT, it’s best to have an age gap between them. Also, having two bitches together should only be done with caution as they sometimes don’t get on.

  • Good temperament.
  • Long-lived and healthy.
  • Easy to train.
  • Versatile.
  • Good size.
  • Low-maintenance coat.
  • Needs above-average activity.
  • Tendency to chase other small, furry pets in the household.
Additional Border Terrier facts:
  • The Border Terrier shares some of its ancestry with the Bedlington Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont.
  • The Border Terrier is the most popular breed in the Terrier group. In 2016 there were 5,150 puppies registered with the Kennel Club.