This information sheet will attempt to point out how elements of the Border Terrier personality and conformation stem from its breeding and as a “working terrier”, and yet adapt well for family living. These same elements will make zealous Border fans and guardians. Borders tend to be “entrusted to families,” and not just sold to anyone who has the price.
THE BORDER TERRIER
ORIGIN The Border Terrier descends from the ancient hunting terrier stock found along the border between England and Scotland. Border farmers, shepherds, and sportsmen for generations preserved a particular strain of working terrier. The breed finally was named in the 19th Century for its work with the Border Foxhound pack.
This “natural dog” has never been over-bred. It retains its rugged health as an outdoor dog and its keen instincts as a hunter of foxes and barnyard varmints.
FAMILY DOG Borders are popular family dogs in England but are less known in North America. The breed has none of the physical extremes that attract attention and popularity. Borders may be over looked as “too ordinary, too much like a mutt.” If so, it is the North American family’s loss.
These small dogs have a great personality and charm---a multitude of virtues. Dog psychologists rate the Border Terrier as “one of the best dogs for a family to own….” and “exceptionally good with children.”
CONFORMATION AND SIZE The Border is a breed of no exaggerations. The standard calls for a balanced, practical and attractive dog. The Border is a handy size, (11” to 15” at the shoulder, 14-18 lbs in weight.) The Border has a sufficient length of leg and stamina to follow horses of the fox hunt all day. When the hounds ran the fox to ground, the Border terrier was sent into the burrow, to bolt or drag the fox out—hence the compact body, distinctive head, powerful jaw, massive teeth, loose skin, and double coat.
The otter-like head distinguishes the breed from any other terriers. It is moderately broad and flat in skull with a strong, short muzzle. (Since the jaw is a third class lever, the short jaw is more powerful than a long jaw would be.)
This is the only breed of terrier required to have a thick loose-fitting pelt (helpful in wriggling through tight places underground and making it difficult for the quarry to gain hold on underlying muscles.) It is interesting to note that the terrier breeds are notably less sensitive to pain than other dogs. The hard, wiry outer coat with soft undercoat is weather resisting and repels most dirt. Brushing keeps it clean.
GROOMING/SHEDDING The Border is shown as a natural dog. It needs the absolute minimum of grooming. A weekly brushing and tidying up is usually sufficient, even for the show ring. Heavy-coated adults need to have their dead outer coat plucked away twice a year, but no professional trimming is required.
Frequent bathing is unnecessary. They have little doggy odor and have a natural oil to their coats, dirt and burs seem to brush right off them. Borders, perhaps, shed less than most breeds, but don’t get any dog if you object to dog hair in the house.
RELIABLE/EASY GOING Because the Border was for centuries the poor family’s only dog (raised in that best-of-all possible environments—under the kitchen table), the terrier had to have an absolutely reliable family temperament. The Border is easy to live with, cooperative and anxious to get along. It is not a high strung, pesky or yappy dog.
SENSITIVE Borders are very sensitive because they are so anxious to please. We have known puppies to cry over rebuke. These dogs should “never” be struck, spanked or threatened harshly—a scolding is usually enough to shame them. For the most serious “sins”, we grab the border by the loose skin at the back of his neck and give it a shake or two. Physical abuse will render a pup timid or surly.
AFFECTIONATE Borders are among the most affectionate of dogs, and some would like to be lap dogs. Classic Borders, however, prefer to be close, but not held. They desire a cuddle session once or twice a day, but are not always nudging and begging for attention. Sometimes, they tend to be a bit aloof outside of play periods….after all; they are bred to be working terriers. But, as like other terriers, they are always ready for fun and games.
Classic Borders also: cannot go by any hole (even a furnace duct) without inspecting it for possible varmints; have a passion for orderliness; are offended at being laughed at (rather than being laughed with); and do not like to be carried about (‘I’m not a little dog, thank-you!”)
FRIENDLY Borders Terriers are almost universally friendly. They make good watch dogs (announcers, can be thought of as yappy) but are poor guard dogs. They like almost everyone. (The terrier entering a burrow might come out another opening and need to be handled by strangers.) Border Terriers are friendly with others dogs—a rare quality in terrier breeds. (This friendliness was necessary for a small dog to work and survive with large hounds of the fox hunting pack.)
INDEPENDENT The Border’s independence of spirit comes from the need to make its own decisions when working underground where no guidance from its master is possible. Given understanding and affection, they are anxious to please, cooperative, and easily trained. They are frequently outstanding in obedience, agility, and fly ball competition.
SENSIBLE HUNTERS Borders rarely get themselves into situations that they can’t get out of. (They were bred to size up the quarry before tackling the fox, badger, or otter.) Don’t be fooled by their quizzical expression, it masks a keen sporting drive and implacable determination.
LONG-LIVED Oh yes, Borders are exceptionally long-lived. With proper health care they can be active and enjoying life at the age of 17 or more.
CAUTIONS Borders are hunters. The family cat is safe, but woe-betide interloping cats, squirrels and rabbits in the family yard. Chickens usually are too much of a temptation. Borders are absolutely not to be trusted with pet rats, gerbils, etc.
On walks, Borders must be guarded from scavenging food. (They may think you expect them to hunt for their own food.)
The Border is not high strung or yappy. Whether a Border becomes a quiet or talkative dog, however, depends pretty much on early training. The breed has two instincts in this regard—to keep silent while stalking its prey, and to bark when in view of the quarry underground. Which one will predominate depends on the family tradition taught by its Border mother and early training by the owner.
Borders are not willing to accept a greeting passively. They may respond with a quick nibbling caress of your hand or wrist.
HOUSING EXERCISE We feel that Borders need companionship, human preferably. If you must be away from your home most of the day, then you should consider having two dogs, not just one. A Border’s favorite bed (after yours) is another Border terrier’s.
Borders have the nice combination of being active out-of-doors, and generally inactive indoors. They do need a moderate amount of out-side exercise every day to avoid becoming flabby and bored. A Border makes an excellent jogging companion. At minimum, they need a good long walk every day, or better, a free run in a safe area, far away from traffic.
DANGERS Their friendliness, charm and size make them prime targets for theft. Borders should be housed behind locked fences and always out of view from the street. As a CKC registered Border your puppy will be tattooed for identification and to discourage theft.
Borders are single minded. When pursuing quarry or busy on some doggy errand, they are oblivious of possible dangers. As a result, more Borders are killed by autos then die from any other cause. For this reason we prefer that you have a fenced in area for them. If you are going to have Border Terriers, you must guard them in all traffic situations.
Border Terriers are responsive, delightful companions—possibly the last of the unspoiled, natural dogs that have never been over-bred. Border Terrier families are dedicated to keeping them that way.
“As Border Terrier breeders we are striving to Remain True to the legend of the Original Border”
Thank-you for your interest in these fine, game little dogs.
Carole & Sandy Baldwin
Naturally reared for a Healthier Future