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Border Terrier – The Tough Little Northern Dog

Border Terrier – The Tough Little Northern Dog

Border Terrier – Terrier

Border Terrier Portrait

Image: Rob kemp/Shutterstock.com

Name Border Terrier
Size Small
Grooming Easy
Training Moderate
Exercise Daily / twice a day
Origins United Kingdom

The Border Terrier as tough as the fells

Border Terrier

Image: coxy58/Shutterstock.com

The UK border regions number one Ratter!

Quick Overview

Name:                                                                  The Border Terrier (formerly the Coquetdale/Redesdale)

Size:                                                                       Up to 40 cm tall

Weight:                                                                Up to 16 pounds in weight

Grooming:                                                          Not excessive

Training:                                                               Reasonable, on the easier side of the middle

Exercise:                                                              About an hour a day

Temperament:                                                 Sometimes Stubborn, Great with Kids

Lifespan:                                                              12-15 years

Origins:                                                                 Scotland and England Border Regions

Breed Type:                                                        Terrier

History of the Bonny Border Terrier

The Border Terrier shares its parentage with the Bedlington Terrier from the south and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier. They all sport that woolly, wiry coat best used to keep them warm and dry in the harsh UK weather. Their ancestry and long history date back beyond records. What we do know is that they were first developed to chase foxes and keep vermin off farmland. The borders are a hilly region, so they needed to be able to keep up with the foxes, and still be small enough to get into the burrows.

Later, in Northumberland, the Border Terrier gained the name it keeps today. Before then, it was known either as the Redesdale, the Reedwater or the Coquetdale terrier. These are all towns in northern England that bred the dogs at one time or another.

Hunting Dogs

The Northumberland fox hunters used them for years because they were long-legged enough to keep up with their horses, and they could reach places their fox terriers could not. Thus ensued a long and bloody-nosed history of the Border Terrier’s use as a hunting dog. They hunted foxes primarily but later moved on to badgers, rabbits, and otters.

There was a distinction between the fox hunts on horseback and those taken on by farmers protecting their flocks. As with all good things, the upper classes did adapt to using the Border Terrier… but let’s get one thing straight. It was a working-class dog. In fact, when it was first proposed in the studbooks for the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club, it was rejected. It wasn’t granted this status until 1920. This large terrier had to fight for its spot.


To speculate a little about its ancestry then… when the Romans invaded the UK circa 40 AD, they brought their versions of dogs with them. The woolly-haired poodles and bichons were common to their shores. When the Vikings came, their dogs would have been hardier, and more used to the northern cold than the southern warmth.

Border Terriers would have been hunting dogs and working dogs. Likewise, the Norman invasion would have brought yet more breeds to the UK… all of which muddled down to what we have today. The practice of importing dogs was reserved for newly settled colonies like Australia and the USA. It is only in recent years that breeds have started crossing the seas as deliberate attempts to establish themselves in new countries.

Anyway, the Border terrier gained AKC recognition in 1930 and is incredibly popular in both the UK and the USA to this day. It is the 8th breed in the UK and the 10th in the USA. It is also listed in the UKC, just for good measure. It’s not just a dog either, it’s a living part of British history.

Fun Facts About your Borders Puppy!

If you find yourself in possession of a brand new Border Terrier puppy, there are some excellent facts you can whip out at parties to impress friends and relatives. Here are the hand-selected, Five Minutes Spare favourite Border Terrier fun facts:

  • The Border Terriers have one more Earthdog title with the AKC than any other dog breed… they’re literal champions!
  • They’re exceptionally famous, they have been in Return to Oz, Lassie, There’s Something About Mary, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Monarch of the Glen, Coronation Street, and Misfits… to name but a few…
  • David Walliams has two Border Terriers; he calls them Bert and Ernie!

If you have bought a Border Terrier puppy then congratulations! You are a proud owner of a Great British Breed.

How Often Do You Exercise Them?

An hour a day will be enough, but if you want to chuck them in the car and go on an old-fashioned run around in the country, they will be able to keep up with you. We don’t recommend it though as they will go after any animal they think is small enough to be prey. Keep that in mind if you have other pets in the house as they are easily capable of killing rabbits & cats as well as their more usual targets small rodents. If you don't exercise them well expect them to indulge in chewing, digging and showing you their escapologist skills!

Are They Hard to Train?

Yes and no. They’re not "dog agility" course ready but they naturally chase given their origins. So if you want to teach one to be a service dog, you might struggle. However, if you’d like to teach it to keep the rats out of your hay bales, it’ll be a cinch. If all you want them to do is sit and stay, then they got this.

Are they a Healthy Dog Breed?

They are an old breed so there are issues, something compounded by their high pain threshold (as we said they are tough little dogs). They are long-lived though, so if you have a healthy pet then you’ll have them for a long time. A good reason to buy from a registered breeder is their health. A registered breeder will always have familial history on hand to give you a warning of health defects. The nature of these dogs is that they are hardy, and popular in Britain. So do try the shelters before you buy a new puppy.

Some known health problems include Perthes Disease, hip dysplasia, retinal atrophy, seizures or epilepsy.

Do I Have to Brush my Border Terrier?

Not really, once a week will be enough together with an occasional stripping, however, for bonding purposes, some extra grooming is always good. You should bathe them if they roll in fox poop (which they will) and clip their nails if they need it. Brush their teeth about once a week and it will really help dental vet bills in later life.

Got Five More Minutes?

Not the right breed for you? Don’t panic! Here at Five Minutes Spare, we take great delight in seeking out the best of the breeds. Check out the dreadlocked Bergamasco for a pastoral doggo or see the Beagle for a good old hound. We have all the breeds… all you need to bring is your brain.

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