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  • Temperament: Affectionate, Happy, Plucky
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 86 of 194
  • Height: 12-15 inches
  • Weight: 13-15.5 pounds (male), 11.5-14 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Group: Terrier Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Border Terrier standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Border Terrier head facing left
Border Terrier sitting facing forward
Border Terrier coat detail
Border Terrier

Find a Puppy: Border Terrier

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

He is an active terrier of medium bone, strongly put together, suggesting endurance and agility, but rather narrow in shoulder, body and quarter. The body is covered with a somewhat broken though close-fitting and intensely wiry jacket. The characteristic “otter” head with its keen eye, combined with a body poise which is “at the alert,” gives a look of fearless and implacable determination characteristic of the breed. Since the Border Terrier is a working terrier of a size to go to ground and able, within reason, to follow a horse, his conformation should be such that he be ideally built to do his job. No deviations from this ideal conformation should be permitted, which would impair his usefulness in running his quarry to earth and in bolting it therefrom. For this work he must be alert, active and agile, and capable of squeezing through narrow apertures and rapidly traversing any kind of terrain. His head, “like that of an otter,” is distinctive, and his temperament ideally exemplifies that of a terrier.

HEAD

Similar to that of an otter. Eyes dark hazel and full of fire and intelligence. Moderate in size, neither prominent nor small and beady. Ears small, V-shaped and of moderate thickness, dark preferred. Not set high on the head but somewhat on the side, and dropping forward close to the cheeks. They should not break above the level of the skull. Moderately broad and flat in skull with plenty of width between the eyes and between the ears. A slight, moderately broad curve at the stop rather than a pronounced indentation. Cheeks slightly full. Muzzle short and “well filled.” A dark muzzle is characteristic and desirable. A few short whiskers are natural to the breed. Nose black, and of a good size. Teeth strong, with a scissors bite, large in proportion to size of dog.

NECK, BODY, TOPLINE

Neck clean, muscular and only long enough to give a well-balanced appearance. It should gradually widen into the shoulder. Back strong but laterally supple, with no suspicion of a dip behind the shoulder. Loin strong. Body deep, fairly narrow and of sufficient length to avoid any suggestions of lack of range and agility. The body should be capable of being spanned by a man’s hands behind the shoulders. Brisket not excessively deep or narrow. Deep ribs carried well back and not oversprung in view of the desired depth and narrowness of the body. The underline fairly straight.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders well laid back and of good length, the blades converging to the withers gradually from a brisket not excessively deep or narrow. Forelegs straight and not too heavy in bone and placed slightly wider than in a Fox Terrier. Feet small and compact. Toes should point forward and be moderately arched with thick pads.

HINDQUARTERS

Muscular and racy, with thighs long and nicely molded. Stifles well bent and hocks well let down. Feet as in front.

COAT

A short and dense undercoat covered with a very wiry and somewhat broken topcoat which should lie closely, but it must not show any tendency to curl or wave. With such a coat a Border should be able to be exhibited almost in his natural state, nothing more in the way of trimming being needed than a tidying up of the head, neck and feet. Hide very thick and loose fitting.

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border terrier illustration

About the Border Terrier

Border Terriers, standing from 11 to 16 inches at the shoulder, are easy to recognize among other small terriers by their unique head shape—the breed has an “otter head,” as fanciers say. Another distinguishing trait is that they are longer in leg than other small terriers. The wire coat can be grizzle and tan, blue and tan, wheaten, or red.

Borders are described as “hard as nails” when working, but at home they’re good-tempered, affectionate, and trainable. Borders love exploring outdoors and make fine childhood playmates. Bred to be country dogs, Borders adapt well to city life—as long as they get plenty of exercise. Borders tend to get along with other dogs, but their hunting instincts can be aroused when cats or squirrels cross their path.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Border Terrier

Find a Puppy: Border Terrier

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Border Terrier Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Border Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Border Terrier has a double coat: a hard, wiry outer coat over a soft, fluffy undercoat. Like most double-coated breeds, the Border sheds seasonally. Most of the time, a quick brushing every week or two is enough to keep the coat in good shape. During shedding season, owners can expect to spend a half-hour or so every day stripping out the dead hair, either with their hands or with a rake or stripping tool. The outer coat repels dirt, but bathing compromises this ability. Usually a dirty Border Terrier can be cleaned up with a towel and a brush. As with all breeds, the BT’s nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Occasional

EXERCISE

Borders are active dogs and need plenty of exercise daily. A brisk half-hour walk or play session with his owner and a ball or flying disc should be enough to keep a Border healthy and happy. Because of their instinct to chase small animals, a Border Terrier must always be walked on a leash, and play sessions must take place inside a fenced-in yard or other secure area. Terriers are diggers, so ideally any backyard fencing will extend underground for at least 18 inches. BTs enjoy participating in tracking, lure coursing, agility, and earthdog, as well as canine sports such as flyball.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Early socialization and puppy training classes are a must for Border Terriers. The breed’s parent club notes: “A Border was bred to think for himself, which can be both his most endearing and most frustrating quality. Told to stay, he will oblige for what he considers enough time, then slip off about his own business. Confronted, he will act sorry, since he really likes to please. Punish him harshly, and you will break his spirit. If you want a dog that is unfailingly obedient, don’t get a Border Terrier.” Remember that Borders cannot resist a chase and should only be off leash in securely fenced areas.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

The Border Terrier is generally a healthy breed, and and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, juvenile cataracts, seizures, heart problems, and allergies. Some Borders seem less tolerant of hot weather, so outdoor exercise should be kept to a minimum when the temperature gets above 85 degrees F.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Border Terrier
Border Terrier
Border Terrier
Border Terrier
Border Terrier
Border Terrier

History

In the hilly countryside near the Scottish-English border, old-time farmers and shepherds developed quick, agile terriers to help pursue and dispatch a clever, sheep-stealing predator: the large, powerful hill fox. This required game terriers with legs long enough to run with foxhounds and huntsmen on horseback. But they also had to be small enough to dig into the fox’s lair and force it into the open.

These dogs, the ancestors of today’s Border Terrier, were energetic, strong, and tireless, with a wiry, weatherproof coat to protect them from the rain, mist, and notoriously tough terrain of the borderland. Here, a breed historian describes the Border’s working ability: “There is no wall he cannot get over or wire entanglement he cannot scramble through. Should the fox run to earth, he will bolt him every time, or stay the night in the earth until the matter is settled.”

Early breed names included the Reedwater Terrier, Ullswater Terrier, and Coquetdale Terrier, all derived from place names in the north of England where these rugged little dogs plied their trade. It was, however, in Northumberland, England’s northernmost county, where the breed earned its enduring reputation as a foxhunter adept at working in tandem with hounds. (And to this day, the Border is known as a terrier who gets on well with his fellow canines.)
Foxhunting with Border Terriers in the north country was distinctly different from the pageantry of traditional British foxhunts staged on lavish country estates, where well-heeled horsemen in red coats and high hats rode with huge packs of foxhounds just for the sport of it.

Borderland foxhunts were working-class affairs with a practical purpose: to protect shepherds’ flocks from predators. And to this day, the Border Terrier remains a popular option for just plain folks in the United Kingdom looking for a spirited, low-maintenance companion.

The Kennel Club (England) recognized the Border Terrier in 1920, and the AKC followed suit 10 years later.

Did You Know?

As a working terrier, the early Border Terrier's value was based on its ability to go after and bolt fox and be a source of vermin control for the farmers of the region.
The formation of the Border Terrier Club was 1920 with the English Kennel Club.
The Border Terrier has a weather resistant coat with a hard, wiry outercoat and soft undercoat that repels most dirt.
Borders on the farm in the 18th century were expected to find their own food, so they had to be good hunters to survive.
The first registration of the Border Terrier in the United States was 1930.
By nature, the Border Terrier is good tempered, affectionate obedient and easily trained.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

He is an active terrier of medium bone, strongly put together, suggesting endurance and agility, but rather narrow in shoulder, body and quarter. The body is covered with a somewhat broken though close-fitting and intensely wiry jacket. The characteristic “otter” head with its keen eye, combined with a body poise which is “at the alert,” gives a look of fearless and implacable determination characteristic of the breed. Since the Border Terrier is a working terrier of a size to go to ground and able, within reason, to follow a horse, his conformation should be such that he be ideally built to do his job. No deviations from this ideal conformation should be permitted, which would impair his usefulness in running his quarry to earth and in bolting it therefrom. For this work he must be alert, active and agile, and capable of squeezing through narrow apertures and rapidly traversing any kind of terrain. His head, “like that of an otter,” is distinctive, and his temperament ideally exemplifies that of a terrier.

HEAD

Similar to that of an otter. Eyes dark hazel and full of fire and intelligence. Moderate in size, neither prominent nor small and beady. Ears small, V-shaped and of moderate thickness, dark preferred. Not set high on the head but somewhat on the side, and dropping forward close to the cheeks. They should not break above the level of the skull. Moderately broad and flat in skull with plenty of width between the eyes and between the ears. A slight, moderately broad curve at the stop rather than a pronounced indentation. Cheeks slightly full. Muzzle short and “well filled.” A dark muzzle is characteristic and desirable. A few short whiskers are natural to the breed. Nose black, and of a good size. Teeth strong, with a scissors bite, large in proportion to size of dog.

NECK, BODY, TOPLINE

Neck clean, muscular and only long enough to give a well-balanced appearance. It should gradually widen into the shoulder. Back strong but laterally supple, with no suspicion of a dip behind the shoulder. Loin strong. Body deep, fairly narrow and of sufficient length to avoid any suggestions of lack of range and agility. The body should be capable of being spanned by a man’s hands behind the shoulders. Brisket not excessively deep or narrow. Deep ribs carried well back and not oversprung in view of the desired depth and narrowness of the body. The underline fairly straight.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders well laid back and of good length, the blades converging to the withers gradually from a brisket not excessively deep or narrow. Forelegs straight and not too heavy in bone and placed slightly wider than in a Fox Terrier. Feet small and compact. Toes should point forward and be moderately arched with thick pads.

HINDQUARTERS

Muscular and racy, with thighs long and nicely molded. Stifles well bent and hocks well let down. Feet as in front.

COAT

A short and dense undercoat covered with a very wiry and somewhat broken topcoat which should lie closely, but it must not show any tendency to curl or wave. With such a coat a Border should be able to be exhibited almost in his natural state, nothing more in the way of trimming being needed than a tidying up of the head, neck and feet. Hide very thick and loose fitting.

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border terrier illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLUE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 044
GRIZZLE & TAN Check Mark For Standard Color 110
RED Check Mark For Standard Color 140
WHEATEN Check Mark For Standard Color 224
BLACK & RED 014
BLACK & TAN 018
BLACK GRIZZLE 248
BLUE GRIZZLE 249
GRIZZLE 109
RED GRIZZLE 154
RED GRIZZLE & TAN 259
RED WHEATEN 156

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK POINTS 019

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