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With his small size and rather plain brown coat, the Border Terrier might seem unassuming, but he’s got enough character for a canine 10 times his size. Originally developed in the border areas between England and Scotland, this diminutive but tough and hardy breed was used to hunt fox, otter, and vermin, and Borders of today still have the traits that allowed the breed to excel in performance of that job.

Border Terrier Agility
Border Terriers can excel in a wide variety of canine activities, such as agility.

Border Terriers are smart and have wonderful personalities. The breed standard says “in the field he is hard as nails,” but also notes “by nature he is good tempered” and that the Border is “affectionate, obedient, and easily trained.”

The breed’s national parent club, the Border Terrier Club of America, has an outstanding website chock-full of helpful information for prospective owners of the breed. One heading offers Frequently Asked Questions about the breed. Here is a top FAQ, and the club’s answer:

Can a Border Terrier be trained to stay in my yard without a fence and to walk off-leash?

The club’s answer:

“A Border Terrier, as is true of any terrier, is an instinctive vermin-hunter, and as such cannot be trusted off-leash or in an unfenced area AT ANY TIME!! A rabbit or squirrel is enough to send him chasing, which may lead to being lost or hit by a car. This trait seems to worsen with age. A fenced-in yard is ideal, although a kennel run will also contain the Border. Tying him out in the yard is not recommended, because it often leads to constant barking, and leaves him open to attacks by other dogs or theft. Invisible fencing is another option but is only as good as the training you give your dog. … If you do not have a fenced-in yard, your dog should ALWAYS be on leash when outside.”

Border Terrier face

Longtime Border Terrier breeder Lynn Looper, who writes the breed’s quarterly column for the AKC Gazette, shares some further insights:

“The Border Terrier has a reputation as the quietest of all the terrier breeds. Without the stubbornness and independence typical of many terriers, this breed is commonly seen in performance events. Borders served in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster, and these small terriers have also been known to be excellent herders. Ideal for therapy work as well, and a wonderful family pet, the Border Terrier can truly be considered one of the world’s best-kept secrets.

“That said, the waving of a cautionary flag to prospective owners is necessary. Still a genuine terrier, the Border is genetically programmed with intense instincts to hunt and kill vermin. They are gentle and well behaved in the home, but once outside nature takes over, and the prey instinct erupts. This makes it necessary for all owners to have secure fencing. A Border Terrier can be raised with a family cat, but a neighbor’s feline is fair game! Other types of pets are up to the individual Border’s approval.

“The Border Terrier does not mind sharing his family with other BTs or dogs of other breeds. Owners must realize, however, that three or more dogs equal a pack, and all packs establish a leader. It is certainly not unheard of that pack-behavior problems can arise, and sometimes the only answer is to re-home the instigator, which can include this breed. Also, even the nicest Border Terrier might deem a toy breed as prey.

border terrier puppy“As much as I would love everyone to share in the joy of spending life with this admirable breed, overexposure would do the Border Terrier a disservice. All dog breeds need to be protected, and it is ultimately up to the breeders to do so, by carefully placing puppies with well-informed, appropriate homes.

“With their scruffy appearance, love of children, trainability, and gentle personality, the Border Terrier is luring more families to own them. Yet it may be in the breed’s best interest to have them remain … the world’s best-kept secret!”

The Border Terrier Club of America’s website also includes an excellent section titled “The Border Terrier in Brief.” The club urges everyone who is considering adding a Border Terrier to their family to read this section to help determine if the breed is really the right fit. “The Border Terrier in Brief” includes topics such as Living with a Border Terrier, Grooming a Border, fun activities to do with the breed, and—importantly—a section titled “Why a Border is not for everyone.” “The Border Terrier in Brief can also be purchased in booklet form from the club website for $5.
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