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Border Terrier

Pet Road Tests > Dogs

Border Terrier

Breed: Border Terrier
Temperament: active but even-tempered
Lifespan: up to 15 years
Maintenance: medium - require weekly brushing
Recommended for: families, men


Northumberland, England's most northerly county, is a large, unspoilt tract of land made up of rolling hills and wooded forests. Sheep raising is common, as are foxes, and the Border Terrier was developed with this in mind. Though small in stature, the 'Border' was nonetheless required to be full of bravado. Farmers often relied on this plucky little dog to chase vermin which preyed on their flocks and this game terrier had to show considerable spirit and resolute whilst protecting their flocks.

Although small, the Border could keep up with both horse and hound and was regularly used on hunts. It was often called on to 'bolt the fox' from its burrow and run with the pack, flushing out the vermin each time it went to ground.

Although popular in the hills and plains of its homeland, the Border remains relatively unknown in Australia, becoming fleetingly popular as a show dog in the 1980s and more popular as a pet in the early 90s. It is probably the least-known of the terrier breeds and owners will tell you it is one of the dog world's best kept secrets.


Although loved by many adoring owners, the Border Terrier could never be called a glamour dog. With a head 'like an otter' and a harsh and wiry top coat, the Border resembles a junkyard dog and is built for work rather than show.

Many dog breeds bred specifically for the show-ring can invariably develop problems associated with health or temperament. Show breeders are required to slavishly obey a standard which is sadly often written with little thought for the overall health of the animal. To the Border's benefit, the lack of popularity it has as a show dog has limited this problem and it has retained much of its original, working characteristics.

A little bit taller than an Australian Terrier, the Border stands around 25-28cm (10-11') and is lightly framed with a racy, athletic appearance. Colours range from red, tan, grizzle (salt and pepper), wheaten, or tan and blue. The thick skin, or 'pelt' can be lifted from the body and with the water-repelling double coat, is designed to protect the dog from the cold, harsh climate of its homeland.


Often snappy and high strung, some terrier breeds can become very possessive of their owners and rather wary of strangers - such that many terriers have a reputation for 'shoot first, ask questions later'. However, despite its gameness, the Border Terrier shows itself to be a more placid terrier, not as belligerent as other terrier breeds nor as quarrelsome towards other dogs as, say, a Jack Russell may be.

An intelligent little dog, the well-trained Border is obedient and often excels in agility classes. Although as with other terrier breeds he may become distracted whilst off the leash. Especially if he spies something to chase. So be careful if exercising him near a road.

Their intelligent, independent nature, combined with their strong prey- chasing instincts may result in a few exploratory holes around the backyard. Some Borders are inclined to be yappy too, especially around food. Adequate training, plus mental and physical stimulation will help overcome these problems.


A robust little breed who's working origins have ensured that it remains a fairly sound and healthy animal. Borders do have a reputation of becoming overweight, though this is often attributed to overzealous owners giving in to those pleading eyes and feeding far too much. Obesity can reduce a dog's life expectancy but a healthy, properly fed Border may be expected to live up to 15 years. There are occasional reports of slipping kneecaps in some dogs and heart murmurs in older Borders, though these conditions are not prevalent to the breed.


Twice yearly, during the transition into the hotter and cooler months, the harsh top coat will shed or 'blow' and will require stripping away from the undercoat. This is best done by hand, simply pulling the loose, dead fur away from the coat. At other times the coat will require weekly brushing, simply combing through with a narrow-toothed comb. Bathing is not required too often as the wire coat is best left with its natural oils and stiff structure intact. Clipping is not recommended, the outer coat provides suitable insulation and protection of the undercoat in all conditions.

Ideal owner

If you're after a dog that isn't too fancy, but don't want to take pot luck on a bitzer, then this little brown dog may be just the thing.

A Border Terrier can make a great little pet for all the family and has something to offer for everyone. Men will appreciate its rough and tumble appearance, mums will no doubt be grateful for its compact size and the kids will love its playful and energetic nature. It is not unusual for breeders to ask between $500 and $600, and you can expect to wait for a pup.


National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.

The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 - Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

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