The Border Terrier is one of the oldest and smallest of the working terrier breeds that originated in Great Britain. Earlier names for this breed include the Reedwater Terrier, Ullswater Terrier and Coquetdale Terrier. They are well-known for their scruffy face and beard and their friendly, welcoming disposition. They are active, agile and sturdy little dogs, said to be "hard as nails" and "as game as they come." This breed thrives on human companionship and does well around children. However, they should not be in homes with other small animals such as birds, hamsters or mice, and they always will be inclined to chase cats. Border Terriers are friendly to everyone, including strangers, but will sound an alarm when something new or unfamiliar appears in their home territory.
Border Terriers average between 11 and 16 inches in height and usually weigh between 11 and 16 pounds, with males being taller and heavier than females. One of their unique characteristics is their harsh, dense coat which is resistant to weather of all types, wiry to the touch, soft on the underside and naturally repels dirt. This is a positive attribute, since Border Terriers typically love to dig.
The Border Terrier was developed in Great Britain, where it originally was bred to hunt and kill the powerful hill foxes that threatened the stock of farmers along the borders of Scotland and England. They had to be active, stout and tireless to perform this task. Their legs had to be long enough to keep up with horses and the accompanying foxhounds, while at the same time they needed to be low enough to the ground so that they could follow and corner foxes, even flushing them from their dens. It is thought that the Border Terrier, Bedlington Terrier and Dandie Dinmont share common ancestors. The breed's popularity surged after it was officially recognized by the English Kennel Club as a distinct breed, and following formation of the British Border Terrier Club, in 1920. True terrier fanciers feared that recognition of Border Terriers as show dogs might "prettify" and soften the breed, but that has not proven true. The breed was well-established long before it became a show dog in the 1920s and retains is rough-and-tumbled looks and sound working character to this day. Border Terriers were first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1930 and are part of its Terrier Group. The Border Terrier Club of America was founded in 1949.
Border Terriers have an average life expectancy of 13 to 16 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS), heart problems, hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.
A sturdy dog with roots as hard farm workers, Border Terriers aren't as high strung as other terrier breeds. Their individual personalities can vary from confident and outgoing, to shy and timid, but all Border Terriers are curious by nature and will want to be included in all family activities. Their playful nature makes them great dogs for families with children.
Border Terriers can live happily in just about any environment be it an apartment, a house with lots of children, or a farm. They don't need an excessive amount of exercise, but should be allowed to walk several times a day and be allowed to run in a yard or park a few times a week. Yards should be fenced because Border Terriers will chase birds, squirrels and cats. Farmers like Border Terriers because they are very reliable ratters and keep foxes at bay.
They enjoy challenges and new tasks, so they need lots of mental activity as well. Challenging toys or hide-and-seek games are right up the Border Terrier's alley.
Border Terriers are easier to train than their terrier counterparts. They can be stubborn but will focus intently on the task at hand, as long as the reward involves a treat. Harsh discipline should be avoided with this breed, as they will become unresponsive to training. Consistency, confident leadership and lots of positive reinforcement are the best formula for training a Border.
This breed was designed by farmers and herders in the borderlands Scotland and England to hunt rodents and keep small predators at bay, and they made a reputation for themselves as being efficient ratters and fearless fox chasers. Modern Border Terriers still enjoy the hunt, so activities that involve "hunting" for toys and treats in the backyard will keep them happily entertained. They excel in agility courses and enjoy taking on new challenges.
Borders are terriers, so Borders bark at just about everything. When they are left alone for long periods of time without enough exercise or activities to keep them busy, their high pitched bark can drive neighbors crazy. Another terrier trait they share with their brethren is the tendency for aggression towards dogs of the same sex. They usually get along just fine with dogs of the opposite sex, but early socialization to be open to new situations can stop same-sex aggression from becoming a problem.
Digging can also be a problem with this breed and if left unsupervised they can tear up a flowerbed in record time. They have also been known to dig under fences in search of new adventures.
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. By nature he is good-tempered, affectionate, obedient, and easily trained. In the field he is hard as nails "game as they come" and driving in attack. It should be the aim of Border Terrier breeders to avoid such over emphasis of any point in the Standard as might lead to unbalanced exaggeration.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Weight Dogs, 13-15½ pounds, bitches, 11½-14 pounds, are appropriate weights for Border Terriers in hardworking condition. The proportions should be that the height at the withers is slightly greater than the distance from the withers to the tail, i.e. by possibly 1-1½ inches in a 14-pound dog. Of medium bone, strongly put together, suggesting endurance and agility, but rather narrow in shoulder, body and quarter.
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, Topline, Body
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. Tail moderately short, thick at the base, then tapering. Not set on too high. Carried gaily when at the alert, but not over the back. When at ease, a Border may drop his stern.
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.
Muscular and racy, with thighs long and nicely molded. Stifles well bent and hocks well let down. Feet as in front.
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.
Red, grizzle and tan, blue and tan, or wheaten. A small amount of white may be allowed on the chest but white on the feet should be penalized. A dark muzzle is characteristic and desirable.
Straight and rhythmical before and behind, with good length of stride and flexing of stifle and hock. The dog should respond to his handler with a gait which is free, agile and quick.
His temperament ideally exemplifies that of a terrier. By nature he is good-tempered, affectionate, obedient, and easily trained. In the field he is hard as nails, "game as they come" and driving in attack.
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Sources: American Kennel Club