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Border Terrier

Breed description

2 Border Terriers on rocksAs its name suggests, the Border Terrier has its origins in the border lands between England and Scotland. Combining agility, stamina, and a compact size, these terriers were originally bred by farmers for dealing with the local foxes – being avid diggers, these dogs could easily follow a fox both under and over the ground. Borders are independent and energetic dogs, and they retain sharp chase instincts to this day, sometimes making them a challenge to keep under control. 


  • Energetic and lively dogs
  • Enjoy human company
  • Happy to socialise and relax when exercised appropriately


  • Strong chase instincts
  • Independent thinkers – not the most obedient breed
  • Tendency to bark

Suitable for

The Border Terrier can make a lovely family dog. However, given its instincts and terrier nature, it can occasionally be nippy and tend to chase after other animals, including cats and wildlife. The Border needs a good amount of socialisation and training from a young age to ensure a well-adapted dog, suitable for family life – particularly where there are other pets. 

  • Families with or without children
  • Homes with limited outdoor space
  • Suitable for homes with other dogs but may chase cats or small mammals
  • Owners committed to providing for regular, if modest, exercise needs

The breed could make a great companion for a retired couple who enjoys countryside walks, whilst its energetic and playful nature can also make it a great addition to families with children. 

Breed care advice

The Border is a hardy breed, requiring little general maintenance. These dogs are generally content whilst their exercise needs are met, and a good half-an-hour to hour´s walk each day is advisable for this lively breed. Owners should take care to avoid situations in which their dog could do harm through worrying or chasing wildlife (or even farm stock – an adult Border is capable of bringing down a sheep), or become lost after the pursuit. 

The Border is short haired and tends to shed seasonally, meaning that a fortnightly brush is probably sufficient. That said, it does have a tendency to get grubby, so a clean-up might be necessary after walks, but only the occasional bath.  

Known health problems

The Border Terrier generally enjoys good health, although there are a few conditions that it may be susceptible to. It is important to be aware that these dogs can also be prone to minor injuries like cuts, scrapes and torn nails, owing to their mischievous nature when out and about on walks.

The breed is reported to have a higher-than-normal prevalence for idiopathic epilepsy. This term is used to describe where a dog has epileptic seizures for no identifiable reason. It seems to be inherited in some Borders. The treatment and prognosis for idiopathic epilepsy depend on the severity of the disease in the individual dog. Some pets may not need treatment, and many can be well managed with one type of medication over the course of their lifetime. However, others may be more severely affected, requiring multiple medications to control, or may even continue to deteriorate despite treatment, unfortunately leading to euthanasia. 

  1. Idiopathic epilepsy 
  2. Involuntary movement disorders/cramping syndrome (Paroxysmal Dyskinesia) – these are poorly defined movement disorders that are noted among Borders. The dogs are conscious and the signs range from tremors to more severe contractions of the muscles of the body – which can make it look like the dog is cramping. Episodes may be random in onset and infrequent in occurrence, or be associated with certain activities. These disorders are still under investigation to better understand why they occur and how to treat them, although some form of genetic inheritance is suspected. 
  3. Inherited cataracts – we are still investigating whether there is an inherited basis for cataracts in the breed. This is where opacification of the lens within the eye can eventually lead to vision impairment and blindness. 


Lead author: Yvette Bell MRCVS