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All About Border Terriers

The Breed

"Border Terriers are lovely, friendly little dogs with very cute faces and small enough to fit into a flat or tiny house or garden."  This is most people's perception of a Border Terrier.

All the above is true, but it must be remembered that Border Terriers have been bred for many years as a WORKING dog, who will run with hounds, go to ground when necessary, attack and defend itself as required and is a TERRIER, not a lapdog!

This means that Borders need appropriate exercise, not just a potter down the road and back twice a day, maximum ten minutes.


They need mental stimulation, a structured routine making sure they don*t over push boundaries. a good diet as too much food or they may become overweight, and they have to be watched with other, strange, dogs as they can be defensive.  Having said that, owning a Border Terrier is very rewarding; they are wonderful companions, will walk all day without tiring and curl up quietly by the fire in the evening.

Visit the Kennel Club website to read the Border Terrier breed standardDownload The Border Terrier Club guide to Border Terriers, or visit The Southern Border Terrier Club website to read 'Is a Border Terrier right for me?'.

Image by Ben Black
Border Terrier Welfare - Puppies

Getting a Puppy

First, there are a lot of decent, caring breeders out there; they will be the ones asking you lots of questions before they consider letting you have one of their puppies.  If a breeder asks you so many questions about your ability to look after their precious puppy that you start to feel insulted, then they are the better breeders!  

They will take a keen interest in how the puppy will be looked after and will have lots of advice about the breed and the puppy's care.  

They will worm the pups, feed them 3 - 4 times a day, start the socialisation process and play with them so they are used to being handled, keep them clean, warm and dry and much more besides.

The breeder should be happy to answer all your questions about owning a Border Terrier and even to take the puppy back themselves if anything happens at any time that means you cannot keep it.  The puppy would not be in this world if not for your breeder, so they have a big responsibility to ensure the health and welfare of the puppy.

Good luck in your search; make sure this is the breed for you and that you know all  about their  pros and  cons.  Accept  them for the great but naughty, cheeky little terriers they are; ensuring they come from a reputable source, before you take one home.  Read our Do's & Don'ts checklist below for things to consider before you take one on.

They're not perfect, but they are great little hooligans with a character larger than life!

Don't let your pup become a Border Terrier Welfare statistic!

Read our handy list of Do's and Don'ts for our top tips on choosing your puppy to make sure you are prepared for the arrival of your new member of the family.

RESEARCH the breed before you buy to make sure a Border Terrier is right for you.  Hopefully information on our site will help you, but talk to your breeder, other owners or breed clubs and read books on the breed before making your decision.

DON'T be pressured into paying a deposit before you've met the breeder and covered all your (and their) questions.

NEVER make a rash decision about buying a puppy.  Visit the breeder, take a list of questions, be prepared to answer the their questions, then go home and think about it before you decide.  Don't be pressured by a hard sell if they say the pup might be gone while you're thinking about it.

CHECK the date of birth.  The pups should not leave home earlier than 8 weeks old.  A breeder parting with puppies earlier than this doesn't care about them and just wants your money.

ALWAYS make sure you see the puppy with its mother and ask questions about the father too if not present, especially on health and temperament.

DON'T accept a puppy that has not had a health check by the breeder's vet.  It is better to know the puppy is healthy before you purchase, than to find out it has a serious issue after you get it home and have fallen in love with it.

ASK if the pups have been wormed; when, with what and amounts.  They should be wormed at least three times before they leave home at 8 weeks.

DON'T accept a puppy with fleas.  The pups should be well cared for and fleas or worms at such a young age can be life threatening.  Also, once fleas invade your home, you'll need to talk to a vet about getting rid of them, so best not to bring them home in the first place.

TAKE the puppy to your to your own vet shortly after purchase for a full check up and vaccinations.

ENSURE the pups have been well socialised; check how they react to being handled and picked up (while you sit on the floor).  Particularly if raised outside, has the breeder spend time socialising them.

INTRODUCE children (if you have them) to the breeder and puppy.  A decent breeder will be concerned to know that your children are not going to maul the puppy about and your children should also meet the pup before it comes home.

MAKE sure you get Kennel Club registration details if you want a pedigree.  KC Registration can be done online, so if the papers are not ready, ask for a copy of the application made or the KC Registration numbers of the sire and dam, then call the KC before you buy to confirm the application has been made.  Do not accept excuses.

WALK AWAY if you see anything that you are not happy with at the breeder's premises.  Do not buy a puppy out of pity as you are only encouraging the breeder to breed more unhealthy dogs.  For serious concerns, you could report the breeder to the appropriate authorities.

Border Terriers at Christmas

Don't get your Border for Christmas

Hopefully you will have this puppy for 15 years or so; it is worth the wait of a couple of weeks, until the New Year when you have more time.  Introducing the puppy to a calm, quiet household and helping it with  house  training, making sure it  has  the right things to eat and is fed 3 - 4 times a day at regular intervals will benefit both the puppy and you in the long run.

The puppy will be healthier, happier and will settle in more easily so you can reap the rewards of time spent house training, socialising and obedience training to enjoy years owning a Border Terrier.

There are of course exceptions to every rule.  Some households expect a quiet time at Christmas, with no visitors and know they will have the necessary time to devote to settling puppy in, along with training and socialising it.

If that fits your circumstances, there may be a case for allowing yourself the joy of a puppy in your house at this time of year, but hopefully you will select a breeder who needs an awful lot of convincing before they allow you to take their precious puppy home with you at this time of year (if you find a litter ready at this time).

Border Terrier Health

The seven Border Terrier Breed Clubs agreed to form a Breed Health Group in 2016 to consider the health status of the Border Terrier.  Their website aims to provide a reference point for information and guidance on the various health concerns in Border Terriers.

Click the image below to visit their website where you will find more information on their work.

Screenshot of the Border Terrier Health website

You can also follow our news page and below we list the key health conditions currently causing concern in the Border Terrier community.

Key Health Conditions


Spongiform-Leuco-Encephalo-Myelopathy (SLEM) aka Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS) is a breakdown of the insulation (myelin) surrounding the nerve fibres in nerve bundles (white matter) principally in the rear most parts of the brain but with signs of some involvement of other areas too.  

Affected puppies started to ‘shake’ at the time they commenced early attempts to walk (around two weeks of age). Most of the tremors (shaking) were seen in the hindquarters of the affected puppies.

More information can be found on the Breed Health Group website.


Paroxysmal Gluten Sensitive Dyskinesia (PGSD) aka Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) and as Spike's Disease, is a seizure like disorder recorded in a number of breeds but is of particular concern in the Border Terrier.  Symptoms are highly variable but a common factor is that the animal remains fully conscious during the episode. Also, paroxysmal implies that the abnormal activity comes in episodes with the dog being normal at other times.  The condition has almost certainly been present in the breed for a very long time but the true prevalence isn't known. 

We are pleased to announce that the Animal Health Trust is now recruiting for both healthy Border Terriers and those with suspected PGSD/CECS.  The research is aimed at identifying regions of the genome associated with PGSD by performing a ‘Genome-Wide Association Study’ (GWAS), also known as a genome scan to identify Border Terriers at greater risk of developing PGSD.


Gall Bladder Mucocoele (GBM) is, by definition, a disorder characterised by the deposition of thick mucus into the lumen (interior space) of the gallbladder.

In September 2019 GBM was added as a separate page to the Breed Health Group website with more information for Vets and owners alike, as the Border Terrier has been highlighted as being at increased risk.

The condition, particularly with regard to an apparent susceptibility in Border Terriers, is the subject of ongoing research by Mark Dunning, Fergus Allerton and Lorenzo Brunero of the Willows Referral Centre and they would be grateful if any owners of Border Terriers which have been diagnosed with gallbladder mucocoele could complete a questionnaire for which the link can be found on the Breed Health Group website.


A few other conditions are being identified as significant in Border Terriers, some in the UK and some elsewhere. These include: Juvenile cataracts (Early onset), Cushing's disease, Glioma (brain tumour) and Legge-Calve-Perthe's Disease (Perthe's Disease).

Anyone with information of confirmed cases of these conditions in Border Terriers is requested to send information to the Border Terrier Breed Health Co-ordinator Doctor Eddie Houston BVMS, MRCVS (on a confidential basis if required).  

For advice or further information, you can also contact any of the Breed Health Group Members or one of the Breed Health Club Representatives from the seven Border Terrier Clubs, details of which can be found on the Breed Health Group Contact page.

Further Information

The Border Terrier Club have produced a helpful leaflet packed with information on more general Border Terrier health issues as well as the particular conditions listed here on our website.  This is useful resource for owners, breeders and others with an interest in the breed and you can download a copy by clicking this icon:

Two Border Terriers sat on a log

Border Terrier Clubs

There are seven Breed Clubs in the UK for the Border Terrier. 

Click on the links below to be taken to their website for further helpful information.

Border Terrier Club Logo

Useful Links

More useful help and advice about owning Border Terriers

BOOK: Border Terriers Today
BOOK: Border Terriers Today

The most up-to-date book on this versatile do-it-all Terrier, this work covers the history, care and maintenance of the breed that originated in the hilly, border country of England. A breed that has enjoyed a steady growth in popularity in the United States, the Border Terrier is showcased as the unique, unadulterated breed it is; on the farm, in the field and at home.

BOOK: Border Terriers - An Owners Companion
BOOK: Border Terriers - An Owners Companion

Topics covered include the history and purpose of the breed; breed standards and showing and judging. Care, management and training; breeding, pregnancy and whelping; and ailments - general and breed-specific - are also covered in addition to the Border Terrier around the world.


Are you interested in Border Terriers? This Border Terrier site’s aim is to provide consolidated information relating to Championship, Breed Club, Open and Working Shows in the UK where Border Terriers are being shown.

BOOK: Border Terrier
BOOK: Border Terrier

A View of Its History and Breeding by Walter J.F. Gardner

BOOK: About the Border Terrier
BOOK: About the Border Terrier

About the Border Terrier Journalist and travel writer Verite Reily Collins has always had a Border Terrier with which to share her life. This book deals with the delights (and perils!) of a Border Terrier ownership. As well as a history of the breed, it includes many anecdotes, humourous and touching, about Border Terriers and their owners.


We often get asked about grooming your Border. You may wish to speak with your breeder as they will be able to advise you. Alternatively, we suggest Border Terrier Hand Strippers UK facebook group, who have a wealth of video and photographic resources in the group to help you.

BOOK:  The Border Terrier
BOOK: The Border Terrier

This is a new concept in books about dogs, written by a hand-picked team of experts with unrivalled experience of Border Terriers.

The result is this fascinating insight into what life with a Border Terrier is really like.

BOOK: Border Terrier
BOOK: Border Terrier

This dog expert guide gives you all the information you will need to provide your Border Terrier with the care and training that will enable him to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Written by experts, this comprehensive guide will enable you to give maximum care and love to your pet.

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