Is the Border Terrier the right dog for you and your family?
The Border Terrier is first, foremost and essentially a working terrier. Although he will willingly become part of your family and can become a loyal and loving friend, he does have some habits, or traits, which are part of his breed characteristics, which may not always endear him to you or your extended family and friends.
He was originally bred to work to fox and other vermin, and should be capable of following a horse all day and then still be fresh enough to go to ground to bolt the fox. Because of this, he can have lots of energy. Although he will be happy relaxing on your knee and having a cuddle, he also needs plenty of walks to keep him healthy and happy.
He may be inclined to chase small critters and it is not always easy to train him to distinguish between the rat you would like dispatched and your child’s pet hamster!
He can live peaceably with other animals if introduced at an early age and many people have Border Terriers and cats which live together quite happily, but if he sees a cat which is not part of the family, then beware! Unless socialised at an early age, some may become aggressive towards other dogs, so an early socialisation class may be the best option.
They are an intelligent breed, who can be quick to learn, but sometimes slow to obey if confronted with something else they would rather do, such as chasing small critters, rolling in unmentionables or chewing your best pair of shoes/three piece suite/wallet full of money etc!
The breed was officially recognised by The Kennel Club in 1920, although its history can be traced back into the nineteenth century. The breed has become, in the last few years, one of the most popular Terrier breeds registered with the Kennel Club and usually has one of the highest Terrier entries at Championship Dog Shows.
The breed clubs are concerned at the increasing popularity of the breed, as coming with that will sometimes be the surge in breeding by those only interested in the breed for monetary gain, so buyer beware!
Please do not buy a Border Terrier, unless you have the time and space to devote to it and can give it a permanent loving home, with sufficient food, warmth and exercise.
Every member of the family should want the dog; if any of your family has reservations about having a dog in the household, this will affect the dog’s happiness in the future.
What should I do when considering purchasing a Border Terrier puppy?
Local adverts in newspapers (and on some commercial websites which advertise many different breeds of dogs) are not always the best ways to find a reputable breeder. Consider contacting one of the breed club secretaries in your area when looking for a breeder (see the breed club page of this website)
Do some Research; there are many good books on the breed; additionally information can be found on this website.
Always see the puppies with their dam (the father of the puppies may live many miles away, so you should not always expect to see him).
Check which food is being used, as the puppy should be on 3 or 4 meals of puppy food a day. You should not change this in the first few weeks he is with you, as changes in diet, when combined with all the other changes he has to go through, could result in an upset tummy. The breeder should provide you with a diet sheet and general information about your new puppy. Sometimes the breeder will give you a small supply of food to take with you and you should always ensure you have a good supply on hand before you collect your puppy.
Ask if the puppy has been wormed. Puppies should be wormed every 3 weeks before they leave the breeder’s premises and you should be given information regarding the dates of worming and what brand of wormer was used.
The breeder should ensure the puppy is also free from other parasites, such as fleas or ear mites.
Ask if the breeder is a member of any Breed Club, as all Club members accept the Kennel Club’s General Code of Ethics, which you should read before buying a puppy and by which the breeder should abide.
You should expect that a reputable breeder will ask you many pertinent questions about your ability to look after their precious puppy. Be wary of any breeder who only asks if you have the money to pay for the puppy, but does not make enquiries about your lifestyle, house and garden and how you intend to care for the puppy. That may be an indication of the level of aftercare you will receive.
Check your fencing to ensure it will be proof against one small, determined person who may try to escape over or under it; some of them can and will jump over fences, or tunnel out if allowed to do so, and be a danger to themselves and other people/road users. Some owners recommend stapling weld mesh to the fencing and burying it under the ground around the perimeter of the fence, to stop escape artists!
Some breeders will take the puppy back if you have a change of circumstances and can no longer look after the puppy correctly. When you embark on the idea of purchasing any dog, you should be aware that it is a long-term commitment for the lifetime of the dog, which in the case of Border Terriers can be upwards of 15 years.
If the puppy is around 8 weeks of age, he may already have had his first injection and some breeders will have their vet undertake a simple health check before the puppy leaves the breeder. It is important that you also register with your own vet as soon as possible.
Puppies should not leave their breeder’s premises until around 8 weeks old and on no account should they go before they reach 7 weeks of age.
If the puppy is registered with the Kennel Club, you should obtain a registration certificate from the breeder when you buy the puppy, or the breeder should advise you when they applied for the registration papers, or when they intend to do so; they can let you know the registration numbers of the sire and dam. If you are in any doubt, you could contact the Kennel Club BEFORE you buy the puppy.
The Kennel Club produces a blueprint of each breed. However, reading this brief Breed Standard does not always help the newcomer to understand the breed. An illustrated breed standard will be found in this website.
To start with, it is advisable to talk to breeders and owners and to study the breed whenever and wherever possible. You could go along to a local show where the breed is scheduled to be judged and watch the dogs, talk to the owners and get an idea as to whether the breed might fit in with your lifestyle. For details of local shows, contact your local breed club secretary.
The breed differs from most other terriers in that it does not have a manicured appearance and his sometimes rather dour expression belies his true loveable character and independent nature. The breed’s most outstanding feature is its otter-like head with short strong muzzle and moderately broad skull with dark eye, making him a very attractive terrier.
The Border should have a double coat, with a harsh outer coat and a soft undercoat for warmth, both of these being essential in a working terrier. The coat needs to be hand stripped about twice a year and there is a video showing how this is done and articles in some of the books on the breed with photographs of ‘before and after’. The coat should not be clipped (except perhaps for much older dogs or those with a poor coat, where pulling out the hairs may cause distress). For the novice owner, it is a good idea to seek expert advice on coat care at first and your breeder may be able to help. If you decide to use a grooming parlour, you could ask if they know how to hand-strip a Border Terrier. Remember that anyone with no experience can set up as a ‘professional’ grooming parlour and it may be best to check what qualifications and experience they have (for example, a City and Guilds certificate).
Border Terriers are normally healthy, active and affectionate dogs, which respond quickly to love and attention. As with all dogs, it is best to start training early, be consistent and praise in all the right places.
This breed does not need harsh correction, which can be counter-productive.
Borders normally get along well with children, but no child should be allowed to harass a dog; children should be taught to respect the dog and not to treat it as a substitute toy. Small babies should never be left alone unsupervised with any dog. When the puppy is very young, he should have a place of safety where he can rest in peace at bedtime and not be disturbed.
Reprinted with permission of the Border Terrier Club