The very beginnings of the Border Terrier are traced to a region just on the boundary of England and Scotland. Hunters plagued by predatory foxes and farmers with barns full of rats and mice used the small but gutsy breed to kill off vermin, or flush the foxes (and sometimes even badgers) out of their dens. They were then used in foxhunts because, unlike other smaller breeds used for the same purpose, their somewhat longer legs allowed them to keep up with the horses.
It was in the Cheviot Hills near the border of England and Scotland that the Border Terrier was first bred.
The breed is possibly one of the oldest types of terriers in Great Britain. The farmers had problems with foxes killing their stock and the Border Terrier worked alongside them to drive the fox out of their dens and kill them. They were small enough to follow a fox into the ground but big enough to keep up with the horses.
The dogs were often not fed by the farmers in hopes it would make their prey drive even higher and they had to hunt to survive. Along with fox they hunted otters, marten, the fierce badger, mice and rats.
Today while the Border Terrier is mostly a companion dog, he can still serve as a fine farm dog, helping to control vermin.
Our Border Terrier breed has risen to Fame level in recent years. With a recent number of appearances in movies and TV, the Border Terrier is once again regaining the popularity it has held at different time periods throughout history. It has become one of the most adored breeds of the canine world thanks to its intelligence and head to tail characteristic charm. The Border Terrier, with its shaggy tan coat, not only perfectly fits the image that comes to mind when imagining a dog, it also fits the many portrayals throughout culture in children's books and stories.
At an average of 13-16 pounds (with females only weighing in at a pound or two less), the Border Terrier is by no means a large dog; however, its personality is one that can be considered boisterous and jovial. Upon closer examination, one will find the breed's tousled coat of tan, red, grizzle or even blue and tan is actually a double coat of coarse, wiry hair. One of the main features that make the breed so popular is their teddy bear face, characteristically set with soft intelligent eyes, a black button nose and topped with folded over ears, conveying a quizzical look. The tail is short and tapered. It is not uncommon for patches of white to be found on the chest and at times, the feet.
Those who choose to keep two Border Terriers often elect to have a pair consisting of one male and one female. This allows for issues of dominance to be kept at a minimum.
While the coat can sometimes be long and a bit tousled, there are other dogs whose wiry coat is fairly smooth. On the face, the hair is tame with a bushy muzzle, giving the appearance of dense whiskers.
Even though they are only 13-16 inches high at the shoulder, Border Terriers are giants when it comes to personality. Their compact size in conjunction with their ability to learn and learn quickly has made them the ideal breed for show business animals in recent years. A good number of commercials, TVand movies show not just a small dog that is well trained but a dog whose personality is big enough to come across the screen to an audience.
As lively as they are, Border Terriers are anything but overbearing. They may give a bark or two to express a readiness for action, but they are in no way a naturally aggressive breed, nor are they prone to a bark that is constant. As these working animals were bred to go on foxhunts, they are accustomed to working in packs. In this present day, this equates to being in the company of others, such as a family unit, and eagerly interacting with those around them. Their temperament is known to be an exceptional match for households with children. It is not uncommon for owners to have at least two Border Terriers, (one male, one female) as each has the energy to keep the other occupied while the owner goes about his or her daily business of running a household. Long periods of inactivity are not recommended for this breed.
Border Terriers tend to be quite bold in their own surroundings but can also be quite timid in public if not properly socialized at a young age. As puppies, they will start out active with a mellowness that develops with time and maturity. As the breed was raised to rid barns of vermin and chase after animals gone to ground on a hunt, it is also important that a household with small animals such as cats, rabbits or gerbils be raised with the terrier from the very beginning. Introducing a small animal to the household at a later date is likely to rouse the breed's hunting instincts, requiring constant vigilance between the two animals. The Border Terrier is small but scrappy and willing to stand its ground. The breed typically does fine with other dogs; however, neutering or spaying can cut down on any aggressive behaviors.
This is also a breed that likes to chew, reducing even the toughest of toys to confetti with little or no effort. When training begins, it is important to set down boundaries as to what is acceptable for chewing and what is not. It is best to invest in chew toys that are specially geared for safe, heavy duty chewing. These can often be found at pet stores or online.
The Border Terrier is a hearty breed that has an inclination to withstand pain and illness at great lengths, never letting on that there is a problem until very late in the game. Owners who interact with their Border Terrier on a regular basis have a better chance of noticing any slight changes than those who do not.
Regular checkups are a must when opting for this breed. While they are no more or less prone to the average ills that trouble any other canine, a metabolic disorder known as canine epilepoid cramping syndrome, or 'Spike's Disease' is a suspected hereditary disease for Border Terriers. It is often confused with Epilepsy.
The dual coat of the Border Terrier often allows for a soft layering of colors. It is not uncommon to find Border Terriers with a salt and pepper appearance, often called grizzle. They can also be found in what is called a red grizzle, wheaten or sometimes just plain tan. While the coat can sometimes be long and a bit tousled, there are other dogs whose wiry coat is fairly smooth. On the face, the hair is tame with a bushy muzzle, giving the appearance of dense whiskers.
When it comes to a durable, weather resistant double coat, a good brushing two times per week is the most recommended method of care. As with all dogs whose coats consist of dual layers, bathing should only take place when necessary. Frequent bathing will eventually wash away valuable oils trapped in the undercoat. Without these oils, the skin not only loses its defense but the coat's ability to remain weatherproof is greatly diminished. A simple brushing will distribute these oils to the right places.
Since clipping a Border Terrier's hair can have a negative effect on regrowth, a method called stripping is recommended instead. Stripping is the act of removing hair that is blown, or growing out and dead, by hand. Going with the direction of hair growth in an area, one grasps the blown hairs between the forefinger and thumb and gently removes them with no stress to the animal whatsoever. Stripping knives are a tool commonly used to remove more hair faster. While it requires time and experience, the entire body, from tail to muzzle, can be stripped. One can either strip out their dog's hair over a period of days or seek out a professional groomer who is likely to take only one or two hours to complete the task.
Incidentally, not all Border Terriers will require stripping. It is not unheard of for some Border pups to come into the world with a simple single coat of wiry hair. As these dogs will do little in the way of shedding, they make a top pick for dog lovers who suffer from allergies.
As it has been stated, long periods of inactivity are not recommended for the Border Terrier. However, as long as there are toys and other goings-on in the household to occupy the periods in between, they will do fairly well. This is a breed that is quite forgiving to its endeared owner but will not hesitate to charge out the door the minute their owner jangles their lead.
When out and about, many have come to find the Border Terrier has a great amount of stamina. Chasing after toys and playing fetch not only brings out their natural hunting instinct, it promotes interaction between the dog and its owner, something this breed greatly enjoys and depends on. They also have a noted aptitude for task oriented activities such as agility and obstacle courses.
The Border Terrier's all out willingness to learn is what has made it such a popular choice in the show business world. One merely needs to appeal to its 'eager to please' attitude with loads of praise to see it perform. As many have found, the things a Border Terrier are given love and attention for, they will do time and time again. This can make training easy; however, it is important to take great care in not accidentally establishing a certain behavior as acceptable when it is not. These terriers have a tremendous ability for remembering exactly what is tolerable and what they are only sometimes able to get away with. It is likely they will try to get away with the behavior first, resulting in a power struggle. Consistency is a must and dominance must be established early in the relationship. This is done with the help of a good obedience class.
Border Terriers not only have the temperament that makes them quite keen on obedience training, they get such high marks in it that they are often used as therapy dogs for children and the elderly. They have been used as service animals for the deaf and, as stated, it is not uncommon to see them in commercials, TV and even movies. Their willingness to do a number of takes and enthusiastically perform each time puts them ahead of other breeds whose attention span often wanders due to the amount of lights, equipment and activity on the set.