Before deciding on any breed of dog, it's important to arm yourselves with the facts. Border terriers are cute, lovable, and tenacious, with many endearing qualities. But as they were originally bred to chase foxes out of their holes, working independently, they have a strong prey drive which can get them in trouble in this modern world.

The Border Terrier in Brief, available from the BTCA website, is essential reading for any prospective BT owner.


Border Terriers

The Border Terrier has its origins dating back to the early 1800's to the region between Scotland and England and was bred to work on both sides of the border. One would assume the name Border Terrier was purely geographic. No one knows for sure.

Records of the early breed were sparse to almost non-existent. As a working terrier, the early Border Terrier's value was based on its ability to go after and bolt fox, and be a source of vermin control for the farmers of the region. Working was the flavor of the day, with record keeping and breed history being more of an afterthought to the farmers making a living in this rugged country.

Border Terrier

Most breed historians describe the Border Terrier as a sturdy longer-legged terrier capable of covering great distances and possessing the ability to follow behind the pack hounds. Bringing up the rear on a fox hunt requires desirable social attributes of a dog able to get along with others. The Border Terrier ran behind and in close proximity to the horses and hounds while some of the other terriers rode in the farmer's saddlebag. Once the Border Terrier arrived at the scene of a grounded fox it would be asked to "go to ground". The Border without hesitation would promptly get to work and head into the fox den and dispatch the fox, either killing it or bolting it from its underground hideaway. Often, the Border would not leave the fox and it would have to be dug out of the ground, sometimes taking days. The Border Terrier's bark is distinctive so that it can be heard underground.

Border Terriers

The Border also has many other well equipped features that make it such an outstanding working terrier. They have a double coat, a velvet soft under coat and a hard straight outer wire jacket that protects them from the elements. They do not have seasonal shedding, but their coat does die year round and can break off. Border Terriers should be groomed by hand stripping.

Border Terriers also have very flexible spines so they can turn around in tight spaces. They also have large teeth for such a small dog. Border Terriers are described as "plucky" and "game." They are often referred to as being a large dog in a small dog body. Despite their reported easy-to-live-with temperament, they are also known for their intense desire to suddenly bolt after something that may interest them. As a result, the number one killer of Border Terriers is the automobile.

Border Terrier
In the US today, the Border Terrier remains relatively uncommon and is often mistaken for a terrier mix. Thanks to a tremendous commitment by Border Terrier owners and breeders, this breed is truly cared for and protected. Border Terriers are generally considered a very healthy breed; however, on occasion they do have health problems ranging from hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, eye, heart, and thyroid problems. Proper genetic screening and careful breeding continues to keep this breed among one of the healthiest.

If you think you might like to add a Border Terrier to your family, please take the time to talk with a reputable breeder, visit a home with a Border Terrier, and learn all you can.


Through years of careful and responsible breeding, the Border Terrier has relatively few health problems. Genetic problems occasionally found in BTs are: hip dysplasia, heart defects, PRA and juvenile cataracts, luxating patellas, seizures, allergies, bite malocclusion and undescended testicles. For more information on the health of the breed, see the Border Terrier in Brief.

You can look up the health test status of prospective dams and sires at the OFA website and the CERF website. Health checks should be done for both the dam and the sire to ensure that they are free of problems and will be more likely to produce healthy pups free of genetic defects. Recommended health checks include: eyes, heart, hips, and patellas. If you're interested in getting your dogs checked, you can often find (relatively) inexpensive tests at local dog shows.

One emerging problem being seen in the breed is Spike's disease (aka canine epileptiod cramping disorder). This is a recently-recognized genetic disorder common to Borders that typically shows up at anywhere between 2 to 6 years of age. Dogs don't lose consciousness during an episode, but can tremble, stagger, fall over, and cramp up. If you suspect your dog might be suffering from Spike's disease, or just want to find more information, go to:


On occasion a Border Terrier needs help to be re-homed. The reasons can vary, but the need is still the same.

Our local club, along with our national club, is very dedicated to making sure that no Border Terrier is left homeless. After owning a Border Terrier, one naturally becomes protective, and we all become the eyes and ears for the breed. Many club members have become dedicated to help with the ongoing BT rescue around the country. Rehoming can turn out to be a wonderful way to bring a BT into the life of you or someone else.

The following contacts are people dedicated to keeping our breed safe and out of harms way. They are our special protectors of the breed and they are the unsung heros, often working behind the scenes using their own time and money.

+ BTCR Rescue: Rhonda Martins and Ellie Van Voorhis

Rescue's available now:


Donations to the rescue fund are always appreciated! Please contact the club treasurer if interested.

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