Border Terrier Care

The Border Terrier--a small-sized breed with the feisty, independent temperament that's classic terrier--is not the dog for everyone. But for active families who don't mind its scrappy personality, the Border Terrier (BT for short) makes a wonderful pet--and luckily for those families, Border Terrier care isn't too time-consuming overall. Below you'll find plenty of useful info about raising and caring for a Border Terrier: puppy advice, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and lots more. Whether you're a new or longtime BT owner, keep reading for all things Border Terrier-related!

Border Terrier Breed Development

Border Terrier puppy development from birth to full maturity typically spans 16-18 months. Physically, BT puppies grow rapidly in height and length for the first 6-8 months, then those growth rates slow somewhat while the adolescent BT "fills out" by gaining muscle mass and fat. And when do Border Terriers stop growing? These dogs normally reach their full adult size at 12-14 months of age.

Socially, BT puppies develop fairly steadily. They reach adolescence at 4-5 months, sexual maturity at 11-12 months, and full mental maturity by 18 months, if not before (though some may retain their puppylike behavior for up to an additional year). For detailed developmental milestones, see the following chart:

Border Terrier Exercise Needs

Exercise plays a major role in Border Terriers' health, behavior, and longevity. These dogs are prone to behavioral problems like barking, digging, and destructiveness (not to mention obesity) if they're not exercised every day, so it's important to make Border Terrier exercise requirements a part of your daily schedule.

And just how much exercise does a Border Terrier need? Though the amount will vary depending on a BT's age, the typical adult Border Terrier will need at least 45 minutes of physical activity per day; you can begin exercising a BT puppy at three months of age by taking it on short (10- to 15-minute) walks, then increasing the walks' duration as the pup grows.

Some things to consider when exercising your Border Terrier: first, puppies younger than nine months old shouldn't participate in activities that include a lot of jumping and running, as doing so can injure their still-developing bones and joints; BTs are prone to structural issues like hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, and these conditions often originate while the dog is young, when a puppy overexerts itself. Second: BTs, with their history as small-game hunters, have incredibly high prey drives, so they'll need to be leashed when in public to keep them from taking off after critters they instinctively see as prey. When exercising in the yard, it'll need to be securely fenced, because dogs of this breed are exceptional escape artists--and even then, they'll still need close supervision. A BT will instantly dig under (or simply jump over!) a fence when it decides to chase an interesting-looking bird or squirrel.

Precautions aside, it's vital that you give your Border Terrier daily exercise. Without it, these dogs will become overweight quickly--and they'll be furry little nightmares: they'll dig holes in everything, bark nonstop, and become thoroughly disobedient dogs. So daily physical activity will be great for your BT's peace of mind, as well as your own. Here are a few exercise ideas:

  • Walking: Two 20-minute walks per day is a good target
  • Fetch/Frisbee: A BT will chase a ball until you're tired of throwing it
  • Hide-and-Seek: Good indoor activity; give your BT a treat when it finds you
  • Dog Park: A BT will enjoy cavorting with other dogs; will need to be leashed
  • Hiking: Great time for bonding

When indoors, it's a good idea to give your Border Terrier access to one or more chew-toys. Not only will that allow the dog to release some pent-up energy, but since these dogs are known as frequent "chewers," they can chew on the toy instead of on your favorite pair of slippers. It's also recommended that you establish a consistent daily exercise schedule for your BT, such as walks after breakfast and dinner and a play period in the afternoon.

Border Terrier Maintenance

Maintenance for these dogs in terms of shedding and drooling is moderate overall. Border Terrier shedding is average for most of the year, but heavier during the twice-yearly shedding seasons; drooling is basically a non-issue.

BTs' coats are double-layered and include a dense undercoat, so these dogs steadily lose some hair from those undercoats. During the spring and fall, though, when BTs lose their winter and summer coats, the shedding can be fairly heavy. Owners say that twice-weekly brushing (and daily during shedding season) will help; some owners also choose to strip their BTs' coats (a fairly time-consuming process whereby dead hairs are removed either with a stripping knife or plucked by hand) several times per year, minimizing the shedding issue even more. While brushing and stripping will lessen the amount of shed hairs, they won't completely eradicate the problem, so owners will still need to vacuum the floor and use lint rollers on clothes and furniture now and again.

Border Terriers may drool a bit in anticipation of food, but not much otherwise. If your BT is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case veterinary care is needed.

Border Terrier Diet

As with any breed, Border Terrier diet and nutrition are essential factors in keeping these dogs happy and healthy. As lively terriers, BTs need food that's high in animal proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats; also like other terrier breeds, these dogs often develop food allergies or digestive problems from eating foods--usually inexpensive brands with lots of empty "filler" ingredients--that have proteins and carbs from multiple sources. This means that it's best to feed a premium brand like Royal Canin to Border Terrier dogs, specifically the kind that has only one meat source (usually named "Limited Ingredient" on the packaging). These high-quality brands are more expensive, but your BT will need to eat less of it--and more importantly, the food will provide more nutrients and be safer for the dog to eat every day.

"So how much should I feed my Border Terrier?" is usually the next question. The answer: adult Border Terrier food portions--which may vary depending on a BT's age and activity level--should be about 1¼ cups of premium dry food per day, divided into two meals. Growing BT puppies need a bit less: a six-month-old BT puppy, for example, will need ¾ cup per day, divided into three meals. For further Border Terrier puppy feeding guidelines, see the following chart:

Unfortunately, obesity is quite common among dogs of this breed. A fat Border Terrier will have breathing, heart, joint, and digestive issues, not to mention a shortened lifespan--and BTs are genetically predisposed to pack on pounds. So it's critical that you monitor you closely monitor your BT's food consumption (and exercise it daily as well). You can do this in several ways: stick to the above-listed portions (which may seem small, but they're ample enough for these little dogs); establish a consistent daily feeding schedule so the dog gets used to eating at the same time every day; no feeding your BT table scraps; and by all means, do not "free-feed" the dog. Free-feeding is leaving food in a dog's bowl all the time, allowing it to eat anytime it wants; veterinarians say it's the primary cause of canine obesity, and it's an unhealthy practice overall. Put your BT's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 15-20 minutes after the dog begins eating, even if food remains.If you're worried your Boston Terrier is overweight, give the dog this simple Ribs Test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Reduce your BT's daily food consumption by one-fourth, and add an extra walk or play period to its daily exercise schedule.