From the beginning…

Having done your research into which breed of dog best suits your lifestyle (exercise, character, feeding, general health and final size) you have decided that a Border terrier is for you. Congratulations! A wonderful choice. 

However, as many others agree with you, the Border’s current popularity has encouraged some people to breed these dogs indiscriminately – frequently using unsuitable stud dogs on unsuitable bitches – and all puppies can be so appealing.  So, what must you do to ensure that you find a healthy, good example of the breed to take home?

Every reputable breeder works to the ‘breed standard’ – the template – which a handful of Border terrier breeders agreed upon in the early 1920s and which was accepted by the (UK) Kennel Club as the pattern to which all breeders should aspire and which even now, show judges use as their guide when assessing Borders in the show ring.

Serious breeders will always want to improve on Borders they currently own.  In doing so, they will always want to keep the best puppy/ies from a litter (average size is 4-5), to breed on into the future.  After making this selection, the remaining quality puppies then come onto the market.

 Your research

As a potential Border terrier buyer, you have already scanned the reference books, have joined your nearest Border Terrier Club (there are seven in the UK) and visited one or two local shows and/or spoken to local breeders to discuss your favourite subject.  Seeing a number of Borders together at a local show, for example, is an opportunity for you to view Borders in close-up and decide which particular dog or bitch you like.

A word with the owner/exhibitor will help establish if they have puppies available or due, and if not, a Breed Club secretary is always a useful source of information.

When buying a Border puppy, whether it is to be a prospect for showing, working, or as a family pet, as an owner you immediately take responsibility for the care of that puppy until its old age, which may be 16 years. 

As a dedicated researcher, if you want a puppy from a particular source, you will have asked to go on any waiting list. Sadly, puppies don’t appear to order and even breeders can be disappointed, so beprepared to wait.

Excitement builds – first sight of the puppies

Wherever the puppy comes from, see the litter twice, if possible, before buying.  The first visit at about four weeks and the final visit at around 7-8 weeks, before they are ready to leave the dam. The breeder will tell you which puppies are available to you, and at your first visit they should be with their mother.  Their eyes will be fully open and they will be on their feet and just starting to get into mischief.  If the stud dog is available, ask to see him too. If not, ask about him – there may be a photograph. 

A word of caution – buyer beware

At the first visit, check the puppies from which you can choose. A healthy puppy will be active (unless resting after play), and be interested in what is going on around it. Look at each one closely.  If the eyes are not clear and clean, if the tummies are hugely distended and their smell is not good or the bedding and kennel not clean, do not be afraid to say ‘No.’ 

Local newspapers advertising litters for sale can be a magnet for those looking for a cheap puppy and there is often a ready market. Puppies are sometimes sold too young or unhealthy. Because a very small puppy tugs at the heart strings, months of vets bills may follow. Who would want to return a sickly puppy when the children have already fallen in love with it?

If you are tempted to answer a newspaper advertisement, ask a dog breeder friend to go with you for an objective view.  Ask to see the mother and the paperwork. If in any doubt, don’t buy. A puppy is not a disposable toy. This is a companion which will love you unconditionally for all its life and for whom you are totally responsible – come rain, hail or shine. And remember that it costs as much to feed and care for a poor Border terrier as it does to feed a good one!

Getting ready for the big day

So, you have taken some advice, decided which puppy to have, and are about to take the baby home.  Have you prepared for it?

The breeder will want to know if your garden is escape proof, if your fences are high enough, how long will your Border puppy be left alone during the day; how old are your children; do you have a safe and secure kennel or quiet space for the puppy; if you have made acquaintance with the vet you intend to use and are you prepared for a few sleepless nights?

For your part, you will have checked the fences (seriously checked the fences – these are earth working dogs capable of digging serious holes), you will have ensured that your walls and fences are not climbable or jumpable; your children have been coached in the art of letting sleeping puppies lie, and not feeding titbits, and using the same words for the same functions; you will have bought a large crate or bed plus toys; you will have asked your vet if he will check over the new arrival within the first 24 hours of having the puppy home and you will have told the family not to give in to any nightime crying  – from the puppy, that is.

The paperwork

A pedigree puppy will have its own pedigree papers and be registered with the Kennel Club with its own ‘proper name’ given to it by the breeder. You must transfer the ownership of the puppy (currently registered with the breeder) into your name. Sign the registration form you will be given and send it to the Kennel Club with a small fee. They will send back a new form naming you as the owner. The breeder may give you some of the food the puppy has been eating in recent weeks, plus a diet sheet as a guide to follow.  

A pedigree puppy will be insured for six weeks from its date of registration with the Kennel Club and after that, with the rising costs of veterinary work, it is very important for your own peace of mind that you continue this insurance plan, or take out another of your choice – your vet may be able to advise.

If you are collecting your puppy by car, make sure you have an old towel in a suitable small box or crate to travel the puppy in.  Avoid contact with other dogs beyond your garden gate until the puppy’s inoculations are completed.

Keep in touch with the breeder, who can be a source of support should you have any concerns.

The vet – your new friend

The puppy should have been regularly wormed from two weeks of age and its claws trimmed before it leaves home.  Ask about the worming regime – you may need to advise your new vet about this for his own records.

When you do see your vet for the first time to check the puppy over, he will look at its eyes, listen to its heart, and give it a general health check before administering its first inoculation – which may already have been done by the breeder, in which case you will have been given a record card detailing the vaccines used.  Your new vet will need to see this before giving the puppy its second dose.


As Border puppies grow up they need hand stripping twice a year; they do shed hairs continually.  Advice on hand stripping can be obtained via the various Border Terrier Clubs, most of whom have websites, but if you feel it is not something you can do yourself, most local quality grooming establishments will hand-strip a Border. 

Going solo

So, you are in it for the long haul. You have your puppy and you are on the way to regular exercise and fun times with plenty of laughs and making lots of new friends. 

Border terriers are game, affectionate and stubborn as well as comedians. They are photogenic, they are not good gardeners, they eat anything, they will go anywhere wherever and whenever you want to go and they will love you to bits. Like a child, they need support, to be taught good manners and given plenty of healthy food and exercise. They are usually maintenance-free.

We hope you enjoy every minute of your new arrival.

© Lesley A Gosling

Akenside Border Terriers