Country Life’s Favourite Dogs: Border terrier

Favourite Dog: Border terrier

Vital statistics (top trumps)

Height 3/10
Looks 6/10
Obedience 6/10
Intelligence 8/10
Loyalty 7/10

Celebrities have always loved their canine companions. Poodles and Malteses once reigned supreme on the red carpet, but now there’s a new dog in Tinseltown: the Border terrier. Spotted on the arms of stars such as David Walliams and Andy Murray, these doughty dogs are fast becoming A-listers in their own right: Maggie May, who belongs to the Wimbledon winner, even has her own Twitter account.

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It’s easy to see why Border terriers have become such firm favourites. Their otterish faces, loving natures and considerable intelligence combine to make them hugely appealing additions to any family. In fact, they’ve even been described as the ultimate dog. ‘Looking at a typical Border Terrier, one gets the impression that if nature were left to itself, the end result would be something very much along this dog’s lines,’ says the Kennel Club on its website.

But although Borders love cuddles, they’re definitely not lapdogs – or fashion accessories. The breed standard makes it very clear that the Border remains ‘essentially a working terrier’. Originally bred in the 18th century by farmers, shepherds and sportsmen to keep up with the Border Foxhounds (from which the breed gets its name – to start with, it was known as the Reedwater or Coquetdale terrier), Borders were prized for their boundless energy, and excelled at bolting foxes.

Although the majority of Borders are now found in a domestic setting, their hunting instincts remain true, and they’re fearless ratters. Sometimes, they have a little difficulty in distinguishing between vermin and more desirable animals – pet hamsters and guinea pigs, for instance. And for such small dogs, they can clear surprisingly high fences. In Border Terriers: An Owner’s Companion, authors Frank and Jean Jackson suggest that you’re asking for trouble leaving a Border alone in a garden ‘which is any less secure than Alcatraz’.

The Border’s oily, wiry double coat requires a little care and attention to keep it looking its best. It will need to be hand-stripped about twice a year, and first-time owners should seek professional advice before attempting to do this themselves. If you’re enlisting the services of a groomer, make sure you find out how much experience they have with Borders’ coats.

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