One of the questions I am asked most by friends and people referred by friends and family (and occasionally online) is “what should I look for when I’m choosing a Border Terrier puppy?”
To answer that question and help guide new prospective owners, I’ve written this summary of what I think based on my experience both as a breeder and as a long term owner of Border Terriers.
I strongly recommend that you buy from a breeder that is Kennel Club Registered (UK) and has certificates and documents for you to see (both for himself and for his dogs). This link will take you to the Kennel Club Border Terrier Puppy search page.
If you’ve never had a Border Terrier before; please do lots of research and a good place to start is the Border Terrier Club and look at other pages and posts in my blog. The only thing I will say is that they shed hair – a lot; all year round and that is something that some folks will not like. However a vacuum cleaner that is specifically designed for pet owners is a good solution as they pick up hair efficiently and filter out all the dust. This link takes you to some of the best selling Pet Hair Vacuum Cleaners. Personally I prefer the bag-less pull along type with a long flexible hose as it is the most versatile.
Remember that the Border Terrier is a hardy and very intelligent dog and learns very quickly, so assess the breeder first as the early weeks environment is very important. Are the puppies exposed to family life and noises (like vacuum cleaners and washing machines) or are they kept outside in a barn or a shed? Does the breeder own both parents? If yes make sure you see them, if not ask to see some photo’s of the Father and see copies of the stud dogs certificates.
Visit the Breeder twice (first at around 7 weeks and again the week before you collect) and try and see several Breeders if you can. Border Terrier puppies seem to be available all the time but peak times seem to me to be during January / February and again during August / September.
You may get very excited and want to see the puppies before they are seven weeks old, but it it really isn’t worth it as you will not be able to assess them effectively.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are some genetic disorders that may be present. Thankfully they are very rare and I have only covered the ones that you can spot during your visits (although there are others like early stage cataracts from one year old and heart problems and very rarely gut problems that only a Vet will find after testing the dog).
These disorders don’t mean the dog is not suitable for you but they may cause problems in the dogs later life and that usually means cost of ownership is higher. If you knowingly take on a dog with a birth disorder love it as you would a normal one (because the dog doesn’t know he / she is not normal but please don’t breed with it). disorders are;
- Overshot or undershot bottom jaw, (meaning that the bottom jaw is either too long or too short). What it means for the dog is that the teeth top and bottom will be out of sync and will not mesh together when chewing. As the second teeth come through they could be distorted and your Vet may recommend taking some out as they come through to improve the bite.
- Hip Dysplasia. This is where the hip ball joint does not fit snugly and deeply into the hip socket. You can feel this when you pick the puppy up. Use your thumb to gently but firmly stroke up the hind leg and over the hip. If the joint feels knobbly or the puppies leg does not move fluidly it may be an early sign. Ask if the puppies have seen a Vet yet as all Kennel Club puppies will have seen a Vet and been tested.
Border Terrier pups at 3 weeks old; exploring the kitchen.
If the breeder is Kennel Club registered they will show you their certificates and registration documents and this is when to ask if they have “shown” any dogs in competition. Ask how many litters the Mother has had and when as this will give you an insight into the Mothers underlying health.
Choosing Your Puppy.
Watch all the puppies with their Mother before you interact with any. Some will play with each other, some may stay close to their mother and some will be exploring away from the others. Notice also the difference in sizes.
If you like one buy it there and then (this means normally leaving a deposit with the balance due on collection). Make sure the price includes vaccinations, vet checks and certificates. If you don’t want to buy; trust your intuition and walk away.
This little dog will be your companion for many years and whilst you will have to work at training him / her (and there will be periods of exasperation for both of you), you will not find a better family dog.
One of mine is nearly seventeen (see my others posts at border-terriers.blogspot.co.uk) and still a happy active (if not very stiff) family member.