Next to food, the thing the Border needs and enjoys most is time with you. Since plenty of exercise is a necessity for Borders, both of these needs can be met with a daily walk. This can be the same twenty minute walk around the block, or an hour’s stroll in a nearby park. A Border will respond with joyous abandon whenever you pick up the leash. It should be noted that Borders should always be walked on a lead unless released in a completely safe, fenced area. A Flexi-leash, available in many pet supply stores, will allow considerable safe freedom to run.
To make a daily walk enjoyable for both Border and owner, a basic obedience or puppy socialization class is helpful. These classes, usually held once a week in the evening for six or eight weeks, are very informative about general dog behavior and health as well as helpful in learning positive ways to get your dog to walk on lead, sit and stay quietly, and to behave among other dogs and humans. Where the Border is an only dog, such classes provide the socialization needed to develop an appropriate acceptance of other dogs. The AKC now offers a Canine Good Citizen Award to dogs who can pass a simple test demonstrating these canine good manners. The test is often given at the end of basic obedience classes and the dog who earns one is much easier to live with at home or out in public.
Equipped with basic obedience skills, the world opens up for a Border! There are conformation classes for Borders who plan to be show dogs. Youngsters interested in showing dogs can work in Junior Showmanship. Borders make excellent Therapy Dogs. After training and certification usually provided by local therapy groups, they seem to enjoy visiting nursing homes, mental hospitals, prisons, and children’s groups.
In many areas there are terrier trials with racing, conformation, go to ground exercises, and sometimes opportunities to try out other dog sports, such as lure coursing, flyball, and agility. These are great fun and often earn funds for worthy causes. The AKC has an Earth Dog Test which offers three levels of certification for breeds, like the BT, which are bred to work underground. Some Borders are worked regularly hunting woodchuck, rats, and other quarry for which they were originally bred. The American Working Terrier Association can help people interested in hunting with terriers.
Border Terriers can compete quite well in obedience, provided the trainer has a stick-to-it attitude and a sense of humor. Border owners working in obedience have many amusing stories to tell about the
creative Border. For although Borders learn the basic obedience exercises very quickly, keeping their attention and interest is a challenge for even the most experienced trainer. Borders need to be trained in a great variety of situations in order to compete successfully. Nevertheless, many Borders have gone on to compete in advanced obedience work, and, as of this date, three Borders have obtained their OTCh, the much coveted AKC Obedience Trial Championship.
Perhaps the biggest mistake beginners make is training with an instructor who does not understand terriers or the BT. Although the Border appears to be a tough, confident little dog, underneath he is very sensitive and can not take harsh corrections. Most Borders do very well with positive motivational training. The key to successful obedience training is first knowing the individual dog’s personality, and then finding an instructor who can bring out the best in both dog and trainer.
The fastest growing dog sport is dog agility, which is a timed obstacle race. Many BT’s are competing successfully and earning titles. Borders are a
natural for this type of training. They have the confidence and the spunk to tackle the obstacles, love the tunnels, and have the speed to make the course time. Agility is fun for the handler and the dog, and, for the dog with an obedience title, it usually takes very little
homework time to begin to compete. Classes in novice and advanced agility work are offered in increasing numbers of places. An obedience background is strongly recommended before beginning agility work.
For those that love the outdoors and have a sense of adventure, tracking could well be the sport to enjoy with a Border. Borders have good noses, can do well in tracking, and some go on to receive the AKC Tracking Dog title. As in obedience training, handlers must remember that they are dealing with an independent thinking animal. Food motivation usually works the best. Many experienced trackers feed their Borders dinner as a reward at the end of the track. Tracking is not for the faint of heart as it must be done regardless of weather or ground conditions, but it is great fun and very rewarding for both the owner and the dog.
Flyball is thrilling for those who enjoyed relay races as a kid. Flyball racing is done with a team made up of four dogs of various breeds. Many Borders are competing in Flyball and seem to enjoy it immensely.
When the temperature reaches 85 degrees, the most enthusiastic and energetic Border suddenly fades. BT’s do not perform well when it is hot. Most people who are involved in obedience, agility, and flyball, give their Borders the summer off, or work only in air-conditioned buildings. If you decide to work out of doors, be sure to take precautions to keep the dog comfortable and safe in the heat.
The BTCA, recognizing that Borders enjoy being active, offers highly prized Versatility Awards to members whose Borders are successful in several dog activities. Information on these awards is available from the BTCA.