That Border Terrier in Scotland – an update

In 2014 a life-changing event occurred. We were taken on full-time by a Border terrier. I wrote a blog back then about his arrival.

It’s time for an update. Rupee the dog originally arrived as a refugee from my daughter’s household – personality clash with his brother, acquired at the same time.

He even answered to his unusual name sometimes. (Not our choice. We find it easier to say he’s called Robbie, but spelt an unusual way.)

Suddenly five years and more have gone by. Rupee is six – no, wait, seven, eek – and no longer a skinny, neurotic and nervous wee doggy. (Actually, that para has just dated this blog entry…he’s even older now…)

Border terrier thinks of lunch
Border terrier and owner await arrival of (owner’s) lunch.

Spike’s Disease And Border Terriers

Looking back, in all seriousness, we think he was physically troubled and in much discomfort when he was younger. He sometimes had spasms, he was often off his food or sick or just not himself.

(To be fair, as we didn’t know who he really was, it was hard to judge if he ever was himself.)

We think he had what Border terrier owners refer to as ‘Spike’s Disease’. Sometimes it’s called canine epileptoid cramping syndrome.

More information on that link. It’s something every potential Border terrier owner should be aware of.

He’s grown out of all of that – and we put it down to moving him on to a strictly hypoallergenic diet.

As well as his hypoallergenic dry food (Royal Canin) we have sourced some chewy teeth cleaning dog treats for him – which he loves. (We get them from Amazon regularly and that’s an affiliate link.)

Just as important though, look up any star rating of Border Terriers and often they score pretty low for ‘tolerance of other dogs’.

Put that trait together with our young dog, probably in pain and certainly not in a good humour, and it can spell trouble.

Yes – confession time – there have been a few nasty situations when he encountered small dogs when he was under the weather.

Border Terriers And Other Small Dogs

In the past, especially on meeting another dog , if it was boisterous or in any way aggressive, Rupee sometimes lost it.

He got the ‘red mist’ and didn’t just bite, but clamped and held on. And I mean for a very long time…

It’s in the genes presumably, from long ago ancestors sent down fox holes to kill or drag out the cubs, the poor wee things.

In contrast to his homicidal tendencies if confronted by, say, a chihuahua (as if), he paradoxically and simultaneously developed into the most affectionate, amusing and clever little dog we’ve ever lived with.

(Bad taste I know but we often referred to his pet hatred as ‘chewed wa-waas’. But it wasn’t funny.)

Bored Border spots squirrel
Tired of hospital visiting, Rupee sees something of interest…

(Pictured) It was a red squirrel, so that under no circumstances would he become the nemesis of that particular rodent. Grey squirrels? Now that’s another matter…

Face it, we have spent hours and hours with him, caring for him, surrounding him with affection and encouraging him to be confident, secure and happy. It’s called training a thrawn (headstrong) terrier.

There’s an example of thrawnness right here…

Border Terriers seldom do inclement weather
Border Terriers seldom do inclement weather

Border Terriers Prefer People

It is perfectly plain that he much prefers the company of humans to other dogs. Meeting, for example, an off-the-lead Labrador with owner out of doors, he’ll always run ahead past the dog to greet the owner. (Probably looking for gluten free treats.)

Rupee the dog tries it on
OK, so it was a very warm day on the coastal path. As he kept flopping down he got a wee carry, as well as a drink. But I’m sure I detect the faintest look of triumph here. He’s rather pleased about this…

He is happiest when he is touching a human; I mean sitting next to them and leaning on them or, better still, lying on them.

This has advantages. When on a beach walk I might perhaps sit on a piece of driftwood to scan the waves .

Instead of independently snuffling about the tide-line, he is up there with me in seconds, sandy and wet paws on my trousers.

Yes, he’s on my lap and intent as a meerkat, looking in all directions. (As, indeed, am I…)

I seldom have to whistle him up. Usually I have to tell him to get off me.

Such (beguiling?) dependency has its downsides. He prefers our bed to his – so that can be a battle we don’t always win.

Separation Anxiety In Border Terriers

(or just a soft-hearted owner?)

And it follows on that our dog has mild ‘separation anxiety’. I can’t blame him for this as I have a touch of it myself.

Sure, he can tolerate being left in, say, supermarket carpark (in the car, obviously), while shopping is done. He could probably manage half an hour or so home alone – but ‘baby-sitters’ or kindly neighbours are required if we have a full evening out.

Border terrier grabs front seat, top deck
Why he loves public transport, I have no idea, but he enjoyed a trip to see the Christmas lights in Edinburgh. No, wait, what I meant was we had to take him with us as we were going anyway. But he was no bother at all…He does trains as well.

It’s not his best feature and is the target of scorn from friends with roughie-toughie gun-dogs and their ilk. Again, I note this is a Border Terrier characteristic though.

So, that’s how our Border terrier has shaped up. He makes me laugh. Consistently, he seeks out the most comfortable place to chill. Most of the time, he soothes me. He is good company.

His behaviour is impeccable if we are in a dog-friendly pub or cafe. (That link takes you to a list for Edinburgh, courtesy of the useful

Oh, and Rupee did get rid of that rat who took up residence in the compost bin. (The downside of recycling no-one talks about.) At last, he’s earning his keep

Best of all, he keeps well at last, having grown out of all the spasms and upsets – so the vet bills are low.

Border terrier waiting for train arrival
He’s waiting by the platform for a train to arrive. He knows his mistress will be on it. There is some time to go but I cannot shift him. So we’ll just wait. OK, he’s facing the wrong way, but that’s because she’s getting off the west-bound, from Aberdeen, and not the east-bound from Inverness. He’s made the wrong assumption. Och, I won’t tell him quite yet.

Thinking Of Getting A Border Terrier?

Yeah, in spite of Rupee’s black mark when it comes to little dogs, if you have a lot of time to give, then these terriers are brilliant companions.

(Obviously, you should check with the breeder for any sign or inheritance of cramping or spasm as mentioned above.)

But please note if you are at work all day, a Border would not be a good choice. They don’t like being left alone. They will probably howl, which is heart-breaking.

Actually, if you are out of the house all day maybe you should just think about goldfish.

As our terrier was a rescue dog (even before my daughter got him), the particular aggression towards smaller breeds should have been trained out of him at a very early stage – but clearly wasn’t.

He’s far from the only one with this failing. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve encountered other Borders with their owners and we have had a conversation on opposite sides of the street.

Meanwhile our pets do their best to slip their harnesses, bolt across the road and murder each other. It’s just what a lot of Borders do…

And yet…and yet…we forgive them everything for their enthusiasm, intelligence and sense of fun.

Our one is great company, a characterful and feisty part of the family and I can’t imagine life without him. The wee so-and-so.

Lucky terrier
Lucky terrier. Wonder if he knows it?

See also our page on ticks in Scotland. He is a bit of a tick magnet – and that page covers some of the things we do to try and improve the situation.

Finally, if your Border needs a good brush, then that’s the one we recommend.

Here’s another piece on our Border Terrier.