Border Terriers enjoy a long history as working dogs going back at least two hundred years. They were originally developed by the Robson family in the middle of the 19th century to hunt fox, rabbit, and other small animals around the border between England and Scotland, which is how they earned their name. While Border Terriers are not the most popular hunting dog in the world, they certainly are still used for hunting both in North America and in England. In this article, we'll take a look at training and where hunting is available in the United States.
Border Terriers are natural diggers as they were developed for chasing and hunting animals that burrow underground. Today, that translates to hunting animals such as rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons, or possums. While training your dog to get excited about the idea of jumping down a dark hole sounds like an impossible task, Border Terriers actually excel in this once they get the taste for it. One method of starting their training is to participate in Earthdog trials.
Earthdog trials are a series of manmade underground tunnels with quarry, or live prey, at the end. The dog must negotiate the tunnels and find the quarry, and react by barking, pawing, or digging. Both the dog and the prey are in no danger of being harmed in the exercise, as the quarry is safely locked away in a dog-proof cage. While Earthdog trials are obviously highly controlled situations and different from real hunting, these trials can be helpful in awaking the natural hunting instincts in your Border Terrier. In fact, Border Terriers are so successful in Earthdog trials that they have won more American Kennel Club titles in this event than any other breed.
Another way to train your Border Terrier for hunting is to create your own tunnel situations in your backyard. It is not necessary to dig up your backyard to place underground tunnels; some hunters recommend simply building plywood tunnels that you can change around into different configurations. There is a lot of information out there about creating your own training ground; the best place to start is to contact your local terrier kennel club or hunting club to speak with experienced hunters and take their advice.
Once you've trained your Border Terrier and you're ready to get out in the field, you might be wondering where you can go. Actually, you can hunt and provide a valuable service at the same time, as many of the animals that Border Terriers will naturally hunt also plague farms in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Groundhogs can be particularly bad for a farm because of the large dens they dig underground. These dens can destroy orchards and haying equipment, while the animals will eat the vegetable crops and their holes can cripple horses. Raccoons and possums can be problems with farms that raise berries, vineyards, or store hay. If you're interested in pursuing this kind of hunting, contact your local agricultural society, where you can meet farmers and advertise your services.