Can Border Terriers Be Left Alone? What you need to Know

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If you would love to own a border terrier but you maybe work 8 hours a day, you would not be wrong to wonder if border terriers can be left alone for a considerable number of hours.

Yes, border terriers can be left alone, but, you need to train them and also put some things in place to keep them preoccupied or they might get bored and become destructive or anxious.

Some small breeds are quite dependent on their owner and may develop separation anxiety if left alone for a long duration of time.

In this blog post, we will take a brief look at the border terrier’s history and temperament to help get us informed on what to expect from this small dog breed.

We will also look at how long you can leave your border terrier and how to teach a puppy border terrier to enjoy being alone.

Let’s get started.

Border Terrier; Brief History and Temperament

Originally bred on the English-Scottish border by farmers and shepherds to chase away and pursue the sheep-stealing hill fox, the border is an energetic, tough, and agile small dog breed that can excel in towns and the countryside.

They have, however, evolved to make great companions in our homes and apartments due to their affectionate and trainable personality.

The border terrier is independent-minded with a hunting instinct that needs to be curbed if it is to coexist with other small animals such as a cat or a hamster.

This can be done through early-age socialization.

Border terriers require regular exercise to help them use up their pent-up energy and stay healthy.

A daily half-hour walk, a game fetch, or a game of tug can be sufficient in getting them well exercised.

How long can you leave your Border Terrier for?

Leaving your border terrier for a certain duration of time can vary with a puppy and an adult.

For an adult border terrier, with proper training on how to stay alone and certain provisions, they can be left for up to 6 or 8 hours at a time. For puppy border terrier, it is important to spend as much time with them while teaching them how to enjoy staying alone.

If you have a trusted neighbor or relative, you could have them check up on your border terrier while you are away.

You can also employ the services of a dog walker to help keep your dog exercised and with company.

How to teach a puppy Border Terrier to enjoy being alone

To avoid having a clingy and dependent adult border terrier that might have separation anxiety when you leave, you must teach them to enjoy being alone while he/she is still a puppy.

As much as we would love to spend all our time with our newly owned puppy, it is more important to train them to be more confident and self-reliant when they become an adult.

Let’s take a look at the various steps required in successfully teaching your puppy border terrier to enjoy being alone.

1. Use a confinement area: Using a confined area such as a crate or a playpen can be a great way for your puppy to spend some alone time.

To help them have a positive association with their playpen or crate, they should be fed in there and spend time with their favorite toys.

It is important to make these confinements as comfortable as possible.

2. Get them distracted: When they have associated their confinement to positive things and would happily go into them, you can now proceed on to the next step.

Provide him/her with a chew toy in the confinement, as they most likely are in their biting phase, then leave quietly for a few seconds at a time.

Keep increasing the time spent away from them and reward them with gentle praises if they stay quiet. You shouldn’t make a fuss about your presence as they might get too excited and wouldn’t want to stay alone afterward.

3. Stand firm: If your puppy whines or cries, it might mean you have left for way too long or you rushed through the phase of getting them comfortable in their confinement.

In a situation where it was the timing, it is important to stand firm and not let him/her out every time they whine.

This is because he/she might come to associate their whining as a way to get out of their confinement opened.

4. Progressing onward: The use of confinement is an effective but temporary practice.

The goal is to eventually have your puppy stay in a room alone while you move around freely. As they grow older, they wouldn’t associate your absence as a negative thing.

Ensure to puppy-proof your home or any area you intend granting them access to. Also, ensure there are no sharp nor small objects they can swallow when you leave.

This is to prevent accidents from occurring while you are away from them.

Do Border Terriers suffer from Separation Anxiety?

Border terriers are capable of suffering from separation anxiety because they relish human contact and communication. This can be resolved as separation anxiety isn’t an inherent trait of a dog.

Separation anxiety “is a state where your dog becomes extremely stressed out, act anxious and scared when left alone”.

sad purebred border terrier
purebred border terrier

It can be identified when your border terrier constantly, and without fail, react to your perceived or complete absence.

This reaction could range from incessantly barking, scratching at the door, urinating or defecating indiscriminately, and desperate attempts to escape from its crate or confinement.

These behaviors are due to the stress induced by the anxiety he/she is experiencing.

Acts like desperately trying to escape its crate or play-pen could result in a dangerous situation where your border terrier can get hurt.

How to treat separation anxiety

The first step towards treating separation anxiety is to first identify the various signs your border terrier could be showing to suggest they are actually experiencing separation anxiety, not boredom.

Not all destructive habits are related to separation anxiety. Sometimes this can be a result of boredom or bad behavior cultivated over time.

You can take the following steps to treating your dog’s separation anxiety:

1. Create Space: When your dog gets clingy to you, there is a large possibility he/she would develop separation anxiety when you leave.

Spending quality time with our pets are some of our most cherished moments and it also helps in solidifying the bonds between us.

Unfortunately, this becomes a negative if they are raised to be dependent on you, both physically and emotionally.

This dependency leads to clinging, seeking, and requiring your attention at all times.

Creating space between you and your pet doesn’t refer to total and complete disregard.

Practice some alone time by either leaving the house or shutting yourself in another room for about 5 minutes. You can gradually increase the time you spend away from him/her as you progress.

Do this without acknowledging your dog when you get back.

If he/she gets jumpy or overly excited when you return, you can use the sit or stay command to settle him/her down.

This is done to get your border terrier used to your absence and to understand that you eventually return.

2. Provide comfort and Entertainment: One way to keep your dog preoccupied would be to provide some entertainment.

This could be making available their favorite blanket, squeaky, or stuffed toy while you are about leaving.

You can also leave a piece of clothing you have worn, this would have your scent on it and could be comforting to your dog

Setting the temperature of your apartment or house to ensure your dog doesn’t get too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer can help in making your dog calm.

3. Provide adequate exercise and mental stimulation: Exercising your dog before you leave can be a great way to use up its pent-up energy.

Going for a half-hour walk or playing a game of fetch can be sufficient for a border terrier.

Border Terrier jumping for food
Border Terrier jumping for food

When properly exercised, your dog would be less active, and a less active dog is calmer.

You can also hide treats around the house for him/her to find, this not only keeps them busy but also provides a form of mental stimulation.

The use of a Kong toy filled with treats can be a great way to keep him/her distracted as the treats need some work to be taken out of the Kong toy.

A border terrier also loves to dig, which can be an opportunity to help keep him preoccupied using a snuffle mat with small pieces of treats hidden for him/her to find.

4. Change your pattern: We tend to do things a certain way as we are animals of habit. These patterns are being observed by our pets and they most likely know what we are about to do beforehand without informing them.

This can be related to what you do before you leave the house; jiggling your keys, grabbing your bag, or picking up your coat are triggers your border terrier can associate with your departure.

So, changing your pattern of leaving the house can be a great way to keep your dog guessing and unsure.

Instead of leaving the door after grabbing your keys, go take a seat or go get water in the kitchen.

Breaking the triggers can be a great way to keep your dog calm and alleviate the stress induced by anxiety.

5. Relax: Our dogs are capable of feeding off our energy, so being anxious when leaving can be a negative sign to your border terrier.

Relax and act normal, this can help calm an anxious dog.

6. Use medication: Sometimes, separation anxiety can be created due to past traumas a dog might have experienced.

This is usually the case with older, sheltered, or rescued dogs that have been abandoned for quite some time.

In severe cases, where the use of behavioral training and conditioning fails, the use of medication becomes necessary to help calm them down when you leave.

Speak to your vet about medications like amitriptyline, used to treat depression in dogs, or alprazolam, used for treating panic disorders and anxiety.

An alternative might be the use of natural supplements or homeopathic treatments.

Supplements like amino acid L-theanine, passionflower, St. John’s Wort, chamomile, and valerian can be used to ease anxiety.


The border terrier is a laidback small dog breed that can comfortably excel at being alone if properly trained.

They are independent-minded, eager to please and ready to learn, they require at least a half-hour of exercise daily to keep them healthy and calmer.

With the proper training, conditioning, and situation, an adult border terrier can stay alone for 6 to 8 hours at a time, so if you are considering getting a border terrier, we would gladly advise you to go ahead and commit to the decision.

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