Does your Border Terrier act like a Big Cat?

My Border Terrier lies in wait. Border Terrier Waits

Conserving Energy. Scanning the horizon. 

Border Terrier lies in wait
Bark Border Terrier in wait

Until it’s time to… play. Or run something down.

I’ve written that my Border Terrier thinks he’s a cat.   Actually, many Border Terriers seem to have strong feline traits.  Some time ago I received a copy of an obituary for a precocious and dashing Border Terrier known around the world as “Ethan”.  Some readers might even know/know of him!  If so, please share your Ethan stories with us below.

The description of Ethan’s “naughty talents” (as his loving human described them) reminded me of the similarities I’ve seen between my Borders and the ways of cats.  Ethan was apparently a pro at:

  • Climbing six foot fences
  • Leaping up onto countertops
  • Sleeping in sinks
  • Escaping the confines of the house through tiny windows placed in high up places

And Bossy’s half-brother never let a tree stand between him and a squirrel. Up he’d go in pursuit.  Yah. Just picture that: a dog climbing a tree after a critter.  I almost got THAT dog instead of Bark.  Having young Bossy alongside of him probably would have put ME up a tree. Fortunately, the Universe usually gives us what we need. Bark came to us instead.

There are many versions of the Great Canine Escape. If we do Agility with our dogs or see other working dogs climbing fire ladders, scrambling up piles of debris or jumping up or down from high places (see Parkour Terrier) we know that many dogs are capable of feline-like athleticism and grace if given the right motivation. I’d bet my house that  Ethan’s Mum didn’t train him to jump on her countertops.  That’s just hard-wired instinct.

I think the terriers’ amped-up prey drive is the common factor for a lot of these behaviours. Cats and dogs both work for a living.  [Terrier Logic # 2].  While we don’t call terriers “mousers” as we do cats, they certainly are.  Borders will hunker down and stalk their prey just like a domestic cat or one of the Great Cats hunting on the savannah.  When Bark takes off in pursuit he sprints, stretching his stride in the way of a lioness.

Even in repose, Bossy and Bark remind me of more of cats than other dog breeds.  They both love a good nap in the sunshine.  And Bossy, along with others in her line, curls into a tight ball to sleep which is the common posture of resting cats. In charming contrast, Bark usually takes to the high places, hanging off a ledge. a sofa back or the top of a staircase—also the way Big Cats will stretch out along a tree branch to sleep.

There’s probably more written about the dissimilarities between dogs and cats -than about their similarities, including the opposing body language that causes such a ruckus between two of our beloved companion species.  However, experts agree that they both descended from a common ancestor. Canids (the group including dogs) and Felids (the group including cats) are, of course, both part of the Order of Canivora which appeared 65 million years ago.  So finding behavioural similarities really shouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

So how about YOUR terrier?  How is he/she —or another breed of dog with whom you share your life like a cat?

4 thoughts on “Does your Border Terrier act like a Big Cat?

  1. My first Terrier would “stalk” rabbits . . . go into a low crouch, LONG pause, SLOOOW half step, repeat, repeat, repeat, eyes always on the prey! He appeared to ooze across the lawn – until the rabbit twitched – then he was like a bolt of lightning. He never caught one, but he got close!

    • Rabbits ARE pretty fast aren’t they. But also smart. They’ll stand stock still if the dogs are looking at them [prey moves the predator]. They’ll wait for a turn of the head before they hop away. One of my Border Terriers stalks like you describe…just like a border collie dropping down and slinking toward the sheep to move them. It’s quite amazing to see. Thanks for commenting, Richard. I’m quite lapsed in my postings so glad to have reason to write!

  2. I have owned Border Terriers for the last twenty years. Every one of them likes to be up high, like on top of the back of the couch, just like a cat. Every single one them finds a pillow to put their head on when they sleep. Not sure why as I have not encouraged any of that.

    • Neat picture, Lisa. Some trainers would say their preference for high places is a dominance play, but I don’t think that’s really true. thanks for your addition and for reading! Toni

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