Border Collie

Chances are that if you have watched any type of organized dog competition, you have seen a Border Collie in action. The dog that is winning the frisbee competition with dramatic leaps and amazing catches, the quick-reacting dog dominating the herding competition, and the lightning-fast agility dog whose owner can barely keep up are often Border Collies. They are famous for their athletic ability and overall intelligence and some even consider them to be the smartest breed of dog.

Border Collie
Original image by user corinne_benavides on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0.
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These canine dynamos are wonderful pets and companions, but they are generally only happy in homes where they have enough exercise and stimulation. They are not couch potatoes and are constantly on the move. Even with enough daily exercise, they will remain awake and alert. In the home, they will most likely follow their owner from room to room, paying close attention and looking for potential 'jobs'. If you fail to provide a Border Collie with some sort of job, whether it's fetching or carrying or nearly anything else you can train them to do, they will make their own jobs. Most likely, this will involve some amount of unwanted herding behavior and even nipping at heels. But, for the single owner or family that loves an active lifestyle and plenty of outdoor adventures and has the time to spend with the brilliant Border Collie, they can be loyal, loving, and attentive best friends.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Border Collie breed is also commonly known by the names Scotch Sheep Dog,Sheepdog.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 14 years

Breed group: Herding Dogs (AKC), Pastoral Dogs (KC)

Size: Medium

Male Female
Height 19 - 22 in 18 - 21 in
Weight 31 - 44 lbs 26 - 44 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black, Gray, Red, Brindle, Blue

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Average shedder

Grooming requirements: Medium

Good with children: Yes

Good with other pets: Average

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Very low

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Yes

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Below average

Cost to keep: Average

History

Border Collies are descended from the herding dogs of England, Scotland, and the British Isles. The tough terrain and climate required an agile, intelligent, and hardy working dog who could herd sheep from dawn until dusk, and the ancestors of the Border Collie fulfilled that need. There were various types of dogs in the region that developed certain characteristics depending on the exact terrain and landscape that they worked in. Eventually, they were discernable and separate breeds. These breeds were Welsh Sheepdogs, Northern Sheepdogs, Highland Collies, and Scotch Collies. The Border Collie's name can be traced to its Scottish heritage. The word "collie", which refers to sheepdogs, is derived from Scottish dialect. Herding dogs were both necessary and prized possessions of the hard-working shepherds of the region.

Border Collies descended from these foundation breeds into the modern dogs we see today. Though they are included in conformation shows all over the world, Border Collies are known as athletes that excel in specially designed herding competitions and Sheepdog Trials. The Border Collies of the sheepdog trials and other athletic events may vary more in appearance that the dogs participating in conformation competitions.

Appearance

Border Collies are keen, athletic, agile, and intelligent dogs with a strong herding instinct.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Balanced head and snout, oval eyes and an intelligent, eager expression.

  • Medium sized with a graceful, athletic, and well-balanced body.

  • Double coat is smooth or rough.

  • Colors: all colors or combination of colors and/or markings.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Border Collies are a highly intelligent breed. They will pick up new skills incredibly quickly and as the owner and trainer, you will need to be one step ahead of your dog. A Border Collie requires varied activities to keep him mentally stimulated and entertained. They are loyal to their owners, eager to please, and will pay such close attention to their owner/trainer that they may anticipate every move. You will need to pay special attention to curbing any unwanted herding tendencies. Because of their sensitive and sometimes strong-willed personalities, they require a steady, kind, and confident owner/trainer and are not recommended for novice owners. Border Collies excel in activities like agility, flyball, frisbee, and herding trials.

As with all intelligent breeds, Border Collies require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job.

Activity

Border Collies are extremely high-energy dogs and require a lot of exercise. They need at least 40-60 minutes of vigorous activity, twice per day. Preferably, exercise involves some time off-leash and engaging in an activity with you. Even with plenty of activity, they will remain active and alert throughout the day.

A bored Border Collie is definitely an unhappy dog. Bored dogs with too much excess energy will quickly develop and undesirable and destructive habits and may bark incessantly.

Exercising your Border Collie puppy requires a few special considerations.They have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Avoid exercising on slippery surfaces and climbing stairs under the age of 3 months. Exercise is needed, however, as strong muscles will increase the stability of the hip joint. Outdoor exercise on soft, uneven grounds seems to have a lower risk. Try to avoid exercise that involves running, jumping and playing on hard surfaces until the age of two.

Independence

Border Collies are people-oriented dogs and will want to be around their owners as much as possible. They will not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. Loneliness and lack of attention/exercise may result in undesirable and destructive behaviors.

Protective

Border Collies are generally outgoing and not protective. However, if a Border Collie is not properly socialized, they may become shy and even fearful.

Living Conditions

Because they need some time to play off-leash, Border Collies are not well-suited for apartment living, but this does not necessarily mean they need a huge home or yard. They are likely to stick near their owners, so a small yard will suffice and they are happy to play with their owners or go for a jog or an adventure. They do extremely well in rural areas where they have the room to run and play.

Bred for herding livestock in rough conditions, Border Collies are hardy dogs and tolerate hot and cold fairly well. But, their need for human companionship means that they will be incredibly unhappy if left outside alone for long periods of time.

Children and Other Pets

Border Collies can make wonderful companions for families with kids. However, they will often try to herd children and even nip at their heels, especially if the children are running. Border Collies should be taught early when herding behavior is appropriate and when it is not. Special consideration should be taken with small children (under the age of 6).


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Same as with children, Border Collies may herd other pets, which could become an issue. As with any dog, early, proper socialization is important.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Border Collie is between 10 - 14 years. Like all breeds, the Border Collie is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Border Collie is prone to these diseases:
  • Allergies (hereditary)
  • Epilepsy (hereditary)
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) (hereditary)
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»

Grooming

The Border Collie comes in two coat types: smooth and rough. Both feature a double coat with a coarse outer coat and softer undercoat. Weekly brushing keeps the coat healthy and can help reduce seasonal shedding.

Your Border Collie needs few baths, probably two or three times a year or when he gets dirty using a pH balanced shampoo designed specifically for dogs.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. This helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

Feeding recommendations: 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).