Breed Group: Herding
Temperament and Behavior
The characteristics that make the Border Collie a legendary herder are the very characteristics that make them virtually impossible to live in a suburban neighborhood. Their intellect combined with their driving need for mental and physical exercise make them unsuitable for most homes. They require continuous performance activities such as obedience, herding, agility, daily runs or biking, all needed to replace what they are bred to do– herd livestock. Even so, they may still herd anything that moves including children, cats, dogs, bikers, joggers, deer, or cars and may nip, poke, or push, if their target does not cooperate. Probably the smartest of all dog breeds, they are accomplished escape artists. After several hours alone, they will virtually pick the lock on your gate, bark incessantly, or both. If they are bored, they will become hyperactive and destructive as they seek outlets for their almost boundless energy. They are notorious for chewing through drywall, ripping stuffing from sofas, and digging giant craters. If you are at work all day, this is not the breed for you. Although they are one of the most obedient breeds, the Border Collie is a disastrous house dog if not given a challenge every day. Given this outlet, they are dependable, loyal companions with a permanent drive to please. They get along well with older children and other dogs as long as they are not of the same sex. But, they may chase down and kill other animals including cats. Young dogs tend to play roughly and need to be trained not to nip when their herding instincts surface. Socialization is needed to lower their high-strung, nature that can include being overly sensitive to sound and touch. They are reserved with strangers. As a result, they are exceptional watch-dogs as they miss absolutely nothing with their keen eyes and quick minds. Obviously not for apartment life, they are very active indoors and need lots of outside space too. Physical exercise is not enough. They need to exercise both their body and their mind.
Physical CharacteristicsBorder Collies have two coat types: smooth and rough. Both are dense and weather resistant. The smooth coat is short; the rough coat is medium length. Either enable them to live outdoors in either a warm or cool climate. They stand 18 to 22 inches at the withers and weigh between 27 and 45 pounds. Coat colors vary with black and white most common. Their eye colors include brown, blue, and amber. Many dogs have eyes of different colors or have multiple colors in either or both eyes. They are average shedders.
Trainer's NotesAlthough Border Collies are eager to please and learn quickly, they are also willful and manipulative. They will try to use their intelligence to train you. They anticipate what comes next, responding before commands are given. They learn what you teach as well as what they want to learn, like opening the backyard gate. Surprisingly, they do not mind repetitious training. They treat each repetition as a chance to do better. A certain amount of firmness may be needed, but harsh training will create a fearful dog. Some are hyper-sensitive and “shut down” if corrected harshly. Judicious crate training is the safest way to protect your belongings when the dog is unsupervised. Clearly, they require an experienced owner with lots of time for their dog. They need to be exposed to different people, animals, sights, and sounds, by accompanying you everywhere as a puppy. Without this socialization, their natural caution can turn into shyness which, in turn, can lead to biting.
HealthBorder Collies are generally a healthy breed. About 1 in 10 dogs have Hip Dysplasia. Other health issues include Osteochondrosis which affects joints; Collie Eye Anomaly, Cataracts, and PRA, all of which affect their vision; together with Epilepsy, and Deafness. All puppies should be checked by an AVCO-certified ophthalmologist (not a standard vet) between six and eight weeks of age. The life expectancy of a Border Collie is between 12 and 15 years.
PopularityThe AKC ranks the Border Collie 56th in popularity. There are about 2,000 Border Collies registered with the AKC each year.
Breed HistoryThe Border Collie originated in Northumberland on the border between Scotland and England. The breed is descended from old British droving breeds with some spaniel added. Allegedly, a dog named Hemp so distinguished himself at the first sheepdog trials held in Great Britain in 1873 that he then sired a great number of offspring and he is considered to be the father of the modern Border Collie. In 1876, when Mr. R. J. Lloyd Price brought 100 wild Welsh sheep to the Alexandra Palace in London for a herding demonstration, these “sheepdogs” astonished those in attendance with their intelligence. Their only assistance in driving the sheep from a remote corner of the park into a small pen in the park’s middle was in the form of hand signals and whistles from their masters. Bred for function above all else and as this demonstration proved, Border Collies are outstanding herders. They use an intense stare that seems to hypnotizes livestock as the dogs crouch low to the ground. Above everything else, it is these abilities that serious Border Collie breeders wish to retain in the breed.
Additional InformationMathew Broderick, Michael Keaton, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jane Fonda are all current or previous Border Collie owners. The US National Breed Association is the Border Collie Society of America.