Widely considered the best working dog around, Border Collies are intelligent, loyal and hardworking dogs who love routine and having a job to do. They make great pets but don’t be mistaken into thinking they’ll be happy curled up by the fire all day- these dogs need to be occupied and need to be busy at all times, or they can become irritable and snappy. Recognisable for their long, dense fur and black and white markings, Border Collies are very “outdoorsy” types who demand lots of exercise and enjoy sporting activities like playing with frisbees, obstacle courses and herding. Often recognised as a quintessentially English dog, the breed has appeared regularly in popular culture, with famous Collies including Blue Peter’s Shep, Fly in the movie Babe, Bandit from Little House on the Prairie and Timmy in the Famous Five.
There are two main types of Border Collie- the type bred solely to be working dogs and trained specifically to herd sheep and those bred for show. Both kinds are exceptionally intelligent, fast learners who enjoy challenges and exhibit great speed, stamina and enthusiasm. Their strong sense of smell makes them popular tracking dogs, and they are often used by the Police and Armed Forces for their ability to find lost people or sniff out drugs and other chemicals. One famous Border Collie, Betsy, had an apparent vocabulary of over 300 words and many others have won awards for bravery.
Border Collie Size and Weight
A medium sized dog, the average Border Collie stands between 1’6” and 1’10” (shoulder height) and weighs between 13 and 20 kg.
Border Collie Personality
Border Collies are incredibly bright, friendly dogs who love people and make fantastic family pets. They are incredibly loyal to and protective of their owners and are excellent watch dogs- although they can become nuisance barkers if not properly trained and occupied. Because they’re so intelligent, they are easily bored so need an owner who is just as active as they are and willing to provide plenty of stimulation- if they don’t get it, prepare for them to drive you a little crazy!
Known for their fixed, intense stare, a Border Collie will look you deep in the eye and seem like they’re asking questions with just one tilt of the head. They can be pushy and domineering if you don’t show them who’s boss, so enlisting in a training class and maintaining the upper (but gentle) hand is essential if you want to live in harmony with one of these fascinating dogs.
Border Collie Training and Temperament
It is absolutely essential to train your Border Collie- not just for your sake, but for theirs. They crave stimulation and need to be constantly learning and understand their role in life, and they respond very well to training from an early age. Signing up to a training and socialisation class as early as possible is really important if you want to establish good behaviour and help your Collie learn to get on with other dogs.
Collies can suffer with separation anxiety if they’re left on their own for long periods of time, leading to excessive barking and destructive behaviours like chewing. For this reason it’s important to consider whether a Collie fits your lifestyle- if you’re out at work all day, you’ll need to consider another, less demanding breed.
Border Collies are great dogs who are incredibly rewarding to have around if you invest enough time and energy into keeping them, but if you’re not prepared for a dog who’s constantly on the go, you’re likely to find them challenging and hard work.
Children and other pets
Border Collies are usually great with children and don’t tend to be snappy. They can be boisterous though, so it’s important to supervise contact with very small children who may get knocked over by an over enthusiastic Collie who’s excited and wants to say hello. They make good companies for older children who commit the time to taking them out for walks and playing with them, and are a great motivator for any parent looking to get their child off their mobile phone and out in the fresh air. They can get on well with other pets, and often even live harmoniously with cats if introduced at a young age and clear boundaries are established early on. They tend to get on well with other dogs and particularly enjoy working in a pack- although living with more than one Collie is a challenge that’s not for the faint hearted!
Nutrition and Feeding
Because Border Collies are such energetic dogs, they tend to burn off a lot of calories and need a diet rich in nutrients to keep their bodies and coats in good condition. Always give your dog the best quality food you possibly can, and while they are more able to tolerate “human” food than other less active breeds, this should by no means be a major part of their diet and should be given only on special occasions. They’ll need two good meals a day made up of a mix of dry food and meat, and dog foods containing omega oils and vitamins are preferred for keeping their coats shiny and their minds alert.
Border Collie Coat and Grooming
Border Collies have the thick, dense hair that’s necessary for a life working outside herding sheep, so don’t be surprised to hear they can shed excessively. A daily brush helps keep shedding under control, and professional grooming is advisable twice a year. Keep all bedding clean and give it a good shake every few days to get rid of excess fur.
This is a dog breed who craves exercise, and if they don’t get it there will be trouble! Your Border Collie will need two walks a day and regular runs. If you’re looking to lose weight or improve your fitness levels, Collies are just as good as any personal trainer when it comes to motivation- their boundless energy and enthusiasm will have them running alongside you for miles and they love playing sports. A tired Border Collie is a very happy, satisfied dog who will be much easier to manage than one who’s desperate to burn off pent-up energy- but use common sense, and don’t over-work them.
Border Collie Life Expectancy
The average life span of a Border Collie is around 10-14 years. Common health issues include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, impaired immunity, hearing loss and eye problems as well as Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL), a rare but life threatening neurological condition.
If you’re up to the challenge and can commit time, energy and a good training regime, a Border Collie will make an entertaining and loyal pet who will want to serve you and give you lots of love for the rest of its life.