The Border Collie is one of the world’s oldest ‘working’ dogs. This extremely playful, highly intelligent flock and herding species is a delight to keep as a domestic pet. He has boundless amounts of energy, exhibits a remarkable degree of agility and skill, and will make a loyal companion for the right household. As a medium sized breed, the Border Collie is, on the surface, a very easy dog to have around. The reality, however, is that the species can often be too energetic for some families. You should not keep a Border Collie unless you are happy to train it to control its exuberance and stamina. You don’t have to teach your dog to herd sheep, but you do have to be willing to take him out on long walks.
The Border Collie has a long body and a fairly flat skull. In fact, its skull and muzzle are around the same length, with a moderate stop. It has strong teeth and oval eyes. In the vast majority of dogs, the eyes are brown. The only exception is in merle varieties which may have one or two blue eyes. The medium sized ears are placed well apart and usually carried erect or partially erect at all times. The front legs of a Border Collie are straight, if viewed from the front, but they have a minor slope when examined from the side. The tail is set low reaching, but it is prone to rise if the animal is animated or engaged in physical activity. The breed has a super tough weather resistant coat which comes in either black and white, tricolor, red and white, black and gray, yellow, yellow and white, sable, or all black.
While many people do love the physical appearance of the Border Collie, the breed was originally designed for work. This means that its aesthetic lacks the precision and grace of certain other fashionable canine species. What the Collie lacks in beauty, however, it makes up for with intelligence. This breed is extremely smart and is sure to give even the most enthusiastic owner a run for their money.
The Border Collie is directly descended from Landrace Collies, a variety of dog native to Great Britain. While little is known about its early development, it is believed that the name ‘Border Collie’ is a reference to its prevalence close to the border between Scotland and England. There is evidence to suggest that the breed is related to the ancient British droving dogs used by the Vikings to herd reindeer. These working pets were then mixed with spaniels to create smaller, nimbler dogs. Even as far back as this, the skill of the Border Collie was well known.
It was said to ‘hypnotize’ cattle by crouching down in front of sheep or cows and fixing them with an intense stare. While this still happens today, all across the world, Border Collies also now assist with everything from search and rescue to bomb detection and guide services for the visually impaired. In the Netherlands, it is used to assist handicapped people.
Sometimes, the high degree of intelligence and perception exhibited by a Border Collie is precisely what makes him a difficult dog to keep. A good example of this is the herding instinct. This dog has been bred to gather, so it is common to find domestic Border Collies trying to ‘herd’ children, visitors, and other pets. While this behaviour is not aggressive, it needs to be controlled with rigorous training. If training is not handled correctly, the Border Collie will try to assert his authority over the household and may become unruly and disruptive. As these dogs have so much energy, they can very quickly start to cause destruction. The good news is that the breed has a very strong instinct to please. It responds excellently to praise and is very good at taking instruction.
The Border Collie is very friendly and can be trusted to play safely with children and other pets. However, it gets bored very quickly and its high level of intelligence means that it cannot be left alone for too long. If you do not want a dog that constantly follows you round the house, looking for a way to get your attention, the breed may not be right for you. On the other hand, if a doting and adoring dog sounds like the right kind of pet for you, a Border Collie could be perfect. To keep this breed happy, you must be willing to spend a lot of time with it. It requires a lot of exercise, a consistent level of socialization, and an owner who is keen to test its physical and mental ability.
Border Collies are generally very good at getting on well with household cats. However, they should not be left alone with smaller pets like rabbits and rodents. Remember to lavish your dog with affection if he behaves well, because an under stimulated Collie will start to develop neurotic behaviors. If you leave him home alone for long periods, he might just find a way to occupy himself – and it will probably involve breaking something.
Size and Exercise
The typical male Border Collie is around 48-56cm tall and 30-45lbs in weight. The average female Collie is approximately 46-53cm tall. She weighs around 27-42lbs. While this breed is a medium sized canine, it is not well suited to life in a flat or apartment. It likes to stay active even when indoors, so a lack of space will create problems. Once again, the extraordinary intelligence of this breed means that it is tricky to keep it fully occupied, even with a robust walking regime. Nevertheless, the Border Collie must be walked at least once every day. This should be a fairly long walk. The dog needs enough space to run, play fetch, and expend lots of energy.
The breed can still thrive if kept in an outside kennel, but only if its owner has plenty of contact with it and it is regularly taken beyond the yard for walks. You should not keep a Border Collie constantly tied up or chained in a garden. They become bored very easily and, if they are unable to escape, they may develop unhealthy tics and other harmful behaviors.
The Border Collie is prone to canine epilepsy, hip dysplasia, PRA (eye problems), and deafness. It is common for this breed to have an allergic reaction to fleas. Also, a small number of Collies carry the MDR1 gene.
It is important to know whether your dog has this gene, because it can cause a fatal reaction to certain veterinary medications. Therefore, it is a good idea to have your Collie tested for it. You can find out more about testing by asking your vet for advice on how to proceed.
The average lifespan for a Border Collie is around 12 to 15 years. When breeding, female dogs can have as many as eight puppies, but the typical amount is six.
This breed requires regular brushing and combing to keep the coat extra shiny and healthy. While Border Collies are only moderate shedders, it is still important to brush dirt and debris away from the dense undercoat.
The ears and coat should be regularly checked for ticks and other bugs. It is only necessary to bathe Border Collies if they become really dirty. Otherwise, brushing and combing is sufficient enough to keep their coat healthy.
Caring for Border Collie Puppies
The puppies of this breed are wildly energetic and inquisitive. They require skilled training to control and curb their more neurotic behaviors. If training is not rigorous and sustained, these puppies will grow up to exhibit frustrating traits. For example, poorly trained Border Collies are known to persistently ‘herd’ children, other pets, and visitors.
Like most canine breeds, the Border Collie will become unruly and overly dominant if you allow it to take charge. He is looking for a firm and reliable leader. You need to teach your dog the difference between play time and time in the house, so that he does not use his boundless energy and stamina to wreak havoc.
While Border Collies are generally very friendly, they can be extremely sensitive to loud noises, so families with babies and young children are not necessarily suitable. As aforementioned, the breed gets along well with household cats, but should not be left unsupervised with smaller pets.
- ABC = The American Border Collie Association
- ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
- ACR = American Canine Registry
- AIBC = The American Int. Border Collie Registry
- AKC = American Kennel Club
- ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
- APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
- CKC = Continental Kennel Club
- DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
- FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
- KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
- NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
- NKC = National Kennel Club
- NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
- UKC = United Kennel Club