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UNDERSTANDING BORDER COLLIES
THE BORDER COLLIE:  

            BRED TO WORK

The Border Collie is fast becoming one of the most popular dogs, sought after for it's keen intelligence, wit and charm.  Seen in winning competitions on Animal Planet's agility programs and talking in the hit movie, Babe, the Border Collie has moved from the farmyard to suburbia.  Along with this occurrence, comes a set of problems that often lead this breed into rescue and/or a pound, given up by a guardian.  This is not a dog content to 'hang around' with you.  This is a dog that needs a job and if there isn't one, will find one. This quality can be trying and challenge the average family interested in adopting a companion animal.  While the Border Collie is most definitely loyal, loving and bonds quickly, this breed requires continual stimulation - mentally, emotionally and physically - much more than the average dog.  In fact, many border collie experts will tell you that the Border Collie does NOT make a great family pet.  A bored Border Collie can become neurotic, obsessive, and destructive.  All Border Collies do differ.  They are truly individuals but there are general consistent themes to their behavior.

The very traits that can cause problems for many people, are the very reasons other people LOVE the Border Collie.  Fans of the breed claim it is the most intelligent dog.  They are highly trainable and have good reasoning abilities. It's not unusual for them to learn a new command in just a few minutes with only a few repetitions. 

One dog authority claims that most dogs are the 'intelligence' age of a 2 year old child, whereas a border collie is equivalent to a four year old in understanding.  Any parent knows there's a significant difference between those ages and the issues that arise.  Translate that to dogs and you can understand why Border Collies are NOT for everyone.

A Cornell seminar instructor recently said the Border Collie is the closest breed to the wolf in instinct because the dog is a working dog, not bred for show.  The pure nature of capturing game as wolves do, is the same quality from which herding stems.  The Herding Instinct so often talked of in association with Border Collies is part of their heritage.  Their ability to herd sheep is unsurpassed.  They also excel at obedience, agility, flyball, search work and therapy work. They are instinctive in wanting to work, focused on the task at hand and ALWAYS ready to go.

The trait that sets the Border Collie apart from other breeds is the use of the 'eye'.  

A crouching, snakelike movement with an intense stare used to hypnotize livestock is what characterizes eye.

Border Collies herd livestock, birds, other dogs, cats, children, squirrels, rabbits, deer, bugs, and often lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, brooms, rakes, cars and anything else that moves.  Many Border Collies lives have ended early under the wheels of a car.   Although Border Collies herd by "eye" rather than by nipping at the heels of livestock, many are still nippy and will nip at the heels and legs of people when they run. Young children are common targets because of their level of active movement and they will nip them when herding.  Border Collies are always underfoot. They watch you constantly (as if you are the stock), and rush in front of you if they think something is going to happen.

They are extremely quick, high-energy, busy dogs, and they must have plenty of exercise. They are bred for endurance: a working Border Collie is able to run many miles a day over difficult terrain, then go out and do it again the next day; a one- or two-mile run is barely a warm-up this athletic breed. 

People without the time to give a dog plenty of good, vigorous exercise every day are usually happier with a calmer breed.  One of a Border Collie's favorite games is "Fetch," and it's great exercise for them. They love chasing balls, Frisbees, and anything else that moves, and their gathering instinct makes them natural retrievers. In fact, the fetching can become obsessive and, to some people, annoying. Not everyone enjoys having tennis balls frequently dropped in their laps as they're trying to relax, and an insistent dog staring at them or scolding them until the ball is thrown - only to have the process repeated again (and again and again...) a few seconds later.  They often exhibit obsessive behaviors, like chasing lights, shadows, and running or dripping water.

IS A BORDER COLLIE 
FOR YOU?

While the appeal of an intelligent dog may be strong, it's important to consider your lifestyle.  

Here's what to ask yourself:

1) Am I willing to actively exercise the dog  3- 4 times a day for extended periods of 45 minutes to 2 hours, hiking, running or walking?

2) Can I consistently interact with the dog with toys - frisbee, balls or other items - for long blocks of time?

3) Do I have time to spend weekends learning agility?  sheepherding? flyball? 
these activities are key ways to stimulate the dog

4) Are there young children in the house regularly?  Would nipping at heels or hands and arms create fear in the children?

5) Is the dog alone for more than 4 hours each day, left in the house to entertain itself or can the dog go with me everywhere?

6) Is my life full of activities that could include a dog or more for people only?
for example: traveling vs. camping; or family events vs. hiking

7) Would I consider a second dog or consistent ways for the dog to be with and play with other dogs?

8) Will I commit to obedience training on a regular basis, increasing the levels of learning to keep the dog stimulated?

Most people will not want to do what's required as listed in this review.  Their lives are too busy to focus so intently on what this breed needs.  If this is your case, then do NOT consider a purebred Border Collie.  The dog ends up unhappy, you end up frustrated and very, very often, the dog is given up.  And, by then, what was a good Border Collie is now a behavioral challenge for someone else or the dog is put to death for being 'too difficult'.  We see this time after time.

Our perspective in seeing dog after dog after dog come into rescue is that it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to clarify whether you can handle this type of dog within the context of your life.  Even if you cannot do everything they need, you will have to commit extra energy to consistent interaction with them or you'll have a nightmare.  No matter what you've heard about Border Collies being family pets, do not believe it and no matter where you get the dog - a breeder or rescue - you are adding a WORKING dog to your environment.  They are pure and simple workaholics, just like many people you may know.


THE BEST OPTION FOR

MANY PEOPLE:

THE BORDER COLLIE MIX

If you find that upon reflection, you realize this breed is more than you really want to live with, then consider a Border Collie mix.  For many people, it's the perfect option...the brains of a Border Collie but the intensity is lessened...the 'edge is off'.

The herding instinct is gone or lessened, the nipping is generally non-existent and yet the dog is very alert, responsive and tuned in to people.   And, in most cases, a Border Collie mix will 'hang out' with you, not needing continuous stimulation.

Depending on the breed mixed with the Border Collie, you can enjoy all the benefits without many so-called negatives.

But, they will still need obedience, exercise and playful stimulation because even with less Border Collie instinct, there is still a strong desire to 'work', even if it's mostly play.  Dogs, regardless of breed, become destructive and depressed when bored so they all need stimulation.  And, remember, there's some Border Collie in there, so watch those moving cars, running kids, passing bikes and be prepared to play a lot of ball, frisbee or fetch.

In the numerous dogs we've taken into rescue, we've found that the Border Collie mixes have been some of the most playful, loveable, sweet and wonderful dogs we've ever met.  They are not Border Collies and won't act exactly like a Border Collie but to many of the adopters we've met, that's exactly what they love... a smart, easier dog. 

ANOTHER GREAT OPTION: THE OLDER BORDER COLLIE

Very often, people want a puppy and won't budge off the concept that younger is better.  When it comes to Border Collies, that is not always true.  The vast majority of rescue dogs are around 1 year of age. 

 Here's why...that cute puppy grows into the intense working dog very quickly and then becomes 'too much to handle'.  Out of control, unbridled energy and the need for continual activity becomes  overbearing.  That's when people give up and realize they've got the wrong dog.  In contrast to the young Border Collie, the older one - age 5 and up - is MUCH calmer, settled and less frantic.

They are incredibly obedient, very interested in people and the benefits of companionship AND they want to be loved.  Yes, they still can be obsessed with playing ball or frisbee or watching the ceiling fan or chasing cars, but also easily settle in by your feet and rest.  That scattered, wild, young energy is no longer present and the need for focused work is lessened.  They are fantastic dogs with an incredible intelligence.  Many people feel it's the perfect age to enjoy having a Border Collie.

Contact us:  rescue@glenhighlandfarm.com

 

Contact the Farm rescue@glenhighlandfarm.com
Glen Highland Farm
217 Pegg Rd, Morris, NY  13808
Phone: (607)263-5415  Fax:  (607)263-5325