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
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
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
IS A BORDER COLLIE
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.