Intelligent, Acrobatic, Energetic.
The Border Collie – If you are someone who is truly looking for a pet to fill the definition of “Man’s Best Friend”, then look no further than this ever so lovely dog breed.
This breed, however, is not to be confused with Welsh Sheepdog, which is actually related, or the Collie, which is a slightly different breed as well, falling under the “Standard Collie” category.
As one of America’s favorite breeds of dog, and ranking 39th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dog breeds, I’m sure most people have heard at least a few of the charming qualities that make this special dog who they are.
The list of desirable characteristics that the Border Collie holds is endless, and you could sit here and read a list of them all day, but the number one quality that stands out above all the rest is this dog’s sheer intelligence.
Some people might say that this breed is “pretty smart”, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but in fact, this smart dog is considered to be the most intelligent breed on the planet.
If you look at any list of rankings for Smartest Breed of Dog, the Border Collie will most likely top the chart at number one.
Usually, the list’s top three most intelligent breeds will round out with the Poodle and the German Shepard, but the Border Collie takes the cake with their big brains.
With all that being said, this dog’s I.Q. level is one of many different characteristics that make up this dog’s personality as a whole.
With being smart, these dogs are extremely entertaining and amusing to sit simply and watch for a couple hours. You will always have a built in form of amusement while owning one of these energetic pups.
Although this sounds like the perfect dog for any dog owner, these are definitely NOT for everyone.
For starters, they do not make good house dogs and require a significant amount of space to run due to their natural herding instincts.
Border Collie – Temperament
A home located in a rural area with lots of fields and space for this dog to run would be ideal, but a farm house with animals that actually could use a herding dog would be the dream life for this natural herder.
This is a breed of dog that is not going to do well in a small space such as an apartment or small house.
Even with a reasonable backyard, the athletic needs of your dog will not be able to be met, which is never a good thing for the dog or their owner(s).
If you are a novice or inexperienced dog owner, this is the last breed you’re going to want to own.
Don’t forget, this is a very smart dog and they can and will outsmart you if you do not know what you are doing.
When you see these dogs jumping on their owners and jumping off of their backs to catch Frisbees, those are extremely experienced dog owners, who have many years of training and expertise under their belt.
It is imperative to keep this is mind and not try and give yourself more credibility than you actually have.
It is okay not to be experienced enough to take care of a Border collie, and it does not mean you are not fit to own a plethora of other breeds. Many dog breeds can work and do well for novice dog owners; the Border Collie is just not one of them.
If you do not spend a significant amount of time and energy on a Border Collie, they will come to drive you absolutely nuts, destroying everything you own, and being very disobedient and tightly wound.
This is unhealthy and stressful for both the owner and the dog, as well as extremely undesirable and not an accurate representation of this truly amazing breed.
This is definitely something to keep in mind while pondering the idea of owning one of these intelligent dogs.
However, if you are experienced enough, and up to the challenge that these furry friends will test you with, then this will be your absolute best friend and member of your family for life.
They are extremely loyal, compassionate, and kind if they are able to have the proper living situation.
With all their instinct and personality demands, a Border collie that is not stimulated, both physically and mentally, will start developing neurotic behaviors such as chewing on walls, furniture, and digging holes out of boredom.
Make sure that if you’re purchasing or considering buying a Border Collie, you are one hundred percent positive and confident that they will be satisfied with their living arrangement to guarantee happiness and comfort for both parties involved.
Something else that is important to know ahead of time is that Border Collies are not known for doing well with children, especially small kids, and other pets, simply because of their natural herding instinct.
It is not uncommon to hear of these dogs trying to herd your children. This instinct was bred into their system hundreds and hundreds of years ago, so it is highly unlikely to break that habit.
It is not impossible for them to live and coexist with children and other pets, and they can actually very happily live among both if they have the proper socialization and training at a very young age.
It may seem like a lot to take in for just one dog, but remember, this is going to be your next best friend and family member for the dog’s whole life, and it will be completely worth all the extra little tidbits to own a happy and healthy Border Collie.
Lastly, before you get your heart set on one of these amazing dogs, consider their energy level and the amount of time you will need to assure they get an outlet for their physical energy.
Unless you live on a farm, you will want to provide a large fenced in area for the dog to run and play.
It will be the best decision you’ve ever made, if you are willing to put in the right effort, and don’t worry, your new best friend will without a doubt reciprocate all the effort you gave to them.
Border Collie – Breed History
The exact origins of the breed are often subject to speculation, but it is known and locked in that this breed gets its name from the border region between England and Scotland, in a county called Northumberland.
Shepherds in this area have been carefully breeding dogs for herding sheep for many, many generations. In turn, a perfect herding dog has been produced.
It is said that no other breed of dog excels in herding more than the Border Collie.
Border Collies love what they do, and it is obvious that they are excellent at what they do as well. They have a natural born ability to herd cattle, sheep, etc., and they also have a fixed gaze that is used to “Hypnotize” and control livestock.
Before 1915, these dogs were referred to as simply sheepdogs, but during that year the name Border Collie was given to them referencing the location between England and Scotland where they were first developed.
When they first arrived in America, they were a big hit among shepherds because of their quick herding techniques and their obedience abilities.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized this breed in 1995 as a Herding Group.
Nowadays, you will see these dogs in the show ring, either in agility, obedience, herding and conformation.
Male Height: 19-22 inches (48-56 cm)
Female Height: 18-21 inches (46-53 cm)
Male Weight: 30-45 lbs. (14-20 kg)
Female Weight: 27-42 lbs. (12-19 kg)
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years; 12 years is average
According to AKC, the Border Collie has 17 different colors and 7 different markings. Colors include:
- Sable merle
- Saddleback sable
- Black and white
- White and blue
- White and blue merle
- White and red
- Red merle
- White ticked
Now, that’s a lot of color choices!
FCI: Section 1: Sheepdogs, AKC: Herding, ANKC: Working, CKC: Herding, KC: Pastoral, NZKC: Working, UKC: Herding
Border Collie – Ease of Training:
This is a breed of dog that is known for their trainability. Being the smartest dog breed in the entire world does have its advantages. This dog was bred to perform complex tasks and was taught never to back down from any challenge, physical or mental.
They are always up for a challenge, whether it be with their person, or individually. The Border Collie is not a hard dog to train, but it is also not one of those breeds where training is not necessary.
Some breeds can get away with mild training and socialization, but for the Border collie training, and especially early socialization is crucial to their behavior and mental state when they’re older.
The younger you can start socializing your dog with children, other dogs, etc., the better. This is a very motion sensitive dog and they like to chase things such as cars and squirrels if they are able to.
This is a characteristic that you may want to train them not to do if you think it will pose a problem later down the roads. As long as you keep a sturdy handle on training, and don’t allow the dog to start controlling you, then you should have an exceptionally good dog.
Since the earliest of times, farmers have used dogs to help them manage their animals.
Some dogs were used to keep herds together and other dogs were used to guard their animals from wild predators. Occasionally there will be a dog that is both guardian and herder, but that is usually the exception to the rule.
These dogs make excellent watch dogs and will serve as guard if needed. They are somewhat reserved around strangers which gives them the motive for being a guard. If you are looking solely for a guard dog, this might not be the best breed for you.
This breed has a medium length coat with a dense undercoat. They are seasonal shedders and need some extra T.L.C when their undercoat is shedding.
They are considered average shedding dogs, so not hypoallergenic, but they’re not going to cover every single one of your belongings in fur.
Regular brushings and bathing are recommended as they are in most breeds to keep your furry friend happy and healthy.
It is also important to regularly check their nails, ears, paws, teeth, etc. Good dental care in the form of daily to several times per week will keep their teeth in good shape.
Nails should be trimmed or filed down using a nail grinder as they grow. The shorter the nails the better footing the dog will have and the less likely that nails will get caught in carpeting or tall grass.
This is a relatively healthy dog, aside from a few common health concerns.
- Epilepsy: A neurological condition causing seizures
- Collie Eye Abnormality (CEA) is a congenital, inherited eye disease involving the retina, choroid, and sclera of the eye. There is a DNA test available to Border Collie Breeders to help them decide whether they should use a dog in a breeding program.
- Hip Dysplasia: Condition where the hip joint does not fit together tightly
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): Deterination of the retina of the eye leading to blindness.
Famous Border Collies
A dog named Fly adopts the piglet, Babe in the movie with the same name.
Chaser, a border collie knows more than 1000 words, as reported by the BBC
References and Further Reading
Dog Breeds Expert recommends that anyone interested in purchasing or adoption a dog should do as much research as is possible before the big day. These books provide a good reference for the breed – click on the images for more information.
Interview with a Border Collie owner
Jo Wilkins took the time to speak to us about her experience of living with her Border Collie, Lilly.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your Border Collie please?
A: Her name is Lilly and she’s 4 years old. I’ve had her since she was a puppy of about 8 weeks. She was an accidental litter and I bought her from a private seller. She’s a Border Collie.
Q: How easy was Lilly to train?
A: It was very easy for giving a paw, tricks, etc. Took a little while for recall as she just wanted to play with everyone and everything and loved loads of attention!
Q: How much exercise does Lilly need?
A: She gets about an hour a day, which consists of long runs and lots of ball chasing – not just walking as that doesn’t do a lot for her. She needs to be running around as she has loads of energy. Would definitely take more exercise if I could give it to her!
Q: Does Lilly have a particularly “doggy smell” and how is her coat in terms of shedding?
A: Sometimes she suffers from the doggy smell, but it’s not too bad – only when she rolls in fox poo, which she has a terrible habit of doing! Her coat is not too bad for shedding either.
Q: Is Lilly an excessive barker?
A: Lilly will bark at cars, people at the door, etc and is very protective of the home.
Q: Does Lilly have good recall off-leash?
A: Yes, very good. She always stays close and is trained to stay with us, rather than the other way around!
Q: What is Lilly like around other dogs?
A: She’s good with dogs. She tends to focus more on her ball, rather than other dogs! She can take them or leave them really.
However, she doesn’t like to be pushed about, especially by pups – she finds them too overbearing and irritating.
Q: What is Lilly like around children?
A: She is fine with kids, although I wouldn’t leave her with a toddler due to their tendency to pull and tug dogs around. Lilly wouldn’t be too keen on that!
Q: Would you class Lilly as high maintenance or a fussy eater?
A: No, Lilly has the constitution of an ox and can eat anything! My previous border was also the same, very hardy breed and a dream to have.
However, I would not recommend this breed to anyone who is not likely to walk their dog daily and give them the exercise they need. They are a working breed and need lots of exercise, so owners need to have loads of energy and the longer the walks, the better! Boredom makes this breed become naughty, not the breed itself.
Q: Can Lilly do any tricks or have any funny quirks?
A: Lilly picks up tricks very quickly if it gets her attention. About 3 years ago, we put the Xmas bells up over the fireplace, Lilly accidently knocked them with her nose and made them ring, we all laughed and ever since then every time she wants attention she rings the bell over the fireplace (we have now put one up there just for her!)
She is also extremely vocal and “talks” to us when we wake up and when she wants something such as dinner, walks, wee, etc. If she’s told off, she answers back – I think she really believes she is talking to us in our language – a real part of the family. She also sulks when told off and won’t talk or interact with us for a while.
She definitely makes me laugh every single day and is full of character, not to mention extremely loyal. Shouting at her does no work, she needs to be managed in a calm and understanding way.
Border Collies do not respond well to anger or aggression. They are an intelligent breed and I believe having a loving partnership rather than master servant relationship with them works best. It’s all about the respect and trust they have for you as their owner.
I would not be without my Lilly and feel as though she is a part of me and my life. I love her to bits and would not change her or choose another breed. I love her for her intelligence and sense of humour!
Big thank you to Jo for a little insight into life with the adorable Lilly! 🙂