If you are looking for the perfect companion to play and hang out with, the Border Collie is for you. It is one of the world’s most iconic and best-loved dogs, and it’s no surprise many dog lovers want it. We’ve been highlighting different dog breeds to help you make an informed decision about adopting them. And, today, we’ll be talking about the Border Collie. Without much delay, let’s get started:
Border Collie Dog Breed Introduction
The Border Collie is an amazing dog, but for the right owner. This dog was originally developed to gather and control sheep. Their smartness, high working drive, unlimited energy, and stamina make them the premier herding dogs of the world today. If there’s a bad side to this breed, it comes out when brought into a family that can’t provide for their unique needs. This is not a cuddly, couch-potato dog as it requires an active owner willing to put daily effort into providing daily physical and mental exercise. The Border Collie excels in many roles as a smart and true go-getter, but being a pet companion may be their greatest role yet. Keep reading to learn more about this popular household dog and what it takes to own one.
Border Collie Breed History
This breed of dog was developed from various sheepdogs used to protect flocks along the border of England and Scotland, hence the name Border Collie. Their ancestors are believed to be other types of Collies, including the Scotch collie and Bearded Collie. The Spaniel is also believed to be in the mix somewhere.
In the mid-19th century, the Border Collie became an identifiable breed separate from the Collie dog. They became more popular when Queen Victoria became an enthusiast of the breed, raising several of them. In 1876, sheepdog trials took place at the Alexandra Palace in London, and the spectators were amazed by the keenness of the dogs, whose only form of assistance from their handlers were hand signals and whistles.
The breed gained popularity in the US as a herding dog and was sought after for its proven obedience during trial shows. It was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1995.
Border Collies have remained true to their origin as hardy, diligent, working dogs. And those from good working lines are still the premier herding dogs of the world. Today, the Border Collie is loved and praised for its work ethic and capabilities, including doing police work, search and rescue missions, being guide dogs for the blind, and making the best companion pet.
Border Collie Dog Physical Characteristics
This dog shares some physical traits with other breeds, but you can easily identify them with their key features. This medium-sized dog has a slightly longer body than it is tall. But its most notable feature is the eyes. They are oval and may be any color, although brown eyes are most common. The Border Collie is always alert, focused, and known for its intense gaze. The ears are just as expressive. They can switch between alert and semi-alert positions, depending on what’s going on in their surroundings. They have webbed feet to aid them to dig, swim, or be more agile on rough terrain, but the webbing is not as pronounced as some other breeds. Last but not least, the tail is moderately long and is set low, although it can be raised when the dog is excited.
Size and Weight of Border Collie Dog
When discussing the typical size of a Border Collie, it’s important to consider their growth rate from puppyhood. Every milestone is vital as it determines if your pup is growing at a healthy rate. You can expect your Border Collie to weigh 10-15 pounds at three months for males while females weigh 8-12 pounds. This dog will grow rapidly in the first half-year of its life, and after that, its growth rate tapers off. At six months, expect them to weigh 18-22 pounds for females and 20-25 pounds for males. Your Border Collie will look less of a puppy and more of an adult dog at this stage. But don’t confuse this rapid physical growth with mental growth. At six months, your Border Collie is still very much a puppy and still requires intense socialization, training, and interaction.
A full-grown Border Collie stands at 18-21 inches tall for females or 19-22 inches tall for males. Their weight should be between 30 and 45 pounds for females while their male counterparts are 40-55 pounds. This dog reaches their full size between 12 and 15 months. Some larger Border Collies may continue to fill out their chest, but they should all be done growing at 18 months. While your dog will no longer increase in height, it can still gain or lose weight depending on its diet and physical activity.
Note that in the early breeding years, the size of this breed was secondary to their work ethic and ability. As such, they might grow at a different rate. Watch out for a huge deviation, though, as it might be a sign of an underlying issue.
Border Collie Colors and Patterns
This dog comes in a wide range of colors, patterns, and markings. Whenever the Border Collie is mentioned, most people picture them in two colors, black and white. Their body is mostly black with white markings on their face and underside. Another common color combination is chocolate and white. The shade can range from light to dark brown, with white found at the collar, chest, and bottom. Other popular colors of the Border Collie include:
- Blue & White
Tri-colors are also quite popular in this breed. It usually consists of solid colors like black, red, chocolate, and blue, paired with white and tan markings.
This breed generally has white markings, especially on its head, necks, feet, chest, and tails. They rarely come in solid colors; they may have ticking, tan points, brindle, or speckled. Another possible pattern is sable, where the hair on the coat has different shades of color, like black roots with light brown tips. Some Border Collies have the merle pattern, where darker spots appear on non-white patches of color. This includes sable merle, blue merle, red merle, white & blue merle, and white & red merle.
With tons of variations in this breed’s colors and markings, you’ll have an entire palette to choose from. The color generally doesn’t affect health and temperament, except for the merle gene that’s often associated with auditory and visual problems that cause blindness and deafness.
Shedding Levels and Grooming Routine
The Border Collie was originally bred to be a herding dog in the UK. It’s no surprise that they have a coat that matches their original home’s cold and wet climate. This dog has a thick double coat that includes an underlayer to help keep them warm and a more weather-resistant outer layer. The latter comes in three varieties: smooth, rough, or mixed. All three types of coats shed with the breed being classified as a moderate shedder. You will notice a significant increase in shedding in spring and fall. This is nature’s way to help the dog keep up with the changing seasons, so don’t shave it.
While you cannot stop your Border Collie from shedding, you can manage their hairs in several ways. The first one is through proper grooming. This lets you catch those loose hairs and dander before they end up on your furniture and clothes. You’ll need to brush him 2-3 times a week. During the increased shedding period, brushing daily using a de-shedding tool is the only way to ensure all loose hair is untangled and removed.
Bathing your Border Collie is also part of grooming, but you shouldn’t do it frequently as it can strip the dog’s skin of its natural oils. Every three months or so is enough unless they roll in the mud or something that smells. Other grooming needs include regular ear cleaning, nail trimming, and dental care.
Energy Levels and Exercise Routine
Border Collies are energetic and active dogs that love to work; they are never lazy. To lose the excess energy, they need plenty of exercise and other physical activities. Frequently exercising your Collie makes them have an excellent physical posture with built muscles. Furthermore, exercising prevent diseases related to being overweight.
Border Collies are an excellent breed for companions that love having fun and being playful all day. If you adopt a Collie, be ready to invest a significant amount of time exercising and mental stimulation. Collies love to work and might not be satisfied by one game or short morning walks. If their exercise demand is not met, they are most likely to adopt destructive behaviors such as chewing furniture and destroying objects and structures to keep themselves busy.
For Border Collies to release their excess energy, keep them engaged, take them out for sports, go for long walks and runs, and keep their brains busy with training. These activities make them pant and exhaust their energy stores, keeping them calm. When you play fetch, teach your Collie little tricks to stimulate their mind. The Border Collie can also swim, so include this as part of their physical exercise if you can.
The Lifespan of a Border Collie Dog
Border Collie’s lifespan range from 12 to 15 years. However, cancer and old age are the leading causes of reduced life expectancy of Border Collie. Diseases such as Epilepsy, Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome, Hip Dysplasia, and Collie Eye anomalies may shorten their lifespan too.
Collie Eye is a condition where the back of the eye does not develop sufficiently, so they lose their eyesight. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes frequent seizures. Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome is a syndrome where white blood cells made in the marrow are not released to circulate, causing health concerns such as a poorly developed coat or indigestion. Hip Dysplasia is a condition in which the socket and ball of the hind leg don’t fit correctly, causing lameness in the hind legs.
Since their health problems are primarily hereditary, it’s important to go through the family medical history before adopting a Collie. Proper diet is essential to increase their lifespan. Physical exercise is also vital. Just like humans, daily physical activities help prevent obesity in dogs, heart diseases, and other diseases associated with being overweight.
Visiting the vet regularly for checkups will help detect any health issue in its early stage. Lastly, keep any chemical product out of reach from your Collies; this is because these dogs like to sniff around and dip their head into containers. If your dog consumes anything harmful to its health, visit the Vet immediately.
Are Border Collie Hypoallergenic
Dog allergies are often triggered by exposure to the fur, saliva, and dander that the animal produces. When these allergens become airborne, they can trigger allergies with common symptoms, including sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. With this in mind, no dog is considered 100% hypoallergenic, but some produce less of these allergens, making them friendlier for allergy sufferers.
When it comes to the Border Collie, this breed is not hypoallergenic in the slightest. It sheds a considerable amount of fur and dander, which means more allergens in the air. It also drools, though not as much as some breeds, and self-cleans. The saliva ends up on the fur or other surfaces, and when it dries up, it becomes airborne.
If your heart is still set on having a Border Collie, thanks to all its other amazing features, there are considerations that you can keep in place to minimize the effect of allergens. Groom them regularly to remove excess hair on their coat, vacuum your house, and wash the curtain and any other washable materials the dog uses, such as their beddings.
That being said, those with severe allergies are better off with a more allergy-friendly breed like the Poodle, Bichon Frise, Irish Water Spaniel, and the Afghan Hound, just to name a few.
The Border Collie needs a high-quality diet, which includes high-protein, low card, and low fat. This can come in many forms, including dry kibble, wet food, or raw food. Many dog owners choose dry kibble because it’s the most popular, cheapest, and most available complete dog food. Canned food can be pretty tasty, but it’s better served as a complementary diet as it doesn’t usually contain enough nutrients to achieve a balanced diet. Raw food is closer to a dog’s natural diet but risks bacteria if not handled properly.
Knowing how much your dog should eat in a day is also important. About 1.5-2 cups of dry kibble daily should suffice, but this is not applicable for all Border Collies. There are other things to consider when determining how much your dog should eat, such as their age, weight, size, activity level, health issues (if applicable), and even food quality.
Puppies, for instance, will need regular meals and smaller portions, about one cup of dry kibble, but increase the frequency to 4-6 times a day. Pregnant bitches also need different balances in their diets and eat at different frequencies given their small-sized belly.
Be sure not to overfeed your Border Collie as that can use digestive issues such as farts and, in the long-term, cause obesity. Perhaps the best way to feed your Border Collie is to rely on calories. An average adult will need 1,000 calories, seniors will need 700 calories, while the young active ones will need 1,400 calories a day.
Are Border Collies Suitable for Apartments?
Many experts discourage raising a Border Collie in an apartment, and there are multiple reasons for this. First off, these dogs are flowing with energy and need a large space to release that energy through play and exercise. Secondly, when you look at their history, they were bred to herd sheep. Since this trait is hardwired in their genes, they have a strong desire to work and not be lazy around the house.
While it’s true Border Collies would be the happiest living on a farm or a home with a large backyard, what many don’t realize is it’s not all about the space. A Border Collie would become miserable living with a lazy owner on a spacious farm with, in fact, no sheep to herd. What’s most important is how much time and effort you’re willing to put into keeping your dog happy and healthy.
A Border Collie will be fine in an apartment, provided you satisfy their needs. While apartments lack dedicated outdoor space, there are plenty of dog parks and pet-friendly places where you can take your dog. You also want to make sure they are getting their daily exercise.
Keep in mind that these dogs are big barkers, known to bark for any and almost every reason. This can become a problem with neighbors, especially if you share walls, ceilings, or floors. Luckily, being a smart dog, you can train them to bark less. Another thing you want to keep in mind is their shedding levels. Being in an apartment where space is limited, it can feel like hair is everywhere. But you can manage this with regular grooming.
Can Border Collie Live Outside, In Cold and Hot Weather?
If you don’t know it yet, a Border Collie grows a full winter coat during fall in preparation for the cold winter and later sheds it off in spring so they can stay cool in summer. In short, these dogs can tolerate cold and hot weather. But this doesn’t mean they should live outside in it.
While their thick double coats can keep them warm during cold weather, they shouldn’t be outside if the temperature hits below 32°F (0°C). If it’s windy and rainy, temperatures at 40°F (5°C) will likely be too cold for your pooch. Hyperthermia and frostbite are some of the risks of exposing your dog to frigid temperatures.
It’s important to note that Border Collies have different cold tolerance. This is especially true for free and outdoorsy farm Collies vs. indoor pooches of apartments and suburban living. Additionally, if your dog is still a puppy, reaching old age, or is sick, they should avoid cold weather altogether. Consider keeping them in winter jackets to help keep them warm.
This dog’s double coat acts as insulation to help keep them cool when it comes to hot weather. Ensure they have access to clean, fresh water and shade. However, when the temperatures start to rise past 85°F (30°C), these dogs can become vulnerable to overheating and, therefore, should go indoors. Puppies, seniors, and Collies with existing health issues are also at a higher risk for heatstroke.
Border Collie Dog Personality Characteristics
The personality of Border Collies is typically smart, hardworking, alert, and energetic. They learn pretty quickly, making training easier but difficult to keep them challenged. And you don’t want them to become bored because they will resort to destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging. The Border Collie can be strong-minded and stubborn, and his herding instincts can be misdirected. But owners who can accommodate their high-energy needs and work ethics can expect a sweet and loyal companion who’s very protective of their owners. This dog will be friendly, affectionate, and playful with those in her circle but hesitant with strangers. Proper socialization is important to help the sensitive Border Collie gain confidence.
Living with Children and Family Members
If you’re shopping for a good family dog, then the Border Collie can be a great choice. They are very affectionate towards family and can be trained to be friendly to strangers. But due to their high energy levels, training needs, and tendency to experience loneliness and separation anxiety, they are only recommended for active families who have time to take care of them.
That being said, there have been debates about whether or not this breed is suitable for families with kids. While they are loyal, loving, affectionate, and love to play, they have a few negative tendencies that may make them unsuitable for kids. These dogs were bred to be herding dogs, and as such, they have strong herding instincts. If these instincts are not managed with proper socialization and training, your Border Collie might try to herd kids and be demanding of them. Unfortunately, a part of herding is nipping, biting, or barking to keep the herd in place.
But it’s not just the dog that needs to be trained to behave well around kids. Kids can be rowdy, too, trying to pull on the dog’s ears and tails, riding on them, or even hitting them. Your Border Collie might react aggressively to such mistreatment. So, teach your child to be kind and respectful to the dog during their interactions. If you have little kids who can’t be taught how to treat the dog, you may want to consider another breed.
Living with Cats and Other Dogs
Border Collies are usually friendly with other dogs. But you have to be careful of issues such as jealousy. This dog is an attention-seeker and may not like sharing you with another dog. Like any other dog, your Border Collie might also be aggressive towards dogs they perceive as a threat. For example, if another dog tries to steal their food or other belongings or get into their territory, they might react out of fear or even resource guarding.
The story is the same for most dog-cat relationships. This breed has strong herding instincts. It’s in their blood to herd anything mobile, including cats. When Border Collies herds sheep, they use a very intense stare and even bark loudly. If the sheep don’t respond, the dog might nip, bite, or bark at them to keep them in shape. Your cat might be on the receiving end of all this, and they won’t like it, not to mention it can be dangerous. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep a Border Collie and cat at home. You will need to supervise their initial interactions, though.
Although Border Collies are friendly and affectionate, whether or not any dog gets along well with another pet mostly depends on how well they are socialized and trained. Even if you don’t bring another animal home, your Border Collie will be outdoors where other animals are, and they should be well equipped to coexist with others.
Barking Levels of a Border Collie Dog
Border Collie is an intelligent and active dog with a high energy level. In an attempt to release that energy, they tend to bark. They are visually stimulated and will bark at moving bodies such as bikes, skateboards, cars, or other animals running around. Barking is a behavioral issue since they are mainly used as herding dogs.
Barking can also be a form of communication. They can bark to express fear, loneliness, excitement, or stress. Border Collies might be desperate to communicate with their human companion and will use any form of sound to do this; they can howl, grunt or whine to attract attention.
Loud barks from your Collie can be irritating to you and your neighbors. But with the help of constant training, this behavior can be managed. Teach them to bark and be quiet on command. Border Collies also need a lot of exercises to utilize their energy and keep them from barking out of boredom. If you notice the triggers that make them bark, remove them so they stop barking.
Barking in this dog isn’t all bad. It makes them good watchdogs, alerting you to any potential threat. What you need to do is manage this behavior so they are not constantly making noise.
Are Border Collie Good Guard or Watchdogs?
As one of the world’s most intelligent breeds, the Border Collie loves to work, above all things. They can be search-and-rescue dogs, bomb detectors, therapy dogs, sports superstars, and much more. Unfortunately, this dog can be anything but a guard dog.
Although they are known for their barking and nipping tendencies, these behaviors are not for harming the herd but rather a more forceful way to get the sheep to stay in place. So, although your Border Collie will bark at an intruder, they will rarely attack them as they are not aggressive dogs.
On the bright side, these traits make Border Collie a good watchdog. The dog is so vocal and will never fail to alert you to incoming strangers or any other potential threat. They can also discourage an intruder by growling at them. But being big barkers and hypervigilant can be a problem as these dogs will bark at virtually anything that passes. This is where socialization and training come in, teaching your dog to distinguish unusual scenarios from normal occurrences or something that is just new in their environment.
So, will a Border Collie protect you? It depends on the level of protection you need. Their barking and growling are enough to deter a would-be thief. They might even bite, although that is not meant to cause serious injury. But if you want an excellent guard dog that can be on the frontline, engaging and fighting without fear, then this is not the breed for you. Perhaps you should consider an Akita, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, or other well-known protection dogs.
The Border Collie can be stubborn, independent, and his herding instincts can become misdirected. Part of herding is nipping and sometimes biting to get the animals to respond to the dog’s will. In the absence of sheep, he can gather and chase children or pets.
Although this dog tends to herd anything that moves, they don’t do it maliciously. The Border Collie is a friendly, playful, and loyal companion and generally not an aggressive dog. If your Border Collie displays aggressive behavior, chances are something else is up. Some of the most common factors that can make your dog aggressive are:
- Physical pain
- Food aggression
- Resource guarding
- Dominant issues
- Territorial issues
- Being protective of their owners
- Past traumas
No matter how nice they are, any dog will react to any form of mistreatment by barking, growling, or even nipping. Additionally, a dog not properly socialized can show aggressive tendencies towards people and other dogs or pets. This could be out of fear, concern, or being territorial. Lastly, an untrained Border Collie can develop excessive herding instincts that cause them to chase, nip, and bite.
If your dog is showing any signs of aggression, there are a couple of things you can do to nip that bad habit in the bud. While you can’t train them not to herd, you can modify their behavior by channeling their energy into other activities such as canine sports like flyball. You also want to provide enough daily exercise, thus allowing the dog to stay the rest of the day acting calmly and not being hyperactive.
Can A Border Collie Be Left Alone?
Of course, there are many times when you have to leave your dog behind while you go to work or run other errands. So, technically any dog can be left alone. The discussion is on how long you should leave your Border Collie alone.
While there isn’t a specific timeframe for leaving your dog alone, it makes sense that leaving them for a whole day is too long. Remember that an adult Collie will need potty breaks every 4-6 hours, while seniors, puppies, and those with urinary incontinence need to go out more often. This may not be a problem if your dog has access to a yard or you have dog pads or artificial grass turf and your dog knows how to use them.
While you’re away, ensure they have access to food, water, and toys. You also want to provide enough exercise to release pent-up energy.
Just because you can leave your Border Collie for extended periods doesn’t mean you should always do so. These dogs are quite social and thrive on companionship; they are prone to separation anxiety. And you cannot blame them if they start to dig, chew, bark excessively, or even try to run away because they are bored, anxious, or under a lot of stress. If you have to leave for a long time, ask a neighbor or friend to check on them or hire a dog sitter.
Border Collie Dog Training – Easy or Hard?
Training is a huge part of dog ownership, ensuring a well-behaved dog. This will make for a happy household both for the dog and the owner. The Border Collie is one of the smartest dog breeds in the world, and many are eager to learn and please. This means they are relatively easy to train. On the other hand, their personalities are headstrong, and they require a lot of mental energy to train, which can make some people feel extremely frustrated during training. These dogs have a reputation for being stubborn. While not untrainable, the trainer will need to be firm and fair to establish leadership. Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcements are also vital for successful training.
Border Collie Dog Potty Training
Immediately after welcoming a Border Collie into your life, at the top of your agenda should be potty training them. The good news is this dog is pretty smart and will quickly learn what is expected of them. If you combine this fact with proper training techniques, you’ll soon realize how easy they are to potty train.
First things first, create a designated area where your pup can do their toileting business. This can be outdoors or a combination of puppy pads to use when you can’t go outside. Dogs learn by repetition. So, have a specific area as the go-to place, and they will soon associate it with pooping and peeing.
The key to successful house training is routine. How often should you take your dog out to do their business? This will depend on the dog’s age. We know that puppies have tiny bladders and don’t have total control over their bowel movements. Your Collie puppy should be taken outside frequently, perhaps in the morning when they wake up, after meals, after naps, after playtime, and before they go to bed. Watch out for signs that your Border Collie needs the toilet. Adults can hold it in for 4-6 hours. As such, you can create a schedule around that time. Keep in mind that feeding time and potty time go hand-in-hand, so there should be a strict routine in the former as well.
Something else you’ll need to find is a phrase (one that you won’t use in another context) to signal the dog that it’s time to go potty. Be sure to reward them with praise or a treat immediately after doing their business as expected.
Border Collie Dog Obedience Training
The Border Collie is extremely smart. In fact, according to Coren’s dog intelligence criteria, they were able to learn a new command with fewer than five repetitions and obeyed an unknown command 95% of the time. As some of the best herding dogs, they have high instinctive dog intelligence and are also believed to have high adaptive intelligence.
These stats make them one of the most obedient dog breeds in the world. But this is not an inborn trait for all Border Collies. Without a good influence on their behavior, they can grow up naughty, with bad habits. This is where obedience training comes in, to teach your dog to follow house rules.
As always, start with the basic commands such as sit, stay, come, stop, down, heel, and go potty. All tricks and commands will take time and effort before your dog learns them, but once they do, your Border Collie will listen to you, have confidence, and generally be a delightful companion to live with. Other tips for Border Collie obedience training include:
- Teaching them only one new trick at a time
- Keeping training sessions short and fun
- Being patient and consistent
- Always rewarding your Collie with praises or treats when they obey a command.
- Avoid hitting or shouting at them when they disobey you. This will only create resentment and fear.
Border Collie Dog Behavioral Training
We’ve already seen that this breed is pretty smart. And just like it can quickly learn commands, your pup can learn behaviors that are impossible to live with. This includes excessive barking, chewing, jumping on people, digging, trying to run away, aggression, etc. This dog has strong herding and chasing instinct, and if it’s not worked to control and channel this ability, it will become a liability, chasing anything that moves.
This is where behavioral training comes in, to teach your dog how to act in different kinds of situations. You need to tell your dog, “No, stop that.” If your dog doesn’t listen, it’s likely because they don’t know what ‘NO’ means or they don’t respect you. Start by teaching basic commands and get them to respect you by establishing yourself as the pack’s alpha leader. This doesn’t mean shouting or hitting your dog; instead, being firm and gentle in all your interactions. A key to instilling good behavior is consistency, so your dog never has the chance to learn anything otherwise.
Socialization is another important part of behavioral training. By exposing your dog to other dogs and different people, sights, smells, and sounds, they will be able to know how to act in all these different situations.
Border Collie Dog Protection Training
As mentioned earlier, the Border Collie is not the best guard dog. But being smart and easily trainable, you can teach them to become protection dogs. It might seem logical that a protection dog should bite strangers/intruders, but nothing could be further from the truth. Training your Border Collie for protection work takes a lot of training while requiring the dog to have a specific temperament.
Many people don’t have the knowledge, time, and even resources to train a guard dog properly. As such, they end up creating a dog that can be a potential liability, especially when they end up biting the wrong person. Aside from facing liability charges, a dog that is declared dangerous due to biting someone may face euthanasia.
Border Collies are great watchdogs, and wanting them to be anything more than that carries a lot of liability with it. It’s important to offer protection training with a professional’s assistance. Keep in mind that even with proper training, your Border Collie is no match for an armed intruder. It is better to embrace the natural watchdog that your Border Collie is. A dog barking is intimidating enough for most would-be criminals as it signifies that the dog might be dangerous, and most importantly, it draws attention to the threat.