Excellent sheepdogs, incredibly dedicated agility dogs, and lightning-fast flyball dogs, Border Collies have become a popular dog breed due to their intelligence, commitment and adorable personalities. But they are not always easy dogs! Here’s everything you need to know about brilliant Border Collies – the good, the bad, and everything in between!
What is a Border Collie
The Border Collie is a pastoral herding dog associated with working sheep and other cattle. These days, many Border Collies can still be found on farms as working dogs, but they also excel at obedience, agility, flyball, scentwork and more.
Border Collies are so beautiful!
History of Border Collies
The Border Collie is an old breed, developed over centuries for the purpose of herding sheep, and originating in England. It is believed that all modern Border Collies can trace their ancestry back to one specific dog, who was known for his ability to move sheep beautifully, but more importantly, was quiet and easily trained.
The modern Border Collie was also shaped significantly by Queen Victoria, of whom the breed was a favourite. She owned many Collies, which led to a wide love of the breed beyond farmers, and led to its popularity now as a family dog.
Now there are thought to be four recognisable “types” of modern Border Collies with varying attributes such as length and type of coat, size, and temperament.
Border Collies were originally bred as herding dogs.
Border Collie breeding
The breeding of Border Collies does not seem as problematic as other breeds (such as Cockapoos and Dachshunds), but as they are a popular breed, you still need to be careful. Be cautious of puppy farms and backyard breeders.
Importantly for Border Collies, you must also avoid puppies from two merle parents – this is due to health risks associated with the merle gene. Unfortunately these litters are often still bred to ensure that popular merle pattern in puppies.
A dog’s early life experiences and socialisation will impact their future temperament and behaviour, so you want them to have the best start possible! And that’s without considering the potential health issues related to bad breeding.
When meeting a breeder, you should always be able to see the puppy with Mum, Dad and littermates, and everyone should look happy and comfortable. Ask to see the results of health tests, quiz the breeder about their socialisation efforts, and be prepared to walk away if things don’t feel right. Never pay a penny before you meet the pups, and look out for breeders with a watertight contract and breeder back up, who ask you as many questions as you ask them!
As Border Collies are a purebred, you can sometimes find good breeders through The Kennel Club, but be careful – as this is not a guarantee. Remember, even if the dogs have been health tested, you should also be thinking about temperament, socialisation, and early life experiences.
Border Collies in rescues
Unfortunately, many Border Collies end up in rescues as their guardians can’t always meet their needs. This breed can be headstrong and challenging, and they do not always adjust well to living as a pet.
Having said that, many guardians of Border Collies are committed to meeting their breed-specific needs and ensuring they live enriched and active lives, which can help their dogs thrive.
Larger national rescues like Dogs Trust are also likely to have Border Collie or Border Collie crosses looking for new homes.
Merle Border Collies should not be bred with other merles.
Border Collies tend to range in size from just 14kg – 25kg, so overall it tends to be a bit of a lucky dip! It all falls down to the lines within the dog’s breeding background. They are estimated to live for over 12 years.
A lot of people will tell you that Border Collies are not good with small children and animals, but those experienced with the breed will tell you it depends on the dog and what they’ve been brought up around.
Border Collies are known to be easy to train with a desire to please, but that doesn’t make them easy dogs. They need a lot of mental stimulation and a daily walk probably won’t cut it – the UK Kennel Club recommends over 2 hours of exercise a day. With their working backgrounds, this breed need to be given something to do – or they’ll find something themselves!
However Border Collies are likely to be very receptive to positive reinforcement training.
What you need to know about Border Collies…
There are two types of coats that Border Collies can have – rough or smooth. They will most likely need regular grooming at least once a week, and they do shed.
You may find it helpful to learn about co operative care, which can make grooming a more pleasant experience for you and your Border Collie.
Do not underestimate the needs of a Border Collie.
Think a long walk will just do it? Nope, it’s not necessarily the long walks that they need, they like to use their brain. Playing games on walks, puzzles and enrichment help to fulfil their needs on a daily basis.
Don’t forget the importance of regular rest too – a puppy should sleep up to 20 hours a day, while adult dogs should sleep for around 16 hours.
There do not seem to be many reports that separation anxiety is a common issue in Border Collies, although some guardians find that their Border Collie likes to have all their humans in one space, and struggles when someone leaves.
We really recommend Julie Naismith’s book Be Right Back!: How To Overcome Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety And Regain Your Freedom to help you start leaving your puppy at home.
For many folks, Border Collies are a dream breed when it comes to training! They are highly intelligent and food motivated, with a brain made for learning tricks and having a “job”.
Border Collies will most likely enjoy activities like sheepball, agility, flyball, scentwork and obedience like heelwork to music.
Unless your dog is a working dog trained to herd animals, you should never have them off lead around cattle or wildlife like deer.
We recommend positive reinforcement when training as it builds a strong relationship between you and your dog, meaning that they are more likely to respond to your instructions. If you’re getting a puppy, going to puppy classes is a great place to start. You can also take a look at our practical puppy tips for new dog owners.
Border Collies can be excellent sport dogs.
Cost of Border Collies
At the moment, it looks like a Border Collie puppy will cost you around £1,000 in 2023. Be suspicious of anyone charging much less or much more.
Potential health problems
The good news is, Border Collies are usually very happy and healthy dogs – although always remember the risk of breeding a merle Border Collie with another merle, which can lead to both blindness and deafness.
However, this does not make them exempt to health issues entirely – some things to look out for include Osteochondritis Dissecans, hip dysplasia, Collie Eye Anomaly, glaucoma, raine syndrome, and the inherited MDR1 gene mutation.
Border Collies can also suffer from behavioural issues like hyper arousal, especially around toys like balls and frisbees.
The best way to keep your Border Collie happy and healthy is to take them to their yearly vet check ups, and anytime you think something might be wrong.
You may find it helpful to take a dog first aid course, to help you identify potential health issues with your pup. I recommend Animal Love Pet First Aid.
My Border Collie, Brodie
by Ella, @brodie.the.border.collie
Brodie is a 3 year old short coated Border Collie. Originally born in Pudsey, Leeds along with 5 litter mates. 4/6 of the puppies were born on 7th August 2019 followed by Brodie and his brother Jagger on 8th August 2019. Bonus puppies!
Anyone else getting puppy fever?!
We brought Brodie home to West Lancashire at 9 weeks old where he has been the sunshine on a cloudy day for the past 3 years!
Although he was a breeze of a puppy to train, he came with many other personality traits which haven’t been the easiest.
I feel like a lot of people don’t fully understand the nature and personalities a lot of Border Collies can have. While they are very easy to train and hard workers, border collies tend to have a natural nervous nature.
That is definitely what we got!
From a tiny puppy, Brodie was showing signs of uncertainty towards strangers. Imagine a little grumbling 11 week old puppy on a walk.
It was from the very start that we discovered that Brodie wasn’t particularly fond or comfortable with people he wasn’t familiar with.
This was something that we thought he would overcome with time and socialisation but we were wrong. At 3 years old, we still have a nervous and uncertain boy. Although he has overcome a lot of areas, he’s also still not great with others!
Loves people but needs to familiarise himself with them first.
Loves a fuss and love at home, but if he’s on a walk? Please don’t touch him.
Baking trays? Absolutely petrifying….
But that’s our quirky boy.
Brodie can be a nervous boy.
Brodie is a pretty small boy which I personally love weighing in at 18kg. He has working and agility lines within him. He is super head strong and loves to work but is also nimble and super speedy on his paws.
Brodie lives with a 7 year old, along with a cat and a rabbit. Yes, we had the ankle nipping and original herding which comes naturally to them, but once you place you barrier on where and when the herding behaviour can be used, we have had no issues.
He’s actually quite fond of the cat, although I can’t say the cat has mutual feelings…
Border Collies are known to be easy to train. Which in our case was very true, we had an off lead puppy by 4 months old!
There’s nothing Brodie loves more than running free off his lead and exploring the world. They are working dogs and love nothing more than having something to do, whether that’s being out and about or at home.
Speaking of home, don’t think that just because it’s raining means they don’t want to go out. The weather means absolutely nothing to them. Get your coat and wellies on, you’re about to get soaked!
Could you say no to those puppy eyes?
Most people think Border Collies are smart dogs. There’s often times where you’ll look at yours and think, “Wow you’re really not bright…” Like their nose for example – a dog’s nose is a strong point, right? No, Border Collies tend to use their eyes more than their nose. Lost a green ball in the grass? I can assure you they aren’t sniffing for that ball, they’re scanning the grass. Be prepared to not find that one again…
For us it was a case of playing scent games with Brodie to get him using his nose more. Still to this day he’s hawk eyeing the grass for a ball… just sniff it mate, I can assure you it will be found a lot quicker!
Balls and toys can be a great training tool for your collie. They can often develops an OCD-like obsession with things. Which is why it is super important that you limit their time and ways of playing with things.
If I let him, Brodie would chase a balls and bring it back repeatedly for hours because he is obsessed. He would do anything for a ball which makes it great for training purposes. But he also loses all sense of direction and awareness around him when a ball is in play. He’s often had dogs piling on top of him, which he’s been oblivious to as he’s too focused on a ball.
Border Collies come with many funny and loveable personality traits which makes them amazing pets. But you also need to take into consideration that there are working dogs and need a lot more than just sitting and home napping and a 10 minute walk.
Brodie has taught me so much about dogs that I would’ve never even thought about with past dogs. He is so loveable and cuddly but also has that wild and fun side that makes our adventures memorable!
Border Collies are not the easiest of dogs, but they are fantastic. If you can meet their needs and teach them desirable behaviours, you will have a loyal companion for life.
At Woof by Hollie, I sell super cute dog gifts for humans, including adorable Border Collie gifts! From keyrings to stickers to prints, you can find the cutest gift ideas for Border Collie lovers and Border Collie owners in my store.