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Border Collie

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The Border Collie is medium sized purebred famous for the fixed stare it gives the sheep it excels at herding. It is a very obedient and intelligent dog though and therefore also does well in other areas such as competitive obedience, drug detection, search and rescue, agility, canine sports and scent detection. It is a very athletic and energetic dog with a strong working drive .

Here is the Border Collie at a Glance
Name Border Collie
Other Names Scotch Sheep Dog
Nicknames Sheepdog
Origin UK and Ireland
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 45 pounds
Average height 18 to 23 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Double, Medium, dense, rough or short and smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, blue, red, grey, white and brindle
Popularity Fairly popular – ranked 38th by the AKC
Intelligence Very smart – one of the most intelligent dogs
Tolerance to heat Very good – able to handle quite hot climates
Tolerance to cold Very good – able to handle quite cold climates
Shedding Moderate – sheds an average amount
Drooling Low – not known for drooling
Obesity Average – not prone to obesity but could put on weight is allowed to overeat
Grooming/brushing Easy to groom but will need daily brushing
Barking Frequent – will need training to control
Exercise needs Very high – this is a very active dog and any owner who is not willing to spend a few hours a day with it should look for a different dog
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Very good – generally social
Good first dog Good to very good – its high needs means may be better for experience owner
Good family pet Excellent – very affectionate with its family
Good with children Very good with socialization – may herd them!
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization and likes to herd other pets
Good with strangers Excellent – very approachable
Good apartment dog Moderate – best in homes with space and a yard
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Moderate – known to have health problems which include eye problems, deafness, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, allergies and cancer
Medical expenses $460 a year covering basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $215 a year for license, basic training, miscellaneous costs and toys
Average annual expense $820 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $525
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 4 Maimings: 4 Child Victims: 2 Deaths: 1

The Border Collie's Beginnings

Border Collies in some form have been around since humans in Britain started using dogs to help herd and guard their sheep. Herding dogs were an essential asset for shepherds and from region to region there were different dogs bred to fill that need. On the border of Scotland and England in the area of Northumberland it was the Border Collie that prevailed. The word Collie comes from a Scottish dialect and means sheepdog.

First called the Scotch Sheep Dog, it is thought to descend from dogs the Vikings brought with them that they themselves used for herding reindeer. In 1860 Scotch Sheep Dogs were shown in England's second ever dog show. Not long after that Queen Victoria observed them and became a fan of the breed. In 1876 R J Lloyd Price began the sheepdog trials and demonstrated how smart and effective the breed was using just hand signals and whistles to direct them.

You can find reference to them as Collies towards the end of the 19th century, but it was in 1915 when the name was used to separate them from the Scotch Collie. A lot of today’s Collies descend from a dog called Old Hemp who was a dog born in Northumberland in 1893. Around the same time it was imported to the US, New Zealand and Australia.

Today's Border Collie

The Border Collie really is seen around the world as the top sheep herding dog. Because of its superior skill a lot of supporters of this breed debate a great deal about whether it should conform to standards set by places like the English Kennel Club of the American Kennel Club or whether the focus should be on its outstanding skill. This debate is what held in a 50 year miscellaneous class with the AKC before being recognized in 1995.

As a result of this debate there are two registries for Border Collies in the UK. There is the ISDS (International Sheep Dog Society) for breeders who are more focused on their herding ability (and this registry came first) and then the Kennel Club which encourages a standardized look. Members of ISDS can also be a member of the KC but not the other way round. In the US the equivalent is the American Border Collie Association and the AKC. Today the Border Collie is ranked 38th by the AKC.


The Dog You See Today

The Border Collie is a medium sized dog weighing 30 to 45 pounds and standing 18 to 23 inches tall. It has a body that is a little longer than its height. There are actually two types of coats it can have, a short, sleek and smooth type and a dense, thick, medium length, rough double coat. While often you think of a Border Collie as black and white in fact it can be other colors such as grey, red, Merle, blue and brindle. It can be straight or a little curled.

It has a flat head and its skull and muzzle are of similar length. Its eyes are oval shaped and brown though Merles can have blue eyes. The ears are either semi erect or erect and are medium sized. The tail too is medium length and is set low down but then lifts when it gets eager about something. The longer coated types have a brush tail and also have a mane.

The Inner Border Collie


This is a very energetic, playful and lively dog there is no doubt about it. If you are not using it as a working dog you are going to have find ways to fulfill its need to be doing something all the time. It is very alert and therefore makes a great watchdog. It will bark to let you know if an intruder is trying to get in. It is also protective but that frequent barking will need training to control.

Border Collies are very intelligent dogs and very sensitive and responsive. It is fine for new owners as long as you are consistent and firm with your leadership. It loves to please and it needs a lot of company. If you are not able to dedicate a good of chunk time to it each day then this is not the dog for you. A Border Collie that is not getting the attention, stimulation or exercise it needs is going to get destructive, hard to control and can even become neurotic. Because of its need for companionship it can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for lone periods.

This is an intense dog, even if you are not using it for its herding skills it is likely to try using them on other things, pets, livestock, children and so on! The nipping will need to be controlled with training. It also likes to chase things, so watch it with cars, bikes and so on. If you have a shy Border Collie this may be because it was not given enough early socialization when it was young. They can also be strong minded.


Living with a Border Collie

What will training look like?

It is a super intelligent, responsive and obedient dog and training therefore should be easy. In fact it should be quicker than most as it will certainly not need as much repetition as a lot of other breeds. Early socialization and basic obedience training are very important. It not only engages him and keeps him stimulated mentally it means you have a dog you can trust. It also makes the dog happier and more confident.

With a Border Collie its high intelligence and awareness means you could take that training level all the way up. Keep in mind that this same sensitivity means it can react to every movement or sound you make.

This dog works hard and does its best with praise, encouragement and positive training techniques. You will still need to be firm and establish yourself as the boss but it can be done without scolding or punishing. Be consistent and keep the sessions engaging. Because it learns quickly if you get too repetitive training can become boring for it.

How dominant a Border Collie can be really just varies from one dog to another. You may face a bit more free thinking from some that will take a bit more challenge but it is not likely to be too much of a problem with the right approach.

How active is the Border Collie?

If you have not already gathered the Border Collie is a very active dog. This is not a dog to get if you are not inclined to be active too every day of the week. It needs a committed and very active owner so that there is no conflict about going out for runs or walks every day. It is not suited to apartment living and needs a large yard to play in or even some larger piece of land to run in.

The Border Collie as well as having a lot of energy also has a lot of stamina. It can keep going for a long time. A 15 minute walk is not going to cut it. 2 hours or more a day is more like it. It is not a dog to be chained up out in the yard all day. It is a fast and agile dog so keep it leashed when not in a secure area. Take to a dog park where it can run off leash, play games with you and socialize. Without enough exercise it will be very hard to control, act out, become destructive, become hyperactive and have obsessive behavior.

Caring for the Border Collie


Grooming needs

There is a moderate amount of grooming and maintenance involved in caring for and the upkeep of a Border Collie. It sheds a moderate to frequent amount so will need daily brushing to keep the coat looking healthy and get rid of some of that loose hair. You can still expect some hair around the home to be cleaned up though. There will also be seasonal shedding when the soft undercoat is shedding. Give it a bath when it needs one using a dog shampoo. To avoid bathing to frequently try dry shampooing.

Teeth should be brushed with a dog toothpaste and brush at least two to three times a week to help keep them free of tartar. The ears too should be checked once a week for infection and then wiped clean, but do not insert anything into them. Its nails should be clipped if needed. It is possible with the exercise it needs that it will wear down its nails naturally but if not a groomer or vet can do it. This is something you can learn to do but you should familiarize yourself with dog nails as they are more complicated than people's.

Feeding Time

How much a Border Collie will need to eat a day is going to vary slightly depending on its metabolism, level of activity, age, health and size. An average is 1½ to 2½ cups a day. Try to spend a bit more on a good quality dog food, it is going to have less filler and be more nutrient dense. It should eat that amount in at least two meals.

Border Collies with children and other animals

Being such an energetic dog the Border Collie loves to play and run around with children. It does need training and early socialization though as it tends to try herd them which can involve nipping at their heels. Because it is not a dog that likes sudden loud noises and is very reactive it is best with older children not younger ones. Make sure children are taught how to touch and play in a kind and safe manner so as not to hurt or upset the dog.

Training and early socialization are also essential for how it gets on with other pets and other dogs. The herding thing is a problem with other smaller pets though if raised with them this can help. It can also be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex so you will need to be completely confident in your leadership role and training in case you need to take control.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The average life span of a Border Collie is 10 to 14 years. Unfortunately this is a breed prone to health issues such as Eye problems, deafness, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, allergies, sensitivity to drugs, cancer, neurological issues, hypothyroidism, diabetes and OCD.


Biting Statistics

In reports that cover 34 years of dogs attacking people in Canada and the US there are 4 attacks that involve a Border Collie. All 4 are classed as maimings meaning the attack caused permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. 2 victims were children and 2 were adult and 1 attack resulted in a death. Keep in mind these are spread out over 34 years. That is about 1 attack every 8 years making this breed a safe dog and one unlikely to become aggressive.

The fact is any dog no matter size or breed can become aggressive. Certain circumstances can make that more likely but also of great importance is being a responsible dog owner. Training and early socialization are not something to consider as optional. Making sure you have a dog that suits your level of activity, and how much time you can spend with it is also important.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Border Collie is not one of the most expensive breeds. An average of $550 for a pet quality dog but that can range up to $800 in some cases. For something of breeding or show quality that cost is more like $1000 to $1500, possibly a bit more. A shelter or rescue dog will be the cheaper option from $50 to $200 but most dogs that need a new home are adults so you would miss the puppy stage.

There are other costs to take into account as well as just the purchase price. Initial costs and yearly costs means you need to be sure your income is steady enough to cover the responsibilities being a dog owner brings. Initial costs like getting a crate, carrier, collar and leash and so on. Medical initial costs will include things like deworming, micro chipping, physical exam, blood tests, shots, spaying or neutering. Altogether this is going to come to about $455.

Annual medical costs just focusing on the basics like pet insurance, vaccinations, check ups, flea and tick prevention and such are starting at out $460 a year. Non-medical costs vary. There will be feeding costs. Hopefully you can stretch to a good brand of food as it is better for the dog. Plus treats for treat time or training. This will start at $145 a year.

Then there are various costs that can be termed miscellaneous. Things like licensing, training, toys and other miscellaneous costs that might crop up. These start out at $215 a year.

All in there is a starting figure of a $820 a year for just basics. Extra costs like kenneling, dog walkers, professional grooming, medical needs not covered by the insurance are likely and it is a good idea to save a little extra above the $820 in order to meet those.


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This is a very sensitive and responsive dog. It needs a lot of exercise, mental challenge and to be engaged daily. It needs companionship and attention and needs a positive way to direct its energy or it can become a very difficult dog to own. It will try to herd even if you do not use it as a herding dog and training and socialization are essential.

Border Collies are best in homes with older children and yard should be well fenced in as it is a good escape artist. Make sure you get your pet from a good dog breeder so you can see parental health clearances and so that your money is not funding puppy mills and the like.

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