Developed along the Scottish borders (hence the name), the Border Collie is easily one of the most recognizable working dogs on the planet. With their intense gaze and athletic body, these affectionate dogs are most happy using their plentiful energy working in some way, whether it be herding sheep or cattle, performing demonstrations of such, or competing in agility or frisbee competitions and performances. While they do love to work, these dogs can make suitable pets as well, providing their high energy level is addressed daily.
Border Collie Appearance
Heavily muscled, the medium-sized Border Collie weighs between 30-50 pounds and stands 18-22 inches at the shoulder. They are commonly recognized in their classic black and white coloring, but their coats may present in a multitude of color patterns including merle, red, and lilac. While their pointed nose is an indication of their form, their slim, athletic body is often hidden by a long, sometimes bushy fur coat, indicative of an early life in the British Isles. The eyes of the Border Collie are extremely expressive, whether they are concentrating on a quarry of playing fetch.
Temperament & Personality
While Border Collies are known to be friendly, their drive to work can sometimes overshadow their social skills. They can be trained to get along with other animals, but those individuals with strong working instinct may be constantly trying to “herd” their housemates, causing undue stress and even fights.
Some Border Collies come from show or pet lines and though they will still be high energy, are less likely to have an unmanageable drive to work. If one is looking for a family pet, it is best to explore a pup’s family history. A dog destined to work on a farm or participate in competitions is better suited to come from working lines.
Border Collies were bred to work alongside people, and as a result, they prefer to continue to do so. They do not like to be left alone or kenneled for long periods of time, but instead prefer to be with their humans. While they love “their” people, these dogs can be initially wary of strangers. This makes them a great watchdog, but means owners must use caution when introducing their pets to new people.
This breed is highly sensitive to sound. Therefore, a loud home or one with noisy children may not be the best fit. Thunderstorms, traffic, and other noise issues can become a problem for Border Collies.
The average lifespan of a Border Collie is 12-15 years, according to the AKC.
Caring for the Border Collie
With their incredibly high energy levels, drive to work, and impressive intelligence, Border Collies require an owner that is as dedicated and driven as they are to manage their care and well-being.
These dogs do not require any special nutrition. They can do fine on a high quality dry or canned dog food. However, if they are working or participating in competition, the owner may want to consider a food crafted for working dogs. If the dog is not working, it is important to remain vigilant to ensure that the dog is not getting overly heavy. Obesity causes a number of health problems in dogs, and is easily preventable.
Like all pets, Border Collies should have clean water available to them at all times.
Border Collies are one of the most energetic breeds. They have a high drive to work, and with this comes the energy to do so. If a dog is not actively working on a farm or in a similar herding situation, they should be given the opportunity for daily extensive exercise. They enjoy long walks, runs, fetch, and do very well when they have a fenced-in area to roam and sprint freely in. Getting an individual involved in a competition such as obedience, rally, or agility is another way to help channel some energy and work the mind as well.
Border Collies are considered to be highly trainable, but training must start early. Whatever training one decides to pursue with their puppy, whether it be herding, agility, or some other form; basic commands and socialization should comprise a percentage of the schooling. Considered one of the most intelligent breeds, Border Collies can easily pick up tricks, some of which could be used to expend their daily energy, such as frisbee and ball tricks.
Border Collies are susceptible to genetic hip dysplasia. This malformation of the hip socket can lead to pain and eventual surgery. Hip evaluations on a pup’s parents can help determine whether or not a puppy is vulnerable to this issue.
Another genetic concern is Collie Eye Anomaly, or CEA. This is a group of ophthalmological disorders that can range in seriousness from mild to worrisome, but fortunately, it can be tested for as well.
Epilepsy has been known to appear in Border Collies. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but it can often be treated with medications.
Like other pets, Border Collies should visit the veterinarian regularly and receive annual vaccinations along with recommended flea, tick, and heartworm prevention protocols.
- Australian Shepherd: With similar body types and coloring, Aussies can be confused with Border Collies on occasion. A favorite with cowboys, they were “perfected” in the American west.
- Miniature Australian Shepherd: In the 1960s, small-sized Australian Shepherds were further bred to create a pint-sized counterpart that was favored as a travel companion.
- Collie: This Scottish breed was made popular in the 19th century due to Queen Victoria’s affection for the dogs. Thanks to Lassie in the century following, Collies have cemented a reputation as pop-culture icons.
- Icelandic Sheepdog: Iceland’s only native dog breed, these pups are known to be fiercely loyal to their humans.
- Pyrenean Shepherd: Known as “Pyr Sheps” by those familiar with them, no one knows for sure how long these dogs have been herding stock in the Pyrenees Mountains. However, for years they have worked in tandem with the Great Pyrenees, the quintessential livestock guardian dogs, to support the local herders in their livelihoods.