Is the Border Collie the Dog for You?

Depositphotos 40185771 l 2015

If asked to name a herding breed, chances are the Border Collie will come to your mind first. This herding breed is well-recognised throughout the world as being a phenomenal athlete and incredibly intelligent. Maybe you have seen one doing tricks, agility or frisbee on TV, or read the book about Chaser, a border collie who knew over 1,000 words. It’s not surprising you have thought about adding one of these amazing dogs to your household. But with great athleticism and mind comes a lot of responsibility. Read on to find out if the Border Collie is the dog for you.

Breed History

Chances are, the folks responsible for breeding the Border Collie had not planned on a breed of dog smart enough to learn 1,000 words. Their goal was focused: an excellent working dog that would help them move their livelihood (primarily sheep) from one place to another safely. In fact, for centuries there was no standardised breed, just a bunch of dogs with varying looks that were very good at one thing – herding. The modern Border Collie is believed to be descended from a dog, Hemp 9 or Old Hemp, that was owned by Adam Telfer in what is now Northern England/Southeast Scotland.

Today, the Border Collie is seen the world over, mostly not on farms. They are seen in the performance rings – excelling in agility, obedience, rally, disc – anything that requires an athletic body and a keen mind. Some groups, fearful the Border Collie would lose the instincts they were originally bred, have created clubs specifically for “working Border Collies.” In 1996, the Australian Working Border Collie Registry was created, to specifically preserve the working lines.


If you have seen Border Collies performing in person or on TV, you see a confident, even fearless dog, with a happy look on his face. That’s because these dogs love to work!! They are happiest with an energy-consuming job to do. However, that confidence is something that must be fostered when they are puppies - especially confidence with people and new experiences/places. A breed known for being aloof to strangers, they can have fear issues and well as sensitivity to noises and new places if not properly socialised. They are extremely loyal to their family and love to cuddle after the work day is done.

Energy Level

If you haven’t guessed already, the Border Collie has a very high energy level. This is not a couch potato dog (until he has put in a full day’s work, then he may be up for relaxing). Bred to herd livestock from dawn until dusk, sometimes covering many miles, he has energy to spare in today’s urban households. Therefore, the Border Collie will not be happy in a home that does not have a similar energy level. Having a big backyard is not enough: this intelligent dog needs a real job that is physically and mentally stimulating. Otherwise, he will find his own job, like herding the kids, chasing the cat, digging holes, or destroying your items.

Space Needed

A large yard that has room to play a rousing game of fetch, frisbee, practice agility or even herding is best for the Border Collie. If you live in an apartment or house, be prepared to take long runs, head to an off-leash dog park or enroll in agility lessons...or all three…several times a week.

Common Health Problems

The Border Collie is an overall healthy breed. Ask any breeder you are looking at purchasing a puppy from if they have screened for common health issues. The three serious genetic disorders that affect Border Collies are CEA (eye disorder), TNS (fatal immune disorder), and CL (Fatal nerve disorder). Breeding dogs should also have their hips checked, as Border Collies can suffer from hip dysplasia. Owners should also be aware that, like several other herding breeds, Border Collies can be sensitive to anesthesia drugs. There is a test to see if your dog has a mutation in the MDR-1 gene. If so, care needs to be taken with these dogs, not just with anesthesia, but with all medications, especially ivermectin.


As one can imagine, a breed that is capable of learning over 1,000 words is pretty easy to train. They love a job! Training is important to help your Border Collie curtail his energy and herding instincts when necessary, such as walking nicely on leash and not herding your kids. As mentioned, they should also be properly socialised to strangers and environments to create a confident, relaxed dog.

Feeding Recommendation

We recommend feeding Border Collie puppies the Stay Loyal Chicken, Lamb, & Fish puppy portions until they are 9 months. From then on, feed the Chicken, Lamb, & Fish adult portions, altering depending on activity level to avoid overfeeding.

A Border Collie can be an incredible life partner for an individual or family that wants to do things! They are not for a family that is looking for a lap dog. If you think the Border Collie is right for you, research responsible breeders and ask them for proof of health screening to ensure you get a new best friend that is going to have a long, full, healthy life.


I have a Border Collie x Kelpie - a rescue dog who was mistreated as a pup. Kelsie came to our family at 15 mths and I can't tell you the number of times we thought we would have to give her up because she was just so difficult to manage. She is very sensitive to loud noises, will not be left alone, hides a lot (she has her own hideaway in the laundry) and runs away regularly even though she is now nearly 7. However, I wouldn't give her up for anything as, when she is calm, she is the most lovable, intelligent, social dog we have ever owned. She has several havens in our immediate neighbourhood and these are the first places I look when she goes missing. Thankyou for shedding some more light on her behavior. I always learn something new every month.

Carol MacDonald

This article is interesting. I have a border collie and notice she knows several words, so I have to spell sometimes, if I don't want her to react! We go to the local Dogpark every morning where she herds another dog ( part Lab and border collie), while he plays with catching and retrieving a ball.

Kaye Eizenberg

My Border Collie xAlaskan Malamute crossed the rainbow bridge in August. Bella was nearly 13. She was the best companion after my husband passed away. Very intelligent dog. I miss her


I agree with much of what is said, but border collies can live in a non active situation and be well adjusted and happy. My partner and I are in our 70s and not particularly active and my old friend has just lost his pet of 15 years who was quite happy just being a loyal, gentle companion to him...he was very inactive due to health. I take Jack to obedience training, dog demonstration training once each week, to the beach on nice days where he can run up and down chasing waves, and often daily play sessions with his two best friends. But they can be taught to have a quiet life and be happy and well adjusted if trained from puppyhood and if they are not overstimulated. Jack is so friendly to new people and other dogs and doesn’t destroy things, dig holes or be destructive around the house. He loves sitting outside watching what is happening, greeting people and dogs that walk past, barking at the postman (who always stops to talk to him) and generally being a quiet, gentle animal. I’ve always had working dogs as pets, kelpies and border collieXkelpie, and they fit into my life quite successfully, not me fitting into their lives. I do not believe the high energy, flighty, demanding, destructive border collie is the norm. They can be trained to be whatever you want them to be and live happy, healthy lives without chasing sheep.


Hi Rick, I actually agree with what you have said. It really comes down to the owner and it sounds like you know what you are doing. One bonus of the working breeds is that they are usually very healthy and don't need much maintenance regarding vet visits etc. I like that side of things because when you put so much time and love into a dog you really want them to be around a long time. So I beleive when in the right hands they are among the best dogs out there.

Michael Mould

We have just aquired (6mths) a rescue Border Collie female in beautiful condition aged 6yrs. We live on 2 acres in northern nsw but I can see she still needs to work as she is always herding our 12yr old Chihuahua. This is our 4th Border Collie in 42yrs since we emigrated to Australia .
Thanks for the article .
Keep up the good work
Mike & Kay