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.
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.
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.
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.
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.