Border Collie Temperament & Personality
The Border Collie, a breed of dog originating from the border hills of Scotland and England, are most well known for their authoritative stare, which has helped them greatly in their most common duty: to control large flocks of sheep and cattle. Border Collies are a high energy breed with tons of stamina and a constant need for work. This drive for work puts them at the forefront of herding breeds, and to this day, Border Collies can be found in farms and ranches around the world.
They are also well-known for their medium size (for a herding dog) and aesthetic looks. In addition, they are one of the best breeds to train thanks to their high intelligence. Not only are they clever dogs, they are also excellent athletes. They have been shown to excel in flying disc, and flyball competitions.
It’s important to note that they are considered great companions so long as they get the proper amount of mental and physical exercise. In this article, you learn all the important information needed to raise a Border Collie on your own, from what they should eat to how much physical activity they need every day.
Border Collies are medium sized dogs with a slender but incredibly athletic frame. They are well-suited to running, jumping and all manner of physical activity a dog is expected to undertake. Males typically reach anywhere from 19 to 22 inches in height on average, and weigh around 35 to 45 pounds. Females, on the other hand, are only slightly shorter and lighter. They stand up from 18 up to 21 inches in height, and can weigh from 30 up to 40 pounds.
Border Collies typically reach the age of 12 to 15 years old.
Personality & Characteristics
Border Collies are natural herders. This is not necessarily limited to cattle. In the absence of livestock, they “herd” the closest thing they believe needs protection. This means your family, be it kids running around the house or small animals wandering around your yard. Do take care because they will also try to “herd” moving vehicles by chasing and barking at them. Border Collies are very loyal dogs, and will follow their owner everywhere when “off-duty”.
A Border Collie is excellent at physical activity, and is a requirement for anybody who wants to take care of one. Their natural herding skills lends itself to all other physical activities as well as dog sports. In particular, agility courses, catch, and flying disc are sports they excel at.
In the practical world, they can apply this athleticism to search and rescue jobs. The Border Collie’s drive, high potential for training, and loyalty make them excellent competitors in dog sports, as well as stalwart companions on the field. Border Collies are also known for their intense focus. A well-known feature they have is their “eye”, an authoritative stare that forces sheep to stay in line and follow the herd.
Border Collies, despite their dedication to work while “on-duty”, tend to be compulsive during playtime. They will often chase small critters, pet cats, or even playfully chase children. While some owners may find it amusing, there is a possibility of a real compulsion problem. When a Border Collie starts chasing shadows or running around on its own, you may not be giving it enough physical or mental exercise.
Social (For Better or For Worse)
Due to their nature as herders, Border Collies get along well with most animals, and don’t typically get angry with other animals in your home. However, their playful personality and herding nature may annoy your other pets. Some cats, for example, would not appreciate being herded and “checked on ” all the time.
Intelligent cats often just stay still for a while, and the Border Collie will treat this as them “staying put”, prompting the Border Collie to leave. Take care to make sure the cat does not swipe at your Border Collie if they feel harassed. If you have a cat, strongly consider adopting a mature Border Collie with experience around other animals instead of a young one who may be over eager to “herd” your pet cat.
While Border Collies can be kept in an apartment, it is not recommended if you aren’t going to be exercising with them often. Border Collies are very active dogs and an apartment on a higher floor may not give them the physical activity they desire. If you do not regularly exercise with them, expect a very stressed out and bored Border Collie.
Border Collies, although friendly by nature, tend to develop an incessant need to bark, dig or scratch at walls when not given proper training and exercise. While all dogs have such a tendency, it is amplified with the Border Collie’s natural inclination towards constant activity. Border Collies start their “teen” years at around four months old, and will grow to full maturity by 16 months old.
Adopting a Border Collie
For those of you planning to adopt a Border Collie puppy, make sure that training starts the moment you bring them home. Around eight weeks old, they will start to absorb all the information around them. This is better than training them when they are a few months old already, as they may have developed some stubbornness that may interfere with training.
If possible, have the puppy join other puppies at 10 to 12 weeks old and have them socialize often. This experience will train their herding instincts and natural protectiveness. A puppy kindergarten is recommended, but note that your puppy will have to be up to date on their vaccinations. If that’s not an option, you can train them at home until such time you can bring them to a puppy kindergarten.
When adopting a Border Collie, whether an adult or a pup, make sure to describe what your purposes are for adopting to the breeder/owner. They can recommend which dog you should adopt much better if you give them some clues about your daily lifestyle. Proper raising is needed to have a good Border Collie. Always adopt dogs from trusted breeders with pleasant personalities, as dogs are always products of their environment.
When training your Border Collie, make sure that long beforehand, you have already started researching everything you can about the breed. Border Collies have been owned by farmers for centuries, so records of the breed are in no short supply. Everything from their age, background and possible health problems should be recorded and accounted for so you are prepared for anything. They are more receptive to training than most dogs, but even then, proper research goes a long way to a properly trained Border Collie.
Mark somewhere in your house, be it a crate, cage or small open space, that your Border Collie can call their “den”. Having a den gives your Border Collie a safe space where they can sleep, eat and play at their leisure. In addition, it teaches them to respect their boundaries and other house rules such as not destroying furniture or clawing at the floor. For those that use cages, use them sparingly. Border Collies are very extroverted dogs, and they shouldn’t be left inside for long amounts of time. On that note, always remember to exercise with them, either through play or walks.
Border Collies need to be taught how to relieve themselves at an early age. Potty training will often take a week or so for them to learn what you want them to do. An easy to remember but distinct phrase should be used so the Border Collie can associate going potty with the phrase. A few weeks of consistent use of the phrase should train the dog to know what you mean.
Border Collies are social creatures. Getting them around other puppies (or even other animals) is an important part of training you must not leave to the wayside. Be it a puppy or an older dog, the importance of socializing is necessary to have a happy and well-trained Border Collie.
Training your Border Collie with tricks is the same as with any other dog. Start with the basics like fetch, stay, and sit. Clear sentences and firm tone will speed the training along. Be positive in enforcing the commands. Whenever they follow, praise them with either a treat or petting them on the head. One word commands are best to imprint into your dog.
Stay with One Trainer
If you are not the trainer and instead chose to use a professional trainer for your collie, do not switch, short of the trainer being harmful to you or the dog, it is important to stick with one good trainer. Changing trainers halfway through training will only confuse your dog, and possibly even make them non-receptive to learning new things. One trainer will keep them focused and happy.
Never Stop Training
Once you have accomplished basic training, remember to never stop training your dog. Ask your trainer (if you hired one) for tips on what they did to train your collie. Playing with them often, especially utilizing the tricks you taught them, ensures a fun and active life for your Border Collie. Herding may be a bit advanced, but they are naturally inclined to it and you can start on that once the basics have been mastered.
Border Collies first originated from the hilly border country between Great Britain and Scotland. Farmers bred and raised their sheepdogs around this area for hundreds of years to help them with their flocks. Border Collies are often independent, so they learned how to control the flock when on their own.
In addition, they adapted to the hilly terrain making them naturally athletic dogs. They are one of the most valuable assets a shepherd or farmer at the time could have, and they were often trained and pampered by their owners. The term collie was derived from a Scottish word that referred to sheepdogs.
It was in the second dog show ever held in England, in 1860, that the Border Collie, at the time known as Scot Sheep Dogs, that interest was generated about the breed. Queen Victoria became fascinated with the breed after seeing them during a trip to Balmora. In 1876, during a dog show by one R.J. Lloyd Price, their talent and unique communication with their owners (a series of whistles and hand signs) made them a fascinating sight for the English populace.
Queen Victoria’s most beloved dog was actually a Border Collie named Sharp. Border Collies, being a rare sight at the time in England, was thought to be “bad mannered” and aggressive. However, none questioned the dog’s sincere loyalty to Queen Victoria, always staying by her side at all times of day. Upon his death in 1879, Sharp was still beloved by his queen, and she had him buried in Windsow Home Park, in her personal garden. She even wrote an epitaph, stating: “Favourite and faithful collie of Queen Victoria”. It is apparent throughout history the effect of Border Collies on their owners.
Interestingly enough, the term Border Collie did not actually come about until the end of World War 1, when they had to separate the working class Border Collie from the show dog breed of collie. Border Collies are still considered the best sheep herding dogs in the world, and hold a couple of world records in agility and intelligence. The Border Collie joined the roster of American Kennel Club in 1995, despite some contentions against their addition. To this day, they remain popular to any farmers, ranchers or shepherds in the world.
Border Collies, much like any dog, have the danger of developing certain genetic health problems. If you see any sign of these health issues, immediately seek the nearest veteran. When adopting a Border Collie, make sure to get a guarantee of their health, from vaccines to possible genetic defects. An honest breeder will tell you of the risks that owning a Border Collie may entail, and how best to deal with them.
By most accounts, Border Collies are a hardy breed, known for their outside work, as well as being very active. Nonetheless, they are still vulnerable to genetic diseases.
This is a subtle malady, but it can be problematic if not dealt with. A dog with this condition will have the head of their thigh bone shifted away from its socket. This means the bone wears away from activity, which is inflamed by the constant running of the Border Collie. It is best to treat the malady while it is still mild with pain medication. Severe cases could very well require expensive surgery, by replacing the hip totally.
X-Rays and manual examination by a professional veterinarian can be used as methods to diagnose the malady.
Collie Eye Anomaly
This is a group of disorders in the eye that can range from mild to severe. It is a genetic defect at birth, and is detected as early as 5 weeks of age. This anomaly causes them to become effectively blind. Good breeders will have had every puppy checked for this condition at an early age. If you choose to adopt a puppy or adult Border Collie with this disorder, make sure to take the proper steps in taking care of their condition.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Shortened to PRA, this malady is a family of eye disorders which involve the breaking down of the retinas. Affected dogs effectively become blind at night, and if left unchecked, eventually blind during the daytime as well. Border Collies adapt to the disease provided they remain in the same environment from that point on.
Epilepsy is common in the breed and appears early in their lives. Unfortunately, no screening test exists for this malady in the case of Border Collies.
Three forms of allergies exist with dogs. First,inhalant allergies come from airborne contaminants like dust and pollen. Secondly, there are food allergies, which are easily treated by simply removing the problem food from their diet. Lastly, contact allergies come from contact with certain substances that cause rashes and other ill effects on your pet.
Shortened to OCD this is a unique disease of the joints. Improper growth of cartilage, often in the one of the elbows, but can also occur in other joints, are what causes this condition. It stiffens joints to the point of immobility. This is often caused by an over consumption of protein from high protein food, or growth formulas given as a puppy.
Border Collie coats are actually well-suited to cleaning. They have adapted to working outside, and so their coats are optimized for physical activity. Thanks to that, a bath is not needed all the time. It is always best to give them a light brushing during non-bath days after a day of physical activity, especially if it is outside.
The Border Collie has two coats, and these double coats come in two types. One type of coat is smooth and short, with a little feathering in the legs. The other type is rougher, with flat or slightly wavy medium to long fur. Both are coarse on the outside coat and soft on the inside coat. Most Border Collies coats are colored black with white, but can be a variety of blends in color for their coats.
The Border Collie is a hardy dog, and so is their coat. They are resistant to the effects of weather and dirt thanks to their double coat, and only need a light brush once or twice a week to distribute the oils properly. Brush more frequently while your dog is shedding to localize the shedding to one area of your home. Bathing is actually not a common activity for the breed. Once every other month is fine, or if they get really dirty and smelly from some activity they did on a particularly busy day.
The brushing of Border Collie teeth should be twice every week to prevent the buildup of tartar and bad breath. For nails, the Border Collies will naturally file that on their own with scratching, but a trim once a month can be done if needed. Check their ears weekly for any issues, and if any are found, clean it out with some cotton swab dipped in a non-abrasive ear cleaner solution.
Always take note of any issues such as redness, rashes or fleas whenever you groom your Border Collie. This will help you prevent any physical health problems early on.
Border Collies can sustain themselves on 1.5 to 2 cups of dry food a day, which can be split across two meals. This is only an approximate, and it’s best to take into account the size and weight of your dog, as well as any dietary suggestions by your veterinarian.
When shopping for dog food, make a habit of properly reading the labels:
Pick brands that have the specific meat on the ingredients list – Be it lamb, beef or chicken, what matters is that it’s stated. If they just say “meat”, then it could basically be anything, which makes it hard for owners with Border Collies that have allergies to determine if they can safely eat the dog food.
More meat is better – Border Collies are active dogs, and so, meat should be a large part of their daily diet. Make sure to do your research on which brand actually has more meat than grain. Oftentimes, meaty brands will have that as a selling point and should be easier to spot.
At least two types of Meat and/or eggs should be at the top of the list – If the brand only has one type of meat, then immediately goes to grains, look for more fulfilling options for your pet.