Our new Dog Breed Corner features one of the world’s smartest dogs: the Border Collie. Check out the Border Collie’s stats, personality, trainability, health, grooming, and more! Are you looking for a super-energetic local Pet Sitter to keep your Collie active? Mad Paws has a range of trusted and insured Dog Minders near you!
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 46 – 53cm
Weight – 12 – 20kg
Lifespan – 10 – 14 years
Country of origin- England
Breed type – Working dogs
Best breed for:
Border Collie Breed History ♜
Border Collies, in one form or another, have existed in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland for almost as long as humans have been herding livestock. Before the breed was officially formed, these pastoral dogs had a couple of important jobs: keep the herds together, keep the sheep calm, and ward off or warn the shepherd of predators.
Breeders were looking for a very specific set of personality traits. These dogs needed to be hyper-aware and alert. They needed to be brave in the face of predators without being overly aggressive towards the herd. They needed to make their own decisions and live independently of their Owners. And they needed what was called “the eye” – a fixed stare that the dog could use to communicate to the herd where to go.
When breeding practices started, then, these characteristics were much more important than things like coat colour and stature. These early breeders need a dog that could work, and work well.
It’s believed that all Border Collies are descended from one dog called Old Hemp from England in 1894. Old Hemp was such an exemplary dog, farmers would come from far and wide for pups sired by him. Over his lifetime, he had more than 200 offspring and they became the breed standard for the Border Collie.
Sheepherding may not be as common today, but that doesn’t mean the Border Collie has become obsolete. You can still find Border Collie competitions and shows all over the world. In fact, Sydney puts on a Border Collie National Championship every October, where these talented pups can compete in sheepherding trials and agility courses.
Border Collie Personality Traits & Exercise Needs ★
Needless to say, the Border Collie is an astoundingly smart breed. It’s probably the most unique personality trait that separates these doggos from other breeds. However, there are a couple of other traits that go hand-in-hand with that smart brain – attentiveness, persistence, and – you guessed it – stubbornness.
When you bring home a Border Collie, you’ll notice that they’ll likely start watching you 24/7. From the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep, they’ll be waiting for you to grab a toy or give them a command.
And when they’re fixed on something? They don’t let it go easily. Whether they’re trying to convince their Owners to go play in the local dog park, or something exciting has caught their attention, the Border Collie will remain steady in their task. If you want to break a Border Collie’s concentration, you’ll have to have something much more interesting to offer them.
There’s another thing to consider here, too. Border Collies have incredible focus, but they’re also prone to being startled easily. Just as you might jump and spin around if someone tapped you on the shoulder while you were deep in thought, a Border Collie can overreact. It’s important to avoid coming up behind them or touching them abruptly when they’re fixed on something.
Some people call this stubbornness, but the Border Collie is simply a hyper-sensitive breed. We mean this in terms of their senses more than their emotions. At all times, your Border Collie is paying attention to their surroundings – sights, smells, sounds – and using that information to follow their inner drive to work.
Border Collies are also pretty independent. If you’re looking for a dog that will cuddle up on the couch for an afternoon of cuddling and movies, this doggo isn’t going to deliver. They likely won’t submit themselves to be held for long, no matter how good the belly scratches are.
So, what you have is a highly aware and independent doggo, which is hard enough to reign in. But there’s one more thing to add: energy. The Border Collie was bred to work, and they have some incredible stamina. It’s for this reason we’ve included exercise needs in the same category as personality traits. In other words, the Border Collie’s need to run and play and learn new things is hardwired into their character.
If you’re thinking of getting one, rigorous daily exercise for your Border Collie is going to be a non-negotiable. When they’re able to let out that energy and engage in mental challenges, then you’re going to have a much more reasonable dog. A happily tired out Border Collie is a great family pet who gets along well with children and other animals.
Border Collie Trainability and Tips
With their high energy and intelligence, training a Border Collie can be as easy and fun as it is necessary. Remember, without adequate stimulation, these doggos can develop some bad habits, so training is an absolute must.
Of course, you’ll want to start with the training basics for all dogs – how to follow basic commands, walk outside on a lead, get along with other doggies. Having said that, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your Border Collie learns the fundamentals and is ready for more.
There are easy ways to take these training basics to the Border Collie level. For instance, instead of simply teaching your doggo to sit while you prepare their food, you might have your Border Collie retrieve their food bowl from another part of the house and place it in their special eating area. Then, have your pup complete a different trick every day. When they’re done with their meal, you might teach them to put their bowl back in its special place.
While this may sound ridiculous for a doggo, believe us: your Border Collie will rise to the challenge! You can create equally intricate rituals for other daily activities, too. Getting ready to leave the house for a walk, daily grooming, and getting ready for bed are all perfect opportunities to engage your Border Collie.
These indoor tricks are just the start. When thinking about your pooch’s training regimen, try to take on the perspective of your working doggo. They’re going to want outdoor time, variety, and plenty of mental challenges. That’s what makes these dogs so ideal for competitive sports, be they frisbee, flyball, or agility courses.
If you’re going to leave your Border Collie with a Pet Sitter, make sure you leave detailed instructions. That way, the training can continue when you’re gone.
It will come as no surprise that Border Collies are not suited to life in an apartment. Ideally, they should live in a house with plenty of land as they are very active and need plenty of mental stimulation.
It would also be wise to keep an eye on Border Collies that live on properties with other animals. Remember, Border Collies were bred for one, and one thing only: herding. If you set a Border Collie loose, they might try rounding up a family of ducks, chickens, cows, other doggos, or, of course, sheep.
Something to keep in mind is that a Border Collie isn’t always an ideal dog for families with small children. It’s definitely doable to have this breed around babies and toddlers, but you’ll need to devote a lot of time for training and exercise to quash those herding habits.
One thing that your Border Collie will really appreciate in the home is a crate. With an independent doggo like this one, they’ll love having a place to call their own. Their crate is also a great place for them to store their herd of toys and stuffed animals – just make sure that you work to eliminate any possessiveness.
We have an article on crate training for puppies that will help you introduce a crate for your Border Collie. Just keep in mind that with Collies, you might have to work harder to build positive associations with the crate. This is a smart little doggo that needs to approach the idea of sleeping in a crate on their terms.
Border Collie Grooming ✄
You can imagine what a mess the coats of the early Border Collies must have been like. A dog with a long-haired double coat rolling around in dirt and mud and grass all day, likely without a grooming regimen? These were dirty doggos for sure.
Now that we’ve invited the Border Collies into the house, grooming is absolutely necessary. Any double coat pup is going to need weekly brushing to get ahead of the shedding battle. These dogs may not shed as much as some breeds, but they will still shed quite a bit, especially during the warmer months.And when you add long fur to the mix, brushing prevents mats and knots in their coat.
When it comes to bathing, don’t go overboard. Once a month or once every two months is plenty.
Like many breeds of the same size, Border Collies are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy. They may also be at higher risk for epilepsy and hyperthyroidism.
There is also a disease called Collie Eye Anomaly that is particularly common in types of Collies and Shepherds. It’s a genetic disease in which the eyes don’t develop normally. In some cases, the dog will become blind around two years old. However, there are some pups who keep their eyesight with the disease.
Because many of these diseases are genetic, it’s incredibly important to bring home a Border Collie from a reputable source.
Fun fact ♥
Sure, Border Collies are smart, but how smart are they?
It’s a question that many a scientist has asked, including one American Psychology professor named John W. Pilley. He thought he had the smartest dog on earth (don’t we all?) and it turns out, he was probably right. Professor Pilley taught his Border Collie, Chaser, over 1,000 nouns by training her every day, 3 – 4 hours a day, for three years.
When faced with a small mountain of hundreds of different items, Chaser was able to retrieve one after another on command. Chaser gained worldwide recognition when the well-known Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson interviewed her in 2011.
Dr. Pilley also published an article outlining how he had taught Chaser to understand sentence structure. To those Dog Owners who are still working on toilet training, the scope of his achievement is mind-boggling.
We’re sad to share that Chaser passed away at the end of July 2019 after 15 happy years of wowing the world with her unbelievable brain.
Final Thoughts on the Border Collie
If we could boil it down to one takeaway, we’d have to say that the Border Collie is a lot of dog. It’s hard to imagine so much energy, intelligence, concentration, dedication, fur, and personality can fit into a single animal. With a Border Collie, the walk will never be long enough, and the list of tricks that they can learn will never end. You’re in for a lifetime of jaw-dropping moments that you’ll want to share with your friends constantly.
That said, you’re also in for a lifetime of work. Border Collies demand space, exercise, training, and attention. Without rigorous and continual training and exercise, they might not be suitable for households with small children. You’ll also need to keep an eye on them on properties with animals, unless you want them herding your neighbour’s cats.
This is definitely not a doggo to own if you’re not 100% sure you’ll be able to dedicate the time and effort. If you are, though, the Border Collie will prove itself to be worth the work. Indeed, you might just have the next smartest dog in the world on your hands. Either way, you’ll have a true companion who wants nothing more but to roam the hills with their beloved Owner, a herd of sheep or not.