About Border Collies

Border Collie Basics

The border collie was developed in the hilly sheep pastures on the border between Scotland and England. The dogs that herd sheep in that territory have to work great distances over broken, mountainous land.

The best dogs have the great speed and endurance needed to cover the distance. They move the sheep, not with barks or bites, but with an intense stare and posture that communicates without force.

They have high levels of intelligence to allow them to work independently of the shepherd. At the same time, they have a great desire to please their master, and the greatest reward for them is in performing the task desired of them.

This combination of abilities and personality traits is the hallmark of the breed, more so than any particular color or coat or ear type.

Physical Appearance

Border collies have been bred for years for the particular mix of stamina, brains, and personality that makes them the world’s greatest working dogs. Border collies can vary greatly in superficial appearance, since they have been bred to do a job rather than look a certain way.

Border collies usually weigh between 35 and 55 pounds. Though they are most often black and white, with long or “rough” coats, there are many other possible colors, such as red and white, tri-colored (red or black and white with tan markings), or merle (diluted red or black). They can also have short or “smooth” coats, with stand up ears or drop ears or anything in between. See below for examples of different coats of border collies:

Red Coat

Blue Merle Coat

Long/Rough Haired Coat

Short/Smooth Haired Coat

A Border Collie’s World: Living with a Herding Dog

Unique behaviors can stem from the Border collie’s herding instincts. Even the most well-stimulated border collie, if its herding instinct is strong, can develop obsessions with fish, ceiling fans, flashing lights, passing cars, or running children. Little children and small pets can be endangered by the herding instinct, when their quick movements awaken a Border collie’s strong prey drive!

A person considering a border collie as a family pet should use extreme caution, and possibly look into another breed. If only a border collie will do, it would be wise to select an adult Border collie that has been evaluated for herding instinct and exposed to children and small animals.

People who do decide to include a border collie in their lives, find that they are tireless and talented companions in nearly any active sport or work. Bred to work as independently as possible, they have an incredible ability to learn hundreds of commands and anticipate what is expected of them. Of course, they demand absolute consistency in training and an unbreakable routine. Any change in routine can have memorable repercussions!

Border collies have an insatiable thirst for human companionship and structured activity. They are workaholics, most preferring a game of fetch to a treat or a pat on the head. Many people find it difficult and unnerving to spend so much time in the company of a dog that does not care for cuddles, but refuses to go amuse itself. Others enjoy the slimy ball dropped in their laps, the blazing stare that demands, “Throw it! Just once more won’t hurt!”

If not given a job to do, border collies will find one. Whether it’s chasing cars, chewing the carpet, or remodeling the woodwork, the activity they choose for themselves is unlikely to be an acceptable one. Someone has commented that a bored border collie is one of the elemental destructive forces of nature, ranking right up there with tornadoes and volcanoes! border collies are not your average house pet!

Although it is unnecessary to own sheep to keep most border collies from getting bored, activity is essential. Running, hiking, or biking with a border collie means having a tireless and enthusiastic companion.

However, physical exercise is not enough. Border collies brains need to be stimulated with training activity as well. Border collies excel in dog sports such as formal obedience, agility, flyball, tracking, or competitive Frisbee. Participation in some structured activity is advisable for this highly driven breed.

Life with a border collie is busy. Most border collie owners do not come home from work and relax. Instead, they know it’s time to work again – with their dog! A run or bike ride may be followed by ball or Frisbee, and then a training session, followed by more ball or Frisbee. After dinner, more ball playing while watching TV or working on the computer, and maybe another training session, ends the evening. Before the alarm goes off the next morning, the lucky owner will be awakened by a ball or Frisbee dropped on the bed!

Where to Get a Border Collie

Consider getting a rescue, if you are a first-time border collie owner. Rescue workers can consider your lifestyle and home situation and match you with the dog that’s right for you. Later they can help you with any questions or concerns, and most programs will insist on taking the dog back if there is any need to do so.

Rescue dogs may have been sold to homes that were not right for them; they may be the victims of circumstance such as divorce, illness, or death in the family. Many are simply unclaimed strays.

Foster homes evaluate rescue dogs and sometimes even have time to train their guests in basic obedience, if needed. Rescues are updated on basic immunizations and should be spayed or neutered.

Above all, do not purchase a border collie from a pet store! No responsible breeder of quality puppies would sell to a pet store, and irresponsible breeders breed and raise pups without regard to potential health, personality, or behaviorial problems. Pet store puppies are almost always sickly, badly bred (and kennel club registration means nothing), and their parents live miserable lives producing more puppies to meet the demand. Purchasing a dog or cat from a pet store only encourages the supplier to produce more.

If Carolina Border Collie Rescue cannot meet your needs, they can direct you to reputable and responsible breeders in your area. A little known fact is that even a puppy from a top breeder can cost much less than a badly bred, unhealthy pet store puppy. And a reputable breeder will discuss your puppy’s heritage and potential with you, give you health guarantees, and encourage you to return the pup to them for any reason. Most of these breeders have waiting lists for their litters, but it is worth it to obtain a companion and partner you can enjoy for many years to come.

The Future

Increased use of border collies in the entertainment media and AKC recognition in the United States has ensured a cooresponding increase in the popularity of this breed. For better or for worse, the Border collie breed has caught the attention of many potential pet owners.

We at Carolina Border Collie Rescue are working to educate potential owners about the challenges of living with this intense breed. We also encourage owners of any active breed to look into the many dog sports that are available, and to “give their dogs something to do!”

We hope to see a future where more dog owners make the effort to enrich their own lives by widening the experience of their dogs.

Most of all, we desire that the border collie continue to be viewed and used as a working dog. Even pet owners should acquaint themselves with the world of working Border collies. Companion Border collies should be sterilized to protect the breed, and we hope to see all breeders make every effort to preserve the working abilities of this unique breed.