The Border Collie originated in Northumberland on the Scottish/English border, hence the name, “Border” Collie. The Border Collie is descended from old British herding breeds with some spaniel bred in. An exceptional herder, this hardy, agile, tireless sheepdog is capable of mastering any kind of herd. It has even been said that the Border Collie has an eye that can hypnotize cattle, as he crouches down and mesmerizes the animals with his intense gaze. Among one of the most trainable breeds, the Border Collie also serves well as narcotics and bomb detection dogs and are well renowned for exceptional performance in obedience, agility, flying disc trials, police work, search & rescue, performing intricate tricks and competitive obedience. Border Collies have even been trained quite successfully as seeing eye dogs for the blind. Very good results have also been obtained with Border Collies for general assistance to the handicapped in Europe.
The Border Collie is a medium sized bolt of energy, often resembling a lightly built Australian Shepherd without a bob-tail. The body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The skull is fairly wide with a distinct stop, and a long to medium muzzle tapers to a black nose. The ears can be half-perked, one perked/one half perked, or both perked. The oval eyes are generally dark brown or chestnut, with the exception of merles where one or both eyes may be blue. The teeth normally meet in a scissor bite. The tail reaches at least to the hock, is typically raised when the dog is excited, but is never carried over the back. There are two varieties of Border Collie: one with coarse, thick, straight hair, and one with shorter, sleek hair. The coat colors come in black and white, tri-color, red & white, black & gray, all black, or merle. The hair on the face, ears and front legs is always short and sleek.
The Border Collie is a highly intelligent, highly responsive dog. He excels at obedience, agility and flying disc. A dog that thrives on praise, Border Collies are very sensitive and trainable. Border Collies are commonly used in agility training and competitions that require sensitivity, acute responsiveness, and above all intelligence, all common traits of the Border Collie. The Border Collie is very energetic with great, sometimes seemingly endless, stamina. Provided he gets sufficient activity to be kept mentally stimulated and amply exercised, the Border Collie will get along quite amicably with other dogs, and children. However, the Border Collie has potential to be aggressive with other dogs if the owners does not exert a 100% leadership/dominance role with the Border Collie.
Border Collies should not be trusted with small non-canine pets, but if introduced gradually and under close supervision with cats, Border Collies have been known to thrive along side feline pets. This breed should be very well socialized as puppies with other dogs and people to prevent adult fearfulness or shyness. Most importantly, a Border Collie needs abundant exercise and a job to do for optimal happiness and quality of life.
For those whose goal it is to reach high levels in dog sports, the Border Collie is ideal. at competitive levels in various sports such as: agility skills, obedience, and sheepdog trials, the Border Collie is represented among the leaders in the sport. Farmers also enjoy the work that Border Collies perform for them, whether herding or protecting their livestock or chasing away vermin.
Border Collies are perfectionists, endowed with a strongly engrained will to please. This breed lives for serving its guardian day in and day out, but are not ideal pets for
pet owners who have no plans to spend a lot of time with them. Border Collies are too intelligent and active to lie around the house all day with little stimulation and activity. Prospective owners who are looking for just a family pet but like the look of the Border Collie, would do better to consider other similar but calmer herding breeds, such as Australian Shepherds and Shetland Sheepdogs.
If there is insufficient activity then a Border Collie will find its own work to do, and that may not be what an owner has in mind. It is not uncommon for Border Collies to become destructive if they get bored or if they are ignored, or even become neurotic if they are left alone for long periods, leading to many behavior problems. This breed is known as an escape artist, so a sturdy, tall fenced in yard is ideal.
Because of his strong herding instincts, Border Collies may try to herd children and strangers and must be taught that this is not acceptable. They thrive best with an experienced owner that has ample time to spend with the dog. The young Border Collie often goes through a phase where he may challenge his master’s authority. You need to be remained a Border Collie’, confident, consistent pack leader, or he may try and test you or take over. If allowed to take over a role of dominance or not provided enough socialization and mental and physical exercise, they can be highly reactive and sensitive, making them a poor choice for families with young children.
Physical exercise alone is not sufficient for these very intelligent and energetic dogs. They yearn to work and must do so with body and mind, carrying out different tasks. Fast, agile, and possessing great stamina, Border Collies have boundless energy and thrive with hard work and play. They should also be taken on a long, brisk daily walk, and delight in streaking after a ball or bringing straying sheep back to the herd. The Border Collie is not recommended for apartment life. They are very active indoors and do best in a house with at least a back yard, preferably acreage to run.
The Border Collie is an average shedder that needs regular combing and brushing to keep the coat smooth and free of mats. Extra care is needed when the soft, dense undercoat is shedding. Bathing should be only as needed and no more frequently than every 2 weeks. The ears and hair coat regularly for ticks, since they can be difficult to see given the texture of the coat and the color.
Border Collies are generally a hardy breed, but some are prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and an eye disease common to Collies known as Collie eye anomaly. As a herding breed, is it generally recommended to not use ivermectin based heartworm preventive products, as carriers in of a mutated gene specific to herding breeds could result in dangerous sensitivity to this compound. Other safe and effective heartworm preventive alternatives exist.
Height: Males 19-22 inches (48-56 cm.) Bitches 18-21 inches (46-53 cm.)
Weight: Males 30-50 pounds (14-22 kg.) Bitches 27-42 pounds (12-19 kg.)
Life expectancy is about 12-14 years.
Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder and Chief Editor, Web-DVM.net
President, Maybeck Animal Hospital
Article updated 9/6/2012