The keen-eyed Border Collie is one of the most intelligent and trainable dog breeds. They are masterful shepherds, used by farmers around the world to keep sheep from straying too far from the flock. Border Collies are known for their bottomless reserves of energy and intense focus, traits that help them to do their job well, but also make them a difficult breed for novice dog owners. Frequent exercise, training, and challenging activities are a must for this dog. If you don't happen to live on a farm with sheep that need herding, dog sports and agility training will keep your Border engaged and happy.
Border Collies have a dense double coat with a top coat that can be either short or medium in length. His fur can be wavy or straight, but always has a slightly coarse texture, giving it a rugged, weather-resistant quality. The Border Collie's coat comes in all colors and combinations, and all markings are acceptable.
Average Height: 18-22 inches
Average Weight: 27-45 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Border Collie is known for his intense stare, called the 'eye,' that he uses to control and herd sheep. His ears can both stand up straight or one or both can fold over slightly. The breed is athletic and muscular, with a medium frame. When not on the job, Border Collies are loving companions to their people.
The early timeline of Border Collies is unclear, but this breed likely developed on farms along the border of Scotland and England where they were used to herd sheep and other grazing animals. Over time, 'sheepdogs' were selectively bred to enhance prized qualities, including endurance, a natural corralling instinct, and the intelligence to work even out of the farmer's sight. During the first sheepdog trials in the 1870s, Border Collies wowed spectators with their skill shepherding errant sheep into an enclosure following the whistles and hand gestures of their owners. Border Collies soon became popular as farm dogs around the world and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995.
AKC Breed Category
Border Collies are energetic companions who are at their best when they get plenty of mental stimulation and exercise each day. They will play and train for as long as you are willing, and then cuddle with you at home to rest up for the next day of 'work.' They are loving and eager to please their owners, though they can be guarded with people and animals they don't know.
Are Border Collies Good with Kids? Border Collies are usually good with children they have known from an early age. Boisterous play, however, can trigger their herding instinct and they may start barking and nipping at heels to keep everyone in line. Though they are not being aggressive, this can be scary for kids.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Border Collies Good with Other Pets? Border Collies are protective and known to use herding tactics, such as the 'eye,' barking, and nipping, on family pets, as well as strange dogs. While pets accustomed to bossy Borders may take this in stride, unfamiliar dogs will likely get their backs up. Border Collies should be socialized with other dogs at an early age so they are less inclined to view them as a threat to the flock or a creature that needs herding.
Border Collies are protective of their flock, whether that is a bunch of sheep or their family.
Are Border Collies Good Guard Dogs? In addition to keeping the flock together, Border Collies were tasked with protecting the flock from predators such as foxes or wolves. They keep a sharp eye on their home turf and will bark raucously to scare off interlopers. Once people are invited inside, Borders may be standoffish, but they are not usually aggressive.
Border Collies are one of the most highly energetic dog breeds. They require owners with the energy, time, and stamina to keep up with them.
- Need frequent exercise and mental stimulation.
- Resort to destructive habits like chewing dog beds if they are bored from lack of activity.
- Highly sensitive; responds best to gentle correctives.
- Strong herding instinct can drive them to nip and bark at kids and other animals.
- Tendency to bark.
- Early socialization with dogs and people is critical.
Loyal and attached to their families, Border Collies are happiest when living inside with them. They are not ideal dogs for apartments because they are active dogs who need space to frolick.
A securely-enclosed outdoor play area is important for Border Collies. They need a place to play and train with their owners every day. This breed's coat is hearty enough to withstand long periods of time outside, but beware the bored Border Collie. If you're not providing activity, this smart dog will seek out his own, whether it's incessant barking or searching for escape routes.
Border Collies need at least an hour of vigorous exercise each day. This can be several long walks, along with a few play sessions in the yard. Consider getting involved in dog sports with your Border on the weekends.
You're more likely to tucker out before your Border Collie. This breed has reserves of stamina, focus, and agility, which are what make them such excellent herders.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: A healthy Border Collie will trot by your side for a few miles, though they may find running in a straight line extremely boring.
- Hiking Miles: Borders will hike with you for three to four miles.
Adult Border Collies require 1 ½ to 2 cups of quality dry dog food each day, split between two meals. The amount will vary depending on the size, weight, and age of your dog. Talk with your veterinarian about an optimal diet plan.
Border Collies don't manage time alone gracefully. Indeed, if you cherish your alone time, this dog is not the wisest choice because they will follow you around the house every waking moment. When left alone for too long, Borders often turn to barking and destructive chewing as coping mechanisms.
Health and Grooming
Matting and unwanted stray fur are kept to a minimum when you brush your Border Collie's coat two to three times every week. Though they often wear down their toenails during activity, check them twice a month to make sure they aren't cracking. Their ears should be checked and gently cleaned with a mild cleanser once a week to prevent wax buildup, which can cause infections. Brush their teeth daily.
Common Health Issues
There are some breed-specific health conditions that may affect the Border Collie, including:
- Hip dysplasia
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Collie eye anomaly
- Compulsive behavior issues
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Border Collie by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Advanced obedience and dog sports training are important for Border Collies, who need mental stimulation and lots of exercise. Try various agility training and canine sports programs to see which engages your dog the most.
Sporting Dog Training
If you can, enroll your Border Collie in herding classes so they can master these instinctive skills. If that's not possible where you live, consider Treibball, a sport in which shepherding breeds 'herd' large yoga balls.
No. Border Collies shed and, as a result, leave pet dander in your home. Dander is the cause of most pet-related allergies.
Border Collies will bark, but it usually isn't a nuisance unless they lack mental stimulation and exercise. This breed needs to stay active or they will bark at length out of boredom and frustration.
Border Collies are very strong swimmers who enjoy the water. The breed makes an excellent water search-and-rescue dog.