The Border Collie is the class valedictorian of canines. Considered one of the smartest dog breeds, these overachievers come with plenty of extracurriculars on their resume, including running, herding and search-and-rescuing. If ever there was a dog who lived by the motto “Work hard, play hard,” it’s the Border Collie. They’re energetic workaholics who love having a job to do. And yes, playing fetch counts. A true go-getter, Border Collies excel in many roles, but being your canine companion just may be their greatest role yet.
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Border Collies are best for experienced dog parents who have ample time to train, walk and play with their pet. They'll do well in single-dog homes with plenty of space to run.
Border Collie Traits
Border Collie Temperament
Intelligent and loyal, Border Collies like their routine and being a partner with their human. A Border Collie is a working dog and is happiest when given a task to do, preferably with or alongside you. If they aren’t given a job—long walks do count—they may come up with their own job requirements. And these requirements (think: hunting socks, digging holes, chewing furniture) may not be what you had in mind.
A Border Collie was bred for herding sheep and take their role as Herder-in-Chief seriously, which can become a problem in houses with small children or other animals. They appreciate order and may get overwhelmed in a chaotic household or a household where they can’t readily predict their next walk or play session. But that doesn’t mean the Border Collie breed isn’t a great choice for a family pet. They are happy to be part of the pack but need guidance on what their role entails. They’d also do well as the solo dog to a solo pet parent, provided their human has plenty of time for them and can make them a true partner in their lives.
Border Collies are fiercely loyal to their people, and this protectiveness can potentially lead to aggression around strangers or other dogs. On top of that, their intelligence can give them an “I know best” attitude, and they may appoint themselves Park Ranger at the dog park to make sure other dogs stay in line, which may not be appreciated. For those reasons, a Border Collie needs to be well-trained as a puppy to be primed for playing nicely with others.
How to Care for a Border Collie
A Border Collie puppy or adult dog may be highly intelligent, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need human help. They need plenty of exercise, human interaction and a steady routine that includes outdoor “work.” As natural people-pleasers, they thrive with training and are happy to be given a “rule book.” They adapt best to homes where they can clearly understand their place in the pack and may do best in a home with older kids and a yard, so they have plenty of room to run and play without worrying about rounding up toddlers or keeping the cats under control.
Border Collie Health
Robust with genes designed for working into retirement, the Border Collie has a healthy life expectancy that can go well into the teens. That said, there are some health issues that Border Collies may be more prone to having. Knowing about these issues can help you and your vet keep an eye out for problems, practice preventative care and help keep your Border Collie healthy longer.
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia, which occurs when the ball and socket of the hip bone don’t properly fit, can be an inherited condition that manifests due to poor nutrition or lack of exercise and can result in pain and loss of mobility. Hip dysplasia can be managed with diet, joint supplements, physical therapy and medication. Severe cases of hip dysplasia may need to be fixed through surgery, including a hip replacement.
- Epilepsy: Epilepsy, or a seizure condition, may manifest in young adulthood (around 2 years old or older). Seizures can range from mild to severe. Anti-seizure medication may help, and some dogs may only have one seizure in their lifetime. Other dogs may have multiple seizures that interfere with their quality of life. Epilepsy may be inherited, so knowing your dog’s parents’ medical history can be helpful.
- Eye Abnormality: Collie eye abnormality (CEA) is a congenital eye problem, which means your Border Collie was born with the disease. The disease can be diagnosed with an eye exam when your dog is a puppy, but one symptom seen by the naked eye is cloudy, sunken eyeballs. There is no cure for CEA, but a genetic test of potential dog parents can ensure that dogs are not bred with CEA.
- Collapsing After Exercise: Induced Border Collie Collapse (BCC) is when an apparently healthy Border Collie becomes dazed, disoriented or confused during or after intense exercise. Unlike the name, the Border Collie won’t collapse but may seem “out of it” for 20 or so minutes. It’s unclear why this happens, although heat may be a factor.
Border Collies may be affected by various other health problems, including hypothyroidism, cancer and noncancerous growths. Call your vet if you see something unusual (like peeing less than normal or ignoring food), feel a growth or notice your Border Collie whimpering or snarling when you touch a spot on their body.
Border Collie History
The Border Collie origin comes from the UK from the border between England and Scotland. The word “Collie” was a Scottish word to describe sheepdogs. The Border Collie became an identifiable breed separate from the Collie dog in the mid-19th century and got a popularity boost when Queen Victoria raised several of these dogs.
Despite their distinctive look and popularity, the Border Collie breed wasn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1995. Before, they were classified as the “Scotch Sheep Dog.” Border Collies are known for their workhorse tendencies and for “the stare”—the piercing gaze they give sheep to help them get in line without needing to bark, nip or chase. Border Collies have been the stars of sheepdog trials (a trait exemplified in the movie “Babe”) and hold many Guinness World Records, including the fastest time a dog has unwound a non-electric car window. A dog known as the “smartest dog in the world,” Chaser the Dog, was a Border Collie who knew and understood thousands of words.
Today, these ultra-intelligent dogs are prized for their showmanship, but equally for their loyalty, ability to guard their house, and companionship abilities. There are plenty of Border Collie enthusiast groups, including the Border Collie Society of America.
Where can you get a Border Collie puppy? The American Kennel Club Marketplace showcases puppies from AKC-registered breeders. What’s the average Border Collie price? Expect to spend between $500 and $1,000 on a purebred Border Collie puppy, depending on the breeder. But you can keep costs down by searching local Border Collie rescue groups or looking for Border Collie mixes at an animal shelter. Remember, though, the cost of raising a Border Collie will be similar regardless of purebred or mixed breed, and factor regular vet visits, training, food and grooming into your budget.
Are Border Collies hypoallergenic?
No, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic. Both rough- and smooth-coat types shed, and shedding may be problematic for people prone to allergies.
Are Border Collies good with cats?
Border Collies can be trained to live with a cat, but their tendency to herd can make them annoying to felines. Many Border Collies and cats establish a live-and-let-live approach, but they may never become BFFs.
Do Border Collies bark a lot?
A Border Collie can be a great guard dog since they’re protective of their pack. A Border Collie may bark excessively if they’re bored or if there is chaos surrounding them. Early training can help a Border Collie curb their bark, but they aren’t naturally a quiet breed.
What are the most popular Border Collie names?
Some popular Border Collie names include Oreo (for the black and white coats), Luna, Bella, Lucy, Max, Charlie, Sadie, Finn, Bear, Molly and Cooper. Want some canine celebrity inspiration? Consider Fly (the name of the Border Collie in “Babe”), Murray (the Border Collie mix in “Mad About You”), or Nana (the Border Collie in “Snow Dogs”). Get more dog names here.
What are the most common Border Collie mixes?
The most common Border Collie mixes are:
- Border Collie-Australian Shepherd mix (Border Aussies or Aussie Collies)
- Border Collie-Labrador mix (Borabor)
- Border Collie-Husky mix (Border Husky)
- Border Collie-German Shepherd mix (Shollie)
- Border Collie-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Collies)
- Border Collie-Poodle mix (Bordoodle)
- Border Collie-Corgi mix (Borgi)
- Border Collie-Beagle mix (Border Beagle)
- Border Collie-Pitbull mix (Border Bull)
- Border Collie-Heeler mix (Border Heeler)
Eager to please, fun to train, and happy to help, a Border Collie is a great addition to an established pack—even if you’re living solo. A Border Collie will keep pace, guard the house, and prove their loyalty by happily being by your side. They’re looking for a true partner and is a great dog if you’re ready to go through life with a canine companion. They need a lot of attention, a strict routine and plenty of outdoor time to be their happiest, but then again, all those things are good for you, too.
Expert input provided by Deb Breitstein, DVM, of Animal Health Care of Marlboro, NJ and Merissa Kriedler, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, a trainer at Fuzzy Logic Dog Training in Louisa, VA.
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