Border Collies are often referred to as hyperactive because they are highly energetic, and always need to be on the move and feel useful. It's true that they're extremely athletic, always on the go, and love adventure. But don't be put off: their high-octane energy levels are offset by a charming personality. Loyal, faithful, and very intelligent, Border Collies get along wonderfully with children and other animals. As such, this dog breed makes a great family dog, so long as all their needs are met.
A Brief History
The Border Collie as we know it today is a relatively new dog breed, with the first breed standard being developed in 1892. Other collie dogs have been around much longer, since the 17th century, and traditionally used for herding. The modern Border Collie is descended from Gordon Setters, Pointers, Bearded Collies, and Bobtails. The Border Collie is native to the border region between Scotland and England, hence the name "Border" Collie. As for the word "Collie", this has origins in an old Celtic term meaning "useful".
Most of the best Border Collies can be traced back to one particular dog called Old Hemp, who was used to breed large numbers of puppies in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The name "Border Collie" was first adopted in England in 1915. In the UK, there are two separate registries for Border Collies: the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), which encourages breeding for herding ability, and The Kennel Club, which encourages breeding for a standardised appearance.
These days, Border Collies continue to be used as herding dogs, although they have also won the hearts of many as family companion dogs. They are also one of the most popular breeds for dog agility competitions and excel at competitive sheepdog trials and herding events. Whether living life as a working dog, companion dog, guide dog or show dog, the Border Collie remains one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.
Border Collie Physical Characteristics
Body: The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog with a well-proportioned body and strong, muscular neck. The chest is deep and broad and the ribs are well sprung. The silhouette is athletic with a graceful slope down to the tail. Males are generally bigger than females.
Head: The skull is quite broad, with a distinct stop, and a short, strong muzzle.
Ears: The ears are medium-sized, set well apart, and carried erect or semi-erect.
Eyes: The eyes are almond-shaped and set wide apart. They are generally brown, although merle Border Collies may have one or both blue eyes.
Tail: This dog has a medium-length drooping tail, carried low. It is slightly curved at the end.
Coat: There are two varieties: smooth and medium-length.
Colour: A variety of colours are accepted by the breed standard. One condition: white should never predominate. Borders Collies can therefore be red, brown, black, liver, red merle, blue merle, etc. They can also be solid-coloured, bi-coloured, or tri-coloured.
Border Collie Temperament
Border Collies are famed for their lively, energetic nature. These dogs are always moving, can't stand being bored, and need lots of exercise to be happy. The Border Collie is also a very intense and intelligent breed - the most intelligent in the world, according to some experts. Demanding and playful, Border Collies thrive with families who can provide them with lots of activity. Like all good sheepdogs, Border Collies have a natural protective instinct and won't hesitate to put themselves between their family and any perceived danger. They don't tend to bark a lot, so don't make great alert dogs, although they do know how to make themselves heard if need be. On the other hand, Border Collies do make good watchdogs.
Do Border Collies Get Along Well with Others?
With their family, Border Collies are cheerful, loyal, and playful - always up for any sort of game or activity, you don't need to ask them twice! They get along well with children but be careful not to leave them unattended. With strangers, your Border Collie may be rather suspicious at first, before eventually becoming more affectionate and docile. Finally, Border Collies get along wonderfully with other animals, provided they have been properly socialised.
Is a Border Collie the Right Dog for Me?
Despite their kind nature and undeniable soft side, Border Collies are not suitable for all owners. These are doggies who live life at a thousand miles an hour, so they need athletic owners, with lots of time available to exercise with them. You will face serious behaviour issues if you adopt a Border Collie and can't meet all their needs. The ideal master for a Border Collie is someone who is very present and available, or who can take their dog everywhere with him, someone who lives out in the countryside and loves adventure.
Border Collie Health Problems
Border Collies are generally strong and robust, with a life expectancy of 13 years. These are hardy dogs who have remained largely unaffected by systematic crossbreeding, which could have otherwise led to the development of several serious health problems. However, the breed is still affected by certain diseases which are worth mentioning. Like many large and medium-sized dogs, Border Collies can be affected by hip dysplasia. They are also prone to canine hereditary eye diseases, and other genetic issues that affect merle dogs in particular. Finally, the breed is also susceptible to epilepsy. Make sure to only buy from serious, reliable breeders, and never hesitate to ask your breeder any and every question you may have - you can never be too careful when it comes to your dog's health!
Ideal Living Conditions for a Border Collie
Apartment living is not advisable for Border Collies, as they need large, wide-open spaces to exert themselves. It's not completely out of the question to live with a Border Collie in an apartment, if you live near a big park, for example, and can take them out for multiple walks a day. However, the ideal living conditions for dog breed would always be a house in the countryside, with a large garden or plot of land that they can run around in as much as they please. If you live in an apartment, your Border Collie would need to be stimulated several times a day with very long walks during which they can run off the lead as much as they want. Having a house with a garden does not exempt you from walking your dog. If a Border Collie is locked up without any physical stimulation (yes, this includes your big garden!), they may develop significant behavioural disorders.
Border Collie Training
The Border Collie is deemed to be a relatively easy dog to train, provided, of course, you start early and do it correctly. One of the main challenges remains is learning how to properly channel your dog's abundant energy, which can complicate your training sessions. Always adopt a positive approach to training and ban all forms of violence, both physical and verbal. Training should not feel like a series of reprimands to your pooch. The Border Collie needs to be stimulated to learn. Don't wait to start training your dog - you should begin as early as possible, as soon as you bring your new pup home, to avoid any risk of future aggression. Border Collies also need to be properly socialised from a young age and have frequent positive encounters with other people, dogs, and animals.
Diet: What to Feed Your Border Collie
Your Border Collie's diet is not a topic to be taken lightly. Like all dogs, they need high-quality dog food that meets all their needs. Remember, your Border Collie loves to run. As such, their caloric expenditure is very high, and their diet needs to be able to sustain them.
Opt for dog food which is rich in high-quality animal protein, and avoid plant protein, such as potatoes and chickpeas. Dogs are predominantly carnivorous animals, although they can support a certain amount of fruits and vegetables. Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog and, above all, beware of industrial dog food sold in supermarkets: the quality is atrocious.
Quantity-wise, if you choose to feed your Border Collie dry dog food, they will need between 220 and 350 grams per day, according to their age, size, weight, and activity level. It goes without saying but the more energy they expend, the more they'll need to eat. Border Collies can have sensitive stomachs, so choosing the right dog food is essential.
Border Collie Care
Border Collie price: between £800 and £2000
Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters
Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food
Monthly budget: minimum £80 per month
Caring for your Border Collie is quite simple, but their maintenance not to be neglected. Their coat requires a good brushing once per week to get rid of dead hair and debris. This dog breed has two moulting periods each year, in autumn and spring. You will need to brush your Border Collie every day during these periods. You only need to bathe your Border Collie two to three times a year. Make sure to also take care of all their basic care, applicable to all dogs: cleaning their ears, trimming their nails, and brushing their teeth. It's important to also keep all your dog's deworming and antiparasitic treatments (for fleas and ticks in particular) up to date, as Border Collies spend a lot of time in the great outdoors. Finally, ensuring that your pooch gets regular, intense physical exercise is an integral part of their care, promoting good mental and physical health.
Border Collie Sleep
Just like humans, dogs need their rest. This is all the more true for even more so for a Border Collie, whose energy expenditure requirements are huge. You must therefore be able to guarantee your dog quality, undisturbed sleep throughout their life. For a Border Collie puppy, good sleep is all the more important, as it contributes to their growth. Sleep also helps older dogs to recover and regain their strength. Border Collies are quite capable of sleeping outdoors, provided, of course, that they have a properly equipped kennel adapted to their needs. As a good family dog, they're also perfectly happy sleeping indoors, but their sleeping area must meet a few criteria (calm, clean, quiet, etc.). Avoid letting your Border Collie sleep in your bedroom with you.
Border Collie Games and Activities
Border Collies are generally unable to stand still for very long. They love to move, run, play, lead herds... anything athletic! They need to feel useful and must be able to expend all their excess energy each day. Why not take your Border Collie out jogging with you: they'll love it! There are also many other activities that you can do with your dog to keep them active. Border Collies excel at agility, thanks to their speed and light-footedness. They also enjoy other canine activities, such as canicross, musical canine freestyle, flyball, and treibball. Make sure to also buy some brain games for your Border Collie. Primarily, because Border Collies are highly intelligent and need regular intellectual stimulation, but these games and toys will also keep your pooch busy while you're out.
Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Border Collie
In the UK, there are four main types of pet insurance: accident-only, time-limited, maximum benefit, and lifetime insurance. Taking out a pet insurance policy for your Border Collie helps to cover you in the event of accident or illness. Even if your dog is not aggressive by nature, accidents can happen quickly with this hyperactive breed, and you would be held responsible for any damage or harm caused to a third party by your dog. Pet insurance is a great way to make sure you're not hit with any nasty surprises. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. You can also purchase third party public liability dog insurance, which provides additional protection.
Additionally, pet insurance for dogs is a great way to make sure your Border Collie gets the healthcare they deserve throughout their life. Health insurance for your Border Collie works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. Veterinary costs can be very high and, as a consequence, sometimes the cheapest solution is unfortunately euthanasia, which is obviously a real problem for dog owners. Vet fees are not standardised in the UK and can vary substantially. As such, some owners simply do not have the means to properly care for their pet if uninsured. Don't wait for your Border Collie to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance for them, or you may risk them not being properly taken care of. Some insurance companies will refuse to cover dogs who are too young, too old, or already sick. As such, we recommend getting your dog insured from an early age to guarantee them the necessary care throughout their life.
In any case, before deciding on a particular contract, make sure to shop around for quotes and assess which best suits your circumstances. Then, take the time to read the fine print to ascertain the type of services offered, as well as the reimbursement rate, limits, and eligibility or exclusion clauses. Some insurance companies may refuse to reimburse costs incurred for certain diseases, genetic or hereditary diseases in particular. On the other hand, they will generally cover surgical operations, medication, hospitalisation costs, and, for some, funeral costs. The higher the cost of the insurance policy, the higher the reimbursement limit will be. Read your contract carefully before signing and don't hesitate to ask your vet for advice.
Border Collie Size and Weight
The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog with a fairly lightweight build. Males measure between 50 and 55cm at the withers and weigh between 18 and 28kg. Females measure between 48 and 52cm at the withers and weigh between 15 and 25kg. There is not a huge difference between the size of the two sexes.
The Kennel Club classifies Border Collies in The Pastoral Group, which consists of herding dogs associated with working cattle and sheep.