Border Collie Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Border Collie Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
This working farm dog is famous for his intimidating "eye" -- a fixed, hypnotic stare as he crouches low and creeps up on the sheep.
One of the most intelligent of all breeds, the Border Collie is also one of the most challenging to live with.
His superior intellect, combined with his intensity and obsessive zeal for working, are his most impressive features -- and also the ones that make him unsuitable for most homes.
This sharp-eyed, quick-thinking, fanatical workaholic has been bred for endless miles of sprinting and stop-and-go action.
If it isn't possible for him to work livestock, you must substitute several LONG (45 minute) walks per day, plus off-leash romps in a safe area, fetching balls or frisbee, and weekly or twice-a-week advanced obedience classes or agility classes.
Without physical and mental stimulation, Border Collies become hyperactive and will drive you up the wall with obsessive and destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their physical and mental energy.
High intelligence does mean they learn very quickly - but that includes learning how to do anything they set their minds to. They are master escape artists who can virtually pick the lock on your gate.
Trying to train a Border Collie, in fact, can be frustrating, because they are constantly thinking, analyzing, and reacting to every tiny movement you make. They can be a bit high-strung and oversensitive to sound and touch.
Border Collies are passionate gatherers of cars, bikes, joggers, cats, other dogs, livestock, deer, and running children -- poking, pushing, and nipping if the pursued person or animal or object doesn't cooperate.
You must stay one step ahead of this challenging breed, and most households are simply not up to the task.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium-sized and natural-looking
- Has a handsome, easy-groom coat
- Is very athletic and thrives on TONS of exercise and training
- Is exceptionally intelligent and versatile -- when well-trained, can learn and do almost anything
- Will play fetch for hours and hours
A Border Collie may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- An intense athlete who can drive you up the wall with obsessive and destructive behaviors if you don't provide lots of exercise and creative outlets for his energy
- Compulsive chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
- "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
- Shyness when not socialized enough
A Border Collie may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Border Collie
If I was considering a Border Collie, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Border Collies MUST have frequent opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored Border Collies are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of giant craters.
If you simply want a pet for your family, and don't have the time or inclination to take your dog out for long excursions several times a day, or to get involved in herding, or agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or tracking, or a similar canine activity, I do not recommend this breed.
Border Collies were never intended to be simply household pets. Their working behaviors (chasing, nipping, poking, barking) are inappropriate in a normal household setting. Trying to suppress these "hardwired" behaviors, without providing alternate outlets for their high energy level, is virtually impossible.
- Compulsive chasing and stalking. Most Border Collies are obsessed with stalking and chasing anything that moves -- children, joggers, bicycles, cars, cats, birds. Some Border Collies, unfortunately, go further than that and will seize and kill small running animals, including cats.
- Separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, Border Collies need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They become anxious, which they express by chewing and barking.
- Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Border Collies need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become shyness.
- Training problems. Border Collies are one of smartest and most capable breeds in the world. Many are eager to please and learn very, very quickly. But many Border Collies are very difficult for the average person to train.
- Some are manipulative, i.e. using their intelligence to get YOU to do what they want you to do.
- Some are willful and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things.
- Many are so sensitive that if you correct them too harshly, they may freeze and "shut down."
- Finally, many Border Collies are frustrating to train because they're hyper-reactive to the slightest sound or movement you make. They are "anticipators" who keep trying to guess what comes next. They will sit, or lie down, or run toward you, or run away from you, when you simply open your mouth or lift your hand.
It often takes an experienced trainer to bring out the inherent genius in this breed. "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Border Collie Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Fence security. Quite a few Border Collies are escape artists. With such dogs, fences should be high, with wire sunk into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should be extra-secure, as clever Border Collies can virtually pick locks.
Frankly, most Border Collies are "too much dog" for the average household. This is a serious working dog with a complex personality. Very few homes can provide what this breed really needs to be satisfied and well-behaved.
To learn more about training Border Collies to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Border Collie the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Border Collie puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Border Collie might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Border Collie home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Border Collie...
When you're acquiring a Border Collie PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Border Collies who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2015 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
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