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Honest FAQ for Border Collies (2021)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Border Collie

Border Collies who participate in LOTS of challenging activities – herding, agility, rally obedience, flyball, frisbee, tracking and scent work, Search & Rescue, hours and hours of fetch games – are physically and mentally fulfilled and can make terrific companions. The rest are labeled hyper or neurotic and surrendered to shelters or rescue organizations.... poor dogs.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Border Collie have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Border Collie temperament and behavior are:

quirky, intense, focused, obsessive workaholic, fast, athletic, creative, reactive, sensitive, watchful, brilliant but challenging to live with

I give you my honest opinions about Border Collie temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Border Collie Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were Border Collies used for?

On the border between England and Scotland, medium-sized, black and white, collie-type dogs herded sheep with their shepherd owner. These highly skilled herding dogs developed into what we call the Border Collie,  which became famous for its intimidating "eye" – a fixed, hypnotic stare as the dog crouches low and creeps up on the sheep.... or tennis ball.

What traits would help Border Collies accomplish their work? That's right... high energy, intensity, focus, endurance, athleticism, agility, reactivity, and independent thinking yet very high trainability.

How big are Border Collies? Height and weight?

About 17-24 inches at the shoulder, and 30-60 pounds, which puts them in the MEDIUM SIZE category.

What colors do Border Collies come in?

The vast majority of Border Collies are black with white markings. Blue merle (swirly patches of gray/white/black) has also become fairly popular in Border Collies, although it's far more common in the Australian Shepherd.

Less common colors include blue (smoky gray), reddish brown, and gold, among others. Whatever their base color, Border Collies virtually always have white markings, and may also have limited tan trim.

Border Collies who are mostly white with colored patches are called patterned whites.  They are not welcome for exhibition in the AKC conformation ring. But they can compete in any performance activity such as obedience, agility, herding, etc.

Do Border Collies come in different "types"?

Yes – show type and working/performance type.

Show type Border Collies are bred for exhibition in the dog show conformation ring. Show types are often stockier, at the top end of the size spectrum, and often have longer, thicker coats that require more grooming.

Border Collies bred for working purposes typically have a more lithe, agile build and shorter coat.

And some breeders try to produce a blended type that does well in the conformation ring while also racking up impressive wins in agility competition or obedience or flyball.

How much exercise do Border Collies need?

Oh my... how does LOADS sound?

Here's what your Border Collie wants to do: herding, agility, rally obedience, jogging, flyball, frisbee, doggy dancing, hiking, tracking and scent work, Search & Rescue, hours and hours of fetch and tug games... pick a bunch of those activities and your Border Colllie will feel physically and mentally fulfilled.

Do Border Collies need a fenced yard?

Yes... and it can be challenging to fence in some Border Collies, as they are superb jumpers and climbers and master escape artists who can practically pick the lock on your gate. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Border Collies easy to train?

Border Collies may be the most intelligent dog breed in the world. At the very least, they're in the Top 3. So you would expect their trainability to be really high, right?

Alas, this is not always an easy breed to train.

High intelligence does mean they learn very quickly – but that includes learning how to do anything they set their mind to. For example, they are master escape artists who can virtually pick the lock on your gate.

Trying to train a Border Collie can be frustrating because they are constantly thinking, analyzing, and reacting to every tiny movement you make. Some individuals are a bit high-strung and oversensitive to sound or touch, so you must walk a fine balanced line between rewarding good behavior and correcting bad behavior.

Are Border Collies easy to housebreak?

Yes, no problems here.

Are Border Collies friendly with people?

Most Border Collies are loyal dogs, politely reserved with strangers. Some are nervous or timid. A Border Collie should never be aggressive.

Are Border Collies good with children?

I don't recommend a Border Collie for children younger than about age 10. This sensitive breed can feel overwhelmed around very young children.

Are Border Collies good with other dogs?

Most Border Collies are good with other dogs.

Are Border Collies good with cats?

Iffy. Border Collies can be fine with the family cat, but they have powerful chasing instincts, although many individuals will simply chase without trying to grab. But in my behavioral consultations, I've had Border Collies who had become deadly-serious cat stalkers.

How much do Border Collies shed?

Border Collies are average shedders. Their coat sheds moderately in the spring and fall, and a bit of hair the rest of the year.

Are Border Collies hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. Border Collies are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Border Collies need?

Depends on how long their coat is. Border Collies bred for exhibition in the dog show (conformation) ring often have long and/or thick coats that require more brushing, combing, and trimming. Border Collies bred for working often have shorter, easier-care coats.

What's a good training schedule for training Border Collie puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Border Collies: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Border Collies tend to have?

Oh, my.... quite a few. Most behavior problems are caused by an owner/breed mismatch, where the owner has underestimated/ignored just how much exercise and mental stimulation this breed needs. These behavior problems (destructive chewing, escaping from the yard) express the dog's frustration, unhappiness, and boredom.

Other behavioral isses are vested in the genetics of herding breeds. For example, Border Collies have inherited instincts to chase, poke and push, even nip, children and other pets in an attempt to move them along or gather them together. Same with moving bicycles, automobiles, livestock, and wildlife such as deer.

Then there are behavior issues vested in Border Collies specifically:

  • the dog following you around, constantly staring at you as though trying to hypnotize you into doing something more interesting
  • hyper-reactivity to sound or touch
  • highstrung phobias revolving around beards, baseball caps, red boots, bald heads, mailboxes, the little ding of an elevator bell arriving at your floor... I think you get the picture!

I love the classic story of a Border Collie who would sit in front of the sink in the bathroom... staring at it for hours, unmoving, unblinking... just waiting for the faucet to drip. A few days ago he had observed it drip, so he was convinced it would drip again and he didn't want to miss it! Yes, this breed can be very strange.

What health problems might Border Collies have?

Loose joints can cause lameness and crippling arthritic pain. Also eye diseases, epilepsy/seizures, and a potentially fatal reaction to certain drugs such as ivermectin (in heartworm medications).

What breeds are similar to the Border Collie?

  • Australian Shepherd. All over the map in temperament; some Aussies are nearly as high-powered and "cuckoo" (I mean that affectionately!) as many Border Collies, while other Aussies are more relaxed
  • Rough or Smooth Collie. Much easier to live with than a Border Collie, but can be very sensitive, even highstrung
  • Sheltie. Smaller breed; barky, sensitive, but very responsive and trainable; watch out for nervous, highstrung lines
  • Bearded Collie. Wants a lot of exercise and things to do, but much less intense than a Border Collie
  • English Shepherd. Fits into very active families, more stable and relaxed temperament than a Border Collie
  • Australian Kelpie. Intense workaholic, better as a working dog than a pet

Where can I buy a Border Collie puppy?

  • If you're looking for a show dog, buy only from a show breeder.
  • If you're looking for a working dog, buy only from a working/performance breeder.
  • If you're looking for a companion dog to do all sorts of fun activities with... I stick with breeders who can demonstrate their dogs' trainability in activities such as agility and obedience, etc.

Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Border Collie?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Border Collie. Which pages should I read first?

  • Border Collie Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Border Collie puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Border Collies, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Border Collie puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Border Collies have pros and cons, and female Border Collies have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Border Collie puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Border Collie breeder would ever place one of their Border Collie puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Border Collie puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Border Collies?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Border Collie to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Border Collie until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Border Collie, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Border Collies that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.