All About Border Collies

border lying down and smiling at home in the yard with a wooden fence

Border Collies are the brainiacs of the dog world—most people consider them to be the smartest dog breed. Besides being highly intelligent, these dogs are also known for their endurance, energy, loyalty, and friendliness.

About the Breed

Border Collies could easily be described as a force of nature. By just looking at one of these dogs, you can see the eagerness in their face and the alertness in their eyes. These medium-sized dogs typically stand 18-22 inches at the shoulder, and they can weigh between 26-45 pounds. The average lifespan for Border Collies is 12-16 years.

Although the rough-coated, black and white Border Collie is the most commonly seen, these canines can also have a smooth coat, and they can be found in many other colors. These dogs can appear in practically any coat color or pattern that can occur in dogs, including black or red tri-color, blue or red merle, brindle, bi-color, or solid colored. Border Collie eye color can also vary, appearing blue to brown or with different colored eyes.

Although they have their differences, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are similar in more ways than one. Learn more about this other member of the herding group.

Breed History

The Border Collie breed emerged in the border between Scotland and England, perhaps as far back as the 1700s. It is believed that Border Collies originated from various sheep herding dogs. The best of these dogs were often bred for function and not necessarily looks.

By the 1800s, there were a handful of different sheepdogs through the British Isles, many with varying herding styles. As word continued to spread about these other dogs, many people began boasting that their dog was the best at herding. By the late 1800s, this led to the first sheepdog trial in Great Britain—people wanted to know once and for all whose dog was best.

Upon seeing many of these dogs at work, spectators for this event were quite shocked. Instead of the dogs barking and nipping like many other herding dogs, these pre-cursors to the modern-day Border Collie were instead able to herd sheep through their body language and intense gaze. Plus, shepherds were able to direct these dogs by simple hand gestures and whistling.

After making their way to other regions, including Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, more and more people began to recognize how wonderful these dogs were and that they could be valuable additions for any shepherd or farmer.

Today Border Collies remain a popular choice for people interested in various dog sports, including dog agility. If there were a dog version of the Olympic Games, it’s safe to say that Border Collies would not just be qualifying, but they’d be taking home quite a few medals.

It is said that Queen Victoria’s favorite dog was her Border Collie named Sharp. After Sharp passed, he was buried at Home Park, a private Royal park near Windsor Castle in Berkshire.

Attributes

Before adopting a Border Collie, pet parents typically have a few questions about the breed they first wanted to be answered. Some of these common questions include,

Why Are Border Collies So Smart?

One of the main reasons that these dogs are so intelligent is because they were bred for their smarts. For over a century, people have bred Border Collies for their intelligence and abilities rather than just their looks.

How Much Exercise Does a Border Collie Need?

Border Collies require a ton of exercise every single day. These dogs were originally bred to be hard-working, herding dogs, so they won’t soon run out of energy. A quick walk once or twice a day will not be nearly enough for these canines.

Your dog’s daily exercise requirements will probably look more like multiple runs or jogs, hiking, swimming, games of fetch, or long, strenuous hikes. Border Collies also do well if they have other outlets for their energy, such as dog agility or herding.

Are Border Collies Hypoallergenic?

Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic. These dogs have a reasonably thick coat that sheds all year round, so if you have a dog allergy, an allergic reaction around a Border Collie is nearly a guarantee.

How Much Do Border Collies Shed?

How much your Border Collie will shed may depend on if your dog has a smooth or rough coat. However, both coat lengths are known to shed a consistent amount all year round. Plus, your rough-coated Border Collie will blow coat in the spring and fall seasons, so make sure your vacuum is ready. To help reduce how much your dog sheds, it can be helpful to brush them weekly.

Are Border Collies Good for First-Time Pet Parents?

Because Border Collies are such high-energy dogs, they are not typically recommended for first-time dog parents. However, if you live an extremely active lifestyle and have been looking for a canine friend to join you while you train for marathons or go on daily hikes, then a Border Collie could be an option. Since this would still be your first dog, it is recommended that you enroll your puppy in obedience class and consider some other formal training courses.

For the right person, Border Collies can make the perfect companion. These dogs will gladly join you for nearly any activity, and the list of tricks they can learn is practically endless.

They can get along great with older kids, but their herding instincts may kick in if you have other pets or young children around. This is not to say that Border Collies cannot get along with their smaller housemates, but you may need to work on extra training and keep a closer eye on their interactions with kids and small animals.

These dogs are not recommended for people who live in apartments. Border Collies need to live somewhere will a large yard or property—a farm is even more ideal. However, be mindful when and where you take your Border Collie outside. These dogs can have a tendency to chase after small animals or try and heard bicycles or cars.

Just remember, if you are looking for a dog that will be lazy and watch movies with you, steer clear of these pups. They aren’t ready to relax until they’ve put in a hard day’s work.

border collie smiling on a gray sofa while chewing a pink and green ball

Grooming and Care

Overall, Border Collies are not high maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs. To help keep your dog’s coat healthy and to reduce shedding, it is recommended that your dog be brushed weekly. A monthly bath will typically suffice, but if your four-legged friend is often diving into lakes or splashing through mud puddles, then a quick weekly bath may be necessary.

Using a veterinarian-recommended dog toothpaste and toothbrush, you should clean your dog’s teeth at least once a week, but a few times a week is preferred.

Around the same time that your dog receives their bath or after they have been swimming, it’s always a good idea to clean out their ears. Just be sure not to use a cotton swab, as this could hurt your pup’s ears. Although your dog will wear their nails down naturally, they will still likely need to be trimmed about once a month.

Even though a Border Collie’s grooming needs are relatively routine, their overall care requires more work. Like any dog, a Border Collie requires an age-appropriate and nutritious diet. Because these dogs are incredibly active, they will be burning quite a few calories every day. For recommendations on which food is best for your dog, talk with your veterinarian.

Two key components when it comes to caring for a Border Collie are their mental and physical health. These dogs are eager to learn, and they thrive off of being given mental exercises and challenges.

In most cases, if a dog of this breed is not given enough daily mental stimulation, they will begin showing unwanted behaviors such as barking, digging, and chewing on furniture. By providing your Border Collie a job to do each day, you can help exercise their mind and body in just one task. It is vital that you provide your dog with plenty of daily exercise

Chances are, you will be shocked when you see just how much zeal and passion for life is contained in these adorable pups. In other words, Border Collies have a massive tank of energy, which also has a reserve of extra go-go juice. For context, some sheep herding Border Collies have run 50 miles (sometimes more) in one day.^

Training

It is essential that you begin training your Border Collie the very day you bring them home—even if they are only a few months old. These dogs are naturally independent thinkers, so without proper training, you could have an unruly canine on your hands. Border Collies can learn dozens of commands, so don’t shy away from working on complicated tricks.

Be sure to keep training sessions positive, have some fun, and be patient. Each dog is unique, and some may learn quicker than others. If this is your first Border Collie, you may find that puppy obedience classes are a great resource. Not only will these types of classes help you begin training your dog, but they also provide an ideal opportunity for socialization.

Proper socialization is key to having a well-rounded Border Collie. These dogs, if not well socialized, can become timid or untrusting around strangers. Because these pups naturally excel at many types of dog sports, having your dog participate in these activities is a wonderful way to provide socialization. Some of these sports include sheepdog trials, tracking trials, dog agility, flyball, and disc dog competitions.

Canine sports additionally provide the perfect opportunity for your dog to burn off energy, use their brainpower, and work on training. As a bonus, by being involved in an activity with your dog, you can strengthen the relationship you have with one another.

Did You Know?

Most Border Collies will learn how to anticipate a command or trick before you even say it out loud. If you’ve never had a Border Collie before, brace yourself for being around a dog that will try to outsmart you by being a step ahead.

Common Health Issues

Although Border Collies are overall a healthy dog breed, they are still susceptible to some health issues. According to our claims data,** the top conditions that affect this breed include,

  1. Lameness
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Diabetes
  4. Skin irritation
  5. Arthritis

Even though these conditions listed above are the most common among Border Collies, there is no guarantee that your dog will develop any or all of these issues. One of the best ways to stay up-to-date with your pal’s health is to schedule a yearly appointment with their veterinarian. These annual checkups allow your veterinarian to keep a close eye on your pet’s overall health, and in the instance that a problem does arise, there will be an increased chance that the issue will be diagnosed early on. Just as it is optimal to introduce grooming, training, and socialization to your pup as soon as possible, the same goes for visits to the veterinarian. Try to make checkups a positive experience and reward your pal afterward with their favorite treat or a new toy. After all, your dog’s health and happiness go hand in hand.

^“Border Collie”. DogTime.

**Internal Claims Data, 2015-2020

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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