Border Collie: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Border Collie

 

Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images

The border collie is a medium-sized dog that is very athletic, highly intelligent and has loads of energy. It descends from the sheepdogs on the British Isles and is named after the border between England and Scotland. This breed is extremely driven, loyal, and hard-working. Border collies are happiest when they are working or playing, and will only settle down for cuddle time when the work day is done.

A hugely popular breed, border collies can make excellent companions for very active households. Their tendency to herd may make them less ideal for very small children, but they can be trained to act properly around children. Older, gentle kids can do quite well with the breed. Overall, this is a much-loved and celebrated dog breed that bonds closely with its human companions.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 28 to 48 pounds

Coat and Colors: Border collies have a rough or smooth medium-length double coat with a coarse outer coat and a soft undercoat that can be a solid color, bicolor, tricolor, merle, or sable. Usually seen in black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, or red merle (with or without patches of white)

Life Expectancy: 10 to 17 years

Characteristics of the Border Collie

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Border Collie

The border collie originates from sheepdogs on the British Isles and was developed on the border of England and Scotland (after which it was eventually named). The border collie has remained true to its origins as a hardy, diligent, working dog. In the mid-1800s, Queen Victoria became quite fond of the breed and likely contributed to its legacy as the ideal sheep-herding dog breed.

Over the years, the border collie has upheld its reputation as a highly intelligent worker. The breed was brought to the sheep ranches of Australia and New Zealand in the past century. Border collies have been highly successful at herding, agility, Frisbee, and many other activities. The border collie was officially recognized by the AKC in 1995.

Border collie herding sheep
Robert W. Kelley / Getty Images

Border Collie Care

The border collie may have either a rough or smooth medium-length double coat with a coarse outer coat and a soft undercoat. They should be groomed routinely; regular weekly brushing is important to keep the coat tangle-free. They only need a bath every three months or so.

Although active border collies may have naturally worn down nails, it's important to check the nails regularly and trim the nails as needed. This will help keep the feet healthy and comfortable. You should also pay attention to dental hygiene and brush the dog's teeth at least two to three times per week.

The border collie is known for its an alert expression, ready-to-go attitude, and strong instincts. The breed is one of the smartest dogs and learns new things with ease. Thorough training is essential and should not be very difficult. Also, be sure to properly socialize your dog so it will be at ease in all kinds of situations.

It's important to understand that border collies are extremely high-energy dogs. This breed needs tons of exercise and plenty of activities to keep the body and mind occupied and in good shape. At a bare minimum, you must be able to provide a long, brisk daily walk (preferably two). You will need to walk on-leash as border collies are prone to chasing cars and bicycles. In a safe area, you can play fetch or Frisbee to work off some of the energy and provide the dog with a task to complete. Although they are are superb herding dogs, they also excel in most dog sports, especially agility and disc dog competition. You must find plenty of activities for your border collie if you want him to thrive.

This high energy level and need for activity make the breed less suitable for apartment living. It's best to provide a large fenced yard or, even better, a farm or ranch where there is herding work to be done. The border collie tolerates both cold and hot weather fairly well, but you should always provide a comfortable place for your dog out of any extreme conditions.

A border collie won't tolerate being alone. It's not enough to provide room to roam; your dog needs someone to roam with and something specific to do. When bored, this dog may develop habits such as chasing cars, digging, chewing up furniture, or barking. You may also note typical herding behavior of humans and other pets, nudging and nipping to get them in line. If you are a multi-pet household, this might lead to altercations.

Border collies are very sensitive to noise and will alert you to visitors, passersby, and any other movement. They may also be sensitive to sudden loud noises like fireworks and thunder.

Border collie agility
Tomasz Seruga / Getty Images  

Common Health Problems

Responsible dog breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Hip dysplasia: A condition in which the hip sockets form abnormally.
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD): The abnormal development of the cartilage on the end of a bone.
  • Epilepsy: A neurological disease that causes seizures.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly: This is an inherited disease seen in this breed. It impairs the vision but is usually mild in border collies. Breeders can screen for this.
border collies as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

A border collie will need two meals a day of three-quarters to one cup of dry dog food, depending on the dog's size and activity level. Be sure to provide fresh, clean water.

Your dog's nutritional needs will change throughout its lifespan. If you note that your dog is putting on weight, this with your veterinarian to develop a plan of action. You may need to change the feeding schedule, type of food, or amount of food. You should also consider whether you are providing enough daily exercise for this naturally highly active dog.

Pros

  • Loyal and hard-working

  • Excellent at dog sports and agility

  • Highly intelligent and trainable

Cons

  • Can get destructive if not given enough exercise, stimulation, and companionship

  • Not suitable for apartment living as they need a yard (or a farm) to expend energy

  • Strong herding instincts may make them unsuitable for households with small children

Where to Adopt or Buy a Border Collie

The Border Collie Society of America is a great place to start your search for a pup. Their breeder referral directory provides contact information for breeders as well as rescue groups throughout the U.S.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the border collie is the right dog for you, make sure you do more research on the breed before you get one. Talk to veterinarians and other pet professionals, and ask for input from other border collie owners, responsible breeders, and rescue organizations.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons.

There is a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.