Border Collie: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Border collie dog standing indoors in profile

The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

The border collie is a medium-sized dog that is very athletic, highly intelligent, and has loads of energy. It is known for its alert expression, strong and agile body, ready-to-go attitude, and strong instincts. The breed descends from the sheepdogs of the British Isles and is named after the border between England and Scotland. A hugely popular breed, border collies can make excellent companions for very active households. Overall, this is a much-loved and celebrated dog breed that bonds closely with fully engaged human companions.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder

WEIGHT: 28 to 48 pounds

COAT: Rough or smooth medium-length double coat with a coarse outer coat and soft undercoat

COAT COLOR: 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 SPAN: 10 to 17 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, energetic, responsive, keen, athletic, loyal, alert


ORIGIN: Scotland

Characteristics of the Border Collie

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 workday is done. 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.

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 High
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

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 must find plenty of activities for your border collie if you want it to thrive. You may also note that this dog will exhibit typical herding behavior by nudging and nipping at humans and other pets to get them in line. If you are a multi-pet household, this might lead to altercations.


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 walk (preferably two) for a total of two hours a day. 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.


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 breed is one of the smartest dogs and learns new things with ease. Thorough training is essential and it should not be very difficult for this perceptive dog. Also, be sure to properly socialize your dog so it will be at ease in all kinds of situations.

Portrait of a border collie
The Spruce / Kevin Norris 
Border collie dog lying on gray couch and gray throw blanket

The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

closeup of a border collie's fur
The Spruce / Kevin Norris  

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: This is a condition in which the hip sockets form abnormally.
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD): This results in the abnormal development of the cartilage on the end of a bone.
  • Epilepsy: This is 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: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

A border collie will need two meals a day of .75 to 1 cup of dry dog food each time, 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, discuss this with your veterinarian to develop a plan of action. You may need to change the feeding schedule, type, or amount of food. You should also consider whether you are providing enough daily exercise for this naturally tireless dog.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Border Collie

You may be able to easily find border collies in shelters or as rescues. Too many owners surrender border collies because they were unprepared for the high amount of attention and exercise this breed needs. If you feel a border collie is right for you, a great place to start your search is through The Border Collie Society of America. Their breeder referral directory provides contact information for breeders as well as rescue groups throughout the U.S. Adoption costs run a few hundred dollars, however expect to pay more to a breeder who may charge between $700 to $2,000 for a border collie puppy.

Border Collie Overview

  • Loyal and hard-working

  • Excellent at dog sports and agility

  • Highly intelligent and trainable

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

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

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

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.

  • Would a border collie be a good apartment dog?

    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.

  • Are border collies good with kids?

    The breed's tendency to herd by nipping and nudging may make them less ideal for very small children, who may appear more like wayward sheep to this herding dog. But border collies can be trained to act properly around children. Older, gentle kids can do quite well with the breed.

  • Is a border collie a good choice for a first-time dog owner?

    It's not a recommended breed for a first-time dog owner. The breed requires extensive interaction with its owner and more than the average amount of exercise needed by other dogs to help it thrive, all of which can be overwhelming for a novice dog owner.