So You Think You Want a Border Collie.... - McCann Professional Dog Trainers

So You Think You Want a Border Collie....

There's no doubt about it. Border Collies are amazing dogs in more ways than one. Smart, athletic, loyal and outrageously responsive, they win friends wherever they go, however they are not the dog for everyone. The people who own them will likely be the first to tell you that!

The best advice I've ever been given when looking at a particular dog breed is this: Find out the negatives first! If you can find a way to live with those, the positives will be a delight!!! When it comes to Border Collies, people often have a picture in their heads of the well trained dog with impressive skills and boat loads of fun tricks and talents. The reality is, that dog has an owner who has put in extensive time managing and training that impressive dog. We often see mismatches in this breed because the image of the perfect Border Collie is alluring, but the reality of how to get there is a lot of work. For those who love this type of work and training, there's hardly a better breed, but if you think the Border Collie comes 'out of the box' being a marvel, you're in for a rude awakening.

So is a Border Collie the right dog for you? Let's discuss!

Border Collie's Have Energy to Burn

DSC04576It's a given, right? Border Collies are energetic dogs. Everyone knows that, but until you've seen it first hand, it's hard to categorize. This can't be stressed enough. Border Collies have so much energy, they won't even talk to couch potatoes! They'll go, go, go and then go some more. If you are out of the house for an 8 hour work day and then like to spend your evenings relaxing on the couch, don't get a Border Collie. If they don't get enough exercise, they will be miserable and will quickly make you miserable as well. You'll need an average of an hour of activity each day or a Border Collie will look for outlets for their pent up energy. A walk around the block won't cut it, so if you have a busy work life and need to get the kids to hockey/baseball practise in the evenings, and can't include the dog, a Border Collie is not the right dog for you.

Like to hike? Love bike riding or skiing? Are you a jogger? Do you enjoy being outside and being active? A Border Collie might be you next partner in all of those activities. If you have energy to burn, a Border Collie might just fit right in! These busy dogs have a seemingly endless supply of energy. If you're an active person looking for a partner, you'll love this dog.

Border Collie's are SMART!

IMG 0003Again, this is something that is common knowledge. It's always a toss up between the Border Collie and the Poodle for the title of smartest dog breed. These dogs are brilliant. They learn things at an alarming rate, which is great, right? Not necessarily! If you're not up for the challenge of a dog who might be able to outthink you, don't get a Border Collie. If there is a hole in their training, they'll find it. These dogs need an outlet for their mental stimulation and if they don't get one consistently, they'll be miserable and once again, so will you. They'll make up their own games, which may or may not line up with your idea of a perfect pet. 

Do you like to train your dogs? Do you love teaching tricks? Do you like to get involved in activities and hobbies that surround your dog like Agility, Obedience or Herding? Are you interested in canine enrichment strategies? Then the Border Collie may be the right fit for your household. Border Collies like to be busy both physically and mentally. They'll be up for any challenge you can throw at them. 

Border Collie's are Intense

DSC04132This is a tendency of the breed. They will give 100% to any task in their path. That means speed, stamina and strength are all put into the job at hand. With their intelligence and boundless energy, they can often obsess over things. One of our instructors had a female Border Collie who, if over stimulated or stressed in any way, would fixate on the coffee maker. She would stare at it in the same way she might herd or hold livestock. They can be very serious about things when they perceive that they have a job to do. If you prefer a dog who is relaxed about things in the house, don't get a Border Collie. While some Border Collies have great off-switches in the house, others will constantly be looking for a job to do.

Are you a devil for details? Do you like working on repetitive tasks? Then a Border Collie may be the dog for you! They excel at repetition. Part of the reason they are so well suited to working homes is that they don't get bored easily. They face repetitive tasks and drills with the good spirit of a workaholic! 

Border Collie's Herd

shutterstock 277401374Being a herding breed, this is a given, but actually living with a dog who herds can be a surprising challenge. Do you have young kids? How about cats? Be ready - they'll be prime targets for the herding instinct in a Border Collie. This doesn't mean that you can't have a Border Collie, but you need to be ready to teach them when it's appropriate to herd and when it isn't. You'll also need to be quick and ready to deal with any nipping behaviours that often go hand-in-hand with herding instincts. For most people, this isn't a big enough reason to avoid the breed, but it's definitely something to consider. There are a great variety of herding instincts in different lines of Border Collies. If you don't plan to find an outlet for the herding drive, then either don't get a Border Collie or go to lines that are lower drive. 

Border Collie's are Muckers

Image 35 previewThere's no doubt about it. Border Collies are bred to work and most will go through a brick wall if the work is on the other side. That means they'll also go through water, mud, burrs, etc. You name it, the Border Collie will likely run through it. These dogs are not for the fastidious.

Now, if you are a "mucker" too, the Border Collie may be the dog for you! If you're the type of person that's outside regardless of the weather and temps and runs through the puddles rather than skirting them, the Border Collie will be there with you. There's not much that will keep them from the job they're facing, whether that's herding livestock or hiking with their favourite person. 

If you've found the negatives to be something you can live with, or better yet - if they're really positives to you, perhaps a Border Collie would be a great fit for home and family. If you've gotten this far and want to know more, it's time to contact Breeders and local Breed Clubs to solidify your breed choice.

As always, Happy Training!


**Photo credits: Shutterstock, Kayl McCann, Lorie Hughes, Carol Lawrence***

As always, Happy Training!


Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.

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