Border Collie
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Chewy EditorialBehavior / Breed Lists

Border Collie Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament and Care Info

Originally bred as a herding dog in the border region between England and Scotland, the Border Collie has become a mainstay at Sheepdog trials and a beloved pet. Because these are determined, highly intelligent pups with boundless energy and stamina, consider these traits before getting a Border Collie puppy or looking into Border Collie adoption.

Border Collie Facts

The Border Collie is a medium-sized, double-coated breed that presents in a variety of colors.

  • Breed Group: Herding
  • Height: Males, 19-22 inches; females, 18-21 inches
  • Weight: 30-55 pounds
  • Life Span: 12-15 years
  • Coat: Double coat, either rough or smooth
  • Colors: All colors and combinations, commonly black with white patches

Border Collie Characteristics

Border Collie Characteristics

Illustration: Chewy

Border Collie History: Big-Hearted Herders

So, where do Border Collies come from? The Border Collie dog takes its name from its place of origin—the border region between Scotland and England—and its initial role as a sheepherder (Collie means Sheepdog in Scottish dialect).

Border Collies are a cross-breed of the large-boned herding dogs that Roman occupiers brought to Britain starting in 43 A.D. and the smaller herding dogs that accompanied Viking invaders in the late 8th century. They were bred to work alongside shepherds on rugged, hilly terrain for long periods of time, which required stamina, obedience and agility.

This breed’s singular role as a working dog evolved in Great Britain during the 1860s with Queen Victoria, whose love for Collies propelled it to royal status, making it a desirable show dog. During this time, Collies and Border Collies diverged, and in 1915 the breed officially became known as the Border Collie.

Dogs resembling Border Collies were reportedly being imported to the United States since the nation’s birth, first as sheepherders, then as participants in herding competitions. In 1995, it became American Kennel Club’s (AKC) 139th breed. Since then, Border Collies have gained recognition for their roles in movies like “Hotel for Dogs” and “Babe,” and in television shows like “Mad About You.”

While Border Collies still work on ranches and compete in shows, they are also cherished companion animals, ranking 35 out of 191 breeds on the AKC’s 2018 list of most popular dog breeds.

With more than 100 Border Collie breeders listed on the AKC website, Border Collie prices range between $1,000-2,000 for a Border Collie puppy. Border Collie rescues are an option as well, especially if you’re open to adopting an older pup.

What Does a Border Collie Look Like?

The Border Collie is a medium-sized pup weighing in at 30-55 pounds. Slightly longer than taller, females are 18-21 inches tall from the shoulder, and males measure 19-22 inches.

Given the breed’s history as a durable working dog, it’s no surprise that the Border Collie has an athletic and muscular body built for endurance and agility. Everything about this pup exudes strength, including their strong and muscular legs, muscular neck and broad chest. But don’t mistake muscular with clunky; Border Collies are agile dogs who move with grace and stealth.

The medium-sized ears typically stand erect or partially erect, and the long, bushy tail, usually carried low, is raised when the dog is excited. A hallmark of the Border Collie are their almond-shaped eyes and intense gaze, reflective of the breed’s high level of intelligence and ability to laser focus on sheep or other objects. Eye color typically comes in a range of browns, although some have hazel or blue eyes.

The Border Collie has two coat types: rough or smooth. The smooth, short haired Border Collie typically has a coarser coat than the medium-length, rough variety. Both types of coat are weather-resistant, consisting of a coarsely textured top coat over a softer undercoat.

Border Collie colors commonly include black with random white patches, but also consist of all colors and combinations. These include the blue merle Border Collie, sable (brown) Border Collie, red Border Collie and tricolor Border Collie.

Border Collie

Illustration: Chewy

Border Collie Temperament: The Workaholic of the Dog World

The Border Collie personality could be described as obsessive. This dog is also arguably one of the smartest of all dog breeds, and the Border Collie temperament isn’t for everyone. This is a very active, athletic dog that needs a lot of exercise, and boredom may increase their urge to bark.

A Border Collie is best given a job to do, or they may find themselves getting into all kinds of trouble. Bred to control herds of sheep with their hypnotic stares and light nips, the Border Collie is something of a workaholic. Like most herders, this breed loves to chase cars, bikes and other moving objects. The Border Collie may also try to herd kids and the family cat, and could prove to be dangerous to pets and people smaller than themselves. Families with young children might want to consider another breed, as the dog tends to nip to make kids (or others) move. However, since working dogs often herd in teams, typically Border Collies get along with other dogs, and older kids may be able to help work out this breed’s high energy demands.

Overall, Border Collies are good family dogs and affectionate with those they know, though they tend to be reserved with strangers.

Keeping Border Collie Dogs Healthy: 4 Border Collie Health Problems to Watch Out For

While Border Collies are known to be relatively healthy, there are a few genetic health issues seen in this breed. By recognizing Border Collie health problems early, you can seek treatment earlier and potentially avoid problems altogether. If you are purchasing a puppy, be sure to ask the breeder about any known genetic Border Collie health problems in their breeding dogs. And if you’re working with a Border Collie rescue, try to get as much medical history as possible from the organization.

Joint Dysplasia:

Hip dysplasia and OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) are diseases that lead to irregular growth and development of joints, which can predispose the joint to early onset arthritis. Joint dysplasia can be inherited from the dog’s parents and made worse by improper nutrition and exercise. Avoid joint dysplasia by looking for puppies from breeders who certify their dogs are free of disease by Orthopedic Foundation of America certification.

Learn more about canine joint and hip dysplasia here.

Seizures:

As a breed, Border Collies are known to develop idiopathic epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. The disease ranges in severity from minor to life-threatening and usually is diagnosed in dogs 2-6 years old. There is no cure, but if seizures interfere with quality of life, medications are available to control seizures.

Learn more about seizures in dogs here.

Eye Problems:

Collie eye anomaly (CEA) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are both genetic conditions seen in Border Collies. Dogs affected with CEA have cloudy, sunken, small eyeballs and eventual blindness. Dogs with PRA develop blindness gradually. There is no cure for either condition.

Learn more about Collie eye anomaly here.

Hypothyroidism:

An underactive thyroid can affect Border Collies, causing weight gain, low energy and a dry, brittle haircoat. Hypothyroidism is managed with a thyroid supplement.

Caring for Your Border Collie Dog

Border Collies are highly obedient, loyal and alert. With the right care, the Border Collie life span can typically reach 12-15 years.

Grooming:

Border Collies shed moderate amounts of hair year-round, and heavily shed their undercoat in the spring and fall. To reduce shedding, a Border Collie grooming routine usually consists of brushing twice a week, and daily during the twice-yearly heavy shedding times. Using a product like a FURminator deShedding Edge Dog Brush can help reduce shedding. Bathing, unless the dog is heavily soiled, is not recommended more than once a month. Shaving a Border Collie is not recommended.

Nutrition:

Nutrition plays an important role in the health of every Border Collie. Like any medium-size dog, Border Collies can benefit from a complete and balanced dry dog food, or a combination of canned and dry. If your Border Collie is very active, consider a sporting dog food like Purina Pro Plan Sport dog food for all life stages. Otherwise, feeding complete and balanced adult dog food like Iams Proactive Health Adult dog food is perfectly adequate.

When it comes to nutrition, how much you feed is as important as what you feed your pet. Lean dogs typically live longer and experience fewer health problems than overweight dogs, so be sure to discuss your dog’s ideal weight range with your veterinarian. Many future problems can be avoided when puppies are fed appropriate amounts of puppy food, like Purina Pro Plan Savor puppy food. Use the feeding chart on the bag as a guide, or ask your veterinarian how much to feed your puppy.

Exercise:

Border Collies are herding dogs, which means they are bred to work. If a Border Collie does not receive enough physical and mental work, they can become frustrated and develop behavior problems. So how much exercise does a Border Collie need? Adults require at least 1-2 hours of vigorous walking or running, playing games and/or training every day. Agility training and playing Frisbee are excellent exercise choices for Border Collies.

Border Collies do not make good apartment dogs because they need room to run. Border Collie puppies require less-strenuous exercise than adults in order to grow properly, so ask your veterinarian for exercise recommendations for your puppy.

Training Your Border Collie

Border Collie training can be a challenge because of the breed’s extreme intelligence. However, without a job to do, their high energy and insistence on being busy may lead to undesirable behaviors, like chasing, nipping and barking. Start training during puppyhood to prevent boredom and the resulting potential behavior problems.

For dogs who are intent on chasing bikes or herding the kids, offer a better alternative. For example, offer a ball to fetch or a Frisbee to chase and your Border Collie will play until they tire out. Remain attentive during their activities since these obsessive dogs can hurt themselves by overdoing it, especially in hot weather.

The Border Collie often works without expectation of treat rewards—a favorite ball or other toy is all the reward they want. They can become easily distracted and obsessively focused on specific toys or activities, so practice Border Collie training in a quiet area with as few distractions as possible. Border Collies like routine, so set up a schedule and follow it to help keep your dog as focused as possible. 

There is a lot to love about this athletic dog breed. Border Collies are brilliant, highly trainable and sensitive working dogs who make excellent companions when given the right care. Homes that can accommodate the breed’s high energy level can, in return, expect a loving, intelligent pup who’s eager to please.

Read more:

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ; Amy Shojai, CABC; Paula Fitzsimmons

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