The Border Collie

The Border Collie - Breed Profile

Vital Stats

Dog breed group

Herding dog group

Height

53 cm for males, around 50 cm for females.

Weight

14-20 kg for males, 12-19 kg for females.

Life span

12-15 years

Are you interested in adopting a smart Border Collie? If you’re still don’t know if this is the right breed for you, we’ve got you covered. Our experts reviewed everything you need to know about this popular breed.

Border Collies are talented working dogs, bred as shepherds in the United States, and later in Australia and New Zealand. These athletic pups have a dense, medium coat and usually sport black and white markings.


The Border Collie Guide

Border Collie lying down

Other Stats

Temperament and personality

Child Friendliness

Dog Friendly

Exercise Needs

Intelligence

Trainability

Grooming

Border Collie Temperament & Personality 4/5

The typical black and white Border Collie has been a staple at agility competitions for decades. But to know if this is the right dog for you, you need to understand their temperament.

Most Border Collies are very affectionate and enjoy spending time with their owners, especially in a work environment. However, this breed takes some time to get to know new people and doesn’t particularly enjoy being around strangers. While a properly socialised Border Collie won’t be scared, aggressive or shy, they’ll act reserved towards strangers and stay alert in case of danger.

They are also bred to be highly sensitive to noise and sight stimuli in order to watch sheep from afar. But in urban settings full of people, their good vision tends to make public places overly stimulating. Because of this, if you want to take your dog to the park or the restaurant to meet friends, this might not be the right choice.

In spite of their initial wariness, Border Collies won’t be aggressive towards visitors and, once you let them know they are friends, they’ll welcome your guests and try to get them to play.

Border Collie Child Friendliness 3/5

Border Collies love kids, especially since they can keep up with their playful energy. This breed tends to be friendly, and because of it they might have a harder time with small children. Toddlers and babies can be wobbly on their feet, and a playful border could be too boisterous for them and make them fall unintentionally. In contrast, older children and teens are the perfect companion and can even take part in their training.

If you have young kids of your own, or you want your Border Collie to be around kids, the main thing you need to watch out for is nipping.

Border Collies tend to be "mouthy" because of their strong herding instincts. As a working dog, this breed would use their teeth to guide sheep and cattle around. It’s important to recognise this is very different behaviour than actual biting due to aggressiveness.

Nipping, characteristic of herding dogs, involves only the front teeth, will last a couple seconds at most, and usually won’t draw blood. This behaviour is usually spurred by a running target like children, bikes or other small animals. If you want your border to be well received in public, mouth training is key. Discourage biting whenever possible and avoid playing games that involve chasing-and-biting, even if it’s playful. A dog that nips a child, even if it doesn’t draw blood, might get in trouble with the authorities! In fact, according to Australian law, if your dog attacks a person, you’re liable as its owner [6]. Of course, Border Collies aren’t aggressive, but apprehensive parents might see the issue differently.

PRO TIP: work on discouraging your Border Collie’s prey drive as soon as they start showing it. If left to their own devices, Border Collies tend to chase after everything that moves, including kids, bikes, motorcycles and cars. This is dangerous behaviour, especially if the dog will be around children who can get scared! Redirect prey drive by training a strong recall and offering attractive rewards whenever they come back to you.

It’s important to mention that while this breed can be very affectionate toward kids, they aren’t the right choice if you want a dog for your kids. With a Border Collie, you -the adult- have to be their leader and their main trainer. This breed needs to feel confident in your leadership, or they’ll try to handle the situation by themselves. Children and most teenagers don’t always have the resources or experience needed to be that leader for a strong-willed dog like the Border Collie. If you want this breed and have kids, ownership can be a great learning experience so when they’re older, they’ll know how to properly train and care for a dog.

While this is a kid-friendly breed, we’re taking off 2 stars because they can be too boisterous for small children and need to have an adult as their main handler.

Border Collie Dog Friendliness 4/5

As we have already mentioned, this isn’t an aggressive breed. In fact, Border Collies thoroughly enjoy having other dogs and animals to play with and get their energy out. However, when it comes to making friends with other dogs, we need to go over their herding instincts again.

While medium to large dogs don’t pose an issue, you might find some troubles when trying to introduce a Border Collie to small and toy-sized dogs. This breed tends to want to play-herd smaller animals, including dogs. Confident dogs, no matter the size, will stand up for themselves and your border pup will soon see them as equals. But if you have a skittish and small dog, they’ll have a harder time dealing with the herding instincts of a Border Collie.

To avoid this, it’s important to train your dog to avoid nipping, and if possible, introduce an older dog to a young Border Collie puppy. This way, they’ll establish a hierarchy early on and the Border Collie won’t chase around the smaller dog. If this isn’t possible, try to introduce the new dog slowly and always have supervised playtime to avoid issues in the beginning.

Since this breed is very friendly towards other dogs, but you need to be mindful when introducing small animals to them, we’re giving the Border Collie 4 out of 5 stars.

Border Collie Exercise Needs 5/5

This isn’t a breed for sedentary people. As a working dog, Border Collies were bred to have a lot of energy and stamina. These dogs need at least 3 long walks a week, and one or two short ones a day. It’s best if exercise is done in a natural setting, were your dog can smell and run without being overly stimulated by cars, lights and loud sounds.

Many joggers turn to this breed because they can keep up with that type of exercise schedule and enjoy the structured training it offers.

However, keep in mind Border Collies don’t know when to stop. Because of the nature of herding, these dogs were bred to stay working until the shepherd told them the workday was over. But as a home pet with no strict work schedule, it’s on you to keep your dog both entertained and safe.

A Border Collie will keep playing up until their bodies can’t move because for them even "play" is work [7]. It’s on you to know when it’s time to stop and rest because they won’t know if it’s enough.

On the other hand, even if it’s common to hear that Border Collies need constant activity, this shouldn’t be thought of as exercise alone. This breed needs more mental than physical stimuli: running on a treadmill won’t be enough to keep their mind busy.

Because of that, successful Border Collie owners tap into their dog’s smarts to stimulate them. This can be achieved through dog puzzles that they need to solve in order to get food out or training for agility.

Since this is a very active breed, we’re giving the Border Collie 5 out 5 in this category.

Border Collie Intelligence 5/5

Border Collies are recognised for their wits and work ethic. In fact, this is such a key feature of the breed that the American Kennel Club breed standard mentions:

PRO TIP: "The Border Collie is extremely intelligent, with its keen, alert expression being a very important characteristic of the breed." – American Kennel Club. Border Collie breed standard

These smart pups are always learning and enjoy pleasing their owners. This can make basic training very fast, but also challenging for new dog owners.

Their wits can also make training and correcting behaviour more difficult. These pups are so smart that sometimes only one repetition is all they need to learn. While this is great when you’re teaching them recall, it’s not so good when you -inevitably- slip up. Then, after just one time where they got what they wanted, they’ll replicate the bad behaviour again and again.

This happens if, for example, you let your Border Collie pull on their leash to get to a fence post. Then, every time you go out, they’ll try to pull on their leash to get where they want to, regardless of the hours spent teaching them to walk by you. It can be frustrating, but it will also keep you on your toes!

Since they are smart dogs, it’s important to let them understand you’re the one in charge. If your Border Collie thinks you can’t manage the situation, they’ll take it upon themselves to fix it and this can result in biting and mouthiness.

Because of their intelligence, we’re giving this breed 5 out of 5 in this category.

Border Collie Trainability 4/5

To keep your Border Collie happy, it needs plenty of challenging activities. However, you also need a good chunk of rest time in-between [7]. When in doubt, remember this is a herding dog. By nature, herding is mentally and physically demanding. However, it isn’t an all-day, every-season job: while the sheep eat, a Border Collie would rest, and in the winter and spring, Border Collies would have to spend their days on their own.

Overexerting your dog, even one as smart as a Border Collie, will only cause frustration and misbehaviour from them. When choosing a training plan for your Border Collie, work based on your dog’s natural abilities and tendencies. Try to keep your pup engaged by offering mental challenges, and gauge if they’re getting bored or if it’s still fun.

PRO TIP: For Border Collies, training should be something you both look forward to: if you’re not into traditional commands, maybe try some creative "tricks" you would enjoy doing with your dog. If it’s fun for you, it’ll be fun for them.

However, even if this is a breed that needs consistent training, you should correct behaviour gently. Border Collies are very sensitive to their owner’s moods and don’t react well to violence or mistreats.

Praise your pup whenever they do something right, and never use physical punishment to redirect behaviour. In general, a Border Collie will only misbehave if they haven’t understood what’s needed of them. As soon as they get it, they’ll try their best to do it.

Border Collies are one of those breeds that need lifelong training. If you think sessions will end as soon as they turn one, get another dog. This dog is smart and needs the mental challenge to stay happy.

We’re taking off 1 star because training can be hard for inexperienced owners.

Border Collie Grooming 4/5

This medium-sized dog has a double coat, so you’ll need to get into a consistent routine to limit the dog hair around your home. Depending on the breeder, you can find short haired Border Collies, and long hair Border Collies. Whether you have traditional or brown Border Collies, their grooming needs remain the same.

Contrary to what you might think, both varieties shed pretty much the same. However, the longer the fur, the more noticeable it will be when it lands on your couch. These dogs also shed year-round, but in spring they’ll get rid of the winter hair and it can get really messy if you’re not on top of it.

Grooming-wise, Border Collies need a good brushing once a week. This schedule should be bumped up to twice a week during shedding season in spring.

On top of the brushing, these dogs don’t have a very long list of grooming needs. Beyond the typical clipping of nails and using flea-repellent products, Border Collies are easy to maintain.

Because of that, we’re giving this breed 4 out of 5 stars.

Border Collie Health Issues

This is a working breed, so in general, most dogs are fairly healthy and no serious issues have been passed from one generation to the next. However, Border Collies can have 3 major hereditary diseases: ceroid lipofuscinosis, collie eye anomaly and trapped neutrophil syndrome. Sound confusing? Here’s what it means:

  • Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: this is a very aggressive and rare neurodegenerative disease that causes neurological issues and premature death [2]. Early symptoms include personality changes, dementia, visual problems and eventually death. The specific symptoms depend on the faulty gene inherited, and as of 2020, researchers know of at least 8 affected genes [2]. Since this condition doesn’t have a cure, dogs should be tested before breeding to avoid health issues with puppies.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly: also called collie eye defect, it affects dogs related to collies like Shetland sheepdogs, Australian shepherds, Border Collies and nova scotia retrievers, as well as collies per se. Dogs with this disease have poor blood supply in their retina vessels, as well as other malformations in the eye. When dogs are diagnosed the condition is usually advanced [4]. As the disease progresses, your pup will likely become blind. However, they retain their health in spite of their blindness and most dogs adapt after some retraining.
  • Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome: this condition compromises the immune system, and affected dogs have chronic infections throughout their life [5]. While your dog won’t die from the disease, they’ll be at risk of any other infection which might be life-threatening.

While these conditions can sound scary, it’s likely your new pup won’t have them. There are currently several genetic tests available to ensure puppies are only bred from healthy parents. If you’re getting your Border Collie puppy from a responsible breeder, they’ll provide the parent’s genetic tests. In fact, the Border Collie NSW association stretches these conditions are still relatively rare and most puppies sold nowadays are consistently healthy [3].

On top of the genetic testing, you should also ask your breeder for your puppy’s medical history in regards to hip and elbow dysplasia. Like other dogs of this size, this tendency can run in the family so it’s best to ask before committing to a pup.

Since, overall, this is a healthy breed, we’re giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Apartment Friendly 1/5

If you’re wondering if a Border Collie can live in an apartment, stop. These dogs are herding pups. If you don’t have at least a yard for them to play in, choose another breed. An exception can be made if you work outside the home in an active job, and plan for your dog to go with you. In all other cases, a Border Collie won’t be happy in a flat.

Like we’ve already mentioned, these are active dogs so they need an energetic lifestyle as well. Border Collies aren’t couch potatoes!

Because of it, we’re giving this breed 1 out of 5 stars in this category.


Thinking about Adopting a Border Collie Puppy?

Border Collie puppy, 17 weeks old

If you’re sure this is the right fit for your family, now’s time to adopt your new border puppy! To find a healthy, well-raised pup, your best option is looking at local Border Collie breeders. These people have been raising Border Collies for years, understand the breed’s needs and will match you to a puppy that fits your personality.

When selecting a breeder, consider the health issues of the breed and ask every question you might have. A responsible breeder will be happy to solve your doubts and will provide every health test done to the parents and puppies. You will also be able to meet the mother, and sometimes the father as well. Meeting the adult dogs will give you a better idea of the personality of your future pup, so you can make sure this is the right choice for you.

Keep in mind responsible breeders also offer life-long support and take care of their puppies throughout their life. If you choose the right one, you’ll have someone to help with any doubt that comes up down the road, and the start of a support network that loves Border Collies as much as you do.

To find a list with active breeders, it’s best to visit national or regional Border Collie clubs. Here are a few options to check out:


Rescuing A Border Collie

If you’re interested in this breed, rescuing a pup in need of a home might be a better option than buying. Since many people get Border Collies without fully understanding their needs, these dogs end up at the pound or just abandoned to fend for themselves.

You can find Border Collies of all ages up for adoption both at your local rescue centres, including the RSPCA, and through the Border Collie Rescue Australia volunteer group. There are other rescues for the breed like Border Collie Rescuers Australia that you can visit here.


Final Thoughts

While this breed is remarkably smart, they usually aren’t fit for first-time dog owners with no training experience. Since the Border Collie is a working dog, they have very specific training and exercise needs that, if left unattended, can cause many issues.

But, if you’re up for a challenge, life with a Border Collie can be full of adventure and surprises. You won’t regret your choice!

Want to learn more about Border Collie Mix Breeds? Check out out guides below:

FAQ

Border Collie size: are Border Collies big?

In the grand scheme of things, Border Collies aren’t huge dogs. But they’re not small either. This breed is a good medium size, appropriate to herd sheep while still being agile. The Border Collie’s height is around 50 cm, maybe a little taller. On the other hand, Border Collies’ average weight is around 15 kg, with some females weighing 12 kg and males reaching up to 20 kg.

Was Lassie a Border Collie?

No. Lassie from the TV show was a regular collie, also known as rough collies. Those collies have long, fluffy hair usually in tan, black and white. Rough collies share many personality traits with Border Collies and have common ancestors but aren’t the same breed.

References
  1. American kennel club. Border Collie breed standard. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/border-collie/#breed-standard
  2. Mizukami K, Kawamichi T, Koie H, et al. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis in Border Collie dogs in Japan: clinical and molecular epidemiological study (2000-2011). ScientificWorldJournal. 2012; 2012:383174. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417203/
  3. Border Collie NSW. Border Collie health. http://www.bccnsw.com/health.asp
  4. VCA hospitals. Collie eye anomaly. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/collie-eye-anomaly
  5. UC Davis - Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. Trapped neutrophil syndrome in Border Collies. https://vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/tns-border-collie
  6. Burke Mead lawyers. What are the legal ramifications if my dog bites someone? https://www.burkemeadlawyers.com.au/general-legal-information/legal-ramifications-dog-bites-someone/
  7. Planethund. Border Collie – a problem dog!? https://www.planethund.com/eng/border-collie-problem-dog.html
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Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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