A Border Collie is one of the hardest working dogs you’ll ever meet. They love to work and is a dog who needs a job. This dog breed was bred for herding and if you don’t give him something to do, he will find a way to entertain himself that’s likely put him in the doghouse. It’s not that he’s trying to find things that get him into trouble or to make you mad, it’s just his nature and laying around the house all day is boring for an active dog.
This working dog sits at the top of the list of most intelligent dogs and he will use his intelligence every chance he gets. A bored Collie can try an unsuspecting or uneducated owner’s patience and if you think you can outwit this smart dog, you’ll soon realize your error. If you’re thinking about adopting a Border Collie, it would be wise to know what you’re getting into before you get one home. This dog may not be the best fit for your home, especially if you have kids or small pets.
Border Collies are medium sized dogs 25 to 65 lbs. who can do well with children and other pets, but only with training for the dog and the kids. The Border Collie has an intense prey drive and kids should be taught to stop running and stay calm if the dog is chasing them.
The herding instinct ( prey drive) in these dogs is extremely high and has been bred into them for centuries. It’s important to understand what the herding instinct means because a dog can get into trouble through no fault of his own when an owner doesn’t understand the dog is only doing what he was born to do. Herding instinct is a modified behavior that was handed down to the Border Collie from his more wild ancestor, the wolf. A dog’s prey drive is why they chase cars, rabbits, kids, sheep or anything that moves. Through selective breeding, the Border Collies’ prey drive has been modified over the centuries by responsible breeders to stifle the dog’s natural instinct to follow his prey drive to the last step-attack and kill. A circling Border Collie is using the same hunting skills as a wolf pack who circles their prey to drive (herd) animals away from the rest of the herd before moving in for the kill.
If you’ve ever watched this working dog in action, you’ve seen “the stare down” that’s meant to intimidate sheep. If an imposing stare doesn’t do the trick, then the dog will use his instincts to prod the sheep along by nipping and biting them on the butt to move them in the direction he wants them to go. Watching him work in the field is an awesome thing to see, but having a Border Collie trying to herd the kids, cats or his owner isn’t as pleasant to experience. Especially if you have small kids who are easily intimidated by the dog. This is one reason why this dog breed ends up in a shelter. If the child or cat runs, the dog will chase. That’s what he’s bred to do and it’s hard wired in him. Kids who don’t understand what the dog is doing can become frightened and excited causing the dog to become excited and more determined to herd the kid. An escalation between dog and kid may end with the child getting bit. The dog is blamed and ends up in a shelter or worse; put to sleep. Unwarranted punishment for a working dog who acts in the only way he knows how and avoidable if potential owners would educate themselves on how to train, correct and interact with this dog breed before getting one. That includes teaching kids how to behave around a Border Collie to avoid unwanted behavior from the dog.
A Border Collie is so smart, he can actually end up in trouble because most owners can’t handle a dog who can outsmart them. He’s capable of problem solving and a bored Collie who doesn’t get enough exercise can be destructive and have other behavior issues. This dog never stops thinking and even though they learn commands quickly, if you aren’t consistent and precise every time in tone of voice, loudness and how fast or slow you give the command, he may not obey because he thinks you’re teaching him a new command and he’s trying to figure out what it is. Even hand signals have to be exact every time. But as long as you’re consistent and committed to his training, he will learn fast. He’s a dog who will keep an owner on their toes, however, because he can distinguish nuances and it’s important to understand otherwise this dog could be difficult to train.
Border Collies are also sensitive dogs who can get their feelings hurt. Just like training any other dog breed, yelling, hitting or kicking can leave a dog with no trust or respect for his owner. You have to earn any dog’s respect and prove to him you’re worthy of being his leader before he will follow. A Border Collie will not learn if you try to train him using rough treatment. He needs a softer, more gentle approach with fair punishment, but he does need a firm and consistent hand. This working dog can easily become distracted by other things going on around him and you need to keep his attention focused on you during training. Border Collies can also be sensitive to sound and sudden noises. That’s one reason why they may not be a suitable dog around small children.
Dog breeds featured in movies become popular when we see a well trained dog on the big screen and everyone wants one. The Border Collie isn’t for the average dog lover unless you have what it takes for an active and intelligent working dog. He needs daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep him out of trouble. Long walks, an afternoon of hiking, agility training, sheep herding, long swims on a hot day or any physical activity is what the Border Collie loves to do. Before you decide if this dog is right for you, do your homework and visit a shelter or someone you know who owns one of these intelligent and athletic dogs. A dog is for a lifetime and a Border Collie will be a loyal and loving pet, as long as you know what you’re getting into and are willing to train and handle a dog who never stops working or thinking.
Do I Really Want a Border Collie?, Border Collie Rescue
Living With Border Collies, bordercollie.org
April M. Quist, Border Collies, k9web.com