Border Collie owners know they’re a very intelligent breed of dog with their individual set of quirky behaviours completely unique to them. From nipping at your ankles, rushing around running circles around you, lying flat and waiting, fixating on an activity to that famous Collie stare. These are some of the things that makes a Collie a Collie. Of course, you will have behaviour variations in a Collie, but a working Border Collie will have these instincts hard wired into their DNA. Bred for herding, all these traits are what makes a Border Collie excellent at their job.
If you’re thinking about getting a Border Collie don’t let this put you off. You can use these traits to your advantage in training them to be fantastic family pets as well as working dogs. All you need is time, energy, consistency, and commitment.
Lots of people buy or adopt dogs on their looks rather than considering their breed traits, I’ve done it myself and adopted a cute ginger hairy beast many years ago. Bailey wasn’t pure Border Collie, but he had many of the traits, that’s probably why I was his fourth owner. He was even adopted by someone any returned to the pound the very next day. I’m guessing he was a handful as the kennel gave me money off probably to get rid of him, he did shout very loudly. Not seeing those red flags, I adopted him anyway as I was smitten as soon as I laid eyes on him. That was over fourteen years ago and sadly, Bailey is no longer with me, but I learnt a lot about Collies during that time, Bailey was the best teacher. My husband had grown up with working Border Collies when visiting his grandparents farm so we knew we would always have another one. And it didn’t stop me from recently adopting little Bertie at eight weeks who came from working Border Collie farm.
1. They will herd anything that moves including you
The Border Collie was originally bred for herding livestock. Their small frame, agility and speed making them ideal to run around gathering all the livestock and having the ability to turn very quickly to redirect the wayward sheep. They can mimic this with their owners by circling, rushing around even nipping at your ankles or hitting you across the back of your legs with their nose trying to get you to go in the direction they want.
2. They are super smart
If your border Collie is your family pet, you probably don’t want them to display all the above behaviours or you might be lucky, and they may not display extreme versions of them. The fantastic thing about them is their intelligence and their ability to learn and adapt. You can use their breed traits to your advantage in their training, for example, it’s not uncommon for a Collie to lunge at passing traffic so you could try teaching them to lay down instead and get them to do this as traffic approaches. A Border Collie might even try to train you what they want you to do rather that the other way around. Bertie is certainly trying to teach me how he wants to walk on the lead!
3. They need a lot exercise both physically and mentally than most other breeds
If you think a 30-minute stroll in the park is enough for a Border Collie, think again. As a breed used for working as mentioned above, your Collie will need several walks with running time each day to be satisfied. But walking is not the only way to tire them out though, being super smart, you can teach them all sorts of tricks. Look on YouTube at some of the amazing dancing dogs, some of the things people have taught them to do is incredible. You might want to consider activities such as agility or flyball which can be for fun or at competition level.
4. They are always watching
Border Collies are well known for their stare, that intense look as they freeze and move ever so slowly into the crouch and stalk position ready to control their flock of sheep. Well, they also do it in the home. I often look over to find my Border Collie Bertie staring intently. I like to think it’s because he loves me, in reality it’s his instincts kicking in trying to intimidate me into what he wants me to do. He’s also ready to move the moment I do. It’s the same out on a walk too, when they’re rushing around, they like to keep an eye on you and everyone else walking with you. A border Collie loves to keep their flock together.
5. They are obsessed with balls
Ok this is not true for all Collie’s, but they can be a little neurotic if they’re bored and their only outlet comes from a ball being thrown. A bored collie can display repetitive behaviours such as constantly bringing you something to be thrown. Give them things to do which will help with this such as a few minutes of training each day, practicing a trick, a chew, or a puzzle toy. In the evenings I train Bertie to settle which means I get down time and he gets low arousal learning while being rewarded making us all happy and calm before bedtime. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a crazy Collie rushing around the house in the evenings when I want to relax.
My 3 top tips for Border Collie owners are:
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- Take them to training classes beyond their initial puppy training or do an activity class once a week to give them consistency and you the tools to do more at home with them.
- Buy them a variety of toys, not just balls and play with them all with your dog to help prevent ball obsession.
- Invest in some treat dispensers such as Kongs and puzzle toys that they can figure out by themselves giving you some well-earned down time.