Well-regarded for it’s quick and clever nature, we are very familiar with Collies in their role as Sheep Dogs.
As well as their meteoric rise as dog Agility high performers.
But how much do you know about the Border Collies’ other characteristics? And would they make the right new addition to your family life?
The Border Collie is a born and bred working, herding dog.
They are thought to have first been bred as we would recognise them today in the 19th Century.
Their unique breed was developed in the Scottish borders, to help farmers maintain sheep herds. They were specifically bred for their obedience and ability to learn.
They are generally thought of as one of the most intelligent breeds of dog, and the most trainable.
Border Collies are a striking breed, despite being varied in appearance they are very distinctive and easy to identify.
They commonly have black and white, or blue merle, coats and a traditional wolf-like body and head shape. With semi-erect ears and brown or blue eyes. They are also known for occasionally having eyes of differing colours.
Their coats can be anything from smooth to rough, and long to short.
As they are mostly bred with work in mind rather than keeping to a specific look, they can range fairly widely in appearance, although are still recognisable as a part of the Border Collie breed.
As an intelligent, working breed Collies do require mental stimulation as well as exercise.
They are popularly used for agility and fly-ball training, as well as traditional sheepdog trials and obedience competitions.
Their brilliant sense of smell also makes them great tracking dogs.
However, due to this eagerness to learn and perform, Collies do not always make the best house pets. When bored they will have a tendency towards destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture and destroying your property.
They are best kept in an active household, where they can use their brains and their body on a regular basis.
Border Collies can make very loving family pets. However, as they have predominantly been bred for work they are not always naturally social.
If you get a Border Collie puppy, it is very important to socialise him very well. Especially to young children and other animals.
Putting in some time and dedication when they are young, will mean that you will have a lifetime of happiness with a sociable and stress-free dog later on.
It is not uncommon to see a young Border Collie try to herd the children in his family. Whilst this might seem funny at first glance, remember that you don’t want to encourage this behaviour.
Your children and your puppy both need to learn what is appropriate behaviour from the very beginning, so make sure to set boundaries.
Let your children know that as soon as this behaviour begins, they are to leave the room or sit down and ignore him.
He may well also try and nip or bite children, as a part of this herding instinct. This can be upsetting to some children, who will emit high pitched noises that the dog finds stimulating, and so will encourage the negative behaviour.
Unfortunately, for this reason if you have very young children the Border Collie may not be an ideal choice for you at the moment.
Border Collies are a healthy bumch in general.
Because they are bred to work and need to be fit to fulfill this role, they are generally well dogs.
This said, there are some diseases they are more prone to.
These include hip dysplasia, PRA blindness and epilepsy.
There are also health problems associated with the gene that causes the merle coat colour pattern in dogs, these can be avoided by ensuring that two merle dogs are not mated to one another. We’ll be looking at this in more detail in another article, in the meantime you’ll find more information at the foot of this one.
When choosing a Border Collie puppy, make sure the breeder provides you with the hip scores of their parents, and evidence of clear eye certificates as well. This will seriously reduce the chance of your puppy having these particular genetic problems.
Border Collies are not a low maintainance group.
As most of them have fairly long coats, they will require regular grooming to keep those tangles at bay.
The more regularly you groom your dog, and from an early age, the easier it will be for you both. So if you are thinking of getting a border collie puppy, make brushing his fur a daily task from the word go.
Keep it a part of your daily routine, and you will find keeping his coat tangle free and manageable is the work of only a few minutes a day in the long term.
A dog who enjoys being brushed will also find this a very bonding experience with his owner.
Keeping your dog occupied
To share a happy home with your Collie, you not only need to keep him clean but also occupy his brain.
Keeping a collie busy, physically or mentally, is an important task too.
You don’t need to go for a forced march every day, but do make sure he gets a good daily walk and spend some time additional time teaching him a new skill or playing fetch in the garden.
Anything that helps him to think or gets him moving will make a big difference to how settled he is in your home the rest of the time.
If you are looking for an easy-going companion, who doesn’t need much attention, then a collie might not be the right choice for you.
But if you want a partner who will work hard alongside you as a team, who is eager to learn and if you have plenty of time to devote to him every day, then he could be just what you are looking for.
It is a definitive guide to raising a happy, healthy puppy, without turning your life upside down.
The Happy Puppy Handbook was published last year and is an Amazon bestseller in the UK
Its now available in the USA too. Click this link for more information: Happy Puppy
You might also find the following articles interesting
- Puppy Search 2: Which type of dog is best
- Puppy health: hip dysplasia
- Merle Border Collies (from the Border Collie Museum)