Border Collie

Table of Contents

border collie portrait
Get ready to be swept off your feet by the brilliant, energetic, and oh-so-lovable Border Collie! These canine Einsteins are famous for their incredible intelligence, agility, and boundless enthusiasm. With a heart as big as their brains, Border Collies have captured the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Border Collie is best suited for active individuals and families who thrive on outdoor adventures, sports, and mental challenges. This highly intelligent and energetic breed requires ample physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEBorder Collie
ORIGINEngland/Scotland
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT18-22 inches
WEIGHT30-55 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYVery High
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYModerate
DROOLING TENDENCYModerate
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK30th
border collie running on a beach
Photo: Ray Bilcliff/Pexels

Appearance

The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog with a well-proportioned and athletic build, designed for agility and endurance. Males typically stand between 19 and 22 inches at the shoulder, while females range from 18 to 21 inches. Their weight varies from 30 to 45 pounds, with males being slightly heavier than females.

Border Collies have a moderately long body, giving them the flexibility needed for their herding work. Their chests are deep, providing ample space for their lungs to support their high energy levels. The breed has a strong, level back that supports their swift, graceful movements.

They have a low-set tail that reaches approximately to the hock. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs down in a slight curve, but it may lift higher when the dog is excited or in motion. The breed’s legs are straight and strong, with oval-shaped, compact feet that provide stability during agile maneuvers.

The head of a Border Collie is distinct, with a broad skull that tapers towards the muzzle. The stop, or the point where the forehead meets the muzzle, is moderate but well-defined. The muzzle itself is strong and fairly long, allowing for efficient herding and controlling livestock with nips if necessary.

The breed’s ears are medium-sized, set wide apart, and can either be erect, semi-erect, or dropped. Border Collies have almond-shaped eyes that come in various shades of brown, although blue eyes or one blue and one brown eye are also possible in some individuals. Their intelligent, keen expression is one of the most recognizable features of the breed.

A Border Collie’s coat can be either smooth or rough, both providing excellent protection from the elements. The rough coat is medium length with feathering on the legs, chest, and belly, while the smooth coat is shorter and lies close to the body. Both coat types have a dense, weather-resistant undercoat.

The breed comes in a variety of colors and patterns, with the most common being black and white. Other colors include blue, red, chocolate, lilac, sable, and brindle, often combined with white markings.

Overall, Border Collie’s appearance is one of grace, agility, and intelligence. Their physical characteristics are perfectly suited for their original purpose as herding dogs, and they continue to excel in this role, as well as in various other dog sports and activities.

border collie close up
Photo: AmberShadow/Pixabay

Temperament

If you’ve ever met a Border Collie, you’ll know they’re not just your average dog. They’re the Einsteins of the canine world, incredibly intelligent and quick to learn. They’re the type of dogs who will give you a knowing look, like they’re in on some cosmic joke that you’re yet to understand.

They are the epitome of loyalty, always at your side, ready to join in whatever adventure you’re up to. They’re the friends who are always up for a road trip, no matter the destination. Their energy is contagious, and they have an uncanny ability to turn even the gloomiest of days into an exciting escapade.

But don’t let their energetic exterior fool you. These dogs are also softies at heart, they love nothing more than a good cuddle session at the end of a long day. They’re the warm, furry comforter you need when you’re feeling down.

Border Collies have a unique personality trait, they’re workers by heart. They need a job to do, whether it’s herding sheep or fetching the newspaper. They’re the kind of dogs who take pride in their work, always eager to please and do their best.

But they’re not all work and no play. They have a playful side that’s as infectious as their energy. They’re the ones who will initiate a game of fetch, who will wag their tail with such enthusiasm that their whole body wiggles.

When it comes to strangers, Border Collies can be a bit reserved. They’re not the type to jump into a stranger’s lap. They’re cautious and prefer to observe from a distance before making up their mind about someone. But once they’ve decided you’re a friend, they’ll be loyal for life.

They are also the type of dogs who thrive on routine. They like knowing what’s coming next and find comfort in predictability. They’re the ones who will remind you it’s time for their walk or dinner.

And there’s one thing you should know about Border Collies: they have a herding instinct that’s hardwired into them. That means they might nip at fast-moving objects, including kids. It’s not out of malice, but rather an instinctive drive to herd. Early training can help manage this behavior.

In a nutshell, Border Collies are intelligent, loyal, and full of energy. They’re hard-working dogs with a playful side, and they make wonderful companions for the right family. Just remember to give them plenty of mental stimulation, and you’ll have a loyal friend for life.

border collie's face
Photo: Nikola Čedíková/Pexels

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for a Border Collie is one that caters to their high energy levels, intelligence, and need for mental stimulation.

Physical Environment

This breed thrives in spacious, rural settings with plenty of room to run, play, and explore. However, they can also adapt to suburban living, provided they have access to a securely fenced yard and regular opportunities for off-leash exercise in dog parks or open fields. Border Collies are not well-suited for apartment living or sedentary lifestyles due to their need for physical activity and mental challenges.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to climate adaptability, the Border Collie’s double coat offers protection against both cold and moderately hot temperatures.

In colder climates, their dense undercoat provides insulation, allowing them to comfortably engage in outdoor activities. However, during extreme cold spells, it’s important to limit their exposure to frigid temperatures and provide a warm shelter to prevent frostbite or hypothermia.

In warmer climates, the Border Collie can still fare well, but precautions should be taken to prevent overheating. During hot weather, it’s crucial to provide ample shade and fresh water, and limit exercise to the cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

Additionally, watch for signs of heat exhaustion, such as excessive panting or weakness, and take immediate action to cool down your dog if needed.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for a Border Collie is someone who is active, patient, and willing to invest time and effort into training and engaging with their dog. Experience with working breeds or a commitment to learning about positive reinforcement training techniques is also beneficial for potential Border Collie owners.

Other Pets

In terms of other pets, Border Collies generally get along well with other dogs, particularly if raised together. However, care should be taken when introducing them to smaller animals such as cats, rabbits, or birds, as their herding instincts may cause them to chase or attempt to control these creatures.

Early socialization and consistent training can help reduce this behavior, but supervision is essential during interactions with smaller pets.

borde collie lying down on the grass
Photo: Jan Kopczyński/Pexels

Grooming

Border Collies, with their double coats and active lifestyles, require regular grooming to keep them looking and feeling their best. The grooming process not only maintains their appearance but also helps to prevent potential health issues such as skin infections, matted fur, or overgrown nails.

Coat Care

Both rough and smooth-coated Border Collies have a dense undercoat that needs attention to stay in good condition. The rough coat is medium in length with feathering on the legs, chest, and belly, while the smooth coat is shorter and lies close to the body.

Regardless of the coat type, it’s essential to brush your Border Collie at least once a week to remove loose hair, prevent matting, and distribute natural oils throughout the coat. During shedding seasons, which typically occur in spring and fall, you may need to increase the frequency of brushing to every other day to manage the increased shedding.

A slicker brush is an excellent tool for removing loose hair and tackling minor tangles in a Border Collie’s coat. For more stubborn mats, a dematting tool or comb can be used to gently work through the affected area. A grooming rake or undercoat rake is particularly useful for removing dead hair from the thick undercoat, promoting better air circulation and preventing matting.

Dental Care

Dental care is another vital aspect of your Border Collie’s grooming routine. Regular teeth brushing, ideally daily, helps prevent tartar buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Use a canine-specific toothpaste and either a finger brush or soft-bristled toothbrush designed for dogs. Introducing teeth brushing at an early age will make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your pet.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget to trim your Border Collie’s nails every three to four weeks or as needed. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, affect their gait, and potentially lead to injuries. Use a dog nail clipper or grinder, and be cautious not to cut into the quick, the blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re unsure about how to trim your dog’s nails, consult with a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Additional Grooming Tips

It’s crucial to regularly check your Border Collie’s ears for signs of redness, odor, or excessive wax buildup. Clean their ears as needed with a gentle ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls, taking care not to insert anything deep into the ear canal. To avoid ear infections, make sure to dry their ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing.

Finally, ensure that your Border Collie’s eyes are clear and free of discharge. If necessary, gently wipe any debris away from the corner of their eyes using a clean, damp cloth.

border collie leaping on water
Photo: 825545/Pixabay

Exercise

Border Collies are a high-energy breed with a strong work ethic, making their exercise needs more demanding than many other breeds. Adequate physical activity is crucial for their overall well-being and happiness, as it helps channel their energy, stimulates their minds, and prevents boredom-related behavioral problems.

Exercise Amount & Types

As a general guideline, Border Collies require at least 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily, which can be broken down into multiple sessions throughout the day. However, every dog is an individual, and some may need more or less activity depending on factors such as age, health, and temperament.

A combination of different types of exercise is ideal to keep your Border Collie engaged and challenged. Long walks or hikes in varied terrain not only provide physical exercise but also offer mental stimulation through exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells.

Off-leash play in a securely fenced area, such as a dog park, allows your Border Collie to socialize with other dogs and burn off energy through vigorous play.

Interactive games like fetch, frisbee, or even hide and seek are great ways to engage your Border Collie’s mind while providing physical exercise. Incorporating training exercises, such as practicing obedience commands or teaching new tricks, during playtime also helps to keep their minds sharp and strengthens your communication with your dog.

Dog Sports

Border Collies excel in various dog sports, which provide both physical and mental challenges that satisfy their innate desire to work. Activities like agility, flyball, herding trials, and obedience competitions are excellent outlets for their energy and intelligence. These sports not only help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog but also offer an opportunity to showcase their remarkable skills and abilities.

Exercise Precautions

It’s essential to monitor your Border Collie’s energy levels and adjust their exercise routine as needed. Remember that puppies and senior dogs may have different exercise requirements, so consult with your veterinarian to ensure you’re providing the appropriate amount of activity for your dog’s age and health.

brown border collie's face up close
Photo: madcorona/Getty Images

Training

Border Collies are renowned for their exceptional intelligence and eagerness to learn, making them highly trainable dogs. Their strong desire to please their owners, combined with their natural problem-solving abilities, allows them to excel in various training disciplines. However, their intelligence also means they can be quick to develop undesirable behaviors if not properly guided.

When it comes to training a Border Collie, consistency and positive reinforcement are key. Utilizing reward-based training methods, such as treats, praise, or toys, helps to create a strong bond between you and your dog while also fostering a love for learning. Avoid harsh training techniques, as they can damage the trust between you and your dog and may lead to fear or aggression.

Start training your Border Collie as early as possible, ideally from puppyhood. Early socialization and exposure to various people, animals, and environments help to build a well-rounded and confident adult dog. Puppy kindergarten classes, obedience classes, or agility foundations courses can be great resources for both you and your dog to learn together.

In addition to basic obedience commands like sit, stay, and come, Border Collies can also learn more advanced skills due to their remarkable intelligence. Teaching your dog tricks or tasks that challenge their minds and bodies not only provides mental stimulation but also reinforces your bond and communication.

Border Collies thrive when given a job to do, so consider involving them in dog sports or activities that utilize their herding instincts and problem-solving skills. Agility, flyball, herding trials, and obedience competitions are excellent outlets for their energy and intelligence, and they offer a fantastic opportunity to deepen your connection with your dog.

It’s important to remember that patience and persistence are crucial when training any dog, including Border Collies. While they are highly intelligent and eager to learn, they may still have moments of stubbornness or distraction. Stay consistent, positive, and committed to the training process, and you’ll be rewarded with a loyal, well-behaved, and highly skilled companion.

border collie looking at the camera
Photo: Blue Bird/Pexels

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for maintaining the health and vitality of your Border Collie. When choosing a suitable diet for your dog, it’s important to look for high-quality commercial dry food, wet food, or raw food options that follow the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

These guidelines ensure that the food contains all the necessary nutrients to support your dog’s overall health.

The amount of food your Border Collie requires depends on factors such as age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. As a general rule, growing puppies need more calories per pound of body weight than adult dogs, as they are building muscle and bone.

Puppies should be fed three to four times a day to support their growth and development. Once your Border Collie reaches adulthood, you can transition to feeding them twice a day, typically in the morning and evening.

Active adult Border Collies may require more calories to fuel their high energy levels, while less active or older dogs may need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount of food for your individual dog and adjust the portions based on their specific needs.

When feeding your Border Collie, it’s essential to measure their food portions to prevent overfeeding and weight gain. Obesity can lead to various health issues, such as joint problems, diabetes, and heart disease. Keep an eye on your dog’s body condition and adjust their food intake as needed to ensure they maintain a healthy weight.

Treats & Water

Treats can be a valuable training tool and a way to bond with your Border Collie, but they should be given in moderation. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake, as excessive treats can contribute to weight gain and an unbalanced diet.

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Border Collie. Ensure their water bowl is clean and filled with fresh water daily, and bring water with you on outings, especially during hot weather or extended periods of physical activity.

Health

Border Collies are generally a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like all breeds, they may be prone to certain health issues. Providing a balanced diet, regular veterinary care, and staying up-to-date with vaccinations can help to keep your Border Collie healthy and happy throughout their life.

Here are common health issues associated with Border Collies:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit together properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in Border Collies, but it’s essential to maintain a healthy weight and provide appropriate exercise to minimize the risk.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disease that leads to gradual vision loss and eventual blindness. Regular eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist and responsible breeding can help identify and manage this condition.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): CEA is another inherited eye condition that affects the development of the eye, potentially causing vision impairment or blindness. Breeding dogs should be tested for CEA to reduce the prevalence of this condition in the breed.

Epilepsy: Border Collies may be prone to epilepsy, a neurological condition that causes seizures. While the cause of epilepsy can be challenging to determine, it can often be managed with medication under the guidance of a veterinarian.

Allergies: Border Collies may suffer from allergies, which can manifest as skin irritation, itching, or gastrointestinal issues. Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with appropriate veterinary care, can help alleviate allergy symptoms.

To keep your Border Collie healthy, it’s crucial to provide a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Regular veterinary check-ups, including dental care, vaccinations, and parasite prevention, are also essential for maintaining their overall health.

Additionally, monitoring your dog for any signs of illness or discomfort and promptly consulting with your veterinarian if you have concerns will help ensure that potential health issues are detected and addressed as early as possible.

border collie drinking water on a river
Photo: Joan Montaner/Pexels

History

The Border Collie is a breed with deeply rooted origins in the borderlands between Scotland and England. Renowned for their extraordinary intelligence, agility, and herding abilities, these dogs have played a vital role in the lives of shepherds for centuries.

The history of the Border Collie can be traced back to the Roman occupation of Britain around 43 AD. The Romans brought sizable livestock herds with them, as well as large, heavy-coated herding dogs that were adept at managing these animals.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, Vikings began to invade Britain, bringing their smaller, more agile spitz-type herding dogs with them. Over time, these two types of herding dogs interbred, giving rise to the early ancestors of the modern Border Collie.

The breed’s development continued over the following centuries, with shepherds selectively breeding dogs for their herding prowess, intelligence, and stamina. The term “collie” is believed to have originated from the Celtic word for “useful,” which aptly describes the indispensable role these dogs played in the lives of farmers and shepherds.

One of the most influential dogs in the development of the Border Collie was a dog named Old Hemp, born in 1893. Old Hemp was known for his exceptional herding skills, using his intense gaze and stealthy movements to control sheep rather than barking or nipping.

His unique working style became the foundation for the modern Border Collie, and he sired over 200 offspring during his lifetime, solidifying his genetic influence on the breed.

Border Collies gained broader recognition in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through sheepdog trials, which showcased their remarkable herding abilities. The first official sheepdog trial was held in Bala, Wales, in 1873, and the popularity of these events grew rapidly, further refining the breed’s characteristics.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Border Collie as a distinct breed in 1995. Since then, the breed has gained popularity not only for its herding skills but also for its success in various dog sports and activities, such as agility, flyball, obedience, and search and rescue work.

In popular culture, Border Collies have been celebrated for their intelligence and agility, often featured in movies, television shows, and books. Notable examples include the 1995 film “Babe,” which starred a Border Collie named Fly, and the popular children’s book series “Lassie,” in which the titular character is often depicted as a Border Collie, despite being a Rough Collie in the original story.

Parent Club

The official breed club for the Border Collie in the United States is the Border Collie Society of America (BCSA). Founded in 1975, the BCSA is dedicated to preserving the breed’s unique qualities, promoting responsible ownership, and encouraging participation in various activities that showcase the Border Collie’s exceptional abilities.

The BCSA is also affiliated with the American Kennel Club (AKC). You can visit their webpage here to learn more about the breed, club events, and membership opportunities.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Border Collie’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

border collie crouching
Photo: PeterBetts/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Border Collie, it’s crucial to research and prepare for the breed’s specific needs, such as exercise, training, and mental stimulation. Ensure you have ample time and resources to provide a fulfilling life for your new companion.

Opting to rescue a Border Collie rather than purchasing one from a breeder can be a rewarding choice, as you’ll be providing a loving home for a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Border Collie Society of America (BCSA) can help connect you with reputable rescue organizations and available dogs.

Before bringing your Border Collie home, prepare a comfortable space with a bed, crate, toys, and food and water bowls. Gather necessary supplies like a leash, collar, grooming tools, and nutritious food. Finally, schedule a veterinary check-up and enroll in a training class to ensure a smooth transition and a happy, healthy life together.

FAQs

Are Border Collies expensive?

The cost of a Border Collie can vary depending on whether you choose to adopt or purchase from a breeder. Adoption fees typically range from $100 to $300, while purchasing from a reputable breeder can cost between $600 and $2,000. Keep in mind that additional expenses, such as vaccinations, training, and ongoing care, will also contribute to the overall cost of owning a Border Collie.

Are Border Collies friendly?

Border Collies are generally friendly dogs, known for their loyalty and strong bond with their owners. They tend to get along well with other dogs and are usually good with children when properly socialized. However, their herding instincts may cause them to be overly cautious or reserved around strangers.

Are Border Collies the smartest dog breed?

Border Collies are often considered one of the smartest dog breeds due to their exceptional intelligence and ability to learn quickly. Their problem-solving skills, combined with their eagerness to please, make them highly trainable and adaptable to various tasks and activities.

Do Border Collies bark a lot?

Border Collies can be vocal dogs, especially when they are bored or under-stimulated. Providing ample mental and physical exercise can help minimize excessive barking. Training your dog to understand the “quiet” command can also be helpful in managing their barking behavior.

How much exercise do Border Collies need?

Border Collies are high-energy dogs that require significant amounts of daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. They thrive on activities like running, hiking, fetching, and participating in dog sports. A minimum of one to two hours of physical activity per day is recommended to keep them mentally and physically satisfied.

Are Border Collies hypoallergenic?

No, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic. They have a double coat that sheds seasonally, which can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Regular grooming can help minimize shedding and keep their coat healthy.

Can Border Collies live in apartments?

While it is possible for a Border Collie to adapt to apartment living, it can be challenging due to their high energy levels and need for ample physical and mental stimulation. If you’re committed to providing sufficient daily exercise, mental enrichment, and opportunities for socialization, a Border Collie may be able to thrive in an apartment setting. However, they are generally better suited to homes with a yard or access to outdoor spaces where they can run and play.

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