Welfare Issues - General Care of Border Collies
Ensuring your dog is happy and not just making the best of it!
There are a number of things that need to
be considered for the overall physical and psychological well being of a Border Collie -
whether its a working dog, interactive dog or companion dog - of any age and
information about common diseases, parasite infections and other
welfare and care issues on this page.
There are a lot of Border Collies in very good homes
where they are well looked after by their humans but there are
too many Border Collies being referred to rescue centres all
around the UK because they somehow do not seem to adapt to being
domesticated as well as their owners expect.
Over the years we have come across some real horror shows where
dogs have been kept in very poor conditions, badly fed,
neglected and often cruelly treated as if they were a convenient
scapegoat for their owners frustrations or a target for their
cruel or violent nature or simply a victim of human ignorance.
Sometimes neglect occurs because a dog has become a problem to
its owner. Maybe circumstances have changed and the owner can't
really afford to keep a dog anymore.
The dog become ill or injured, the owner can't afford veterinary
treatment so does without and hopes whatever the problem is will
go away. The dogs condition gets worse and the owner is then
frightened of going to the vet or just ashamed.
Whatever the reason given for abuse and neglect - there is no excuse.
You take on a dog - it's your captive and subject to your will.
You have a responsibility. End of story.
Over the years our laws governing animal welfare have changed,
mainly for the better, but enforcement has lagged behind. These
days more people are less likely to mind their own business and
are more likely to report any cruelty or neglect they witness, which is no bad
thing from the dogs perspective.
Personally, we applaud and encourage such reports. People should
report any cruelty, neglect or abuse they witness.
Call it modern thinking if you like -
sometimes the 'Good Old Days' were not really all that good.
Health and Welfare
A regular programme of general health checks and remedial or preventative action should be implemented and maintained.
Speak to your Vet about this and follow the advice given.
Common Infectious Diseases
These diseases and inoculations to prevent them are
covered in more detail on our 'Infectious Diseases' page.
Here we stress the importance of continuous immunity
against the most common infectious diseases of dogs -
Distemper, Parvo Virus, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis.
puppy vaccinations and annual boosters thereafter is the most common practice.
Parvo virus, Hepatitis and Distemper are highly infections diseases that
are frequently fatal, particularly if not recognised early and
quickly dealt with. Young dogs are less likely to survive
infections than older dogs.
On farmland Leptospirosis is an ever present bacteria found in
stagnant water and transmissible by rats and other farm animals who's urine can be
contaminated. In open countryside or moorland that is grazed by
cattle with standing stagnant water
there is also a chance of picking up Leptospirosis. The same
applies to wetlands, even woodlands.
Ingesting infected water transmits the disease. It can also be
caught by contact with infected animals.
Hepatitis is a virulent virus infection that
can be picked up from infected faeces, urine, saliva, blood or
by directs contact with the nose, anus or reproductive organs of
an infected dog. It can also be contracted by contact with an
item an infected dog has used - bowls, toys, etc.
Parvo Virus is another very infectious viral
disease. It can be contracted by contact with an infected dog,
from infected faeces or vomit or other bodily fluids. It can
also be contracted from items that have come into contact with
an infected dog and is easily spread around by shoes treading in
infected faeces or urine. It does not take a lot to infect a dog
and it spreads quickly.
Distemper is primarily an airborne virus and
infection occurs by inhalation of fine droplets in the breath or
eye fluids of an infected dog when an uninfected dog comes into
close proximity. It is also present in a dogs urine. It can be
contracted by contact with wildlife and transmitted in clothing
or materials. Outside of a host the virus does not survive for
long and can be killed by most household disinfectants.
These diseases are terrible. At best a dog
contracting one will suffer greatly and they may well die. Dying
from any of these diseases is painful. You would not want to see
your dog suffering so take preventative measures.
One more infectious virus in this section.
Canine Influenza is an airborne viral infection
of the respiratory tract and spreads from host to host by
the dog inhaling the virus in the air. It travels well and
an infected dog can spread it over quite a large area in the
wind simply by breathing out.
It can also spread through contact with items an infected
dog has previously been in contact with but it cannot
survive for long outside of a host. Not as serious as any of
the above and preventable by vaccination - usually a spray
up the nostrils.
There are more details on external and internal parasitic infections
and other diseases of
dogs on our Breed Profile
Internal parasites are most
commonly intestinal worm infestations or protozoan infections.
Regular worming prevents the accumulation of parasites in a dogs intestines that will weaken it and present long term problems if not eliminated.
Use a proven brand of wormer and administer it regularly
according to instructions. Get something your vet recommends.
Many wormers are not restricted to prescription so it is
possible that you may be able to purchase something your vet
would suggest on the internet or in a pet shop.
Roundworms, Tapeworms, Whipworms and Hookworms are the
most common infestations and are all fairly easy to treat using
products that can be bought over the counter without
These worms are usually contracted by contact with an infected
dog, faeces or infected wildlife.
Some worms are more difficult to eliminate and may require a
different medication to deal with them. Whipworms are the most
difficult intestinal worm to treat abut the least dangerous.
Roundworms the most common and the most dangerous.
There are also worms that invade other organs like
Heartworms and Lungworms. These are
rarer but more dangerous infestations and require veterinary
attention for prescribed medications.
Heartworm is very rare in the UK and is contracted from a
certain type of Mosquito. It is difficult to detect initially
and requires blood tests.
In the USA where it is a common infection there are vaccines to
prevent it. It is easy to prevent but difficult to cure.
Lungworms are contracted from slugs and snails or from the slime
trail they leave. Toys left in the garden can become
contaminated, as can bowls or any other item likely to get into
a dogs mouth.
Protozoan infections include Giardia and Coccidia that
live in the intestinal wall of infected dogs.
These are picked up from infected faeces or by eating
infected meat, perhaps a small rodent or dead animal.
They both cause diarrhea and bowel pain. They can go on
for a long time before symptoms are noticed and it takes lab
test to clearly identify an infection. If left unattended they
will weaken a dog and cause weight loss and do serious long term
damage to the intestinal tract.
They can be life threatening.
Other forms of internal protozoan parasites include Amoeba
infections which affect the intestines, Coccidiosis,
Sarcocystosis (which can be found in raw meat), Cryptosporidium
and one or two others that are (fortunately) rare in the UK.
Key factor in avoiding all of these infections is to stop your
dog drinking from stagnating water and eating faeces and dead
animals it finds when out walking or in your garden (including
slugs, snails and birds) and if you feed raw meat make sure its
good quality - or cook it.
Fleas, Ticks and other external parasites also need
keeping in check. Be wary of some of these proprietary
brands you can buy in pets shops as some of these are not very
Spot on treatment is the most common and popular these days
where a small amount of the medication is applied to the skin on
the back of the dogs neck between the shoulder blades.
Again, best get something your vet recommends and again look to
see if you can obtain it at a better price elsewhere.
Ticks are a particular problem because they can
carry a range of infections that they can pass onto dogs (and
The best know of these infections is Lymes disease but ticks can
also carry and spread Canine babesiosis and Ehrlichia canis.
These two latter diseases are most common in Africa, Europe and
Asia but there have been cases of both in the UK and with the
climate warming up it is possible the rate of infection will
Most flea and mite treatments won't deal with ticks so a
different medication is needed. This is often a spray.
Ticks are bloodsuckers and are most frequently found in long
grass where they climb the blades and hang on waiting for a
potential host to pass. They jump to the passing host and feed.
If you find a tick on your dog - or on yourself - there is a
free government service to identify the type of tick it is and
therefore any potential infection it may be carrying. It is
Tick Surveillance Scheme and their website explains how to
package and send them a tick in the post.
Some of these canine infections can be transmitted to human.
Weil's disease is a human form of Leptospirosis. You can catch
roundworms, hookworm, ringworm, giardia, scabies,
cryptosporidium, salmonellosis, campylobacter and various types
of mites from your dog - oh, did we mention fleas?
It pays to keep your dog healthy. It's worth it for all
Something often overlooked but very important
for the good health of a dog.
These days many dogs suffer from dental problems, particularly older
dogs. There are two reasons to try and avoid this.
First, veterinary treatment for dental problems is expensive and often
involves extractions which leaves a dog with less teeth to work with.
Second, and more important - toothache hurts.
A dog with mild toothache may not show any symptoms but that does not
means it is not in pain. If the problems remains untreated and gets
worse a dog may become withdrawn, irritable and maybe even snappy.
Checking teeth on a regular basis is important. Yellowing and darkening
of the teeth is a giveaway. Another indication of decay or gum disease
is a bad smell on the dogs breath. Badly infected teeth and gums may
extrude pus and the smell will be quite strong.
Regular cleaning and descaling is a good thing. A professional
veterinary clean will pay for itself by saving greater costs and
discomfort to your dog. There are products on the market that help keep
dogs teeth in order. Some are in the form of chewing products that help
if used regularly. There are also tooth brush and paste options if your
dog will co-operate!
Dental hygiene is very important. On it's own it can be
a major problems but there are side effects that can make matters worse
for the dog. Being poisoned by swallowing infected material from
your own mouth is not pleasant and not being able to chew and eat
properly is bad for the digestion, so check your dogs teeth and take
action to deal with any problems.
Grooming may be regarded as time wasting by some, but regular brushing and combing will help keep the dog free of uncomfortable external parasites that may prove distracting and will further improve the skin and coat by stimulating the production of natural oils.
Additionally grooming will remove dead fur that would otherwise mat into uncomfortable knots.
Particular attention should be paid to the areas behind the ears,
under the armpits and groin and at the base of the tail.
Grooming also re-enforces the bond between you and your dog.
Anti parasitic shampoo should also be used regularly, especially if the dog is bedded in straw
and some sort of 'spot on' medication administered regularly to
reduce parasitic infection.
Get veterinary advice on suitable products.
On a weekly basis check the dogs coat, skin, ears, mouth, nose and eyes for any abnormalities and parasite infections. Feel the dogs throat, chest and abdomen for unusual lumps under the skin.
Examine excreta for signs of worm infections or abnormalities.
Consult your Vet immediately should any problems be noticed.
Handle your dog gently and frequently - from as young as possible.
Prompt discovery and action may save a dog’s life.
In matters of general hygiene it is important to regularly clean compounds, runs and sleeping areas,
indoors or out.
Wash food bowls after use and water bowls when refilling.
Don’t use rusting metal bowls, chewed or scratched plastic bowls or cracked ceramic bowls. Throw them out and get a
new one. Stainless steel is the best material but even these have a limited life.
If you have more than one dog, each should have it's own bowl, collar, lead, brush and
other personal items for general care and all of these need to
be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
If you have more than one dog and one develops a health problem that may be contagious, it needs to be isolated from contact with other dogs.
Isolation means that food bowls, water bowls, any equipment used for the infected dog need to be kept separate from others and cleaned with a suitable disinfectant before
being used again.
Infected dogs should be kept and exercised away from the others.
should be hygienically disposed of and used bedding materials should be
disinfected when cleaned or incinerated.
Adequate shelter should be provided.
If a dog lives in a house as a domestic companion it should have
adequate shelter, however some attention needs to be paid to the
location of a dogs sleeping area in relation to doorways, heat
sources and proximity to substances that may give off fumes or
If a dog is to live outside a house, the
definition of 'adequate' means more than just a roof.
Think fours walls, roof, draught free, dry, secure, ventilated
and with natural light through a glazed window above the dogs
reach or covered with a metal mesh inside that prevents the dog
from breaking the glass if it can access the window.
Four walls means waterproof and structurally sound walls from
floor to roof.
Roof means a covering structure that has no holes, does not leak
and protects against the elements.
Draught free means there are no holes, gaps or overlaps in
floor, walls or roof that allows an unimpeded and uncontrolled
flow of air into the shelter.
Dry means no penetrating damp or water in foul weather or fine
through floor, walls or roof.
Secure means that the dog has no way of getting out and also
that it has no fear of anything getting in and causing it harm.
Ventilated means a controlled flow of air (as opposed to a hole
or two) that can be adjusted according to need and season.
Natural light means daylight from sunrise to sunset so the dog
is aware of the natural cycle of the day and seasons.
(artificial light could also be provided).
Any suitable shelter should have water available on demand and
sufficient space for the dog to relieve itself without
contaminating its sleeping area. The placing of the sleeping
area should be somewhere that is 'uphill' of any likely flow of
liquid, be it urine or an upturned water bowl.
Dogs need to be provided with enough suitable bedding material
to enable them to keep themselves warm according to the season,
insulation quality and heating provided in their shelter.
This could be straw or hay, blankets,
duvets, Vetbed or purpose made dog beds.
If a dog is sleeping in an outbuilding or kennel and run its
bed needs to be laid on a raised plinth and contained within a
shallow box to keep it in and to keep cold air and draughts out.
Air needs to be able to circulate underneath the bed to prevent
the build up of condensation.
A good freestanding bed
for a dog kept in an outbuilding can be constructed out of a pallet, flat
boarding, sheet of thick rubber insulation, piece of Vetbed and
a deep Manitou or tractor tyre filled with straw.
The pallet raises the bed off the ground, the boarding seals the
top and supports the insulated rubber.
The tyre lies on top of the rubber sheeting and has a thick
layer of straw at the bottom which is covered by a piece of
Vetbed and then the inner recess of the tyre is packed tight
with straw and the hole in the centre filled with loose straw.
As it compresses new straw should be added to fill the central
hole. Bedding should be changed at least weekly and using a
system like this it is easy to reach down and lift out the
Vetbed with all the loose straw, replace the packed straw below
and replace the Vetbed with new straw loose on top. Every few
months replace the straw in the tyre recess.
There are many alternative ways of providing a good warm bed for
a dog and there should be one for each dog.
A dog may survive a cold night in a poor shelter but it will use
a lot of energy keeping itself warm which will weaken it.
If you breed a litter, bear in mind that puppies learn manners, cleanliness and social inter - action from their mother and litter mates. Removal and splitting up of litters from the mother at too young an age is counter productive and may leave the pups socially disadvantaged.
The pups should stay with mum until they are 8 weeks of age.
During this time they will learn to interact with other dogs and get some groundwork in dog ‘manners’ and body language. This will assist them in mixing with unknown dogs later in their lives and avoid many confrontations and fights that occur due to ‘misunderstandings’.
It is important that the pups learn trust of humans.
To achieve this, pups should meet and be gently handled by as many different people as possible once their eyes are open. When in contact with humans the experience should be pleasant.
This teaches them to trust strangers avoiding a common behavioural problem of many Border Collies - Fear Aggression, which may lead to humans being nipped or bitten as an act of pre-emptive defence.
Pregnant bitches need more attention, food and care while they
are carrying, whelping and feeding their pups.
As a breed, the Border Collie is a dog born with a mission - they need something to do, not just for the sake of physical exercise - more for the sake of their active minds and inquisitive, exploratory nature.
A lot of problems relating to Border Collies stem from lack of mental stimulation or poor social conditioning, as outlined above.
Working Border Collies will get most of what they need from the company of their handlers, interaction with other dogs and animals on the farm and from the work they do, - providing they have enough of it !
Companions, non workers and ‘off duty’ sheepdogs may find themselves getting bored on occasion and a bored Border Collie usually means trouble.
Regular exercise and interactive roles with handlers are what makes the Border Collie tick.
Pet owners take note and spend more time with your dog - doing things dogs like to do.
If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please phone 0845 604 4941 during office hours.
(2 pm to 5 pm Mondays to Thursdays)
Please do not write to us or email us about adoption - we want to speak to you before we start the process.