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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Settling in your New Border Collie

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If you are reading this leaflet, the chances are that you have recently adopted or acquired a Border Collie or you wish to acquire one.

If you have yet to take the step of acquiring a BC then we would suggest that you first read our leaflet  - ‘The Border Collie as a Pet’.

If you have already got a BC then the information contained in this leaflet may be of use to you. You may also find useful information in some of our other leaflets -

Settling in

Two common mistakes that people make when settling in their new Border Collie are -

  1. Failing to clearly define boundaries of acceptable behaviour from the outset and -
  2. Failing to ensure that the dog understands its position in the family pack and pecking order.

This is often especially true with a rescued dog.

Some rescue dogs have had traumatic experiences in their past which may incline the new owner to initially spoil the dog as a form of compensation.

Often new owners, feeling sorry for the ‘poor rescued dog’ allow the dog to get away with all sorts of behaviour that they wouldn’t normally tolerate.

Too much sympathy and space may be detrimental to the long term benefit of the dog.

It is important to understand that the main thing that the dog needs, to overcome its instability and become a sensible member of the household, is security and guidance. If the dog gets the wrong impression of its place in the family when it first comes into its new home, owners may find this difficult to correct at a later date.

To often, later attempts to correct errant behaviour will confuse the dog and make matters worse.

So our advice is to be kind - but firm - from the start.

Begin as you intend to continue, set and enforce the rules and make sure the whole family sticks to them.

It is important that the family works as a team - dogs understand team work and respond to routines, learning by habit and repetition. This helps to make them more secure in their pack and reinforces their position in the pecking order - which, in the case of a family pet, should be firmly at the bottom.

If you consider this you will understand that dogs can learn bad habits just as easily as desirable behaviour - if the examples set are wrong or the training methods inconsistent. So it is important that the whole family takes a consistent approach to the dog, sticking to the same commands and backing each other up. The Border Collie is a very intelligent breed and will quickly recognise and exploit any weakness.

Changing the Dogs Diet

Before you take the dog in, ensure that you have a sufficient supply of the brand of food that the dog is used to, so you can continue its normal feeding routine. If you change a diet too quickly the dog is likely to have an upset stomach and loose bowels.

This will not be much fun for you (or the dog).

It could even cause a breakdown of the dogs house-training.

If you wish, you can change the diet gradually over a period of 10 to 14 days, without causing stomach upsets, by gradually replacing a proportion of the usual food with the food you prefer to be feeding.

We suggest complete balanced dried foods with a protein base appropriate to the activity level of the dog. As a rough guide - Puppies need a high protein diet to encourage correct growth. From weaning to around 6 to 9 months a diet with 26% to 28% protein. After that, graduate to a Junior food with lower protein of around 24% to 26%.

Some puppy foods have a very high protein level and there is evidence to suggest that excessive protein can lead to health problems later in life as growth can be artificially ‘forced’. At 18 months the dog can go on to an adult diet of around 20% protein. Older dogs require lower protein levels.

It is important to understand that dogs - like people - are individuals. A dog with a sedentary lifestyle will require lower levels of protein and oil in their diet than a working dog that uses a lot of energy. If in any doubt, we would suggest that you spoke to your vet - or an independent and qualified canine nutritionist.

At Border Collie Rescue, we do not recommend feeding on tinned food and mixer. Our own experience suggests that this type of diet can increase hyperactivity levels, so we avoid it.

It is also best to avoid giving your dog the same foods as the family eats. This may give the dog the wrong impression of its position in the pack. Always bear in mind that, in the pack, top dogs eat first - and get the best of the pickings. Bottom dogs eat what is left, when the others have finished.


Helping the dog feel secure

A dog is a dog - not a little furry human - they think in a different way to us and if we want to relate to them we have to learn to think in their terms and understand their needs.

Don’t expect them to learn to think like us - humans are more intelligent than dogs and with superiority comes a responsibility - to get it right for them.

To a dog security comes in a very simple package - a place to sleep - something to eat - its position in the pack (family group) and stimulation, both mental and physical.


Somewhere to sleep

Every dog needs its space. It is important that your new dog should have a space of its own where it can retire to when it feels under pressure or in need of privacy.

When you have decided where the dog is going to sleep make sure that everyone in the family knows that this is the dogs personal area and if in its bed, not to disturb or harass it.

If the dog has done wrong do not chastise it in its bed. Do not make it a punishment to be sent to its bed - removal of privileges can be used as punishment.

The dog will probably want to retire to bed after a reprimand but, if it associates being sent to bed as a punishment it will have no retreat or place of sanctuary.

If the dog is to sleep indoors, locate the dogs bed in a room that is away from the special living areas of the family - the kitchen or a utility room or a recess of the hallway.

Avoid bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms - these are special areas where the dog should only be allowed a privilege - not as a right.

Never allow the dog to sleep on your bed or in a bedroom. If you do, the dog may get the wrong idea of its position in the ‘pack’.


Something to eat

Dogs eat dog food and thrive on a regular routine of feeding. They will know when its feeding time and will learn to expect their meals at the same time each day.

A regular routine will aid their security and also help regulate their bowel movements.

This will enable you to set up an exercise routine which will mean that the dog is outside when it most needs to relieve itself and will make house-training easier to teach & maintain.

However it is important that the feeding and exercise routines are fitted around your own lifestyle and schedule. Regularity is important but the dog needs to learn that it has to fit around you - not you around the dog

- which leads us on to -

A position in the family group

Dogs are pack animals and each dog has its position in the pack.

A family dog has its position at the bottom of the pack with the rest of the family higher up the pecking order. - This is important.

If it gets the wrong impression of its place in the family, the dog may become increasingly dominant, seeking to raise itself up the pecking order by asserting itself on the weaker members - usually the children at first.

Eventually it will think it is top dog and will proceed to sit in your chairs, steal your food and resist any attempts to move or prevent it, possibly going as far as biting anyone who interferes.

It doesn’t matter about the size of the dog - dominance is a state of mind - the dog must never be allowed to believe it is the most dominant member of its pack (your family).

If it does - you, or other members of your family, will loose control.

Give the dog the guidance it needs in these matters so its position is clearly understood - not only by the dog but by all the family.

Support the weaker willed members of the family when they instruct the dog and set up rules that everyone agrees to follow.

Dogs should only be allowed to share your space as a privilege, not as a matter of course.

So this means keeping them off your furniture, not allowing them to sleep on your bed and restricting the dog to certain rooms of the house.

Allowing the dog to be with you when it demands to be will enhance separation anxiety which will place the dog under stress when you have to leave it alone. - so don’t allow the dog to be with you ALL the time. Leave it alone in other rooms on occasions and don’t pay it attention on demand.

Help it to learn to have some independence so it can cope when you are not around.

  • Treats should only be given as a reward for following instructions correctly and then only on a random basis - not every time.
  • Don’t feed family scraps - only dog treats and never human chocolate, it is toxic to dogs.

    Border Collies usually get sufficient reward by knowing that they have got it right. Plenty of praise is needed.

Following these simple rules will help to place the whole family higher up the pecking order - providing you all stick to them. The dog will know its place, will be a happier pet and is more likely to behave itself when told.



A Border Collie will need plenty of exercise - again - regular routines help to make a dog more secure, so set up regular walks and outings and allow the dog some free running time but always include some lead work to ensure discipline is maintained.

For a Border Collie, mental stimulation is as important as physical - the BC is a working breed and the need to be doing something is common to all members.

Good quality toys that double as training aids are best - avoid squeaky toys & soft chewy balls - they are likely to over stimulate prey instincts. Use toys to play with the dog in the garden and out on walks

Encourage the dog to play on its own.

This also helps the dog to cope and pass time happily when you have to leave it on its own.

Leave it the toys and it may leave you with your furniture. In this way you will also decrease the chances of the dog causing itself injury by chewing a dangerous article while alone and bored.

Don’t wait when you get your new Border Collie.

Get into these routines from the start - and book into dog training classes - it will help the dog bond with you and teach it to obey you instantly when distracted or off the lead.

Be firm from day one - your dog will respect you and want to obey you - simply to please you. Praise should be the only reward you need to give.



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