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The Border Collie as a Pet

The Border Collie is a working breed.
They have been bred for many generations to fulfill a useful role for man - that of herding and protecting livestock.

Over hundreds of years farmers, shepherds and other stockmen have kept dogs for that one purpose and have intentionally bred them to strengthen the instincts that they rely on to carry out this work.

Like most dog breeds, the Border Collie has been designed for a purpose.
What lies behind the design are natural inclinations and instinctive responses to stimuli which have been built on by training and breeding over hundreds of years to embed these propensities in the dogs very reason for existence and these instinctive reactions have become part of the breeds character.

No-one sat down with a slide rule and paper and worked out what a Border Collie needed to be but the design is deliberate and the dog has strong, ingrained  instinctive reactions as a result of it.
It is these instincts that causes problems to people who wish to keep a Border Collie as a pet.

The look of a sheepdog dog has never been a prime consideration. Emphasis has been placed on ability and intelligence.
Brains before Beauty
The breed is ruled by instinct and most Border Collies have a deep rooted drive to be active, challenged and stimulated.
They need to work.

If this need is unfulfilled the dog can become frustrated, irritable, unpredictable in behaviour.

Border Collies become very confused when daily routines and life style restricts freedom, exercise and mental stimulation.

In short, under some circumstances, they can make very unhappy pets.
Ultimately an unhappy dog will make a very unhappy owner.

What are the problems ?
Whilst the majority of Border Collies are eager to please, quick to learn, loyal and kind, some will still chase anything that moves, often nipping at their targets.

Chasing is natural behaviour for a Border Collie
It only becomes a problem when the target is human - perhaps a child - a fast moving vehicle or another dog ( that may not take kindly to being rounded up and penned in a corner ).
During training as a working sheepdog the inclination to 'grip' is controlled and surplus energy can be worked off - but without firm training to control this instinct, problems arise.

Some Border Collies become possessive over toys, food or their owners.
The breed has a natural inclination to bond closely with one person. This ability enables the dog to respond and work with its handler & other dogs - as a team. Without work and exercise to take the edge off the dogs intensity this bonding can result in over possessiveness. People or other dogs are warned off or can be bitten in pre-emptive defence.

Border Collies are not a naturally aggressive breed but they are very energetic and can easily be pushed over the top and become hyperactive.
Overstimulation easily occurs in Border Collies that are frustrated with their lifestyle and frequently occurs when owners try to excite their dogs. After a few occurrences hyperactivity can be triggered automatically.
When young Border Collies require a great deal of exercise, in particular mental stimulation, to work off excess energy.
The need for mental stimulation is for life but as adults they do not necessarily need copious exercise, just enough to keep them healthy and fit.

If a border Collie is not getting sufficient exercise and mental stimulation it will become unhappy and bored.
Boredom is often their downfall.
If left alone in a house a Border Collie will usually find something to do to pass the time.

All dogs naturally chew things and chewing can help pass time if there is nothing better to do.
A young frustrated Border Collie can totally wreck a room in a few hours - an older dog may take more because it has the experience to savour such moments. but it can be just as effective!

What does a Border Collie need from its owner ?
Most of all - plenty of mental stimulation and the company and guidance of it's chosen leader.
They also need security, regular routines, regular exercise and the freedom to think without being suppressed.

A working Border Collie may cover 20 miles on an average day and many will effortlessly cover much more as part of a normal days work. It is a lot of running and exercise but it is not done at high speed or all day or even for long periods.
When herding the running and gathering is spaced out between slower steady periods of gently and carefully moving stock.
Along with this exercise comes a lot of mental stimulation as the dog thinks about its task and judges how to do best what is required to get the job done. Once it knows what is needed it is intelligent enough to be able to work out how to achieve it.
The need for mental stimulation, company and strong leadership cannot be emphasised enough.
If you don't have time to interact with a Border Collie and provide it with companionship, do not get one.

Border Collies usually prefer to bond to one person.
They have an inherited instinct to do so because they are designed to work with one person as a team.
In family situations this can cause problems when the chosen leader is absent.
These problems can range from separation anxiety to rejection of the rest of the family, ignoring their commands and even refusing to relate to them or rejecting them aggressively.
It is up to the chosen leader, the person the dog relates to most, to train the dog to accept others, be independent of one persons company and embrace all and do what it is told by any family member. This is not an easy task.

Your Border Collie needs companionship - yours!
The companionship is needed on a one to one level preferably with some interaction involved where dog and handler do things together. Strong leadership is required and sensitivity.
To work at what they are best at, herding, the Border Collie needs to be very sensitive so often do not respond well to heavy handling.

Border Collies need some sort of reason or purpose to their lives - preferably something to do that requires training and discipline but allows the dog to think for itself and make its own decisions as part of its activities. This needs to be a shared activity to best satisfy the dogs needs.

A Border Collie will also require time, attention, training and guidance.
They like to get things right and need to be shown what is correct behaviour and what is unacceptable. There chosen leader needs to be able to pride these requirements.
Without this training and guidance the dog will revert to its instincts to tell it how to behave.
These instincts are misplaced in a pet home.

It is a myth that the Border Collie is an easy breed of dog to train and control.
The well trained and faithful dogs that are seen on TV and at sheepdog trials give the wrong impression of the breed.

To achieve these standards of control requires a great deal of time and work from the dog and from the handler.


All this needs to be born in mind if you are thinking about taking on a Border Collie as a pet.

It's not so much what you want from a dog, its more like what you can give to the dog, Can you fulfill its needs?

It requires effort and adapting lifestyle to accommodate the dog - the dog will be willing to work at it - will you?

As a Border Collie owner you will need to work as hard as your dog and give it some priority in your life.

Any other relationship would be unfair to the dog.

If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please do not write to us or email us - we want to speak to you before we start the process.
Please phone us during office hours. Details here.
Calls to our office and mobile will only be answered during our office hours