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Known as one of the smartest dog breeds, the Border Collie is agile, intelligent, and filled with boundless energy. Originally bred in Scotland and England for herding livestock like sheep, these dogs have a strong work drive and ability to comprehend and execute commands quickly.
Of course, the Border Collie's allure goes well beyond its work ethic. They're beautiful, eye-catching dogs with sleek, double coats and expressive eyes. Their intelligence often makes them easily trainable, but as active, smart dogs, they require a good combination of both physical exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
Keep reading to learn more about the Border Collie.
- History & Origin of Border Collies
- Physical Attributes of Border Collies
- Behavioral Characteristics of Border Collies
- Border Collie Health Risks
- Caring For a Border Collie
- Final Notes
History & Origin of Border Collies
Border Collies are sheepdogs originally used around the English-Scottish border 300 years ago.1 They're a mix of ancient-era herding dogs and are said to be one of the most intelligent and athletic breeds.
The Border Collie gets its name from working primarily in the border region.2 These dogs were bred for livestock farming and wool trade throughout the United Kingdom. There are several variations in Border Collies today due to indiscriminate breeding, the result of demand across the wool trade.2
These dogs were exported all over the world to farms and ranches, coming to the United States for this specific purpose.2 The dog's features and attributes were further refined through trials and selective breeding programs.
The modern-day Border Collie remains true to its herding roots. However, their intelligence, affectionate nature, and adaptability have also made them treasured home companions, forming a deep ever-lasting bond with their pet parents.
Physical Attributes of Border Collies
- Height: 18-22 in.
- Weight: 30-55 lbs.
- Lifespan: 12-15 years1
The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog known for its agility and grace. They have a double coat that's either smooth or wavy, with the wavy being more feathery. The smooth variety is slightly shorter and coarser.3 The traditional black and white Border Collie is the most well-known. However, they come in a variety of different colors and patterns, including blue merle, red merle, brindle, and solid colors.3
Border Collies' eyes can be brown or blue or have heterochromia, in which the eyes are different colors. Their ears are medium-sized and set apart. They can either be erect or semi-erect.
The Border Collie has a balanced and athletic body, ideal for farm or ranch life. Their body is longer than it is tall, with a deep chest and well-defined ribs. The Border Collie's tail is moderately long, set low, and typically carried in a slight upward curve.
Behavioral Characteristics of Border Collies
Collies are most known for their intelligence and ability to learn quickly and grasp new commands and tricks eagerly.3 Their active nature complements this intelligence. Because they were bred for herding animals across vast expanses, Border Collies often have ceaseless amounts of energy and require regular physical activity and mental stimulation to serve as proper outlets.3 Otherwise, they can become restless or even engage in undesirable behaviors.
Their alertness is another hallmark trait, with Border Collies often tuned into their surroundings and subtle cues from their pet parents. This quality makes them responsible and able to react quickly in almost any situation.
While Border Collies are often affectionate with their family, they also tend to be highly independent because they were bred to make decisions on their own to properly herd animals. This independence shouldn't be mistaken as stubbornness. Instead, they have confidence in their own decision-making, especially when herding other animals.
These dogs have a hard-working nature rooted deeply in their ancestry.1 Luckily, that doesn't mean you have to own a farm to keep them happy. Instead, they can participate in sports or engage in play several times a day. The overall blend of intelligence, alertness, and work ethic ensures that Border Collies in the right environment with the right training can be loyal companions whether they're working or not.
Border Collie Health Risks
Whether you find a Border Collie for sale by a reputable breeder or go through a Border Collie rescue, you'll want to make sure they're screened for various health issues. Border Collies are robust and generally healthy, but they are predisposed to certain hereditary conditions, such as:
- Hip Dysplasia: Border Collies can suffer from hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint doesn't develop correctly and can lead to arthritis, limping, and lameness.4
- Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): This inherited condition affects the eyes and can lead to blindness in severe cases. Regular checkups and genetic testing can identify carriers or affected dogs early on.4
- Epilepsy: Some Border Collies may suffer from epilepsy, leading to seizures.4 This condition can be managed with medications, but you should get a proper diagnosis as soon as possible if your dog suffers from a seizure.
- Allergies: All dogs can suffer from allergies caused by certain foods, environmental factors, and topical irritants. Symptoms range from skin irritations to ear infections and digestive issues.
- Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS): TNS is a genetic health issue that can lead to chronic infection and is only found in Border Collies. This condition is not curable and is considered fatal, but treatment options are available.4
Caring For a Border Collie
Border Collies are strong dogs and generally healthy. Caring for one of these dogs means embracing their energy, intelligence, and loyalty. They thrive with consistent training, ample exercise, and mental stimulation. Proper care will ensure their physical well-being while nurturing their bright minds.
All dogs require regular veterinary checkups to ensure they're free from common conditions. Vaccinations, deworming, and flea and tick preventives should also be kept up to date by visiting your vet at least once a year. Border Collie puppies should visit the vet more often. You can discuss your dog's vaccination or wellness schedule with your vet.
Border Collies have smooth or rough coats that require regular grooming. Brushing several times a week and more during the shedding season can remove loose hair while preventing matting and keeping their coat healthy.1 You can bathe them as needed, depending on their exposure to dirt and level of activity.
In addition to skin and coat care, you should keep their nails trimmed to prevent them from snagging on things like carpet or furniture or breaking and causing pain or infection. Because these dogs are highly energetic, you should routinely check their pads for injuries.
Border Collies were bred to work, so they require mental and physical exercise daily, including rigorous play and a long walk or jog for at least an hour.1 This breed enjoys herding, fetching, jumping, and running.1 For mental stimulation, consider sports, such as agility training, obedience training, nose work, or dock diving.
Border Collies typically require a fenced yard of their own where they can go to expel their energy. However, if you don't have a yard for them to play off-leash, you can exercise their mind with enrichment indoors with puzzle toys and trick training.
Like all dogs, Border Collies thrive on a high-quality diet made for their active lifestyle. Their food should meet their age, weight, and activity level requirements. Talk to a Dutch vet today if you're unsure what or how much to feed your dog.
Do Border Collies bark a lot?
Border Collies are known to be vocal and prone to barking because of their watchful nature. Their natural herding instincts can drive them to bark as means to move or control other animals but don't be surprised if you find your Border Collie trying to herd you, too.
This breed is also known for its intelligence and alertness, which make it aware of its surroundings, so they may bark at unfamiliar noises, strangers, or other animals. Additionally, some dogs bark when they're bored or attention-seeking. A Border Collie puppy needs proper training, socialization, and enough mental and physical stimulation to help reduce excessive barking.
Are Border Collies high-maintenance?
Any dog can be high maintenance, depending on your definition. However, because Border Collies are so active, they may be considered high-maintenance pets to some individuals. Because of this, they're best suited for individuals and families who share the same activity level and enjoy spending time outdoors.
Are Border Collies good pets?
All dogs are different. Border Collies are very active, so they're best for pet parents with the same lifestyle and preferences. Given their heritage as herding dogs, they thrive in environments with ample exercise and mental stimulation. If they don't receive the needed stimulation, they can become bored and engage in undesirable behaviors.
Border Collies are often intelligent, highly energetic dogs known for being highly trainable. They possess a natural drive for activity and often thrive best with pet parents who lead an active lifestyle, appreciate mental and physical challenges, and can provide consistent training and engagement.Take care of your Border Collie with Dutch. Our licensed vets can provide advice, diagnosis, and treatment from the comfort of your home to ensure your agile companion receives the care they need for optimal health and wellness. Try Dutch today.
“Border Collie.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 20 June 2023, www.britannica.com/animal/border-collie.
James, Helen Lee. "Border Collie History: The Herding Dog's Development through Time." American Kennel Club, 28 Sept. 2021, www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/border-collie-history-the-herding-dogs-development-through-time/.
Kriss, Randa. “Border Collie Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/border-collie/.
Paul, Tiffany. "Border Collie." PetMD, 8 June 2022, www.petmd.com/dog/breeds/border-collie.