Border Collies are intelligent, fiercely loyal, and unique looking dogs, so it’s no wonder that so many people think they’d make a great family pet. My own fascination with Border Collies began after seeing a Border Collie herding trial and marveling at the intelligence, skill, and beauty of these wonderful dogs. Six months later, I rescued a Border Collie from a shelter and within a few short days found myself wondering what I had gotten myself into. My curtains were eaten; my other pets were living in terror, and after destroying my entire house, this tiny insane puppy still had energy to run away and eat all of the neighbors’ plants. Completely undaunted by a day of terrorizing my house, my neighbors, and all of decent society, my Border Collie monster, rather than being tired, walked into my house, decided it wasn’t interesting enough for him, and jumped out the window.
Because I believe that adopting a dog means committing for life, it’s four years later and Brody, the Border Collie monster, has lived to terrorize many more neighbors, destroy many more treasured family heirlooms, and still found time in his busy schedule to occasionally poop in my bed. He’s eaten money out of my purse, “adopted” baby opossums, peed on my boyfriend’s business cards, developed 5,000 different barks to use in the middle of the night, broken into the homes of unsuspecting neighbors, and unlocked my cabinets in order to eat every conceivable poison on the list of the local poison control center.
These days, we’re living much more peacefully, but it’s taken a lot of work, a lot of energy, and a lot of knowledge of dog training. My story isn’t unique. Everyone who has become a successful Border Collie owner without ending up in a mental institution has a similar story to tell. While dog breed generally doesn’t matter nearly as much as training and socialization, Border Collies really are different from any other dog. They’re bred to be working dogs, which means they never run out of energy. And their high intelligence comes at a price. If you don’t teach them to do something useful, you can bet that your Border Collie will teach himself all kinds of tricks that are amusing to him and horrifying to you. A Border Collie isn’t for everyone, but they can be wonderful companion animals. If you’re thinking of getting one, here’s what you need to know:
Many people marvel at the amazing things working dog breeds can do and naturally want their own working dog. The problem, of course, is that dogs don’t come pre-trained. If you want your dog to play fetch or flyball, pick up the newspaper, or do some other complicated task, you have to teach her how to do it. The problem with Border Collies is that they have to work. It’s hardwired into their DNA, and a Border Collie will not sit peacefully at home while you’re at work. If you’re going to get a Border Collie, you have to train your dog to do something more interesting than just sit or stay. Your Border Collie must feel like he or she has a purpose. If not, your dog will find his own purpose, and in the case of my Border Collie, this often involved eating money and pooping in the bed. Training your dog early, and continuing with your dog’s education and game playing for the rest of his life is vital.
Getting Along With Other Dogs
Like all dogs, Border Collies must be socialized from a young age. However, if you already have one dog, it’s important to think long and hard before including a Border Collie into the mix. A Border Collie will run a normal dog ragged. Case in point: I thought my high energy German Shepherd puppy would be a great match for a wild and crazy Border Collie. Within hours of playing with the new Border Collie puppy, however, my German Shepherd was looking at me as if pleading for help. No matter how exhausted she seemed, he would repeatedly head butt her, bark at her, and taunt her till she played with him. Make sure your other dogs are given a break from your Border Collie and that they get one on one time with you. A Border Collie requires so much work that it can be easy to forget about showing attention to your other dogs. Don’t neglect this important component of forming a functioning dog pack, or you may end up with dog fights.
Border Collies have a powerful herding instinct that is difficult, if not impossible, to train away. Consider teaching your Border Collie the sport of flyball or even enrolling him in herding classes to give him an outlet for this instinct. If you’re not up for doing this, teach him to play fetch and teach him how to find and retrieve objects in your house. Keep in mind that a Border Collie will herd anything, including children, which means a Border Collie may bite children on the ankles. This is not an aggressive behavior; it’s simply your Border Collie doing what he was programmed to do. Border Collies may also chase dogs and kill animals if they do not have an outlet for their herding instinct. It’s very important to enlist the assistance of a skilled dog trainer to figure out how to manage this behavior.
The energy of my Border Collie is truly like nothing I have ever seen before. A simple walk around the block wil not wear these dogs out. Be prepared to provide your Border Collie with 2-3 hours of heavy exercise every day- running, swimming, playing tug, and other such activities are acceptable. Taking your dog to the dog park daily will also help him learn appropriate social behavior and lower his energy level a bit. Unlike many other dogs, your Border Collie will not happily sit by while you sleep or work. Be prepared to interact fequently, and give up on sleeping in altogether.
Border Collies and Children
Border Collies can be wonderful and loyal friends to young children, and if you have children this may help with burning off some of your Border Collie’s energy. However, without proper training and socialization, Border Collies can be dangerous to very young, rambunctious children. Screaming, running children look to Border Collies like animals that need to be herded and your Border Collie may bite your child on the ankles. He is not being aggressive, but this is a problem behavior that immediately needs to be remedied. Never leave a Border Collie alone with very young children, and teach your children how to behave appropriately around your dog.
Just like with people, it is easy for a Border Collie’s high energy to be converted into high anxiety. Without proper exercise, your dog may develop separation anxiety and other dysfunctional behaviors. If your Border Collie is behaving anxiously, it’s a sure sign he’s not getting something he needs. Consult a dog trainer experienced with Border Collies.
Border Collies can make life difficult, and they will certainly affect your schedule and lifestyle. However, Border Collies will help you get the exercise you need and can become loving family pets if well-trained and given lots of attention. The learning capacity of Border Collies is really unlimited, so you can look forward to a lifetime of teaching your Border Collie amazing tricks. Brody my Border Collie has grown up into a wonderful dog, but he still requires much time and attention. If you’re looking for a dog who will keep you active and keep you thinking, a Border Collie may be the perfect match. If, however, you’re looking for a quiet family pet, choose another dog.