Black and white young Border Collie

Border Collie

Smarter, sensibler Workaholic

The Border Collie has been bred for centuries to work as a herding dog and he fulfils this task with aplomb. He wants to live out his extraordinary intelligence and athleticism - if not in herding sheep, then in dog sports. Agility, obedience, search or trick training are fun for many Border Collies. For people with the time, energy and desire to spend time with him, the Border Collie can be a wonderful companion and family dog.

Top Facts

  • Instinctive herding dogs through the centuries
  • Breeding lines: Working dog and modern problem dog?
  • Enduring, fast and sporty: for active people
  • Amiable and friendly, as long as they are used to their full potential
  • Intelligent working dog: task is needed
  • Kings of agility - when there are no sheep...

Breed Overview

Height
46,0 - 56,0 cm
Weight
12,0 - 20,0 kg
Life Expectancy
11 - 14 years
Use as
Herding, cattle and companion dog
Origin
Great Britain
Coat
Medium length coat
Personality
Very intelligent, sensitive and active

Personality

Border Collies are strongly influenced by their role as herding dogs

What does it mean to experience a herding dog in everyday life?

Border Collies were bred as hardworking dogs in England and Scotland to herd sheep in all weathers. This still very much shapes their needs, temperament and behaviour today - behaviour which is not always desirable in normal everyday life.

Sprinters and marathon runners: The main thing is exercise

Herding dogs need a very high level of fitness and endurance to keep flocks of up to 1000 sheep together. They have to circle the sheep, react fast as lightning and sprint quickly to bring runaways back to the flock. So it is no surprise that Border Collies have a great urge to move. They are not satisfied with walks around the block but need about two hours of exercise, where they can really let off steam.

Border Collies learn quickly and are consistently rated as the most intelligent dogs

Border Collies are very intelligent and they learn quickly. They already have to react to the finest signals from the shepherds at a great distance. Unfortunately, this also means that they can adopt undesirable behaviours at lightning speed. Therefore, experienced owners or those who like to be supported by good trainers are in demand.

Fixating looks paired with great self-confidence

Border Collies have developed their own working style. They do not work like "huntaways" or even "heelers" who chase sheep with barking and light snapping at the legs. As "strong-eyed dogs" they fix sheep in their gaze and force their will and direction on them. They are very confident in doing so. Typical of the breed is a crouched posture and fixed gaze with which they almost hypnotise other animals, or even humans. This can lead to misunderstandings and can be badly received by other dogs. Humans can also feel irritated by it.

Border Collies react very quickly and independently to visual stimuli

When herding, Border Collies must independently track down lost sheep and bring them back to the flock. As a herding dog, a Border Collie must not think twice about retrieving a sheep that separates from the flock. He must act quickly and independently. In doing so, Borders react very strongly to visual stimuli.

Under-exercised Border Collies may look for other objects to herd in order to pursue their passion. On walks, for example, the family is fixed and circled. If "the sheep" does not want to follow at all, physical enforcement can also follow. After all, the Border Collie is supposed to assert itself against sheep.

All moving objects are ideally suited for the game of fixation and lightning-fast chasing. This includes joggers, cyclists, children and even cars. Of course, this is not only undesirable but can also be dangerous, and must consistently and gently be redirected.

Herding dogs do not hunt, do they? Originally, herding dogs were also hunting dogs, but they were trained not to bite and kill. Border Collies react quickly to movement stimuli and there are quite a few that, due to lack of training and other tasks, chase after the supposed prey.

The Border Collie needs a task for his intelligence and athleticism

Since very few of us have a flock of sheep for the Border Collie to work off, alternative occupations are needed. One dog sport that requires intelligence and also stamina is agility. Border Collies are the kings of agility.

But obedience, dog dancing or trick training are also very good ways to keep your Border Collie busy and have fun together. By the way, Border Collies also have a good sense of smell, so nose work is very enjoyable for some of them.

Rico (1994-2008), who could recognise 250 toys by name, showed how intelligent Border Collies are. He became famous with his talent on TV shows like the German "Wetten, dass...?".

The Club for British Sheepdogs sums up the needs of the Border Collie very well: "The Border Collie is a demanding dog who expects practical as well as mental tasks from his human partner and a consistent leadership". There is almost nothing more to add to this, except....

These occasionally hyperactive workers must learn to be calm

No herding dog works all the time. There are always days when the sheep stay in the barn and there is no task for the Border Collie. These dogs are used to this; however, Border Collies would never allow themselves to rest and can ramp up very quickly. This is why it is so important to give them rest breaks.

Border Collies quickly become ball junkies, because most of them love balls. But be careful: the hunting and herding instinct can really be fuelled by this. Your dog will then simply not be able to rest. Therefore ball games are taboo for many Border Collies, or at most should only take place in moderation.

Working line and show line

In Border Collies there are the so-called working lines and also the show lines. The working line, which still produces the best sheep herding dogs, is bred for their working ability and their ability to herd sheep and to understand the shepherd's versatile commands. The show line is increasingly bred for appearance and efforts are being made to breed dogs that are suitable for everyday life and families.

However, this does not exclude the possibility that a Border from the working line may not like to herd, or that a strong herding instinct may come through in a Border from the show line.

If you have the time, energy and desire to spend time with your dog and train him consistently and gently, you will be happy with a Border Collie. Well trained Border Collies can be excellent family dogs. But they are by no means the family dog that runs alongside and doesn't need much stimulation.

Intelligence

Border Collies are extremely intelligent and quick learners. They are considered the most intelligent dog breed. A Border Collie named Rico (1994- 2008) became famous on television because he could distinguish between over 250 toys. Rico became the object of scientific research, which was published in the journal Science, among others.

Attention

Border Collies want to please their owners and have a pronounced "will-to-please", i.e. a very high zeal coupled with a strong attention span. This dog wants to please and work!

Exercise needs

Border Collies, as persistent herding dogs, have a very high urge to move. They need about two hours of activity and exercise per day.

As Border Collies can get very excited very quickly and do not allow themselves to rest on their own, they need to be taught to be calm.

Time required

Border Collies are working dogs, but very few of them are also used for herding sheep in the UK.  As they are intelligent, athletic and independent, they need consistent training and a task that challenges them mentally. They also need rest periods so that they do not become over-excited.

Training

As a herding dog and workaholic, the Border Collie needs a task that challenges him both physically and mentally. Not around the clock, of course - with this agile and sensitive dog, which always wants to fulfil its tasks, the human must pay attention to rest phases.

The following dog sports and activities can be fun for Border Collies:

  • Agility
  • Obedience
  • Competition dog sports
  • Tricktraining
  • Dog-Dancing
  • Search games
  • Tracking work

Suitable for flats

Border Collies are suitable for flat living, provided they have sufficient mental and physical exercise. When keeping the dog indoors, it is important to remember that Border Collies may have a tendency to bark.

Larger dogs that you cannot carry for long periods of time should be kept in a flat at ground level or in a flat that can be reached by lift. This is because puppies should not be allowed to climb stairs; in the case of senior citizens or in the event of illness, this may no longer be possible. You may be able to carry a dog weighing between 12-20 kg as an exception, but certainly not over a longer period of time.

Loyalty & friendliness

Border Collies are very loyal and devoted to their owners, provided the owner treats them sensitively and consistently and does not betray their trust.

Hunting drive

It is unfortunately a common misconception that herding dogs have no hunting instinct. Herding dogs have been bred out of tearing game and livestock, but they react very much to visual stimuli and, in a manner similar to hunting, creep up on the game or livestock and circle them.

If you’re unlucky (and depending on socialisation, upbringing and breeding) the Border Collie will not only chase game but could snatch it. In any case he would be fast, persistent and clever enough.

Staying alone

Owners of Border Collies often have the feeling that a second shadow is following them: their dog. Border Collies are very people-oriented, but also independent. With early training and trust, they should be able to be left alone for a few hours, like all dogs.

Dogs should generally not be left alone for more than four hours.

Barking

Border Collies can when excited – and these dogs can get themselves in a rage very quickly! – bark a lot. There are very calm representatives of this breed, but unfortunately the opposite also exist.

Alertness

Herding dogs like the Border Collie also like to guard. They can range from extremely territorial to calm. Within the show line there are representatives who eye up strangers briefly and then are pleased to meet them. In the working line, on the other hand, you are more likely to find representatives who become very territorial without consistent and gentle training. This goes from "I don't let strangers into my home" to "This is my place and no one has any business here".

Protecting

Border Collies are not suitable as pure protectors, although many of them would certainly defend their humans.

Dog-friendly

Again, early socialisation with other dogs and avoiding bad experiences in the imprinting period is the best foundation for later compatibility. Border Collies are not always very interested in other dogs but can also show their teeth if another dog seems to be too intrusive. Their hypnotic fixating gaze and crouched creeping easily causes irritation and communication problems with other dogs.

Pet-friendly

Due to their strong herding and hunting instincts, compatibility with cats and other animals is not automatically a given. Of course there are exceptions, but this requires a lot of patience.

Kid-friendly

Border Collies are by nature friendly towards children. The dogs should be brought up consistently and affectionately and accustomed to children at an early age. Provided they are exercised, Border Collies can also make good family dogs.

At the same time, children should also learn how to handle dogs properly. Again, it depends on the breeding line; a Border Collie from the working line might be more likely to try to see the children as his "sheep". Problems with children may then occur: Border Collies that start to herd children can - if the children do not comply with their wish - also injure them with bites. In a bite statistic from the USA (1994-2013) in which dog bites on children were recorded and examined, the Collie breeds were surprisingly far ahead in 7th place.

Openness to strangers

Border Collies, as original working dogs, had little contact with people. Therefore, good socialisation and habituation to strangers is particularly important. Due to the herding instinct, strangers who move or are at a distance are often seen as herding objects, which is of course undesirable. Generally, however, well-socialised and well-bred Border Collies are polite and friendly towards people and therefore also towards strangers.

Character & Compatibility

Personality
Intelligence
Attention
Exercise needs
Training
Loyalty
Barking
Alertness
Suitable for...
Living in a flat
Hunting
Staying alone
Protecting
Beginners
Compatible with...
Dogs
Other pets
Children
Strangers

Health and Care

Healthy with breed-specific weaknesses

Although Border Collies are robust and not very genetically manipulated dogs, they are quite susceptible to some genetic diseases of the eyes, nervous system and metabolism, and react very sensitively to medication or even food. Epilepsy is also becoming more and more common in Border Collies. Unfortunately, Border Collies are not spared from HD and heart disease. It is therefore advisable to look out for reputable breeders who have tested their breeding dogs beforehand for diseases that frequently occur in Border Collies, thus significantly minimising the risk of the puppies falling ill.

Robustness

Border Collies are relatively robust and natural dogs, but quite sensitive and plagued with some genetic diseases in the breeding lines.

Health Problems

The following diseases may be more common in Border Collies than in other dog breeds. It is best to ask your breeder what diseases the parents have been tested for.

The following diseases can occur much more frequently in Border Collies than in other dog breeds:

  • Collie Eye Anomalie (CEA), genetic eye disease
  • Deafness and hearing loss

The following conditions are slightly more common in Border Collies than in other dog breeds:

  • MDR1 gene defect (multi-drug resistance) - Note: Certain tick medications and anaesthetics can be dangerous for Border Collies!
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA))
  • Glaucoma
  • Merle factor: trendy colours with health consequences
  • Hip joint dysplasia (HD)
  • Elbow dysplasia (ED)
  • eHereditary epilepsy
  • Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS) - white blood cells cannot enter the bloodstream. Affected dogs often die young, but in rare cases medication can help
  • Sensory Neuropathy (SN) - a very severe and incurable disease of the nervous system that starts in young dogs
  •  Canine ceroid lipofuscinosis (CCL) - genetic disease of the nerve cells
  • Imerslund-Grasbeck syndrome (IGS) - impaired absorption of vitamin B12 leads to neurological problems. (See Nutrition)

Heat tolerance

The Border Collie can tolerate heat relatively well despite its dense coat with undercoat. However, he is not made for heat.

Cold tolerance

Border Collies can tolerate cold well.

Grooming

Grooming tips for the Border Collie

Border Collies are not very high maintenance. However, you should brush and comb the dense and long coat regularly. It should be brushed at least weekly (and daily during the coat change).

As with all dogs, the paws should be checked regularly and groomed as needed. In particular, the claws should be trimmed regularly if they do not shed on their own. Reading tip: Paw care in dogs.

As Border Collies have a lot of hair and more or less hanging ears, these can tend to have poor ventilation and should be checked and groomed regularly. Reading tip: Ear care in dogs. Reading Tip: Ear care in dogs.

Border Collies can be prone to eye disease, so it is particularly useful to check the eyes regularly. Reading tip: Eye care in dogs.

Be careful with flea and tick protection for Border Collies

As Border Collies can suffer from MDR1 or epilepsy, you should only use flea and tick products on Border Collies that can also be used under these conditions. Seek advice from your vet. You can have your Border Collie tested for MDR 1 before using any medication. There are special tick repellents that are suitable for these dogs. Also, for dogs with epilepsy, many of the tick and flea medications should be used with caution or perhaps not at all. Reading tip: Tick protection: How to protect your dog from ticks.

Another reading tip Dental care in dogs.


Bathing

Border Collies - and all other dog breeds - do not need to be bathed and shampooed regularly. However, if they smell, e.g. because your dog has rolled around in something smelly, then a bath is due simply from the owner's point of view.

Combing & Brushing

The following applies to both types of coat (short and long): the dog should be well brushed at least once or twice a week. During the coat change, on the other hand, daily brushing is the order of the day.

Shedding

Border Collies tend to shed especially during the coat change.

Clip & Trim

Border Collies do not need to be clipped or trimmed. Even in summer their coat should never be clipped, as this can destroy the coat structure and make the dog susceptible to sunburn.

Hypoallergenic

Border Collies are subject to seasonal shedding. When their coat changes they can shed heavily. They are not one of the hypoallergenic dog breeds, which cause fewer allergies in humans.

There is no dog breed that is 100% hypoallergenic and does not cause allergies in humans. This is because each person and their allergy are individual and it is always advisable, if you have an existing allergy to animals or suspect you may have one, to test this on the very dog you are moving in with before you get the dog.

If you want to get a dog despite allergies, we recommend this article:  Dogs for Allergy Sufferers: Living with a Dog Despite Allergies. 

Drooling

As Border Collies have a long snout, they do not tend to drool.

Health & Care

Health
Robustness
Heat tolerance
Cold tolerance
Health Problems
Hypoallergenic
Grooming
Bathing
Brushing
Shedding
Clipping & Trimming
Drooling

Nutrition

Ensure a natural and balanced diet

The Border Collie's diet - as with all living creatures - has a very great influence on his health. A species-appropriate diet that is as natural as possible, with plenty of meat and all the important nutrients, helps to keep the Border Collie healthy.

Special case Border Collie: Imerslund-Gräsbeck syndrome can occur more frequently in Border Collies than in other dog breeds. If your Border Collie has Imerslund-Gräsbeck syndrome, a timely and sustained supply of vitamin B12 is necessary, as affected dogs cannot absorb enough vitamin B12 (cobalamin) from food and this can lead to severe and permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system.

 



Greediness

Border Collies are generally not very greedy, but they love their food. Due to their intense urge to exercise, they should not be prone to obesity unless the owner commits serious dietary errors.

Appearance

Agile, usually multi-coloured dogs with longer coats

Border Collies are athletic, agile, medium-sized dogs that have long been bred for their work as herding dogs rather than for looks.

As a result, they can vary in size, colour and appearance: Their coat can be short or long; their ears can stand or even tilt. Mostly they are multicoloured, as this enabled shepherds to distinguish them visually from sheep at a long distance.

They are between 46-56cm tall and weigh 12-20kg.

They are bred for endurance as well as short, fast sprints to keep flocks of over 1,000 animals together and herded. Movements are fluid and they are known for their crouching, creeping, fast trot and fixed gaze.

Eye colour

Most have brown eyes. These can range from light brown to almost black.

Coat

The coat of the Border Collie can be short haired or semi-long. The coat should also be short and smooth on the face, ears and legs. The top coat is always dense with a soft and dense undercoat to protect the Border in all weather conditions.

Coat Colour

A variety of colours are allowed in Border Collies, but according to the FCI, white should never be the predominant colour. These are the accepted colours according to the UK Kennel Club:

  • Black & White
  • Black Tricolour
  • Black White & Tan
  • Blue & White
  • Blue Merle
  • Blue Merle & Tan
  • Blue Merle & White
  • Blue Sable
  • Blue Sable & White
  • Blue Tricolour
  • Blue Tricolour Merle
  • Blue White & Tan
  • Brown & White
  • Brown Merle
  • Sable
  • Brown Merle & White
  • Brown Sable
  • Brown Sable & White
  • Brown Tricolour
  • Brown Tricolour Merle
  • Brown White & Tan
  • Chocolate & White
  • Cream
  • Gold
  • Gold & White
  • Gold Merle & White
  • Gold Sable
  • Gold Sable & White
  • Lilac
  • Lilac & White
  • Lilac Merle
  • Lilac Merle & White
  • Lilac Tricolour
  • Lilac Tricolour Merle
  • Red & White
  • Red Merle & White
  • Red Tricolour
  • Red Tricolour Merle
  • Red White & Tan
  • Sable & White
  • Sable Blue Merle
  • Sable Merle
  • Sable Merle & White
  • Seal
  • Seal & White
  • Slate
  • Slate & White
  • Slate Merle
  • Slate Merle & White
  • Slate Tricolour Merle

History and origin

Herding dogs have been in demand since the Neolithic Age

FCI-Classification

No. 297

Origin

The country of origin of the Border Collies is Great Britain. They come from the borderland between England and Scotland.

History

Man has kept dogs close to him as early as the Stone Age, as protectors and for support during hunting. It was not until the New Stone Age (in Europe between 5,500-2,200 BC), when humans began to settle down, that dogs were also given the task of herding and protecting livestock. By the way, reindeer were originally herded by dogs.

Nordic dog breeds as ancestors?

Most herding dogs, including Collies, probably descended from the early Nordic dog breeds. These already had a dense coat with undercoat and standing or tipped ears. At the same time, they were alert and spirited.

The first descendants of these Nordic dog breeds came to England with various invaders and mixed there with native dogs. Caesar landed on the island for the first time as early as 55 BC. From 43 AD under Claudius, Roman rule began, which lasted for over 350 years. The Romans brought their cattle and large herding dogs to the island. In 789 it was the Vikings who landed in England, and they brought smaller and more agile dogs to the island. From all these different dogs, the best herding dogs on the island were bred.

Sheep farming in England needs capable herding dogs

From the 15th century onwards, sheep farming began to spread in England and with it the wool industry developed. Ever larger flocks of sheep required good herding dogs..

Pictures from the Middle Ages show herding dogs, already not dissimilar to Border Collies, rounding up flocks of sheep in England and Scotland. The first descriptions of the appearance and working styles of medium-sized herding dogs were given in England in 1570 by Dr. John Caius in his book of English dogs (De Canibus Britannicus, A Treatise on Englishe Dogges). These herding dogs were the direct ancestors of the Border Collies.

These smart workaholics made herding competitions popular from 1873 onwards

More planned breeding took place in Scotland at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of herding competitions, the so-called "Sheepdog Trials", which were first established by the "International Sheep Dog Society" (ISDS) in 1873. In the case of Border Collies, the breeding was aimed at the “strong-eyed dog” hypnotically fixing the sheep in its gaze in order to impose will and direction on them. The competitions are still very popular in England today.

"Old Hemp" - ancestor of the Border Collies

One male in particular stood out here and was widely used for breeding because of his abilities. "Old Hemp" (1893-1901), who belonged to the shepherd Adam Telfer, is considered the ancestor of today's Border Collies.

When the stud book of the Border Collie breed was kept by the Sheep Dog Society in 1915, "Old Hemp" was the ninth entry out of 300,000 dogs. It should be mentioned that he was entered too late, otherwise he would have been in first place.

In all the herding competitions held by the "Sheep Dog Society" between 1906 and 1951, the winners were almost exclusively the descendants of "Old Hemp", who was commemorated in 2014.

Where does the name "Border Collie" come from?

The first part is easily answered: The English word "border" means boundary. The Border Collie got the first part of his name from the border region between England and Scotland, where he did his herding work in the hills and mountains. Nowadays, "Collie" is the English term for all shepherd or working dogs in addition to the well-known dog breed "Collie." The origin of the word "Collie" is, however, somewhat disputed.

It is certain that the name was written "Colley" until the beginning of the 19th century and then became "Collie". There are the following variations on the meaning of the word, the last one being the most probable:

  1. The origin could go back to the Latin word "collaborare", meaning "to work together", which seems logical insofar as the dogs had to work closely with their owners and with the sheep they had to herd.
  2. The Welsh "coelio", meaning faithful, trustworthy, is also very close to the term "collie" and fits this type of dog to a tee.
  3. Many people look for the origin of the word "Collie" in the Gaelic "colley", which means "to lead back" or "useful". Of course this sounds very plausible when you look at the Collie's task: he leads the sheep back to the barn or to his owner.
  4. Most likely, however, is the following explanation of the name, which is much simpler: "Cal" means "black" in Anglo-Saxon. This could be the origin of the term "Collie", as the dogs in Scotland originally herded the black-headed sheep, which was called "Colley" because of its black head.

Breed standard and recognition of the breed

Interesting to know: The "International Sheep Dog Society" has not yet (2021) published a breed standard for the Border Collies, because for them only the working performance counts and not the appearance.

  • In 1961 the Border Collie was recognised by the United Kennel Club in the USA.
  • In 1976 the Border Collie was recognised by The Kennel Club in England and also recognised by the FCI.
  • In 1978, the Club for British Sheepdogs took over the care of the studbook.
  • In 1995, the Border Collie was recognised by the American Kennel Club. Incidentally, this is the same year that the film "A Little Pig Called Babe" was released. The story of the piglet Babe, who has his adventures with the puppies of the Border Collie bitch Fly, has made Border Collies popular all over the world.

There are now different breeding lines and the pure working lines have been joined by the show line, which places more emphasis on appearance, family suitability and calmer dogs.

Border Collie summary

Border Collies - Sensitive working dogs with a strong herding instinct


Border Collies are a dog breed very much bred for herding. They are very persistent, fast, athletic and easy to train. But despite their amiability they are not dogs for beginners, as they are intelligent and independent. The herding instinct cannot be omitted from any breeding line and can lead to severe problems in everyday life if the dog is not trained consistently and caringly from the beginning. For people who can train dogs and want to work with them, this sensitive herding dog who loves to work is ideal.

Restrictions

Merle - a beauty with a price

Merle refers to a particular lightening shading of the coat, often accompanied by one or even two blue eyes. However, this very popular look has its price. Even though not every merle dog has to show a clinical picture right away, dogs bred from two carriers are definitely ill; carriers of the gene can also show symptoms early. In merle breedings, congenital defects such as deafness and blindness often occur in the puppies. This is why this breeding variant is banned in Germany and is referred to as "torture breeding" because it is a breeding of defects that makes the dog suffer. In the UK you are still able to get a merle Border Collie.

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