Everything First-Time Border Collie Owners Need To Know

The Border Collie dog was first bred for their herding abilities and is known as one of the best herding dogs in history.

Not only are they famous herders, but this dog’s ability to learn is remarkable. They are always learning new tricks to please their owners and excel in canine sports such as agility.

As an avid dog lover, you have probably heard the phrase “Dogs are smarter than many people give them credit for”; this phrase is especially true for a Border Collie.

If you want an intellectually stimulating companion, then this is the dog for you!

Despite their remarkable intelligence, there are common misconceptions that they don’t require any training. This isn’t correct, every owner must be willing to put in the effort to train this eager-to-learn breed. But what else should first-time parents to Border Collies know? Keep on reading…

History Of The Border Collie Dog

Border Collie Herding Sheep
The intelligence of this breed is outstanding!

Border Collies originated from Northumbria (in England) and their name was obtained through this geographical region.

The Northumbria region borders between Scotland and England, thereby deriving the first half of their name, “Border.” The word Collie was derived from coal, which is related to their basic color of Black and White.

Breeding started in the British Islands during the 19th century with the goal to assist shepherds with managing livestock (more specifically sheep).

However, they are very adaptive to a variety of livestock herding based upon the owner’s needs.

Since the 19th century the love for Border Collie’s has only grown stronger. They are an extremely versatile breed that possesses the qualities of:

  • Herding
  • Speed
  • Intelligence
  • Eagerness to please
Young Border Collie
Young Border Collie Dog

The dog was first bred around the 1860s in England and they were introduced to the United States over 100 years ago. According to the United States Border Collie Club, they estimate some time during the 1890s.

They have been used as companion pets and herding dogs in the United States since their arrival. The University of Florida currently own one whose job is to rid the campus of Canadian Geese.

From Queen Victoria to modern-day public figures such as Bon Jovi, the Border Collie has been a part of many famous families in the media. They have also had a handful of famous movie appearances, such as in Fly and Rex from the movie “Babe.”

As you can tell, the Border Collie is a remarkably intelligent breed that has a rich history and has many uses outside of being just a family dog.

Kennel Club Recognition

Border Collie

In 1915 the International Sheep Dog Society created a breed standard and differentiated between:

  • Border Collies
  • Smooth and Bearded Collies

This standardization resulted in the acceptance of this breed into many different Kennel Clubs:

Kennel Club Date Accepted Category
Fédération Cynologique Internationale 1987 Herding dogs
American Kennel Club 1995 Herding
Australian National Kennel Council 1994 Working Dogs
Canadian Kennel Club 1985 Herding
The Kennel Club 1994 Pastoral
New Zealand Kennel Club 1961 Working

From the table above, you can see how different Kennel Clubs categorize this breed.

Due to its rich and distinctive history, there is much controversy amongst Border Collie owners in regards to which category this breed should be included in.

They are also recognized in the following major breed-specific associations:

  • The American Border Collie Association
  • The International Sheep Dog Society
  • Texas Sheep/Cattle Dog Association
  • British Columbia Stock Dog Association

Temperament and Behavior

Characteristic Rating
Prey Drive
Social Tendencies

These dogs are loving, loyal, efficient, and capable.

Unlike a Golden Retriever that has a strong desire to please their owner, the Border Collie has an intense determination to do things right.

The affinity for doing things correctly appeals to many dog owners that wish to have a dog that shares similar values. Often times this dog will behave in manors that are very similar to his owner.

If you are considering getting a Border Collie, it is especially vital to ensure that your values match the same demeanor they have.

These dogs should be attempting to herd you or your children. That is a key personality trait that should not be trained out of them. Not only will they attempt to herd small children, they will also try to herd other pets.

Fortunately, the Border Collie’s drive to herd outweighs its prey drive. They typically will not attempt to attack other animals.

Border Collie Sitting
This dog will protect small children and function well in a family environment. Sometimes they will even attempt to herd kids back into the safety of your yard!

They are outstandingly fast dogs who require a lot of daily exercise. If they are not going to be utilized as herding-farm dogs, then they should be in an environment that allows for frequent exercising opportunities.

Unfortunately, living with a very intelligent breed can go very poorly if they are not given the right stimulation.

Barking can become a problem with this breed due to their high energy aptitude. If proper exercise is not incorporated into their daily lives as companion pets, then barking and destruction of furniture can occur.

It is recommended to properly exercise your dog for about 90 minutes. Correct physical and mental stimulation is discussed later in this guide.

Do They Make Good Family Dogs?

Family Member Compatible
Young Children Yes
Teenagers Yes
Seniors Yes
Other Pets Yes

This dog can make a phenomenal family pet as they are gentle with children and elderly people.

They have also been used to act as service dogs for a number of people with different disabilities. Their strong desire to be able to do tasks correctly help facilitate the training process for service dogs.

Overall, they can be a wonderful herding dog, and family companion pet!

They are relatively friendly-dogs that possess high confidence. They will do things the right way, as long as they are shown what is wrong from right. However, they can sometimes be a little less social than wanted if they are too busy working on a task.

These dogs enjoy being around their owners and want to prove that they are capable of suiting the needs established by their owners.

Although they are not guarding dogs, they can become protective of family members due to their innate drive to heard.

Border Collie Care Guide

Black and White Border Collies
Black and White Border Collies

After deciding that this is the right breed for your lifestyle, you may want to learn how to care for your new furry genius!

In the following section, you can find information on feeding, diet, exercise, training, and grooming.

How Much Should You Feed A Border Collie

Daily Food Consumption
Guide 700 to 1,100 calories
Cups of Kibble Three Bowls of Kibble Required per Day

Good nutrition and diet are very important for any dog. However, it’s especially important for extremely active canines.

Active breed dogs require a higher caloric intake due to their high activity levels. This is because they are using up all of the food that they have eaten much faster than less active dogs.

It is best to put your dog on a feeding schedule of twice a day, morning and night. This will help any food aggression behaviors, or “begging” because they will know exactly when it is time to eat every day.

As a responsible owner, it’s important to keep up-to-date with nutritional guidelines. Recently, the FDA has released information regarding a heart condition inflicted by grain-free diets.

So you should avoid grain-free diets for your canine and instead feed a good-quality dry or raw diet of between two to three cups.

Exercise Requirements

Daily Exercise
Minutes 60+ minutes
Activity Level This is a high activity dog breed
Favorite Exercise Agility

The best way to ensure that you are appropriately exercising your dog is to do a lot of research on the best types of enrichment to provide them with.

Mental stimulation is an important factor to take into account. They are active dogs, and that is a trademark of this breed. You can use some of the tips below on how to exercise your Border Collie:

  1. You can purchase puzzle toys to provide extra enrichment along with physical exercise
  2. Teach your dog the names of their toys. They are intellectual dogs and will find great satisfaction in being able to bring you the toy you asked for
  3. Make an Obstacle Course at home! If you have a fenced-in yard, you can purchase material to construct an agility course right in your backyard
  4. You can have another dog come over for a play date! Just remember to monitor their playtime, so no one gets too ruff

Every Border Collie is different and needs a different walk and play routine.

As a new parent, it may take some time to figure out what works best for your dog. A 30-minute walk may be acceptable for some, but other dogs may require an hour or more.

Remember, this dog breed is known for their speed and agility. Make sure you incorporate activities that allow them to utilize those traits along with scheduled walking times.

How To Train A Border Collie

Clicker Training A Border Collie
Clicker Training A Border Collie

Border Collies are not the most food-motivated dogs, so treats may not work super well during training.

Clicker training and positive reward-based training work extremely well with this breed of dog.

You should correct bad behaviors by setting your dog up for success. This not only trains them what exactly you are expecting of them, but also gives them the confidence they need when executing a task.

Due to their high affinity to please, harsh punishment should not be utilized during training otherwise this breed will shut down.

Dog training is two-part activity:

  1. There is the dog accomplishing a task
  2. The handler’s response to how the dog did the task

People can learn a lot from their dogs, and this breed is great at keeping a dog trainer on their toes. Some of the best games to teach are ones that involve agility courses.

How To Groom A Border Collie

Tan and White Border Collies
Sable and White Border Collies

Grooming your dog will provide great bonding opportunities. Border Collies have a variety of different coat types from rough and wiry to smooth and soft.

Although they don’t require as much grooming as a Poodle, it can take some time to brush out their coat completely since they are medium-sized dogs with a double coat.

They are highly active, so they can be more prone to developing tangles and knots, it is also important to keep their nails short so that they don’t tear one whilst running!

Routine Grooming Requirements:

  1. Apply detangling spray and then brush out the coat
  2. Use a de-shedding tool to remove debris from the undercoat
  3. Use a pin and bristle brush to remove any stray fur left from the undercoat grooming
  4. Use a cotton pad with or without ear-cleaner and wipe them out
Activity Frequency
Brushing At least every other day to ensure no tangles form
Grooming Every 4-8 weeks
Teeth Brushing Every day
Nail Clipping Every 4-8 weeks – you can buy a Dremel if your dog does better with that as opposed to traditional nail cutters

Known Health Issues

Border Collie Dogs

Border Collies can develop health issues as they begin to age. Some of those health issues include:

  • Seizures
  • Retinal atrophy
  • Lens luxation
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia

This breed of dog, along with other Collie breeds, can be subject to having ivermectin sensitivities. Ivermectin in Border Collies with the MDR-1 gene mutation can have severe health issues such as lethargy, motor impairments, seizures, and pupil dilation.

Border Collie Puppy

Puppy Border Collie
Puppy Border Collie

Border Collie puppies are typically picked at a very young age to engage in herding activities. They possess a “herding” eye that will assist them in becoming great herding dogs.

They grow at an average rate and reach full-size around two years old.

Their puppy fur will begin as an incredibly soft coat and then transition to a weatherproof coat as they mature. The colors of each puppy in the litter are variable and depend a lot on the genetics of the parent dogs.

How Much Is A Border Collie?

A purebred puppy will cost between $1,300 to $4,500 USD. Some puppies are priced significantly less, but always ensure that you are not giving money to an irresponsible breeder.

It is incredibly important to find and support reputable breeders that will allow you to view the conditions that the parents and the puppies are being kept in.

There are many unreputable breeders that are not in the business of preserving the breed’s features, but rather to profit.

When choosing a breeder, make sure that you are allowed to visit where the puppies are being kept. This will help reduce the chances of giving money to a “backyard” breeder. The parents should be healthy, well kept, and have good dispositions.

It is highly important to seek a reputable breeder as genetics can really play a major role in determining the temperament and health of your puppy.

Where To Adopt

This breed can be found at shelters due to their owners not being educated on the maintenance that this breed requires.

There are a number of Border Collie Rescue groups that will take in these dogs. Typically, the rehoming price is much cheaper than buying a puppy. Some organizations to consider are:

  • Mid-Atlantic Collie Rescue
  • Glen Highland farm
  • Come Bye Border Rescue
  • Midwest Border Rescue

Border Collie


Breed Overview
Size 18 to 21 inches (46-56cm)
Weight 26 to 44 pound (12 to 20kg)
Lifespan 10 – 17 years (average 12 years)
Breed Type Herding Group
Suitable For Farmers and Families
Color Black, Blue, Blue Merle, Brindle, Gold, Lilac, Red, Red Merle, White/Black, Sable, Sable Merle, Saddleback Sable, White/Blue, White/Blue Merle, White/Red, White/Red Merle and White Ticked
Temperament Intelligent, Active, Nimble, Affectionate and Versatile

If you enjoy most of the attributes of this breed, you may also enjoy these dogs: Australian Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dogs, Welsh Sheepdogs, and any of the other Collie!

Always try and find a rescue before purchasing a new puppy from a breeder, as the overpopulation of dogs is growing.

The Border Collie dog is incredibly active, and will often keep you busy with exercise, grooming and maintenance.

You need to make sure your lifestyle will be able to accommodate a very intelligent and active canine!

Taking this into account, will significantly reduce the number of dogs put into rescues and shelters. The history of this breed is very rich, and they deserve the best care and responsibility that humans can provide.

Remember, not every Border Collie will be the exact same, and it will take time and training to learn how to live with a smart dog. Leave us your thoughts on this breed below.

John Woods Headshot
John Woods is the Founder of All Things Dogs and leads our editorial team as our Editor in Chief. A member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, he has been a dog lover since he was 13 years old. John is parent to Nala, a working lab retriever. John has also volunteered at multiple animal shelters, where he gained firsthand experience of rehabilitation and force-free positive reinforcement training methods.

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