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The Border Collie

A Complete Breed Guide

Last Updated 2 SEPT 2021

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski, BVSc (Hons)

Widely heralded as the smartest dog breed in the world, the Border Collie is a busy-minded, hyper-intelligent and hardworking dog. They have a high exercise requirement and thrive most when they have a job to do. Originally breed for herding sheep, the Border Collie's mind loves the challenge of herding, and can become quickly bored if understimulated. They are highly responsive, easy to train, and well known for being able to seemingly read their master's mind. If you are willing to dedicate time, leadership, and energy to your Border Collie, you will have a truly irreplaceable mate for life.


1. At a glance

2. History

3. Personality

4. Best Toys for Border Collies

5. Best food for Border Collies

6. Health Concerns

Further reading

At a glance

The many coat varieties of the Border Collie. Source: @aspen.bluemerle

Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence
Medium The United Kingdom Extremely high
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Working, herding High 12-20kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
10 to 15 years Moderate 46-56cm
Drool factor: Ease of training: Coat type:
Low Easy Short and long, rough and smooth varieties
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Colours:
Moderate Low Black and White, blue and white, brown and white, red and white, and tricolour.


Border Collie demonstrating their characteristic 'eye', herding sheep at an indoor sheepdog demonstration in the 1950s. Source:

The Border Collie breed originated around 350 years ago, in the Border counties of Scotland. Developed by farmers to herd livestock, they were known for their low, stealth approach to the herd and their gentle demeanour. They were admired for their incredible responsiveness and unbreakable attention to their master; with unwavering eye contact, their ability to respond even to facial expression wowed audiences at herding shows. The Border Collie seemed to be able to read their master's mind, and predict a command even before it is issued.

Border Collies were one of the first breeds imported to Australia. When the sheep farming industry started to take off, around the mid-1800s, they were transported here to help shepherd flocks. Today, the shorter coated variety of Border Collie is bred strictly for working purposes, as its coat best matches the harsh Australian climate.


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The Border Collie is a working breed, first and foremost. They absolutely thrive on work and need to have a job to do. Border Collies are wildly intelligent, but it is this very characteristic that can be detrimental if they are not in the right environment. A lack of mental or physical stimulation can lead to anxiety, destructive behaviours, and compulsive mental disorders (called 'stereotypies'). You may literally 'drive your dog mad' by neglecting their mental needs.

Always be sure to provide your Border Collie with sufficient exercise. Border Collies perform extremely well in dog sports such as agility or rally training. As they are natural livestock herders, if their energy is pent up they may start herding other pets, children or even cars! In addition to a large yard, Border Collies require heavy levels of daily exercise, such as running, swimming, or extended games of fetch. Simply leaving them to run around your yard is not sufficient exercise, and can lead to boredom and compulsive personality disorders.

Don't forget to keep that busy mind of theirs stimulated! Interactive toys such as KONG, automated ball throwers, or fetch toys are perfect for Border Collies. See our section below for the best toys for Border Collies.

In keeping with their high I.Q., Border Collies possess an excellent memory. This is great for training but can be detrimental if they have experienced trauma in the past. Once a Border Collie has been hurt, it never forgets. Sadly, this means they are prone to developing phobias of certain owner demographics (such as men), or objects they have associated with trauma in the past (such as rolled up newspapers). If rescuing a mistreated Border Collie, be prepared to dedicate time, kindness, and lots of patience to their rehabilitation.

Ultimately, the Border Collie is loving, obedient, and eager to please. They are fiercely loyal and will form a very strong bond with their family. If you can commit the time and energy into proper training, and provide your them with satisfactory daily exercise, your Border Collie will be the greatest, most intelligent pet you've ever had!

The Best Toys for Border Collies

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Paws for Life Snuffle Puzzle Mat

Hide some of your dog's kibble or treats in the nooks and crannies to keep their mind busy and occupied.

iFetch Too Ball Launcher

The iFetch shoots tennis balls three, seven or twelve meters, and will continue to shoot balls so long as your dog fetches them and returns them to the top of the chute.

Chuck It Classic Long

An extra long ball thrower to help you launch your Border Collie's ball further than ever before to satisfy those intense fetch cravings!

Kong Flyer

Ideal for games of fetch, this toy is made from durable rubber for a dynamic bounce!

Nutrition for Border Collies

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What To Feed A Border Collie

If your Border Collie is a family pet, rather than a working dog, and they receive less than 1-2 hours of exercise per day, they should be fine to receive a premium pet food designed for 'medium' or 'all breeds'. Always be sure to seek a high quality diet, as this can help keep your Border Collie's coat soft, healthy, and shiny. Many Border Collie owners like to seek an Australian-made dog food, such as Advance, Black Hawk, or Instinctive Bite.

However, if your Border Collie is a working dog or completing high levels of exercise every day, a 'high performance' diet with higher calorie content might be the way to go. Great examples include Advance Active , Eukanuba Premium Performance or Hill's Science Diet Active. But be careful - always keep their weight in check, as these higher energy diets can lead to a little 'pudge' if your dog isn't burning it all off!

When should you transition a Border Collie from puppy to adult food? As a general guide, Border Collies can usually be transitioned from a 'puppy' food to an 'adult' food at around 12 months of age. This does, however, vary depending on your dog's body condition score - if your pup is underweight, they may require a puppy food for a little longer. Likewise, if they're starting to show a bit of 'pudge', it may be time for a lower-in-calorie 'Adult' diet.

Best Food for Border Collie Puppies

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Advance Puppy Growth All Breed

This Australian made, high quality puppy food is designed to support healthy growth and development of all breeds of puppies, including Border Collies.

Royal Canin Medium Breed Puppy

This very high quality diet tailored for the needs of medium breed puppies is high in fish oil which is a natural source of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin, a shiny coat and optimal brain development.

Eukanuba Puppy Medium Breed

A complete and balanced puppy food with the correct balance of energy and nutrients to promote healthy digestion, skin and coat health and brain development.

Hills Vet Essentials Puppy

This premium puppy food is designed alongside Hill's world class research, to ensure a complete and balanced diet for growing puppies.

Top Recommended Food for Adult Border Collies

Instinctive Bite Kangaroo and Sweet Potato

Grain free and made in Australia, this kangaroo-based diet is perfect for Border Collies. With high quality lean protein, it will keep your dog nourished and happy.

Advance Active

Perfect for especially active working dogs, his super premium, Australian made food contains higher calories to support a higher energy requirement.

Black Hawk Grain Free

Black Hawk is a much loved, Australian made natural food brand. This grain-free line contains quality ingredients and is high in meat content.

Pro Plan Performance

Specifically designed for highly active dogs, this dry food is perfect for Border Collies who run around all day.

Health concerns

In general, Border Collies are quite healthy. Thanks to their history being bred for their skills as herding dogs, rather than their cosmetic appearance, they haven't suffered as much over time as other breeds have. However, they can be prone to a number of different diseases, including hip dysplasia, collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, lens luxation and epilepsy.

1. Collie Eye Anomaly

One of the most common inherited diseases for border collies is a condition known as Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA). The clinical signs can range from mild to severe - when mild, dogs may have clinically normal vision, but when severe, dogs may have retinal detachments, eye malformation, and blindness. On one independent test results database, Border Collie Health, 900 out of 3592 (25.1%) border collies from 29 different countries were reported as carriers of the CEA gene, and 30 (0.8%) were affected. Previous reports estimate that approximately 1 to 3% of border collies are believed to be affected with this disorder.

2. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia refers to a condition where the conformation (physical structure) of the hip joint is abnormal. A healthy hip joint operates as a smooth 'ball and socket' type joint, whereas hips affected by dysplasia typically have a flattening of the 'socket' component of the joint, resulting in a shallow joint where the 'ball' or head of the femur is not held securely. This leads to instability of the joint which may cause pain in the young dog (juvenile hip dysplasia) and ultimately causes development of osteoarthritis.

3. Multi Drug Resistance 1

Multi Drug Resistance 1 is an inherited genetic ondition which can affect border collies, however is much more prevalent in other collie breeds. The percentage of dogs carrying the causal mutation varies from 0% to 5% worldwide. Affected dogs only suffer consequences related to this condition when administered certain drugs, including the anti-parasitic drug, ivermectin. When these drugs are given to affected dogs at normal canine dosages, toxic levels accumulate in the central nervous system due to inadequate function of a protein (P-glycoprotein) which normally pumps drugs out of the nervous system. This results in neurological signs including tremors, salivation, anorexia, blindness, seizures, coma, and death.

Top joint supplements for Border Collies

Due to their propensity to develop hip and joint issues, as well as their tendency to injure themselves, many Border Collie owners are advised to provide joint care preventatively. Suitable joint care methods for Border Collies may include joint care supplements, a joint care diet, or even simple things like ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight.

4cyte Joint Support

A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Sasha's Blend

Sasha's Blend powder and chews contain green lipped mussel, abalone and marine cartilage which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and glycosaminoglycans to support joint health.


Available as powder or tasty chews, Glyde contains glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel to support joint health and mobility.

PAW Osteosupport

These capsules contain green lipped mussel powder, a potent source of anti inflammatory omega fatty acids and may be given whole or broken open and sprinkled over food.