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Border Collie

A Complete Breed Guide for Border Collie Dogs

Last Updated 3 JUNE 2022

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.

Contents:

1. Border Collie Facts

2. History

3. Personality

4. Best Toys for Border Collies

5. Best food for Border Collies

6. Health Concerns

7. Related Breeds

Further reading

At a glance

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

Border Collie Facts

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 40-56cm
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 & White, blue & white, brown & white, red & white, blue merle, red, lilac, sable, merle and tricolour.

How big do Border Collies get?

The average adult weight of a Border Collie is from 12-20kg. Their height ranges from 40-56cm at shoulder. Males tend to be a little taller and heavier than females. The best way to estimate your dog's expected adult weight is to have a look at their mother and father.

How much does a Border Collie cost?

Border Collie pups in Australia may cost anywhere from $600-$5000. The pandemic has significantly increased demand for Border Collie puppies and the price of a pure bred pup can occasionally even exceed this. Of course, as with any breed, it is cheaper to adopt an adult dog from a rescue.

Do Border Collies shed hair?

Border Collies do indeed shed hair. They are a double-coated breed with long hair. Light shedding occurs throughout the year, and the undercoat is shed in large quantities twice per year - during Spring and Autumn. Shedding fur can be controlled with regular brushing (once a day needed during moulting season) with a general plastic bristle brush or a grooming glove. Many Border Collie owners choose to use a deshedding comb like the Paws for Life Deshedding Tool or Furminator to take the 'fur' out of their 'fur-niture'!

Are Border Collies good pets?

Provided you can provide them with the intense level of exercise and mental stimulation they need, Border Collies can make great pets! Remember that they are a working breed first and foremost - and not designed to be a lapdog, child's plaything, or couch companion. They are best suited to highly active owners and are guaranteed to be the best running buddy you'll ever have!

How much exercise do Border Collies need?

Of all the dog breeds, Border Collies have some of the highest exercise requirements in the world. The Border Collie was bred to work with farmers rounding up flocks of sheep all day long, so at least 2 hours of stimulating exercise is required every single day - not just for their physical needs, but for their mental health too. Simply leaving a Border Collie in a yard to 'run by themselves' is not nearly enough, and can actually lead to mental disorders (called 'stereotypies') from extreme boredom.

How long do Border Collies live?

The Border Collie lifespan is 10-15 years on average. As with any breed, they will live much longer if you take good care of them, never let them become overweight, and keep their teeth in top condition!

How do I choose a Border Collie breeder?

When looking for a Border Collie, your options are to: a) adopt from a rescue (this is our top recommendation!) b) buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and select for healthy traits and good temperaments. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Do Border Collies bark much?

Border Collies may bark more often than other breeds due to their instinct to use barking as a tool when rounding up livestock and communicating with a farmer over a large herd. They may bark to tell you abou the world going on around them, and may bark at passing cars or animals. As with any dog, they can be trained not to bark incessantly with proper training and exercise. To reduce your Border Collie's barking, ensure you train with positive reinforcement from a young age and reduce problem behaviours before they begin!

Border Collie History

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

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.

Border Collie Personality

Image by @thesecretlifeofjorypets

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 like digging, 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. Similarly, long lasting treats are great to keep your Border Collie's mind active when they are not physically exercising.

The Border Collie Memory

In keeping with their high I.Q., Border Collies possess an excellent memory and are known to 'never forget'. 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

Border Collies are intelligent, athletic, and love to learn. They love problem solving toys and keeping their mind busy at mealtimes with a puzzle feeder.

Image by @thesecretlifeofjorypets

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!

Can't decide on a toy? Why not let us choose for you with the Curious Box? Each Curious Box contains a selection of two to three engaging toys (and treats!) Even better, the theme changes every 6 weeks, making it the perfect way to keep your Border Collie's supply of toys and treats fresh, fun, and varied for mental stimulation!

Border Collie Diet and Nutrition

Image by @thesecretlifeofjorypets

Border Collie Puppies

Some points to note about Golden Retriever puppy ownership include:

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

Border Collie puppies are so full of energy and need excellent quality nutrition to help nourish their growing bodies, and develop a strong immune system. Plus - many premium diets contain beneficial omega fatty acids to promote that soft, shiny and extra fluffy Border Collie coat!

Image by @aspen.bluemerle

Advance Puppy Growth Medium 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.

Best Food for Adult Border Collies

Border Collie adults are prone to a number of health conditions including hip dysplasia and skin allergies, and so the following diets have been recommended to help support healthy joints and skin.

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.

Ziwi Peak Venison

Ziwi is the perfect choice for high energy breeds, with high levels of protein, fat and bone from real raw meat and organs.

Pro Plan Performance

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

Border Collie Health Problems

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 condition 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.

Best 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.

Glyde

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

PAW Osteosupport

Osteosupport contains green lipped mussel powder, a potent source of anti inflammatory omega fatty acids.

Related Breeds

The Border Collie is classified in the 'Herding dogs' breed group - dogs in this group were bred to aid farmers with herding sheep and cattle. The herding dog family includes Shepherds and Australian working breeds. The Border Collie is also sometimes crossed with other breeds such as kelpies, cattle dogs, and even poodles.

Australian Shepherd

Despite their name, the Australian Shepherd dog breed originated in the western United States, around the time of the American Gold Rush in the 1840s. Originally bred to herd livestock, they remain a working dog just like the Border Collie. They are happiest when they have a job to do and are incredibly intelligent.

German Shepherd

Known for their acts of courage, confidence and loyalty, the German Shepherd is often on the front line of the police force and military units all over the world. These attributes mean they also make excellent household guardians and a devoted member of the family. They will form close bonds with their family and will protect their own at all costs.

Bordoodle

Boasting a hypoallergenic poodle's coat and a Border Collie's wit, the 'Bordoodle' (a Border Collie crossed with a Poodle) is a new designer breed growing in popularity. Renowned for being a cross between the 1st and 2nd most clever dog breeds in the world, Bordoodle owners never have trouble teaching these intelligent pooches a new trick or two.

Collie

Probably most often recognised as 'the Lassie dog', the Collie is an intelligent, fluffy, and loyal companion. Bred to be a herding breed in Europe, the Collie requires a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. Their fine, fluffy and high-shedding coat means they are fairly high maintenance with regards to grooming.