One of the world’s most popular dogs, and certainly one of the smartest breeds of dog around, the border collie has definitely been one of man’s best friend for quite a while now, representing everything that the working dog needs to bring to the table.
Smart, energetic, easily trainable, yet somewhat strong-willed, the border collie is the perfect companion for those that want a dog that will be so much more than just a couch potato – but this breed will require some pretty serious and focused training, as well as regular “work”, to keep its mind relaxed and to avoid temper tantrums and outbursts.
Originally intended to help the shepherds of Scotland and Great Britain maintain their herds and to keep better control of the flock, these dogs today remain “working dogs” in many parts of the world but are also selected for canine sports, companionship, and “helper dog” duties as well.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper in the border collie breed!
Origins and history
Really coming into its own throughout the 1800s, the border collie breed was in amalgam of a number of other sheep herding dog breeds. Shepherds in Great Britain worked hard to find the smartest and most responsive of all the different sheep herding dog breeds, interbreeding them with one another until the border collie was established as a recognized breed in 1906.
This early classification of the border collie didn’t have anything to do with the physical appearance, however. Instead, the first breed standards only outlined the working ability of these dogs, and it wasn’t until 1950 that the name “border collie” first came into official record in the UK.
Shortly after that, these dogs were brought over from England and Scotland to the United States and the breed’s popularity exploded. Since then, stories about these dogs and their amazing intelligence, train ability, and energy levels have become almost legendary in the world of dog breeding – making them one of the most competitive breeds when it comes to obedience trials and dog shows.
Because breeders were so serious and so specific about elevating the intelligence of these dogs over almost everything else, they resisted attempts by the AKC to recognize the breed and bring it into the “show dog” competition circuit – simply because they didn’t want breeders of border collies to sacrifice intelligence to elevate cosmetic aspects.
Nonetheless, the AKC accepted and recognized this breed as a legitimate shot up breed in 1995, and they have been a big part of all major dog shows ever since.
As we highlighted above, the overwhelming majority of dog breeders that are serious about the border collie breed aren’t all that concerned with aesthetics or the “look” of these dogs – which has led to a somewhat non-universal appearance for this dog breed.
At the same time, many border collies do share similar aesthetic features, which include a predominance of black fur mixed with white (but sometimes brown fur or spots occur), as well as “mismatched” eyes that are black/brown and blue – or just two blue eyes!
All told, this breed can come in 17 different color combinations with seven distinct marking shapes, making them a more diverse breed for sure.
Some of these Border Collie colors include:
- Black and white Border Collie (most common).
- Chocolate Border Collie (sometimes called brown). A lighter hue of this is sometimes referred to as a “red” Border Collie.
- Blue Border Collie (occurs when the gene influencing the color black gets diluted).
- Gold Border Collies (also known as Australian Reds or yellow/tan).
- Tricolors come in all solid colors like black, chocolate, red, blue, etc. They are paired with tan and white making them tricolored.
- Blue Merle Border Collie.
Their coat is relatively long and “fluffy”, and they shed seasonally. Border collie dogs are relatively small, with males measuring about 19 to 22 inches at the shoulder and females just a bit shorter than that. Male border collie dogs also come in at between 30 pounds and 45 pounds or so, with female border collies coming in at around 27 pounds to 42 pounds on average.
The Border Collie Temperament
When it comes to the temperament of the border collie, you’re going to know EXACTLY what you’re getting into a right out of the gate.
Incredibly smart – INCREDIBLY smart – these dogs have an amazing ability to learn, to adapt, and to be trained, as well as some of the best athleticism in the canine world. Their temperament is very eager to please, they are super friendly, and while they may have a little bit too much energy for small children, they don’t have any trouble at all getting along with older children.
The overwhelming majority of border collies (especially those that have been specifically bred for intelligence) aren’t going to bark all that often, but will instead engage with their eyes and even sometimes “point” the way that bird dogs will. Should they become alarmed, or need to let their humans know about danger, they don’t mind barking to get their point across.
Grooming a border collie is a relatively simple and straightforward process, though they do have a longer coat than most dogs which will require attention in the fall and spring as they blow out their old coat and grow in a new one.
Brushing your border collie every few weeks with a stiff bristle brush is enough to keep their coat free of tangles and knots. Incredibly active, you might find you have to bathe your collie every month or so, but you’ll want to avoid soaping them up any more frequently than that. The soap will destroy the natural oils that keep the border collie’s coat to shiny and so durable.
One of the first “original” working breeds, and a dog breed that has been specifically bred over generations form work out in the fields and herding, this is one of the best working breeds you’re going to find in the canine world and one that really excels when you charge them with responsibility.
Excellent shepherds, these dogs also are able to take really well to obedience training, to obstacle courses, and to any other form of “work” that they may be charged with – and in fact, they almost need some sort of responsibility and regular training just to expel all of the energy they have locked up.
You can expect a border collie to live between 10 and 14 years on average, with some collies living even older than that. The active lifestyle helps them best prepare for old age, and while they will certainly slow down a bit as they get older they won’t ever lead completely sedentary lifestyles.
A relatively healthy breed, you might run into some of these issues throughout your years as a border collie owner.
• Progressive Retinal Atrophy
• Lens Luxation
• Collie Eye Anomaly
• Canine Hip Dysplasia
• Compulsive behaviors
• Cerebellar abiotrophy
At the end of the day, there is a reason why the border collie has become one of the most popular dog breed in the world.
Relatively small, but with a high motor and an even higher level of intelligence, affectionate, and easily trained, these are the perfect dogs for those that lead active lifestyles and want a dog that is willing and ready to keep up. Those that are looking for a more sedentary lifestyle with their dog are probably going to want to look elsewhere.
If you are serious about bringing a border collie into your life, you’ll want to make sure that you have the time to spend training and – not only at first to “housebreak” the dog, but also to consistently train it throughout its life so that it doesn’t become agitated, angry, and frustrated with energy and intelligence that it isn’t able to use the way that it genetically wants to.