This week we are taking a look at the Border Collie, one of the best working and herding dogs in the world. The Border Collie originated in the border country between Scotland and England, which may be where it got its name. It is a working breed with seemingly endless energy, stamina, and drive. Even now, in the modern age, the Border Collie is used as a herding dog for livestock for the simple fact that it can do the job of 3, 4, even 5 men. Amazing, right?
Yet it has become increasingly common to see the Border Collie as a companion animal rather than out in the field working all day. They are not, however, cuddly, lay-beside-you or lay-at-your-feet kind of dogs. Just because they have become household pets does not mean they have suddenly lost the energy, stamina, and drive they were bred for over millennia. Most Border Collies require lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They don’t often do well on only one or two brisk walks a day. They need to run and run hard or else have a job to do. For this reason, many Border Collie owners that aren’t farmers or ranchers will teach their dogs to compete in dog sports like agility, flyball, frisbee, obedience, tracking and, of course, herding and sheepdog trials. Border Collies can also be excellent service and therapy dogs. If there’s a job to be done and they know how to do it, they’re going to do it and be happier for it!
It is also said that the Border Collie is one of, or perhaps the most intelligent breed of dog. This can be especially seen in one specific Border Collie that comes to mind, Chaser, who can pick out every one of his individual toys by name. All 1,022 of them! You can read more about Chaser in this article by Rebecca Boyle, here: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-12/video-smartest-dog-ever-can-pick-out-1022-toys-name
Without adequate amounts of exercise and mental stimulation, Border Collies will become bored and will often turn to destructive behaviors such as barking, chasing cars, digging, and chewing. They may also decide to give themselves a job, such as herding their owner’s kids, the other family pets, or other, more dangerous things such as joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars.
Working Border Collies can be either short or long-haired (smooth or rough-coated) and can have nearly any combination of colors or markings, including, black tricolor, liver and white, red tricolor, blue, lilac, red merle, blue merle, brindle, and Australian Red. It’s not the colors or coat length or even conformation that makes a Border Collie a Border Collie, it’s their attitude and working ability. Their eye color can also vary from dark brown to blue to mismatched brown and blue, though this most often occurs in merles. Their ears, too, can vary in form. Some are fully drooped, some are fully erect, and some are in-between. They can even have ears like Pixie, with one that droops and one that remains erect!
Border Collies competing in shows should conform to the breed club standards, which are more specific about coat color and length, conformation, and even eye color.
Perhaps the most distinctive trait of the Border Collie is their intense stare, or what some call “the eye” with which they intimidate and herd livestock. You can see Luna’s Border Collie ancestry in her intense focus that mimics “the eye.” Even as a three-month-old pup she had it!
Although usually easy to train, Border Collies can be stubborn and independent-minded and require a firm but gentle hand. They are sensitive and don’t do well with harsh corrections as that can cause them to lose confidence and become shy or fearful.
If you are interested in purchasing or adopting a Border Collie, especially if as a family pet, please do your research! They are easy to train, but not always easy to handle unless you are active and engage them in activities that will keep them from getting bored. Border Collies need lots of exercise (remember, they were bred to go and go and go on long hauls with cattle and sheep, sometimes even traveling up to 50 miles in one day!) and plenty of mentally stimulating activities or a job for them to do. You must have the time and energy to invest in this breed of dog!
Fun Fact: When sheep dogs were shown in the second dog show to ever occur in England, Queen Victoria saw one of the dogs perform and fell in love, soon thereafter becoming an enthusiast of the Border Collie breed.
Do you or have you owned a Border Collie? Please tell us about him/her in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.
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