Border collies


Fluffy black and white puppies reminiscent of baby panda bears are very tempting but are you prepared for the commitment of taking one of these wonderful working dogs into your home for its natural lifetime?

Border collies are extremely intelligent and active dogs with a wonderful sense of humour. They evolved to work with one master rather than the usual “pack”. They are loyal and sensitive dogs. and have an in-born desire to please their master, so much so that the slightest reprimand from that beloved person will upset them enormously. They have a natural distrust of strangers which stems from their task of guarding the sheep from stock thieves. There has been much negative criticism of the B.C. often as a result of ill-informed owners taking on these highly intelligent creatures with tremendous stamina and making little if no attempt to meet their working needs. Then when the un-stimulated B.C. finds unsuitable ways of coping with their boredom, they are labelled destructive and un-manageable.
Shenanigan Henderson B.C.

This breed of dog dates back to between the 5th and 1st century BC. They were genetically selected for their high stamina, intelligence, agility, speed and their ability to think on their feet and use their initiative. They were fed meagrely, and do best on diets low in protein. The “light” diets sold at vet shops are ideal as they meet all the dog’s needs and you won’t have your collie climbing the walls. It would be a very good idea for future would-be B.C. owners to go and watch them herding sheep. This would make potential owners realize that a dog bred to run up to 100km a day herding sheep is not going to be satisfied with two brief strolls around the block each day.

Before taking on a B.C. be aware of the instinctive behaviours of this breed:

Eyeing: A Border Collie has been bred with the ability to move stock many times its size by merely staring at it. When stock is not available then they may stare at a broom, a fly, torch beams, shadows or the family cat. Anything that moves can trigger ‘the eye.’ This can include other house pets and children.

Chasing: People, birds, aeroplanes, motorbikes, cars, bicycles, cats and other pets can all take the place of fleeing livestock.

Herding: A vital part of B.C. work is gathering and rounding up livestock into a specific space. In a pet collie this can be substituted by rounding up guests, the gardener, other dogs, children, cats and other family members.

Gripping/ Nipping: This is used by the collie to restrain a sheep or goad a stubborn sheep along by holding or nipping the animals back legs with its teeth.

All of these characteristics vary from collie to collie, Some B.C.’s have little desire to work and will display fewer if any of these traits  However it is wise to be aware that a collie whose ancestors were selectively bred for these behaviours is extremely likely to show up some of these talents.

There are few dogs more willing to please than a Border Collie but it is too much to expect a dog designed to work unremittingly   and with intelligent initiative   to live happily with an owner who has no wish to try to understand and find outlets for their powerful instincts.

Shenanigan performing on the A-frame

Shenanigan performing on the A-frame

There are many ways to satisfy a B.C.’s needs besides sheep herding. Obedience, Agility, Flyball, Carting, Clicker and trick classes,  Scent discrimination and Tracking to name a few There are also wonderful brain puzzles and treat dispensing toys available for dogs.. Ask your vet or local pet shop to order you one. Whichever you choose make sure the training is always done using only positive training methods. Negative training methods will destroy the sensitive collie.

What makes a convincing and effective trainer/leader? If you think back to your school years you may well remember three types of teachers.

1) The meek teacher who lacks authority with whom you could get away with anything and yet you felt insecure as he/she was supposed to be in charge but wasn’t.

2) The bully who undermined your learning ability and confidence with constant criticism and shouting. It is an accepted fact that the learning centre of the brain shuts down with stress.

3) The Inspirer who naturally commands respect by their actions and force of character, who shows the pupil respect and thus earns their trust and affection which inspires the pupil to give the most of themselves and their abilities.

The successful B.C. owner belongs to this third type.

Who shouldn’t get a B.C.?

1) Inexperienced dog owners who are not prepared for the commitment of keeping a B.C. stimulated.

2) A person who has little time or energy for exercise and training.

3) A person with small children under the age of five who is not prepared to teach the child that the puppy/dog is not a toy and needs to be treated with respect and consideration.

4) If you are elderly and not active.

5) If you are out of the house regularly or away from home for long periods.

These are not hard and fast rules. For instance many children from farming families are brought up with Border Collies but they are taught to respect the dog as a dog and the relationships flourish. There have also been first time dog owners who have taken on a B.C. with commitment, knowledge and consistent resolve to make a success of it and they have succeeded.

If you are not prepared to put in the effort, steer clear of Border Collies as bored B.Cs are desperate, sad creatures which through no fault of their own often end up at rescue centres.

Sweep Henderson a happily rehomed rescue Border Collie.

Sweep Henderson a happily rehomed rescue Border Collie.