Your browser does not support JavaScript! Border Collie Breed Profile - Problems and issues
Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Other Issues

Problems and Issues

Border Collies can suffer from a number of behavioural problems, some of which occur because they are in an environment or lifestyle where their instincts are not taken into account or are misapplied.
Some are the result of the inability of their handlers to be strong enough to provide them with adequate leadership.
Some are the result of poor breeding and/or inadequate socialisation when young.
Some are the result of too much intimacy.
In a lot of cases, undesirable behavioural traits are a result of a combination of the above.

Separation issues are quite common with Border Collies.
They have a strong instinct to bond. This allows them to form a strong working partnership with their handler.

The problem is if they are allowed to become too intimate with someone they become dependent and can't cope in their absence.
If a Border Collie is with their human or humans all the time this dependency is likely to take over. All day is fine but only if there is an activity of some sort that allows the dog and human to do something together. All day without a purpose and all day and all night is bad for them.
They need a quiet, secure space of their own to sleep at night away from their humans with the freedom to retire to that space at any time.
They should not sleep on the bed or in the bedroom or anywhere near where the humans sleep if a bungalow or flat or upstairs if there is one.
They should not be coddled or over fussed or allowed to spend too much time with one individual.
Don't make them dependent, allow them some independence and give them some respect.

They are dogs, not children or 'fur babies'.
Allow them to be what they are. A different species with different needs.

Protection issues are quite common with Border Collies
They are a very intelligent breed. This allows them to calculate how they can best get stock to do what they want.

There intelligence allows them to spot subtle differences in commands, instructions and routines so they can easily become confused by a handler who is inconsistent and their conclusion is that the handler is showing weakness and needs their help.
When sensing weakness they are inclined to take over, a fairly natural reaction if the person to whom they look for security, protection and leadership shows indications of not being able to provide it.
They step up and provide it themselves, protecting their own interests and those they perceive are their handlers.

An example - If you let your dog walk in front of you on the lead it is leading you. If other dogs or people approach it may feel the need to protect you as it is, after all, the leader and leaders protect followers. So it may bark or try and chase off the other dog or person.
If you train your dog to walk behind, you are the leader. It follows. You are protecting it so it will not feel such a need to scare off passing people and dogs unless it thinks that you are weak and frightened, in which case it will step in to protect you.
This can become a vicious circle. Your dog leads you and gets into the habit of going for passing dogs and people. You become worried about this - naturally. When you take your dog out and you see another person or dog approaching you pull your dog in and become concerned that an incident may occur. Your dog picks up on your concerns and it re-enforces its idea that it needs to protect you and the cycle continues.

Dominance issues are quite common with Border Collies
On the whole they are a bold breed. This allows them to dominate stock and bend them to their will.

Dominance can arise in many situations with other dogs and humans.
When it occurs with humans it is most often because a dog is allowed privileges that makes it think it is superior to the people around it or some of them. If you allow it on the couch or on your bed it may begin to get the idea that it is entitled to be there and if you shows signs of weakness in your leadership it may even get the idea that no-one else should be there with it and may growl you off or even snap or bite.

In some situations a dog may bond on well with one member of the household and see itself as second in command. Again, if you are not a strong leader and do not correct this behaviour it may end up doing exactly what you want it to do but not tolerating instructions or contact from anyone else.
It is fairly normal for dogs to size themselves up when they meet and in any situation with two or more dogs they will form a group hierarchy.
The strongest dog will become the most dominant and the others fit in according to their abilities. This usually occurs in a non confrontational manner. But if your dog is not controlled and it meets another dog that is not controlled they may fight for domination and blood will flow.
Maybe yours if you get in the way.
This is not necessarily an indication that your dog or the other dog are aggressive, it is an indications that you and/or the other dogs handler are poor leaders and not in control. Neither dog feels secure in the situation so one either runs away or they fight.

Chasing issues are quite common with Border Collies.
They are a herding breed. Their main purposes is to fetch, round up and bring home livestock.

Chasing moving objects can be very dangerous. Unless controlled it can lead to injury or death. Dogs chasing cars have a low survival rate. Snapping at tyres has its risks. Chasing joggers, skateboards, bicycles and people on roller-skates can end in injury to the victim as well as the dog. People say it is the herding instinct coming out but that is not an accurate assessment. It is the chasing instinct. It needs controlling.
The dog going down flat at the side of the road and staring at traffic and lunging out is not herding it. The dog wants to kill.

In fact, in Border Collie Rescue the training program we implement in these situations is called 'Control of the Chase'.
The purpose it to instill an immediate response to the command 'Down' followed by an immediate response to the command 'Here'.
It saves lives, embarrassing situations and insurance claims.

Noise sensitivity issues are a common Border Collie Problem
They have sensitive hearing. This enables them to hear livestock hidden from their sight while rounding them up.

Deep bass noise have powerful effects on Border Collies. It's not so much loud noises as bass sounds although some loud noises can have a similar intimidating effect.
Thunder is a common problem. Lorries, helicopters, planes and fireworks can also upset them. Base sounds frighten many Border Collies.
Traffic noise can also create issues. These tend to induce a mixture of fear and stimulation. Engines scare, tyres hissing on road stimulate.
Certain sounds stimulate and excite.
Hissing sounds can do this. When sheep are agitated they often expel their breath through their nose making a hissing noise. The noise can be copied by stockmen who wish to get their dogs more active around livestock.
High pitched noises can excite and over stimulate. Children's voices are an example of this, particularly when combined with erratic movements and laughter. Young boys tend to wind up Collies more than girls. They tend to be more hyper which transfers to the dog.
Young children often get nipped as a result of this form of stimulation, boys more than girls.

Poor socialisation can cause a lot of issues in a lot of Border Collies
These tend to be those that have been puppy farm bred or born on a farm with limited access to human contact and domestic experience.

There is a crucial period in a puppies life where it learns about other dogs, humans and human activities, including domestic sights and sounds. It learns doggy body language and how to relate to other dogs, it learns to trust people and it learns that domestic appliances are not a threat.
If a puppy does not get these opportunities it will grow up without these positive experiences and once past a certain age it's too late.

Many people think that when their Border Collie seems to be frightened of men or sticks it is because they have been beaten with a stick or mistreated by men.
That would not explain their fear of vacuum cleaners, TV's or washing machines or explain why sometimes they cower and balk when going through doorways - unless of course a man had beaten them with a vacuum cleaner while they were tied to a washing machine in a doorway with a TV on loud in the background.
Actually in this day and age of cruelty and neglect, such a scenario would not surprise us!

These reactions are fear of the unknown caused by no previous knowledge or experience of what the dog is confronted with.
Farm bred dogs don't usually get a great deal of attention from men. It's the wives and kids that would usually feed them. Men would be background figures, noisy, big boots, always busy. The only other dogs they would be likely to meet and spend time with would be mum and dad. Even this would be limited. Dad, if on the same farm, would be working and once the pups were weaned, mum would as well.
If they are lucky the pups would get to know and trust other Border Collies but not Pugs, German shepherds, Dalmations Etc.

Many would live outside in a barn or stable with big wide doors and high roofs. Narrow low doors and low ceilings would present be scary, especially if what was on the other side was unknown. Domestic noises like washing machines, Etc. would not be part of their early experiences in the crucial time when puppies get to trust people and absorb human activity in its full domestic glory that enables it to cope later in life.

Puppy farm bred dogs may not even have had a lot of experience with other dogs. They may have been removed from mother and the rest of the litter before having a chance to play, fully socialise and understand that other dogs can be friends rather than threats.

Poor socialisation lies at the root of many problems Border Collies create for their owners. To overcome them takes time and an understanding of why they exist. Exposure to the things causing the fear may not be the right thing to do. It risks making things worse.

Aggression is another issue Border Collie's can suffer from.
Fear Aggression or Dominance Aggression have their roots in some of the problems mentioned in the chapters above. There are many forms of aggression. Some are interlinked in a complex pattern of behavioural problems which are difficult to untangle and get to the bottom of.
The three main categories below are the principal areas of aggression the Border Collie can suffer from.

Fear aggression can have many causes. Sometimes the pup can inherit the timid nature of one or more parents but in most cases it stems from how the dog was socialised in the first few weeks of its life by the breeder and subsequently the person who bought it.
Between dogs this generally stems from a dogs inability to communicate or correctly interpret another dogs body language. A breakdown in communications leads to misunderstandings and fights which re-enforces a dogs belief that other dogs are out to get them.
Poor socialisation / early interaction with other dogs can lead to a Border Collie seeing other dogs as a threat and reacting with pre-emptive aggression.
Socialisation with other Border Collies and no other breeds may lead to a dog getting on well with other Border Collies but reacting aggressively to other dog breeds it is not familiar with.
If, as a pup, a Border Collie has been attacked by another dog it may have an ingrained fear of that breed or of strange dogs in general.

Fear aggression towards human also stems from early socialisation where human contact was minimal. Dogs that suffer with this condition will fairly quickly get to know and trust the people they interact with on a daily basis and over time will come to accept regular visitors if the visitors have the patience to stick it out for long enough but never take a fear aggressive dog for granted.
The wrong move could break trust and lead to defence (as far as the dogs is concerned its defending itself)
Fear aggressive dogs may remain wary and frightened of strangers or occasional visitors for the whole of their lives.

Dominance aggression stems from a dogs inclination to try and control its environment and the people and other animals within it or who come into contact with it.
Like fear aggression, there can also be an inherited factor but, again, in most cases it has to do with socialisation in the early part of a dogs, poor handling and training when young and weak leadership and control. These factors often brings out these traits out in a Border Collie.
We emphasise that if a dog is allowed to become dominant (and it can happen very quickly) it takes a long time to revert the dog to normal behaviour. The inclination can be controlled but all members of the household need to treat the dog in the same way with the same commands and the same consistency of tone and firmness. Whoever the strongest leader is will have to re-enforce the authority of the weaker members.

A strong leader or dominant individual human is less likely to become a target of this form of aggression but it can manifest itself on weaker members of a household, particularly children. Visitors are often subjects of dominant behaviour from a Border Collie while on the dogs territory.
The dog may position itself to block their entry or move to block their exit, a bit of herding and domination coming together at the same time.
It may become aggressive around food, its bed, its toys in fact the whole house and garden where it thinks it rules the roost.
A dominant dog may take over space and refuse to yield it. Sofa's are a good example.

Redirected aggression is a form of aggression where the recipient is not the cause but is unfortunately the victim by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dog may be frustrated due to the way it is housed and handled and restricted from expressing its normal behaviour or it may be wound up and excited due to the proximity of other dogs or people it wishes to play with or scare away but is unable to.
It could be triggered by pain.
The simplest way of putting it is the dog is lashing out in a bad temper and the person closest could be the target of its ire.
It may be the person who reaches out to take its collar or merely touches it in passing or to try and sooth it.
Frustration and induced hyperactivity in Border Collies often leads to outbreaks of this sort of aggression.


We have a page in our Breed Advice Section about The Border Collie as a Pet - Click here to view it now

Back to Section Menu


If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please do not write to us or email us - we want to speak to you before we start the process.
Please phone us during office hours. Details here.

Calls to our office and mobile will only be answered during our office hours