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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Breed Profile

Breed Profile of the Border Collie

phoebe Sections on this page

Introduction - The Three aspects of the Border Collie

Jump to - The Kennel Club Border Collie

Jump to - The ISDS Border Collie

Jump to - The Unregistered Border Collie

Jump to - Breed Profile Section Menu
Red Sam
Phoebe                                                                                                                                                                           Sam
Here we outline what a Border Collie is - The breed is not easy to define - it's not all 'Black and White'.

Introduction - The three aspects of the Border Collie

Not very much of the information on this page has anything to do with the 'Breed Standard' or Pedigree, as defined by the Kennel Club.
Dogs that fit into that definition form a small proportion of Border Collies around today.

This breed profile of the Border Collie takes into consideration all Border Collies. There are now three obvious 'classifications' of the breed.
The first part of this page looks at  how we got to this point and the following three sections cover the three distinct classifications.
The Kennel Club registered Border Collie, The International Sheep Dog Society registered Border Collie. The unregistered Border Collie.

Following this is the Breed Profile which is divided into 9 sections, each one of which looks at a different aspect of the breed.
There is a menu that enables you to jump to individual sections and a link at the end of each section that takes you back to the menu.

Everything on this page is written in sequence. The best way to understand it all is to read it in sequence by scrolling down the page.


Some of the dogs that are generally known to us as Border Collies, if registered with the Kennel Club, have to be registered as 'working sheepdogs' unless they are from KC registered Border Collie Bloodlines, which allows them to register under the Border Collie title.

A working sheepdog in KC terms does not have to work sheep, its just a Border Collie which has no registered KC pedigree.
As far as the KC is concerned it is a mongrel.

The KC pedigree 'Border Collie' has little to do with the sheepdogs that we see in farmers fields or in sheepdog trials, but to keep their puppies viable KC breeders need to breed in genes from working dog lines to stop their bloodlines being affected by recessive or deleterious traits

The dogs they would use are generally registered with the International Sheepdog Society who run their own stud book for pedigree working BC's. The KC will recognise and register ISDS dogs as Border Collies.

Dual registration or KC registration is also allowed for pups with both ISDS registered parents or an ISDS registered Dam with a KC sire.
It 's confusing but it is a matter of convenience for KC breeders.

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Kennel Club Registered
ISDS Registered

ISDS Registered

What about the ISDS (International Sheep Dog Society) - where do they come in?
They have held the stud book and register of pedigree Border Collies for well over 100 years. The KC started in 1976. ISDS dogs are the second largest group. The KC group is  much smaller.

ISDS registered dogs are involved in stock working around the world.
They do not publish a 'Breed Standard' based on appearance like the Kennel Club because their criteria for registering dogs is based on different priorities. They do not allow KC dogs to dual register.

With the ISDS the most important factor is working ability. Although most ISDS bloodlines have been registered for many years they will take new dogs onto the register if they have proven working ability. Brains before beauty is a catchphrase associated with the ISDS.

As said, some dogs can be dual registered. If they are registered on the ISDS studbook they can also be registered with the Kennel Club.

The only way this happens the other way round is when a KC registered Border Collie proves itself at trials and is registered on Merit, a process that can apply to any Border Collie, pedigree or not.

It only seems confusing and mysterious if your not used to the different systems and understand why they both exist.
They are both for very specialised purposes, one decorative and the other functional but they don't represent all the Border Collies out there. Only a percentage.

So what about the rest of the 'Border Collies' - those that are not from bloodlines registered with either organisation?
Dogs with no registered 'Pedigree'?  
No traceable lineage other than through the memory of many generations of shepherds who have bred their own lines to be most suitable for their individual terrain, environment and stock?

There is great diversity in the appearance of such Border Collies because many generations back when the breed became established as an exceptional working dog farmers and shepherds bought pups and took them home and bred them into their native working dog lines in order to add the skills of the Border Collie into their own bloodline.

The variations in size, coat type and appearance evolved naturally over time. It was not worked out on paper putting certain dogs together to create one that had certain patterns and colours. Eugenics did not come into it. It was more like assisted natural selection.




Is it right to class these unregistered dogs as Border Collies?
Where do you draw the line with a breed that has so many claims upon its inheritance and so much input to its lineage?

Purists in both camps would say no but this diversity is the making of the breed.

It gets through to the pure lines eventually when an unregistered dog of dubious parentage gets accepted onto the ISDS register on merit and joins its blood to the ISDS pool that KC breeders call on to keep their lines healthy. A slow trickle of 'Hybrid Vigour'.

This 'unclassified' category forms the biggest group of dogs we know as Border Collies and it is dogs from this unregistered selection that are most likely to end up in peoples homes as pets.

This category includes most farm bred dogs, puppy farm bred dogs, small scale commercially bred dogs and casually bred dogs from occasional breeders who have not kept records of their bloodlines.

They are all rooted in working lines with working instinct to one degree or another and are therefore capable of being unpredictable in their reactions in environments unsuited to them or when handled by people who have little experience and knowledge of the breed.

An environment and lifestyle that suits one of these dogs may not suit another and this is the problem. It is difficult to see how any individual will cope or settle down in a particular home. No two are really alike. They may look very similar but seeing what's on the surface is not enough.
You have to look deeper and find out what's going on underneath. What makes the dog tick. What it needs from life and what it's sensitive to.

Jump to - BCR Breed Profile Section Menu

Kennel Club


The Kennel Club Registered Border Collie

 From   Kennel Club Registered Bloodlines - Spruce (Left) and Mick. 

The KC classes the Border Collie as a 'Pastoral' breed. So lets have a dig into the Thesaurus and look up some synonyms for -
'Pastoral' and 'Working', then see what the Dictionary has to say about 'Sheepdogs'.
Pastoral - meaning 'Bucolic' or 'Rural'
Thesaurus -- Bucolic (adj.) - synonyms - Simple - Agrarian - Tranquil - Idyllic - Halcyon - Serene - Quiet.
Thesaurus - Rural (adj.) - synonyms - Country - Countrified - Provincial - Rustic - Agrarian
Thesaurus -- Working (adj.) - synonyms - Practical - Applicable - Applied - Active.
Dictionary - Sheepdog (noun) - A dog that watches and works with Sheep.

Sheep So here we have - A serene, countrified, active dog
that watches and works with sheep.

Or - A simple, provincial, applied dog
that watches and works with sheep.
Pick your own combination from the above synonyms - add the noun - and make your own definition of a Border Collie!

The Kennel Club (KC) stud book registers 'Pedigree' bloodlines that seek to adhere to a Breed Standard, as defined by the KC for the purposes of showing.  This breed standard is based on appearance. Dogs are judged by their conformity to this breed standard at 'exemption shows'.
Crufts is the top event in this category.  There are many other exemption shows around the UK, most of which are qualifiers for the main event.
Border Collies are not the only victims of conformity. The KC sets a breed standard for all breeds - if they choose to recognise a breed.

As far as the KC is concerned, only Border Collies from bloodlines registered with the KC have the right to be described as Border Collies - the rest they call 'working sheepdogs' and can be registered for competition but not for showing. They don't need to be so pretty.

Registering for competition means that a dog with no KC Pedigree can be entered into KC regulated events run under KC rules and participate alongside dogs with KC registered Pedigrees - but this does not extend to the Show ring where only KC Pedigree dogs are allowed to enter.

It may help to understand the structure of completion at the top level of exemption shows in the UK. Here is a brief summary.
At Crufts each breed is judged in its own class against others of the same breed. There will be a male and female winner in the class that then compete against each other to be crowned Best of Breed.
The KC puts similar breeds into Groups. There are seven groups. The Border Collie is in the 'Pastoral' group.
Best of Breed winners of each breed in the group compete to become Best in Group.
Each Best in Group winner then competes against the others for the ultimate title, Best in Show.

You may ask what the point is and why people put their dogs through it all. This is not a natural thing for a dog to be doing. They have to put up with a lot. The answer is not complicated. At each level achieved the value of stud services or pups from the winner of that level increases.

As well as exemption shows, the KC runs competitive events in various interactive disciplines like Agility, Flyball, etc. These events are run all over the country at various levels with competitors vying for a place to compete at the main event - Crufts.
With reference to Border Collies, these events are open to all, registered or unregistered. Unregistered Border Collies need to be entered as Working Sheepdogs. All can compete against each other under Kennel Club rules.
The path to Crufts in each of these discipline's follows the same path as that of the exemption dogs. Local, and regional qualifiers.

The KC also registers and regulates dog clubs in these various disciplines and obedience trainers and classes who follow Kennels Club procedures. There are standards and qualification levels that are designed to encourage good and responsible dog ownership. 


Pedigree registered Border Collie from Kennel Club lines - or is it a Fox?

Some KC Pedigree show lines can be as difficult to keep in the pet home as the average farm dog, but there are breeders on the KC register these days who claim to be breeding more for temperament than showing, and with the pet market in mind. 
A possible advantage of taking one of these dogs to be your family pet is that they are supposed to be bred, reared and socialised under a set of rules and principals that will reduce the risk of you getting a dog with hereditary problems or strong herding drive that would be a liability in your home and around your family. Pedigree dogs exposed and more recent revelations does cast doubt on these claims.

There are good and bad breeders and some are only in it for the money, so it's buyer beware.
You need to be aware that the Kennel Club is a private members club and is run by people elected by its members for the purposes of the benefiting its members, many of whom are dog breeders. It does not exist for the benefit of dogs. It is not a charity but it does put a small proportion of profits into a charitable trust that funds research into some aspects of dog welfare. Mainly health and factors relevant to its members.
 It has to be said that these days that there is no guarantee of that a KC bred BC will meet these requirements or make a suitable pet and that the same basic precautions should be applied if you seek to take a dog from any source.

The Border Collie has been around long before the KC became involved. KC registered bloodlines form the smallest proportion of Border Collies in existence today, however the KC does have a strong influence on the fortunes of any breed it recognises.
The Border Collie was recognised in 1976.
ISDS pedigree bloodlines make up a rather more substantial group of Border Collies, however the vast majority of Border Collies are unregistered working bloodlines kept by farmers and stockmen for herding purposes.

The use the description 'working sheepdog' by the KC implies lowlier breeding and therefore less value than a KC registered 'Border Collie' from a KC registered line. It adds weight to the claim that KC registered breeders should be able to charge higher prices for their pups than could be achieved for a 'working sheepdog'. If an unregistered Border Collie fetches 3 to 4 hundred pounds, obviously a registered one is worth more.(?)

In that context the term is a misuse of it's original application which was given to dogs that had high value because they were of use to man in a working capacity. They help put food on tables and contributed to the countries economy in a big way. The term attempts to stand logic on its head, implying that a dog that does the work of 10 men is of less value than one bred to be a pet and companion or look good in the showring.
The word 'Collie' means useful in 'the Gaelic'. A 'collie dog' - a useful dog. The word Border in the name describes the marches of England and Scotland and England and Wales where the breed was originally developed. So - Border Collie - 'a useful dog from the Borders'.
Working sheepdogs had nothing to do with pedigrees or breed standards to govern appearance. A working sheepdog was a dog with a purpose.

If a KC enthusiast tells you that your dog - the dog you think is a Border Collie is, in reality, a working sheepdog because it has no pedigree, don't be offended. The use of the term in this way implies a limited knowledge of the breed by the user and a narrow perspective to the extent of the breeds history development, purpose and abilities and should not be taken too seriously.
The BC has certainly been around for at least a couple of hundred years, possibly since the early 1600's. The KC only became involved in 1976!

You certainly do not have a working sheepdog if your dog does not work sheep. It is confusing and misleading to described it as one that does.
Actually, the last thing you want in your living room is a working sheepdog unless it is working sheep. One that is frustrated because it wants to, but is not able or allowed to work sheep can be a big problem! That's why it pays to be very carful in acquiring one as a domestic companion.

To see the KC breed standard  for the Border Collie, please use the link below

To go to the Border Collie Breed Standard on the Kennel Club Website - Click here.

Jump to - BCR Breed Profile Section Menu


The International Sheep Dog Society Border Collie

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The ISDS was formed in July 1906 by a group of Shepherds and Sheep Dog enthusiasts from Scotland and the English Border Counties who banded together under the chairmanship of George Clark, with J Wilson as secretary and a committee of 10 into the International Sheep Dog Trials Society. Their first official trial was held near Edinburgh in August that year and attracted 27 entries and a profit of £9.
The winner of that first event was Richard Sandilands who ran his dog Don. The dogs and handlers came from Scotland and England.

However, Sheep Dog trials had been going for some time before that, with the first recorded 'International' trial taking place at Bala in North Wales in 1873 between Welsh and Scottish Shepherds. All the dogs running in the first ISDS trial were winners of commendations at previous local events.

The stated object of this group was to increase public interest in the work of the Shepherd, improve the qualities of the Sheep Dog and provide support for members and their widows. No doubt these founding members would have been proud to have witnessed the first 'World' Sheep Dog Trial which took place at Bala, Wales in September 2002. It was clear by the public attendance and media coverage of this event that interest had indeed been increased. People came from all over the world to see the best of the best compete. Much was televised and the finals on Sunday went out live on channel S4C. We were there. It was a great event with so many Border Collies of all shapes and sizes.

The Societies influence is now world-wide, as is its membership. Every country has it's own version of the Kennel Club, but there is only one ISDS.
Like the Kennel Club, the ISDS is a club of breeders but it is also a registered charity so all it's income has to be applied for the furtherance of its objects. It has very few paid staff and the events and trials it runs are organised and staffed by volunteers.

Although there are many sheepdog breeds throughout the world, the ISDS is the custodian of the International stud book for Border Collies in their capacity of Working Sheep Dogs. This facility was instituted in 1915 by the, then, secretary, James Reid. The first volume was published in 1955 and contained, as its first entry, details of a bitch named 'Old Maid'. There have been attempts in the past to open supplementary registers within the ISDS for other sheepdog breeds, but so far this has proved unsuccessful.


Nap and Jess - Unregistered working Border Collies from Pedigree ISDS lines - just having a romp

The ISDS stud book registers only the offspring of existing ISDS registered parents, although it is possible within their regulations for a good unregistered Border Collie to be accepted and registered because of its outstanding ability on the trials field. When such a dog is accepted and registered it is said to be registered 'on merit'.  This is not that common an occurrence, but the Society is open to such and it does bring new blood into the registered lines and increases their vigour. Subsequently that new blood eventually finds it's way into KC lines.

Strict rules govern the admission of pups into the ISDS register. Notice of the mating has to be submitted to the Society within 14 days of the pairing on a supplied card.  On approval of this notice a form is sent out for the Registration of the litter which must be filled in and returned within 4 months of the date of birth. A certificate of verification is also supplied by the Society for each litter registered.
This should be filled in by a Vet to confirm that the mother declared is truly the mother of the litter.

Not only do the Sire and Dam have to be existing registered dogs, but they must also be screened and proven free of hereditary eye conditions such as Centralised Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Collie Eye Anomaly, so that these conditions cannot have been passed on to the pups
The owner of the Dam must also be a member of the ISDS. If all these criteria are met, the society will issue consecutive registration numbers for each puppy in the litter, and in the case of litter born outside of the UK, the number will have a prefix letter or letters to indicate the country of origin.

In this way, the ISDS seek to ensure that Border Collies registered in their stud books have been properly bred and screened and their lineage traced clearly on collation of pedigree. It also clearly indicates through pedigree research, the qualities or faults likely to be found in succeeding generations and allows the purchasers of registered puppies to make an informed choice as to whether a particular pup is likely to develop the qualities they are seeking. Dogs registered with the ISDS are registered as Working Sheep Dogs, although the Society does not insist that such registered dogs need to actually be working in a 'professional' capacity.


Pedigree registered Border Collie from ISDS lines

Dogs registered with the ISDS are the only dogs entitled to enter sheepdog trials run under ISDS rules, but any dog and handler, from any walk of life, can enter local open trials - providing the dog is trained to sheep! If the dog proves it's worth in open trials it may be registered on merit.
These ISDS registered lines are bred to work and they do appear to be more intelligent than the KC lines.
Because of this breeding they are not domestic pet material. Some individuals may make suitable Agility dogs or Flyball dogs.

As it is a members club it is influenced by its members and over recent years many breeders of Border Collies from the Kennel club have joined its ranks. Dual registration is becoming popular and in some instances it does work both ways. Like the KC it has good and bad breeders.
One major difference is that, unlike the Kennel Club, it does not have any attraction for big (or small) commercial breeders to join because the main purpose of registered dogs is to work and the main market of puppy farmers is to sell to the public.
Most of these breeders stick to the Kennel Club where it is easier to get pups registered and the screening process is less strenuous.

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To go to the Homepage of the ISDS Website - Click here

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The rest of the Border Collie clan

The unregistered or Non Pedigree Border Collie

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This is by far the largest category of Border Collies around today and some, mainly from farm stock, will have their origin in strong and ancient bloodlines rooted in working dogs going back many generations. Some will be privately bred in puppy farms or by backyard breeders for profit or hobby breeders for the sake of the love for their dogs and their desire to replicate them.
All will have links back to working bloodlines but no pedigree to show it.

Because there is generally no research or regulation to their breeding, very few of these dogs or their ancestors will ever have been screened for hereditary disease. In some case hereditary issue would be obvious to the initialed but unnoticed by the breeder because they didn't know.
The signs may also pass unnoticed by people wishing to purchase the,.
Taking any unregistered dog carries a risk of acquiring a dog that may prove to have a variety of health and/or behavioural problems.

Additionally, because unregistered dogs directly from working backgrounds are bred by shepherds and farmers precisely for the working ability of the puppies, many of these dogs will have strong chase and herding instinct which will make them problem pets in a domestic environment.
It should also be said that not all KC or ISDS registered pedigree breeders are as good as they should be. Some lines have been spoilt by intensive inbreeding, intended to cement and re-enforce required traits but resulting in offspring with terrible temperament and physical problems.

Deliberate breeding of merles is an example. It carries high risk of serious physical and temperament issues even if you know what you're doing. Merling is cased by a genetic abnormality. It can occur naturally. When it does it's usually brown and white on black. The genes that create the patterns of flecking in the coats of merles go hand in hand with genes that can cause blindness, deafness, bowel problems and other issues.

Some individuals will breed from dogs they have purchased from these registered lines thinking they will produce high quality puppies with good pedigree backgrounds but all they are doing is passing on problems to future generations and polluting the overall gene pool of the breeder. Hereditary problems may come out in the offspring of the affected parents but in some cases the pups can carry the problems without manifesting them and pass them on to future generations who do.

Private individuals from all walks of life are seeking to breed pets from unregistered dogs, but this is very risky indeed as most of these individuals really do not understand what they are doing and the results are hit and miss to say the very best about them.
Breeding is a science based on a knowledge of genetics, hereditary diseases and behavioural problems, without which problems are inevitable.

Farm Bred Border Collie. Unregistered. Advancing on the sheep.

The only Border Collies that will make good pets are those non-workers with little or no residual herding instinct, whether registered or not.

One other matter to clear up - at the start there was mention of the KC only recognising non pedigree Border Collies as mongrels.
There  is a difference between a mongrel and a crossbreed. A mongrel is a dog of no particular defined type. There may be many breeds in its ancestry, it's sire and dam may have many breeds in their ancestry so it can't really be classified by name as anything in particular.

A crossbreed is the result of a pairing between two different breeds of dog. Two breeds are crossed to produce puppies of a certain type.
The qualities of the puppies are supposed to reflect the best qualities of both breeds - although this is not always the case!

Border Collies crossed with Labs or Retrievers are generally a lot less intense than a Border Collies but more focused than a Lab or Retriever.
Border Collies crossed with German Shepherds tend to be larger and more inclined to guard than chase.
Border Collies crossed with any breed of Spaniel are generally not a very good idea by any standards - but it happens!

For many domestic applications a Border Collie Crossbreed is more suited. The intensity of the Border Collie is diluted but it's loyalty and overall appearance remains pretty true to the breed and it is much more likely to adapt to urban and suburban environments.
Border Collie genes tend to dominate the appearance of crossbreed mating's and produce pups that look a lot like Border Collies with less issues.

One of each

Three Border Collies - One ISDS Pedigree, One KC Pedigree and One farm bred with no Pedigree.

The breed profile section menu is directly below

We have divided our profile of the breed into sections laid out below. Scroll down or use the links to read the rest.

Border Collie Rescue - Breed Profile

Scroll down to read sections in order of sequence or use the links to jump to any section that interests you most.

If you don't want to scroll, we would suggest you read the paragraphs below the links first.
It briefly covers how Border Collies are bred and sold and how some are bred for specific purposes but end up being sold as pets.
This may aid in understanding how wide ranging a Border Collie breed profile actually is.

The following areas are covered.
Origins, Name and Purpose    -     Physical Characteristics    -     Temperament    -     Environment    -     Training   -    Running Costs

Hereditary/Health Problems    -     Special Needs     -     Other Issues/Problems

 or - go back up page to the introductory sections -

Prologue   -   Kennel Club Border Collie   -   ISDS Border Collie   -   Unregistered Border Collie


Breeding and sources

You might think that the more you pay - the better the quality of puppy you are going to get. That's not always true.

Most people who acquire a Border Collie do not take on a dog that has any careful selection in its background of breeding as that which goes into KC or ISDS registered pedigree dogs. You should not expect any dog, other than those from registered lines, to display the qualities that are outlined and sought by the KC or ISDS pedigree breeders. But do you want, or need, a dog with the qualities expects from a KC or ISDS registered dog?
ISDS pup

Do you want to show your dog or herd sheep with it?
If not, KC registered show lines and ISDS registered working lines are not for you.

Even with registered lines there is a margin for error. Some KC dogs are born without the right markings or shape to conform to a breed standard.
This will be obvious at birth or at least at a few weeks old.

Some ISDS dogs will not have strong enough instinct to herd but it will take months to discover this as instinct to herd usually takes time to develop, although in some pups it is obvious from a few weeks old.

The dogs with the wrong markings or shape and those with poor working instinct will have little value to the breeder or if sold on, their owners.
It is in their peer group that they would hold their highest value and in that group they would be seen as not to be fit for purpose.

The pet market is the next best thing because some people may take pride in owning a dog from bloodlines with a history of champions and although this may not necessarily make the dog worth the price asked, they will pay for its lineage and wear it like a badge.

An example would be a puppy from registered parents that displays a high proportion of white in its markings. This will not be highly regarded in either KC or ISDS circles. In KC shows it would loose points due to this 'fault', which deviates from the breed standard.
In ISDS circles, a predominantly white pup will be perceived as likely to be less able to control and work livestock because it's colour is less of a threat to the instincts of sheep. Most predators are dark and sheep will react more attentively to dogs with a good proportion of black markings.

It is also known that a pup with predominantly white markings stands a higher risk of carrying other genetic problems that may cause blindness, deafness, epilepsy, hip problems and intestinal problems as well as increasing the possibility of temperament problems.
Therefore, within these circles such dogs will not have a huge financial value to their breeders.

Red and White pups

However, in the competitive Obedience, Agility or Flyball world, a dog with this type of marking would not be a handicap and because of its pedigree and registration, within those circles it could command a higher price than it would if sold as a pet.
If the dog is a merle it would be even more popular because of its coloured, flecked markings and even though merles carry an even greater risk of hereditary and temperament issues it could command an even higher price.
Shrewd breeders will see an opportunity to maximise the price they will get for a pup by aiming it at a particular market.

Unfortunately, being a member of the ISDS or the KC does not make a breeder any more scrupulous than a breeder of unregistered dogs.

Non-pedigree pups can also be exploited in this way and sold into the pet market.

Farm bred pups from unregistered parents are not worth a great deal of money in the farming community unless the parents are renowned workers and the breeder known for their diligence and care, in which case the pups are likely to be sold or passed on by word of mouth to other farmers and shepherds known to the breeders or recommended to them by friends and neighbours.
A farmer or shepherd may breed a little from their best workers in order to get one or two pups to keep, selling the rest of the litter on.
The general public do not often get offered these dogs to be pets because they have value as potential working dogs within the working community.

Those from parents with less ability are generally not wanted within the working community and you will see dogs like this sold on for a few pounds because their is a risk to the buyer that the dog will not turn out to be capable or interested in work. However they will carry some working instinct.

You seldom see them at agricultural auctions because there is not a huge demand but to some farmers they are worth a punt.
If they work the farmer has a cheap dog. If they turn out not to work or are a liability around sheep they can be sold on as a potential pet.
Farm Bred pups

These days farmers are aware that quite high prices can be commanded for any pups they breed - very high if the markings are classic Black and White or unusual in any respect.

Often pups like this are from an unexpected and accidental litter and no thought whatsoever has been put into the breeding - but it's a handy source of income to farms and sometimes it's a sideline that is pursued deliberately.
Poor socialisation is often a problem from such pairings.

Some backyard breeders are often motivated to breed because they are so smitten by their perfect dog they want it to have pups.
Others will breed on a small scale, perhaps once or twice a year, just for profit.

A litter at before Christmas and a litter before an annual holiday could raise substantial sums and even pay the full costs of the event.
Very little thought goes into the matching of sire and dam. Their own bitch and a friends dog as stud in exchange for one of the pups is a common scenario. The rest will be sold on for whatever the vendor thinks the market will stand. They may even ask pedigree prices.
Temperament is often a problem from such pairings.

Fame as a dog breeder does not guarantee that the winner of accolades has a high ethical or moral bias and won't rip you off if they see you coming.

There are the unlicensed puppy dealers.

We have seen adverts in the press asking for unwanted litters of BC pups and offering a 'fair' price. We hear from farming people who have sold unwanted litters in response to such adverts being offered £30 to £50 per pup on the basis that the whole litter was collected and taken away.
Some of these dog dealer even pose as "rescue". Be very wary of any unregistered rescues that seem to get a lot of puppies.
Even farmers who find themselves with an unexpected litter are aware they can sell them. Puppies are in demand. Not so may end up in rescue.

We get complaints from people who had phoned such enterprises to buy a BC pup they had seen in the newspapers or online. They are quoted around or upwards of £250 for 'non-pedigree' pups and £350 for a 'pedigree'. Prices vary according to individual seller and even their location.

Often, people who ask for a 'pedigree' pup are told they would have to go on a waiting list as they are not available yet but will be soon.
In situations like this the promised 'pedigree' documents that were to follow the purchase in the post do not materialise - they seldom do.

Pups are usually sold with an initial vaccination which needs to be followed up with a second jab at the new owners vets and expense.

Often these vendors pose as 'rescue' or tell callers that the pups are from a litter they have bred themselves.
They will have a dog and a bitch at home to 'prove' it.

When one caller asked for his breeders title (suffix or prefix and bloodline name) he said that he was not a 'registered' breeder and you would not find his name listed anywhere but the litter they had bred were from good registered bloodlines.

Finally we have the commercial breeders and puppy farmers.

A commercial breeder is a licensed individual who makes their living from breeding and selling pups directly to the public.
Usually their breeding pairs and puppies are KC registered and they can be picky who they sell their pups to - not always of course.
Sometimes the picky aspect is only to hook the buyer and obtain a higher price. It is flattering to be told that you have passed their strict criteria.
Pups from these sources tend to be very good looking if they are from KC registered lines and some thought goes into the pairing of sire and dam.

They are usually well socialised and well looked after but issues can arise with temperament because sometimes these lines can be inbred.
There are good and bad commercial breeders so it is an advantage to know who you are dealing with and only deal with someone who friends recommend. Do not take testimonials for granted. It is easy for a breeder to forge these or get others to post good ones on their behalf.
Being a KC registered breeder, accredited or not, really does not mean much. A fee does it. Going by word of mouth is often the best way

Puppy farmers breed pups on a large scale to be sold through agents and pet shops. They can afford to work through a middle man because their output is quantity rather than quality. They also need to sell through third parties because the conditions at their premises would sicken most people.
This is an organised industry. Some are licensed and inspected but may also have unlicensed premises elsewhere to feed into the production line.
The licensed premises are not required to be of a particularly high standard and corners can be cut between inspections.

Pups can be imported on a large scale and fed into the chain or exported if there is a better market for that breed in another country.
Pups are generally poorly socialised and have a high chance of having a potentially fatal disease. Vet bills can be high in the fight for survival.
Agents selling these pups pose as 'rescue' or private breeders with a dog and bitch available to add to the deception.

Pups can be sold via adverts on internet sites like Craigslist, Gumtree or Pre-loved.. Free papers are also used. Why pay for an advert?
Vendors may deliver or arrange to meet in a car park or service station. The only contact will be a mobile phone number which they swap regularly.
The pups sold in this way tend to be cheaper in comparison to other sources so it is a temptation to some people who ignore the warning signs.

Backyard and small scale commercial breeders will sometimes sell to a pet shop but this is very rare. Cuts profits.
Puppy farmers are the main suppliers of pet shops. A middle man allowance is built into their costs.
It's a cruel trade where dogs and bitches are not well cared for and are used as a production line of pups. Conditions are often atrocious.
Breeding bitches hardly have time to recover from one litter before they are served for the next.
They start breeding from their bitches far younger than is healthy for them and continues to breed form them until they are far older than is healthy.
When a stud dog or bitch is too old and is of no use anymore they are disposed of. Killed or just dumped and left to die.

5 Pups
A litter of Scottish Working Border Collies, C1900
They don't breed them like they used to!

It should be fairly clear to you by now that paying a lot of money does not necessarily guarantee a good quality dog and buying a Border Collie pup from any source will not guarantee you will end up with a dog that will make a suitable pet.
'Buyer Beware' are still the keywords to bear in mind no matter what source you are buying from.

This is why it is rather difficult to precisely outline a breed profile for the Border Collie - multiple sources and applications of this breed make for multiple variations in physical characteristics, temperament, ideal environment, ease of training and other aspects relating to it.

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Section 1

Origins, Name and Purpose

Origins - The Border Regions of Scotland and England is where the breed was first developed. Later in the border regions of Wales and England shepherds who had acquired these dogs also bred qualities into the breed that made them so useful in the countryside in both regions.

The breed has been developed over hundreds of years by Shepherds who were seeking to improve the working abilities of the traditional breeds they had been using. Their are very few historic images of Border Collies but one artist, Charles Ansell, born in Paddington, Middlesex in 1794 and died in Brighton, Sussex in 1881 had an obsession with Scotland and its shepherds and sheep. In fact their whole lifestyle.
He painted many pictures to capture them at work and in leisure and in many of these there was a Border Collie doing exactly what they are
                                                                                                                                           designed to do. Turning the Drove On the left is 'Turning the Drove which was painted in 1851. The dog is in the bottom left corner of the picture. Below is 'Herd and Lassie" (Lassie being the girl, not the dog!)

Herd and Lassie








Ansell's pictures show the Border Collie wearing the same coat as they wear today and doing the same job in the early to mid 19th century but there are earlier references.

In the days of the Border Rievers there are stories of black and white dogs trained to herd stolen stock from a raid back to a secure place on their own land where the thieves could collect the stock once the coast was clear.
It was a lawless period in country on either side of the Border that had been ravaged and decimated by wars between England and Scotland.

Rieving was an organised and widespread activity.
There were big families involved, Dukes and Earls leading them with smaller less powerful families bound to them by oath of loyalty - which didn't mean much on some occasions.

The dogs they used were described as black all over other than having white tips to their tails and white chests.
Their work took place on moonlit nights. You may have heard of the expression "A Rievers Moon".
Horseback raids took place and the dogs kept up until sufficient stock had been stolen and gathered and then were send off home with it while the raiders went on after more.
In the low light the white on the dogs chests could be seen by the livestock in front of them but not from anyone following behind.
While working the tails were kept down and anyone pursuing would not see the white on the tips.
If the owners of the stolen livestock caught up, the dogs could fade off into the night and live to herd another day. If their owner called them by name they raised their tails and the white tips could be seen in the darkness helping the raisers locate them.

The Rievers were active for around 300 years up to 1603 when James of Scotland succeeded to the English throne and the two counties united.

Historic BC Pups
The wool trade drove the development of sheepdogs as more and more land was given over to grazing and larger and larger flocks were being kept on increasingly large areas of pasture and moorland.
Landowners threw tenant farmers out on their ears in order to dedicate the land to growing wool. Shepherding had always been a respected  trade and now good shepherds were in great demand, as were their dogs.

Various breeds were use in different parts of the country on different terrains they were best suited to. Close work with such large flocks became more difficult. many herding breeds did their work by barking and moving quickly behind the sheep which in large flocks often led to a scattering and the need to gather in again.

These problems lead to to great deal of interest in any dogs with 'eye' who could control stock simply by staring and moving quietly from side to side to get them moving in the required direction. Eye is one of the best qualities of the Border Collie and it was developed by selective breeding which took shepherding to a whole new dimension.

Sheepdog trials are recorded as early as the 1870's and The International Sheepdog Society was founded in 1906 to organise and co-ordinate these rather localised competitions and to form and hold a stud book for the dogs competing in order to improve the breed and the management of livestock. This is when Border Collie Bloodlines became dedicated and the wide and varied regional 'types' that had sprung up started to become more unified.

Auld Hemp, a dog belonging to Adam Telfer from Northumberland is reckoned to be the progenitor of the breed we know today. He lived between 1893 and 1901 and although he was not No 1 in the ISDS stud book he was considered to be the best sheepdog alive at the time and nearly all Border Collies alive today owe that to Auld Hemp. He was a quiet worker and was never formally trained.

Telfer is reputed to have said "he flashed like a meteor across the sheepdog horizon. There never was such an outstanding personality" and Eric Halsall, shepherd, author and commentator on One Man and His Dog said "none who saw him ever forgot him...Almost faultless in work...he was born with such knowledge of his craft that he never required training and went to his work naturally."

Auld Hemp is not the most famous or prolific Border Collie. That accolade goes to Wiston Cap who belonged to John Richardson who had bought him at 6 weeks old in 1963.
In the 1965 International Sheepdog Trials, Wiston Cap became supreme champion at less than two years old and was the most popular stud the breed ever had. Many of the pups he sired went on to become Trials champions, including 3 International Trials Champions.
It is said that Wiston Cap's genes are in every Border Collie alive today.

Historic BC Pups
To create what we know as the 'Border Collie', the traits of a number of other breeds had their part and the collective whole was condensed into a black and white bundle of wiry intelligence and talent by equally talented and serious, single minded, men.

Selective breeding - that is to say breeding from the best and preventing the rest - cemented the traits and instincts shepherds wanted to see in their dogs. (This is something we all should take more seriously these days).

What came out of this, and what we now have, is acknowledged as the best Working Sheepdog breed in the world .

Name -
The prefix 'Border' refers to the Borders of England and Scotland where the breed - in its present form - originated.
The word 'Collie' is an old Scottish term and means 'useful'. Therefore a 'Collie Dog' is a 'useful dog'. We can have a 'collie tool' - a favourite and useful implement that does the job it was intended to do, and does it well.
Put the two together and we have a name that simply means - 'Useful dog from the Borders (Region)'.

The name Border Collie was not used until after 1906 when the first secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society, James Reid, is credited with having created it.

Purpose -
This breed has been created to work stock, originally sheep, but variations were bred that were better suited to work and herd other species of domestic animals. The use of selective breeding as referred to in Origins, above, has re-enforced the characteristics best suited to this form of activity. It took many, many, generations to cement the necessary traits and mold the breeds natural instincts.
These are not going to disappear quickly.

Soring in the HighlandsHerding and working livestock was the sole purpose behind the Border Collie until very recently.
We are now have these instincts and characteristics built into the breed, but they do make the breed what it is, and without them it would not be the same.

We can remove or dilute these instincts by applying selective breeding until we have variations that have other characteristics.
This will take time and perhaps as many generations to breed the instinct out as as it took to breed it in.

There are some breeders who are attempting to create bloodlines that have less herding instinct and are more 'domesticated' and 'user friendly', but this is not going to be easy to achieve. We do not have these 'pet' variations yet.

One of the obstacles to achieving this is the need to inject DNA from the wide working line pool into the domestic line pool to prevent inbreeding and the decreasing gene pool causing inherited disabilities, deformities and behavioural issues. Some of the most well know domestic blood lines have occasionally put out litters with sever temperament problems . We've had a few through our hands

Don't be fooled - phrases like "this breed is intelligent and easy to train and handle" and the old chestnut "will make a good working dog or pet"  are phrases designed to sell dogs and each statement contradicts itself.

The last word in this section is another picture by Charles Ansell on the left, entitled "Spring in the Highlands' Nice looking Tri-colour.
DunRig from S over StMarys from AndWhinney Back to Section Menu BRPack
Scottish Borders                                                                                                                                                                                 Border Collies

Section 2

Physical Characteristics

Border Collies come in so many shapes and sizes it is difficult to believe that all these dogs are of the same breed.
Different physical characteristics reflect the different types of sheepdog that have been bred into Border Collie lines in the distant past.
The illustrations are there to demonstrate many of the variations and do not directly relate to the text around them.

Coat types
Rough Coated, Standard markings
We get long coats, medium coats and short coats -  some in between.  These coats can be smooth or coarse.
They can be flat, wiry, curly or rough. There are all combinations of these coat types.

The very short, straight coated, smooth dogs can also be called 'Bald Coated' although they are not hairless.
Those with very coarse fur can look almost 'Wiry'.

Some are heavily feathered on the legs, tail and around the ears and can have large ruffs and very bushy tails.
Some have little or no feathering anywhere with fur on tail and ruff flat to the body.

Smooth coated, Standard markings
Coat Colours
There are solid colours - Black, White, Chocolate, Blue (actually grey really), Brown, Sable, Red, Liver, Lilac. Etc.

There are bi-colours - Black / White, Red / White, Sable / White, Blue / White, Chocolate / White, Liver / White, Chocolate / Sable, Etc.

There are Tricolours-  Black - White and Brown, Black - White and Red, Black - White and Blue, Black - White and Sable, Black - White and Grey, Black - White and spotted with another colour, Etc.

Typical Blue Merle
There are merles - Blue Merles, Red Merles, Chocolate Merles, Sable Merles, Lilac Merles, Brindle Merles -  and not to forget the Full Merles (these are flecked with Black, White and Brown and are the only naturally occurring Merles without genetic interference). Merles  usually have flecks of colour in their coat rather than spots.

Typical Red Merle
Many of these colours or combinations are actually inventive ways of describing a slightly different shade of the same colour.

They are the inventions of breeders who are trying to set a new fashion in order to sell more pups at a higher price. Wait for it - Pink, coming soon to your agility club.

All combinations are possible with sufficient genetic fiddling but they are all Border Collies, although you have to feel sorry for some of them.
The good old fashioned colours are the best. Black, Black and Tan, Black and White, Tricolour, Sable - with variations and the occasional full merle.

Rough coated Full Merle
We get small, medium and large dogs.

We have come across some individuals that are so small they could only be defined as 'Miniature' when compared to the average.
One we took in was called Mouse - descriptive!

On the other hand we have come across giants.
We have seen both these extremes and many in between with KC or ISDS pedigrees or without either.

Smooth coated Full Merle
Body shape  and proportions

We get long legged - short legged - long backed - short backed - wide shouldered - narrow waisted - wide hips - narrow hips - deep chested - shallow chested - long tailed - short tailed.

Registered and unregistered the shape and proportions of a Border Collie varies greatly.

There is no uniformity in any aspect of the appearance of the breed.

Wall Eyed Black and White Rough coat
The head can be wide or narrow, generally conforming to the proportions of the body but not always.

The nose can be long or short, narrow or wide and the stop sloping or sharp.
Ears can be tipped or pricked or flat.

Eyes can be set wide or narrow and can be many colours although generally both the same.
The most common eye colour is brown but there are many variations.

A dog can have different colour eyes and in the case of 'wall eye' one eye is one colour and the other blue/grey.
In some cases both eyes can be grey or a deep blue.
Other Border Collies can have very intensive eyes, deep brown flecked with gold.

Smooth coated Tricolour
Tail length, colour and markings
Short to long, Black or black with white tip or varying percentages of Black and White.

Tan, Red, Blue, Grey, Sable, with or without white tip or larger percentage of white.
On occasions, all white.

You get many variations of shape and colour in the Border Collie.
Rough coated Red and White
The KC offers one which it claims is the breed standard that all Border Collies should look like.

It is a long, rough coated medium sized black and white dog with white socks, white ruff which  completely encircles the neck, a white chest and a white tip to its tail.
It is feathered on its legs and tail and we are led to believe this is the norm for the breed.

It is certainly pretty to look at and if that is what you want in a dog, it's a good choice.

We have re-homed plenty of these and they can be a little dumb. The description "the most intelligent dog" in the world does not apply.
It is a bit of spin - the most prolific type of Border Collie is the smooth coated type.

smooth markings
What some people refer to as the Welsh Border Collie is a small dog with a low centre of gravity (short legs) and a very sharp face with a low stop and pointed nose - may be rough or smooth coated and any colour.

These have been bred in that way to enable them to be agile and sure footed on steep mountain terrain where a larger dog may lose balance on steep slopes or fall off narrow ledges.
There is not actually a Welsh Border Collie breed - there is a Welsh Sheepdog that is said to have some Border Collie in there.
smooth markings
What some people call the Scottish type refers to a large bodied, long legged dog with a wider jaw line and high stop, that can cover large moorland areas and get through thick grasses and heather growths.
It is not a separate breed, it's just another variation of the same breed - the Border Collie.

Another misconception is what is often described as the McNab Border Collie.
This is not a Border Collie or a variation of it. It is more correctly known as the McNab Shepherd or McNab Collie or simply as the McNab Dog. It is a herding dog specifically bred to cope with the hot weather of Northern California.

Like the Border Collie it comes in many colours and sizes but is a smooth, short to medium coated dog.
It originated from a crossing of Scottish Collies with dogs from the Basque region.
Border Collie may be in there somewhere as in breeds like the New Zealand Huntaway and the Australian Kelpie - somewhere inside, hiding.

smooth markings
Smooth coats are most popular with hill farmers and shepherds because they have coats that shed dirt and mud more easily.

They do not get 'iced up' in bad weather, whereas the longer coated dogs would end up with a coat full of water, snow or ice that would weigh it down and slow it up.

Smooth coated dogs are easier to keep clean after a day in the fields but the best known variation is the rough, long coated, medium sized, standard markings, black and white type.
You get these in all categories, KC, ISDS and unregistered.

This is what most people think of as a Border Collie and they are often surprised to find out that all these other shapes colours and sizes are variations of the same breed.
Sheepdog in the 1920,s
This historic photo shows a Border Collie from sometime around 1910 to 1920. According to the caption the dog was Red and White.

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Temperament is not something that a dog is born with which will remain the same for the rest of its life. It will change over a dogs lifetime.
Genetics has something to do with it but socialisation, handling, environment, lifestyle, training and life experience all play a part.

We see dogs from parents with very good temperaments that turn into nasty fighters around other dogs or end up biting people. Pups from parents that have a reputation for being unsocial nippers or biters can end up as the most gentle, kind dogs with no hint of their parents aggression.

It is often said that you should look at the parents temperaments in order to have some idea of how the pups will turn out.
There is a saying in sheepdog circles regarding pups and their parents "Its not what you've got, it's what you've had" which means its not the parents you should be looking at, it's the grandparents. Either way you look (and we would advise you to look both ways) what you see in a bloodline is only an indication of what the dog may turn out like as it grows. Pups from the same litter sometimes end up either end of the scale.

To generalise, Border Collies, as a whole, have very amiable temperaments when properly bred exercised and mentally stimulated.
They are normally a quiet and thoughtful breed, very loyal to their owners and often forming a strong attachment, particularly if dog and owner spend time doing something fulfilling for the dog.
To keep a balanced temperament the dog will need some downtime, or 'me' time to itself, preferably at night, in a place where it feels secure and relaxed. Dog crates under a kitchen unit or stairs or just covered over top, back and sides performs this function.
If frustrated or wound up they can be easily stimulated into hyperactivity.

Being an intelligent breed, strong leadership is required to enable them to feel confident that their needs will be attended to so they do not start to think that they have to make their own decisions about personal space, exercise, sleeping arrangements and food.
Once a Border Collie gets into this frame of mind it takes some convincing to get its mind changed and this is where temperament issues begin to raise their heads. They can become possessive over space and food and aggressive if they feel their rights in these areas are compromised.

Exercise is essential for the long term health of the dog but there is no point in walking your Border Collie 6 miles a day morning and evening if you do not provide it with mental stimulation. Mental stimulation is far more important.
If you are a runner or jogger and train daily putting in a few miles as a steady pace this will provide some of the mental stimulation a Border Collie would need because it would see the session as working in partnership and enjoy it as such, but walking is rather boring and the chances are that if you just walk your Border Collie daily and allow it to run around a bit, when you get home it will be ready to go out again immediately.

Frustration from lack of mental stimulation - boredom if you like - is going to have an adverse effect on a dogs temperament.

Border Collies are not a breed to share space with young children. They can grow intolerant or envious or over protective very quickly, all of which lead to problems. The crying of babies can frighten, confuse or simply overstimulated them up as can the jerky movement of toddlers. The high pitched voices and quick movements of youngsters can also stimulate instincts best applied to working sheep and they can become 'herdy' and nippy. Boys tend to cause this more than girls, perhaps because they are more inclined to hyperactivity than girls.

In some case they can become overprotective of their owners and consider a child to be a threat and in some cases they will consider the child to be lower in the family pecking order that they are and subject to their will. As young children often lack the confidence and capability to control a dog they can easily find themselves on the wrong side of a Border Collies tolerance level and and up being bitten.
Couple this with their size in comparison with a Border Collie and the proximity of their face to the dogs, it is a serious risk.

Instinct plays a great part in a Border Collies temperament as does socialisation as a puppy and subsequent handling and training.
Bear in mind that everything you do with, and to, a Border Collie is training it, so consistency is very important.
A dog with strong sheepdog instincts and no way to fulfill them will become frustrated and its temperament, even if initially it was very happy and tolerant, will retrogress. Instinct to herd is common, to one degree or another, in most Border Collies.

Instinct to herd is not one inclination, it is a combination of of factors all of which will ultimately affect a dogs temperament if not considered and accounted for in its handling. Chasing, retrieving, flanking, eying, working with handler, an association and bond with one individual, all contribute.
Individually and collectively they make an individual Border Collie pups temperament difficult to accurately pin down.

Section 4


When looking at suitable environments for a Border Collie it pays to take into consideration the design of the Border Collie.
Selective breeding over centuries has built instinctive traits and expectations into the breed which help it perform the function it is designed for.

Instinct is an inbuilt reaction to stimuli and circumstances. It is a handed down from generation to generation and is instilled and honed by long term life and survival experiences which can be reinforced or weakened by breeding. That accounts for the eye, herding, chasing, intelligence, thoughtfulness, independence, loyalty, bonding and working as a team aspects of the breed.  But some instinctive behaviours and expectations are taken on by social and environmental exposure and are not yet genetically held in the dogs cells but are still handed on to new generations as ancestral memories. Example:- the hefting of sheep that always stay on the same part of a moor that their ancestors have traditionally grazed.

Throughout the best part of its history, the Border Collie and the dogs that went into its development were the dogs of the shepherds and farmers who often led a peaceful isolated life in the quiet of the countryside away from the constant noise, hustle and bustle of human activity.

These farms and fields and moors were large open spaces with neighbours few and far between. Men and dogs enjoyed space around them.

Dogs would work singly or in groups controlled by one individual. They would spend long periods of time in the hills and dales coming across very few people on a day to day basis, most who would be known to man and dog. Very few strangers invaded their space.
These are all ancestral memories of the Border Collie. Up to the mid 19th century it was the lifestyle of all but a few.

Because of these ancestral expectations the breed is often outfaced by busy environments, overstimulated by sounds of neighbours coming and going and alarmed and alerted by the close proximity of people. Life in towns and cities can be a noisy and scary place for them where they have little opportunity to rest and relax because of everything going on around them invading their space.

If your Border Collie is left 'home alone' for long periods of time in a busy environment it may be constantly restless until you come home, unable to settle and sleep for long because of the constant stimulation around it, much of which it would not be able to see the source of.
It may suffer fear and anxiety as it experiences sound it has no understanding of or ability to confront or escape from.
Bass sound and low pitched vibrations like those caused by passing lorries or buses can cause considerable upset.
Separation Anxiety issues may arise simply from having to put up with life alone without the security of a human companion.
Not surprising it's pleased to see you when you get home from work!

Even if you are there all the time you are only reassurance and consolation, not a solution to the problem.
Border Collies are country boys at heart.

Couple this continual stress with the frustration of the suppression of other strong instinctive behaviours and you have the potential for all sorts of problems arising from the loss of control this will cause in many individuals of the breed. Some can cope but most can't.

Many people seem to think that the Border Collie is a hyperactive breed. Highly excitable.
Some people have told us, with a proud tone and a little smile, that their border collies are 'mad'. This is a myth but it's hardly surprising because a lot of people only see Border Collies in urban environments where, in comparison to more domesticated breeds, they are pretty wound up.

The truth of this myth is severely tested when you look at a Border Collie doing what it is designed to do in an environment that it was designed to do it in. Herding in the country on a farm or on the open moors. Alone with its handler or working as a brace or in a team.
Sheepdogs can't possible be allowed to be hyperactive. The idea is to round up and move the sheep, not run them into the ground or scare them to death. They say sheep will keel over and die at the slightest excuse and there is some truth in that. They are sensitive.

Watch a Border Collie at work. It focuses on the sheep, it moves with stealth, it keeps back and flanks from side to side to keep the sheep moving steadily in the right direction. It is alert, it looks around to see if it has missed any sheep. It is attentive. It listens out for commands, it's tail is down, its ears up. it's vision and hearing at their most sensitive. It is poetry in motion and flows across the field.

The control and focus a Border Collie needs to perform like this, it's sensitivity to sound and visual stimulation, is all there in a domestic Border Collie and it's all getting bombarded in an urban situation. That's why so many think their Border Collie is 'Mad'. It's been driven mad!

A quiet rural environment is ideal - it suits the quiet thoughtful nature of the breed and gives them the space they expect.

Any other environment is less than ideal - busy environments with lots of human activity, noise and movement is exactly designed to give the average Border Collie continuous stress which leads to psychological problems and behavioural issues.

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Section 5


If you think a  Border Collie is an easy dog to train because it is one of the most intelligent breeds of dog in the world - think again.

It's intelligence works against training unless the trainer is very consistent in their commands, signals, body language and approach.

The problem is that Border Collies are smart and they can take a variation in a command to be a different command altogether - and lets face it, humans are discombobulated when you reciprocate outre words for more axiomatic words. It can be quite discommoding.


When training a Border Collie, keep the command specific and simple using one clear word that is not easy to confuse with another word.
This should really apply to training any animals - or even a child but is important for training intelligent dogs to stop things going wrong.

For example if you teach your Border Collie to 'Go Back' it may be misinterpreted by the dog when you are talking in the street to a friend about growing your Geraniums in a 'Grow Bag'. Your dog backs off the pavement and into the road - potential for disaster.

We use short words like Back or Sit or Off or Down and very few paired words other than Get It and Go Free and Watch Me.
Each command is accompanied by a specific hand signal. The link at the bottom of this section will take you to a page showing them all.

Consistency is important to get the message across.  Think about the tone you would use to re-enforce the urgency of particular commands and stick to that tone when using them. Down and Stay and Sit and Here may be commands you would expect an instant response to because they would sometimes be applied in situations of urgency so make them sharp and firm.
Bed, Eat and similar instructions associated with a pleasant experience could be given in a softer tone, but still firmly.

It is always best to train your dog yourself but sometimes you need a bit of training yourself before you can train your dog!
Leadership is a key in this. You must lead and the dog must follow. Do not allow the dog to lead you or it begins to think it's in charge.
If you are a good strong leader your dog will respect you, feel secure when you are in charge and consent to your as the boss.
That's the first thing you need to learn - how to lead.

You may want to take your dog to training classes so you get some support and assistance along with some socialisation but some Border Collies can be rather disruptive at classes unless they have been well socialised and some ground work put in on the training before attending.
We hear from quite a few people who's Border Collie has been banned from puppy classes or dog training classes.

Some dog trainers will tell you that they use the same approach for any breed of dog and some behaviourists will tell you the same.
Our advice in these circumstances would be to look elsewhere. Different breeds need different approaches to get the best results.

Because the Border Collie has a far more ingrained instinctive background than most other breeds that have been domesticated for much longer they really do need a trainer or behaviourists that understands and takes into consideration these differences.
One that understands herding would be even better and best would be one that understands herding and sheep - a rare beast indeed!

You may have come across the term 'positive re-enforcement' when applied to training. All it really means is associating training with a pleasant experience, rewarding good behaviour and responses and ignoring misbehavior or simply showing displeasure with tone and body language.
The usual reward given is a small treat - a piece of cheese or liver or some strong flavoured tidbit -  training by bribery.

Border Collies are not easily bribed. They normally have more important things on their mind that snacks. If you have shown the dog you are a leader and it respects you it will only want to please you. This is a strong quality in a Border Collie - the need to please its handler.
Use it.
Praise your dog and make sure you show it when you are pleased. Exaggerated facial expressions help. Physical contact helps. The right words help. Use them all consistently and your dog will not need any bribery, it will obey voluntarily and enjoy doing it.
If the dog gets it wrong or gets distracted - ignoring it and not praising it will probably be enough to show it you are unhappy.

A mention of Sheepdogs

One of the tricks used to train a sheepdog is to let it run with an experienced dog and pick up commands, moves and behaviours from the association. It only works if you have a well trained dog for the new dog to run with. Otherwise its a chancy method indeed.

Shepherds tend to train their own dogs but some farmers send dogs off to be trained professionally. The drawback to this is that unless the farmer is sufficiently good at training himself he cannot continue to keep the dog in shape when it comes back with all its sides and commands in place. The dog gradually loses its professional edge and slips into whatever haphazard method the farmer is using to instruct it.

Most sheepdog trainers will use a form of positive re-enforcement to train their dogs. Plenty of praise when the dog gets it right and none at all when the dog gets it wrong. Any major transgression are dealt with by ending the session. There is no greater punishment for a sheepdog than to be taken away from the sheep by a handler who is not pleased with what it has done.

Training sessions of any sort are best kept short so the dog remains interested and stimulated for the whole session.

To conclude

One of the worst things any trainer can do is to use physical violence or punitive equipment on dogs they are trying to train.
Even losing their temper and frightening a dog is only going to have a negative affect on its behaviour.
Farmers who shout at their dogs sheepdogs will end up with a confused, frightened dog that is too afraid to concentrate on the job in hand.
Owners  who shout at their dogs will end up with dogs that do not respect them and will not obey them for the same reasons.

This is not to say the dogs will not love them. An abused Border Collie will still love its handler and seek reassurance from them but it may also snap out and bite them or even attack them with intent when they are frightened enough and cornered.

A bit of love goes a long way.

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Section 6

Costs and Maintenance

What is the average costs of keeping a Border Collie?
You know what we are going to say - it varies. It depends on the size of the dog, its sex, environment and lifestyle.
There is no simple answer or rubber bullet that solves all.

The initial cost of a puppy or an adult dog or the donation to a rescue is the first consideration.
You takes your choice and pays your money. The puppy choice is the most expensive.

You can pay an online dealer £100 to £150 for a pup and pay the rest of your money to the vet that treats it.
You can buy an unregistered pup from a farm for between £150 to £400 and take your chances.
You can pay between £300 to £750 for a pup  from a hobby breeder and hope the vet won't be needed.
You can pay between £600 to £1500 for a pup from a good breeder you have researched and checked. Vet attention is less likely.

Adult dogs can be obtained through free ads in papers or on websites. Some are free to good home and others are being sold.
Prices will vary according to what the vendor thinks they can get or how desperate they are to part with the dog.
Bear in mind that people selling or giving away adult dogs in these circumstances are generally conservative with the truth when they tell you what the dog is like. Also bear in mind that if you take one and it is not as described it is unlikely they will take it back.
You may also come across adverts offering adult dogs in vets or in pet shops. This is a better bet.
It is likely that the vet or pet shop will know the dog and owner so you may get some sensible feedback if you enquire with them first.

If you buy a registered pup the registration should be included in the price. Some breeders will offer the choice of buying registered or not. If you do not intend to breed for profit or show then registration is not important so don't bother with it but look out for these hidden extras.
Microchipping is obligatory these days and has to be done, by law, at 8 weeks of age. Puppies should remain with their mother until they are at least 8 weeks of age so any pup you are offered should be chipped before you take it home. If not ask why not.
Microchipping is not an 'optional extra' it is a legal requirement.
If a seller try's to sell you a pup that is not chipped and is 8 weeks of age or over they have broken the law and should be regarded with suspicion. If they sell you a pup under 8 weeks of age they are acting against the welfare interests of the pup and the dam so regard them with suspicion. If they quote a price it should always include microchipping they should not offer to do it if you pay an extra fee.

First vaccinations should also be included in the sale price of a puppy and a certificate supplied signed by a vet. Sometimes this is not the case as the first one is given at 'approximately' 8 weeks of age with a second one following two or four weeks later dependent on the type given.
Costs for puppy vaccinations varies and vets charge different rates but you should allow around £60 for the initial puppy series and around £30 each year for the boosters. Some vets offer a monthly payment scheme that covers all regular annual treatments and check ups.

You can always go to a rescue and offer a home to a homeless dog.
In terms of costs this is probably the most economical course unless you get a gem of a dog free to a good home. Rescue 'donations' vary.
Lets say it's £200. OK you could pick up a pup or an adult dog cheaper, but a rescue dog should be fully vaccinated, wormed, de-flea'd and spayed or neutered so £200 is a saving.
Deal with a registered charity. The money you pay is a donation and it goes back into the work of the charity. Charities are not owned they have their own identity. Money they receive belongs to them, not the people running them.
If you pay for a dog from a rescue that is not a charity it is not a donation, it is a fee. You are paying it to the people who own the business that is being run as a rescue so they can spend it any way they want.
You might as well have gone to a dog dealer. They get given unwanted dogs as well and they sell them on for a profit. Not a lot of difference.

Treatment for external parasites and internal parasites are a regular cost but many of these that your vet would supply are now available online without prescription. You can pay around £3 for a flea and tick treatment for the average Border Collie online. This needs repeating about every 8 weeks. If you buy in bulk you can save and it has a long shelf life.
Wormers cost around £1.50 per tablet online. One tablet treats 10 kg of dog so your average Border Collie will need two at approximately 8 to 12 week intervals depending on the type used. Would you believe that those that cover 12 weeks cost more than those that cover 8!

It is always best to get veterinary advice about flea and worm treatment initially. There are so many product's available and if oversubscribed some can be detrimental to a dogs health, but used properly they can save discomfort, misery and even lives.
Annual costs should be in the region of £36 if you purchase online but will cost more from a vet.

Its advisable to have your dog checked over at least twice a year. A general examination and health check can spot things that can be easily treated before they reach a stage of being difficult and expensive. Annual vaccinations charges should include a physical check up as one is required to make sure the dog is fit enough before a vaccine is given so another check up half way in between is the only 'extra'.
The routine second 'physical' each year should only cost around £30

Neutering or spaying.
We always say wait until a dog is cocking its leg and until 12 weeks after a bitch has had her first season before neutering or spaying. Let the hormones sort themselves out before doing anything to interfere with them.
Neutering a dog is always cheaper than a bitch and size also counts on a sliding scale. Price also varies from practice to practice.
It pays to keep your bitch slim - vets charge more for overweight dogs.
On average you should expect to pay around £150 for either procedure on an average sized Border Collie.

To insure is a good idea.
You may be able to afford the costs of a dogs general upkeep but if there is a serious illness or accident you could be looking at bills of thousands of pounds.
Insurance policy premiums will vary from company to company and the dogs age affects the price of cover. Most companies offer a choice of cover so you can pick a lower price policy with limited payouts all the way up to 'coverall' comprehensive cover but read the small print - carefully.

Existing conditions will always be excluded but check that the policy does not exclude accidents or illness resulting from an existing condition but not actually related to it.
Say your dog has an eye issue which you declare. It goes blind - you are not covered for that. Say it has an accident, a fall, and breaks a leg. Are you covered? Will the insurers say that the fall was a result of the blindness and refuse to pay out?
Insurance companies do not like paying out.

There will be some sort of excess on any claim so there will be some situations where it would be detrimental to make a claim as you would end up paying most of it and your premium would rise next year. Build some additional vet fees into your annual costs to cover these smaller incidents.
Check the small print - there is usually a lot.
Allow an average of £150 a year for insurance.

Food and treats
Tins, chubs, fresh moist, raw, kibble, complete extruded, scraps?
The price of dog food is so variable it is difficult to pin anything down so lets focus on the most popular method and assume the others are more expensive, which is usually the case.
Puppy food is more expensive than adult as is Junior. The first year will cost a little more than subsequent years.
Specialised adult diets can be expensive and some manufacturers are more expensive than others.
Lets assume your dog has no food allergies and is of average size and you are buying middle of the price range dog food from a reputable source in 15kg sacks. One of these should last the average Border Collie around a month, so 12 sacks a year at £20 per sack is £240 - up or down from this is your choice but ask your dog. We suggest feeding twice daily.

Treats should be fed sparingly.
Some biscuit at night is good. If a dog is boarded outside it's a help for it to have a little bit of extra carbs to burn off to keep itself warm.
We have a ritual at bedtime - every dog gets a biscuit when it goes to bed. It does not take long for the dog to get into this routine and you will find that when you let it out for it's last chance it will come in and go straight to its bed and wait expectantly.
This routine also give the dog a sense of security and if you are traveling with the dog and it is in a strange place the routine helps it feel at home.

Teeth problems are on the increase and the cost of dental treatment can be expensive. Insurance will not cover routine dental care.
There are products on the market to help keep a dogs teeth clean. One of these chews a week is the least, two is what is suggested.
These and a few biscuits are going to add £250 a year onto your dogs running costs but may save you that much in dental care.
You have probably had toothache and probably would not want your dogs to go through the same pain so look after the dogs teeth.

If you are buying a pup for the first time you will need some basic equipment.
If you follow our advice and get a house crate to act as a sleeping bed (£60) - a car crate (smaller) for travel (£40) - a decent dog bed as a day bed with lining for all three and a piece of Vetbed for each as well with one piece spare when one of the other needs washing (£75) - a range of suitable educational toys like Kong's and hard rubber balls, etc. (£30) - Stainless steel bowls for water (large) and food (smaller) (£6) - Grooming equipment (comb, brush, scissors) (£25) - allow a small contingency = £250.

Initial costs (excluding the price of the pup) for vet check and follow up vaccination, initial worm and flea treatment, basic equipment, neutering or spaying, first years insurance and some contingency and your looking at start up costs upward of £600.

So - summary of annuals costs for an average size Border Collie bought as a puppy - as a guide only - these costs will vary.
Annual Booster and bi annual health check.  £60
Internal and external parasite treatment.        £36 (online prices - double that if from vet)
Insurance                                                          £150
Miscellaneous uninsured vet bills                  £300
Food                                                                  £240
Treats and Dental                                             £250

Allow a contingency - say 10%                      £100  and your looking at an annual running cost of around £1136

Of course you could spend more than that and you probably will because the dog is worth it

We have a page in our Breed Advice - Section about Feeding and Diet - Click here to view it now

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Section 7

Hereditary and Health Problems

Quite a long list but don't be frightened by it. Diseases, conditions and health problems are part of life for all of us. Point is be aware.

Conditions that are only hereditary in nature we have called 'Hereditary'.
Others we have marked 'could be inherited' or 'often inherited' are conditions that may be inherited but can also have other causes.

The breed has been designed to work using its eyes to control stock and its ears to listen for stock it can't see when working. These are essential qualities the dog needs to perform its tasks well.
When developing this breed by selective breeding these organs have been made very sensitive and perhaps because of that they are more prone to problems. Most inherited problems affect the eyes.

The main eye problems Border Collies suffer from are -
- Collie Eye Anomaly - Hereditary - recessive genetic defect in chromosome 37. Both parents must be carriers.
PRA - Progressive Retinal Atrophy (variants) - Hereditary. Blindness occurs slowly over time, sometimes unseen at first as dogs can adapt.
Cataracts - primary and secondary - could be inherited. Cloudiness in the lens preventing light reaching the retina. Treatable with surgery.
Glaucoma - often inherited. Caused by internal pressure on the eye. If untreated damages the optic nerve causing blindness.

They can also suffer from these rare conditions. The Border Collie is not predisposed to them but they can occur.
PPM - Persistent Pupillary Membranes. Remnants of strands of fetal membrane tissue crossing pupil after birth. Rare. Treatable with surgery.
RD - Retinal Dysplasia (variants), Hereditary, viral or drug induced. Folds or rosettes (round clumps) of the retinal tissue. Rare.
PHTVL/PHPV - Persistent hyperplastic tunica vasculosa lentis/Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous. Fibrovascular plaque on back of  lens.

Hearing conditions
Adult onset hearing loss
- could be inherited. Progressive loss of hearing with age.
Genetic deafness or hearing impairment - Hereditary - gene mutation associated with coat colour pigmentation (merles)

Other issues.
Hip Dysplasia
- Hereditary. Can also be a result of an accident. Surgery can rectify most cases but long term weakness is frequent.
Epilepsy - could be inherited. Can be controlled with drugs. usually starts with occasional fits that become more frequent over time.
Neuronal ceroid lipofusicinosis - Hereditary - currently only affects KC Show lines not working lines. Always fatal within two years of birth.
Trapped neutrophil syndrome - could be inherited - auto immune condition caused by malfunction of release of white blood cells.

Merle issues
Breeding two merles together will lead to two copies of the merle gene being present in the pups resulting in eye, ear and abdominal problems.

Colitis -  an inflammation or irritation of the colon or large intestine. A general name for a condition with a multitude of causes.

Lyme disease - Transmitted by the bite of ticks. Bacterial infection. Causes joint inflammation, kidney damage, in some cases nerve damage.

Canine Influenza Virus - also known as Kennel Cough. There are vaccines for this. Get it done at the same time as the annual Booster
Parvovirus - Leptospirosis - Distemper  Hepatitis. Nasty diseases which should be vaccinated against as a puppy with subsequent annual boosters. Leptospirosis vaccine is only effective against the 4 most common variants but these are often found in stagnant water so worth it.

Internal parasites - various worms, protozoa and even fungal infections in ears. Regular worming deals with most of these. Lungworms and heartworms require specialised medication.
Checking faeces can indicate the presence of parasites, another good reason for always picking it up. You can tell a lot from a dogs poo.
A yeasty smell around the ears indicates a possible fungal infection

External parasites - Flea, ticks, lice, mites. Regular treatment with a spot on will deal with most of these. For ticks a stronger version is needed.

Mange (sarcoptic (dry) and demodeptic (wet) and Cheyletiella) - Caused by parasitic mites. See your vet immediately if you suspect any of these infections and keep your dog away from contact with other animals. They are caused by three different species of mite and require specialised diagnosis and treatment and are highly infectious to other dogs.
Sarcoptic (Scabies) is the most dangerous and is very irritating to the dog. It will initially show as crusty ear tips and hair loss on face, ears and elbows. If untreated it spreads over the whole body with total hair loss and oozing sores. Secondary bacterial or fungal infections may occur. It is contagious to humans as well. Good reason not to allow your dog to sleep on your bed.
Demodeptic is often present in pups but usually does not develop. When it does it shows as thin or bald patches on the dogs body and the dogs skin becomes sore and crusty. hair loos occurs and it spreads over the dogs body with the risk of secondary infection as with sarcoptic.
Cheyletiella is not as serious resulting in flakes of loose skin appearing in the dogs coat like dandruff.

Diabetes - Could be inherited or could come on as a result of poor health. Reduce the risk of this by balanced diet and exercise.

Hip Dysplasia - Could be inherited or the result of wear and tear caused by repetitive strain due to exercises like flyball, agility, frisbee.

Cancers - There are a large range of cancers dogs can be subject to.
It is difficult to prevent these as in most types the cause is not understood.
It is likely that a predisposition to many cancers is hereditary but that does not mean they will develop, it just increases chances.
In some circles it is believed that stress is a major contributor to the development of certain forms of cancer.
Unfortunately it is not easy to spot signs of stress in dogs but hyperactivity and excessive excitement are indicators.

Can you tell the difference between excited and happy and excited and stressed?
People tend to think that because their dog is excited it is enjoying itself.
It gets excited when chewing squeaky toys. It gets excited chasing shadows or lights from torches. It gets excited at flyball and agility events.
No it doesn't. It gets hyped up and stressed.
It gets excited to see you come home. It gets excited to go out for a walk. It gets excited when you offer it food.
Yes it does. It's happy.
Look at the behaviour of dogs in these situations and you'll see how the excitement differs.
Reduce the likelihood of cancers occurring by keeping your dog fit, keeping its weight within normal parameters for its size, feeding quality foods (and treats in moderation) and reducing stress by teaching your dog to be calm and not putting it into stressful situations.
Be vigilant in checking for lumps and bumps and look out for signs of sensitivity to pressure or in movement. When grooming take the opportunity to feel all over the dogs body, palpitate bowel areas and manipulate limbs. Most dogs will happily submit and enjoy the attention.

If anything is suspect see your vet and have your dog checked. A physical examination and perhaps some blood tests will alleviate worries or catch something in time to be treated.

Dogs suffer pain but until it becomes serious they do so without showing it. Spotting initial pain or discomfort is not so easy but, again, if vigilant you can save your dog a lot of suffering and discomfort. If its in a limb it is more obvious because the dog will favour the limb but internally it is often invisible.
Signs of long term internal pain in a dog can be manifested around its eyes. They become dull and lose their brightness. A dog may also start licking an area where the pain is strongest. Again be vigilant, take opportunities to handle the dog and feel for sensitive areas - carefully.

Dogs, including Border Collies, can also suffer from a number of other diseases and conditions - Just like us humans.
Allergic reactions to foods, substances and parasites - Anal Gland infections - Arthritis - Bladder stones - Bronchial and chest infections -
Bowel infections (watch what they scoff when out walking or from bins) - Cysts - Depression - Dislocation of limbs or joints - Fractures and broken limbs - Heatstroke - Herpes - Hypoglycemia - Hypothyroidism - Incontinence - Insect bites - Kidney, Liver or Pancreatic diseases - Laryngitis - Leukemia - Motion Sickness - Obesity - Rabies - Rheumatism - Genital and urinary tract infections - Ulcers.
This is not a definitive list.


We have a page in our Breed Advice section on Hereditary defects of the Border Collie - Click here to view it now

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Section 8

Special Needs

Here is a summary of what is best for the average Border Collie - there are exceptions, although finding one that is an exception to ALL the criteria would be a rare beast indeed!

Space - Border Collies are designed to work in open areas so it is an inbuilt expectation of the breed to have open space around it and not be hemmed in by neighbours and the close proximity of lots of people.

Quiet - For the reason stated about the breed fairs best in quiet environments. Noise, constant activity and movement tends to overstimulated.

Companionship - This is a breed of dog that likes to bond onto a single person with whom it can have a special close relationship. This can be extended to two individuals but expecting a Border Collie to share it's loyalty with a group of people or a dog walker or mum and dad down the road is unlikely to result in the desired outcome.

A place of their own - relating to space, quiet and balanced relationship, a Border Collie needs a place to sleep and retire to when it wants to where it will not be disturbed. It is as unhealthy for it to be in human company 24 hours a day as it is for it to be left home alone all day.
Providing a day bed and a night bed is what we always suggest, the night be being made up as a secure den where the dog can retire to if it wishes and where it will be left alone. Also for it to sleep at night so where it gets the chance to be a dog rather than a surrogate humans.

A regular routine - like all dogs a Border Collie thrives best in a regular routine with regular meals and regular exercise and play times. Incorporated into this routine are the extra bits that make life more enjoyable and varied but always reverting to the regular routines that allows the dog to feel secure in its environment and relationships. Dogs do not get bored by routines, they thrive on the,

Consistency - As part of the regular routine above and as directed by the strong leader below the Border Collie expects to be handled in a consistent manner. This means all members of the family, all handlers, be they occasional or regular, behave in the same way towards the dog, enforce the same rules and use the same commands and instructions.

A strong leader - To allow the dog to feel it is safe in the company of the people surrounding it there must be at least one strong and consistent leader that sets the rules and provides the security that allows the dog to be comfortable in following them.
A strong leader that the dog respects will encourage it to bond but at the same time allow it some independence within the set rules and routines.
If the dog starts to try and get round these rules or behaves in a negative way to the other members of the family group or to visitors the leader needs to have sufficient influence to make sure the dog understands it is wrong and changes its behaviour.

Training  - is part of leadership. It must be consistent. It needs to be practiced daily. Short sessions are better than long sessions.
When out walking take advantage of the opportunity to call your dog back, interrupting it's freedom to run free.
Do distant downs. Get the dog to wait until you catch up or wait behind you as you walk away before calling it to you.
This all gives you control and builds training into a fun period making it fun.
Training should be Fun. Something the dog enjoys. Not a boring disciplinary, punitive activity that subdues and depresses it.
Praise when the dog gets it right should be lavish and accompanied by physical contact. This should be withheld when the dog gets it wrong.
You will find your Border Collie obeys you because it wants to please you. It won't be easily bribed by treats and if you need to use treats to get its attention it obviously does not fully respect you and you are doing some thing wrong.
By all means incorporate treats into training, but very sparingly.
Once you have finished an exercise and praised your dogs tell it 'Go Free' with a sweeping arm gesture away from your body to let it know it can go off and do its own thing.

Exercise - Enough to keep it healthy and fit is enough to make it content.
It does not need hours of exercise a day. It is not a manic breed that needs to run and run until exhausted, what it needs is for the exercise periods to be interesting and stimulating.
Going to the dog park and letting your Border Collie run loose while you sit and read or use your mobile to chat to friends or do the daily obsessive social media stuff is not what the dog needs or wants.
Walking miles while the dog runs circles around you is not enough.
Only walking the dog at a steady pace on the lead is far from enough.

Border Collies need mental stimulation more than physical exercise. If your dog is ready to go again as soon as you get home from a walk it is a sure indication that it is not satisfied with the mental stimulation it has received.
Walking with another dog your Border Collie can run and play with is mentally stimulating.
Playing Ball as you walk is mentally stimulating but not if you do it all the time - use a variety of sensible and interesting toys.
Varying walks is mentally stimulating because it allows the dog to check out smalls and sights that are different from the previous walks.
Boredom is the bane of the Bane of the Border Collie Breed.

A mission - This is a working breed. It expects to do something with it's life. It expects to do this thing with it's chosen handler.
You need to find something to do with your dog that interests and satisfies the dog. It needs to be something calm and steady, not something that turns the dog into a reactionary raving maniac.
Scent discrimination exercises. Obedience training. Working trials. Things you can practice every day and go a bit further with on a weekend to add that extra spice to the routines, yet be part of them by incorporating something done for short periods on a daily basis.
This aids bonding, mental stimulation. leadership, exercise, consistency, companionship and routines - just about everything the dog expects.

If you are thinking of getting a Border Collie you need to think about all of the above and about other sections of this page.
The Border Collies is not your average domestic dog breed. You really should have a reason for taking one on. Not just because you like them.
If you like them go to sheepdog trials and see them doing what they do best. Watch then interact with their handlers and with sheep.
Look at the calm intensity with which they go about their work. Watch those who are not on the field quietly watch the ones that are running.
Listen - there may be some barking and excitement from some of the younger dogs but very little when you count the numbers of dogs there.
See dogs walking loose behind their handlers, passing other dogs without attacking them. Then you will fully understand the above.

You need to respect Border Collies and understand that if you wish to share your life with them you need to adapt your life to them.
Do not expect them to adapt their instincts and needs to your wishes. Do not expect them to submit to being bent to your will. That's Cruel.
They need to express normal behaviour.

If you want a challenge take up parachuting, mountaineering, hang-gliding or pot-holing where the risks are to you not to another creature that has done you no disservice. Don't regard breaking a dog to be an accomplishment to be proud of. It's a dishonorable activity not a merit.


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Section 9

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

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