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Is a Border Collie the Right Dog for You? Diva’s Domain

August 22, 2014

I once had a sticker on my car “If it’s not a BORDER COLLIE it’s just a DOG” – and would on a regular basis get stopped by other border collie people saying it’s TRUE. And it’s not an insult to other breeds – it’s just that the border collie isn’t a ‘normal’ dog.

The border collie was bred for one thing – to work. They are driven to chase…this is deeply embedded in the brain and instincts of border collies. It can take over from other instincts. I’ve seen border collies leave their food to go herd sheep. They’ll chase anything that moves – including cats, children and little dogs – not meaning to hurt. They’ll will something to move then try to get it to stop, as if testing both of those skills. Much like the Thoroughbred horse was born to run the border collie was born to work. Jake, one of the dogs I’ve had over the years, it would absolutely make his day to say “come on Jake let’s go get the goats in.” He’d herd not only goats but ducks, chickens, pigs, (which do not herd well!), sheep and horses. The working instinct was very well described by Donald McCaig in books like “Emminent Dogs, Dangerous Men” and “Nops Trials” – these dogs can be high drive, busy, active dogs and if they don’t have enough to do they can be very creative and very destructive.

They must be kept mentally busy. That said, there’s four snoozing at my feet under the desk here as I type. They can have an off switch installed. Do not doubt for an instant that with a few words all four would be on their feet tearing down the hall to get to the door. They are almost freaks in what they understand. Perhaps it is their abilities as herding dogs that makes them notice things…you cannot laugh and say “NO BAD DOG” for they take that as praise. They see the laugh. If they get away with something they’ve learned it – that can be good or bad. More than perhaps any other breed make sure you use specific dog toys…if you give them an old pair of slippers you’ve taught them slippers are fair game and you can expect your new ones sooner or later will become their toy, probably much sooner than you planned.

Border collies thrive on routine. They don’t mind rules as long as the rules are consistent. The border collie is apt to “tell” on themselves if they’ve done something against the rules – it might take you a while to find it! An example is Fly, an ordinarily good in the house dog who was left with full charge of the house and got into a box of stuffing left out…when we came home she slinked to a corner but we saw nothing wrong…later when the box was found and picked up she crouched to the ground, laid down and turned over in a sign of complete submission and there was no doubt she was the culprit! Nothing more need be said…she knew it was wrong.

Border collies are also active dogs…they love to play. If you don’t have something to herd substitute! Take them jogging – or put a stuffed toy on a long line and let them chase it in circles as you twirl it. If the dog will retrieve balls (and some are smart enough to figure out if they bring it to you you’ll throw it again so they learn to not bring it to you!) that’s an exercise outlet. They can be given the “job” of house protection. They thrive on attention and love to learn things. Put some kibble in a soda bottle and leave the top off…let them figure out how to get the pieces out, which keeps them busy and instantly rewards them for figuring it out. While they’re doing that they AREN’T shredding something!

Border collies can be wonderful family dogs. They are intensely loyal, highly perceptive and there are fewer genetic issues than some other breeds. However, as young puppies and dogs you must remember every interaction is training – and be consistent!! If one family member banishes the dog from the kitchen during meals and another is slipping treats under the table…the dog is confused and unfairly punished.

Read much on dog behavior and up it a step and you’ll have an idea what you are dealing with for a border collie. A crate is something both you and the dog will learn to love. They have a retreat. You have a means to confine them when you’re gone and prevent them from learning to tear things up…if they don’t learn it you don’t have to fix it. Commit yourself – and the family – to a balance of discipline and love. The rewards are many!

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