Breed Spotlight: Border Collie
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Borders are athletic, medium-sized herders standing 18 to 22 inches at the shoulder. The overall look is that of a muscular but nimble worker unspoiled by passing fads. Both the rough coat and the smooth coat come in a variety of colors and patterns.
The almond eyes are the focus of an intelligent expression—an intense gaze, the Border’s famous “herding eye”, is a breed hallmark. On the move, Borders are among the canine kingdom’s most agile, balanced, and durable citizens.
The intelligence, athleticism, and trainability of Borders have a perfect outlet in agility training. Having a job to perform, like agility—or herding or obedience work—is key to Border happiness. Amiable among friends, they may be reserved with strangers.
The Roman occupation of Britain had a great influence on virtually every aspect of British life. This included dog breeding. The occupying legions brought along their own food source: livestock. And where livestock goes, herding dogs are sure to follow. The large, heavy-boned herding dogs imported by the Romans remained a fixture on the British landscape for more than three centuries.
During the long, slow dissolution of the Roman Empire, fierce Viking raiders took their turn invading Britain. They, too, brought along their dogs. These were smaller, quicker, spitz-type herders, progenitors of such contemporary breeds as the Icelandic Sheepdog. Crosses between the old Roman dogs and the Viking spitzes produced compact and agile herders, well equipped to work stock in the hilly, rocky highlands of Scotland and Wales. Thus began the history of the Border Collie.
Borders have been called the world’s greatest herders, and anyone who’s seen them work—with their sweeping outruns, their stealthy crouching and creeping, and their explosive bursts of focused energy—would have to agree. When shepherds dream of the perfect dog, you can bet it’s a Border.
This high-drive, athletic breed is extremely energetic and requires daily exercise beyond just a walk around the block or a quick romp in the yard. They thrive when they have a job to do and space to run. A Border Collie who doesn’t work must be provided with vigorous exercise every day. Clearly, this is a breed for an active owner, and not for someone who prefers to stay indoors or who travels away from home frequently. BCs often participate (and excel) in herding events, not to mention obedience, agility, rally, and tracking competitions, and sports such as flying disc and flyball.
Early socialization is especially vital with the Border Collie, entailing positive exposure to a wide variety of people and situations from early puppyhood through about seven months. Obedience training that starts early and continues throughout the BC’s life will keep him happy and provide needed mental stimulation. Border Collies are highly intelligent and highly trainable and are superstars at canine activities such as herding, obedience, and agility. Due to their tendency to herd animals and people, they do best with older, well-behaved children. They love their families but may be somewhat reserved with strangers.