Breed Type: Working Dog
Country of Origin: Scotland/England border
Popular Names: Sheepdog, Scotch Sheep Dog
Height: (At the withers) Males 48 – 56 cm, Females 46 – 53 cm
Weight: Males 14 – 20 kg, Females 12 – 19 kg
Best suited as: Pet, working, or show dog with a very active owner or family
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Popularity: This breed is included in Australia’s 10 most popular dog breeds.
The breed gets its name from the place of its origin – the Scottish/English borders.
These dogs are athletic, and lean, with bodies that are slightly longer than they are tall. They are well-proportioned with a wide, flat skull, an elegantly-tapered muzzle, nose that matches the main colour of the body, and expressive eyes. Their ears are usually half-perked, although some can have fully erect or fully dropped ears. The long, low-set tail is carried raised but never over the back.
They come in a variety of colours: black and white, black tricolour, red and white, and red tricolour are the most common, although they also come in lilac, red merle, blue, blue merle, “Australian red,” and brindle. Some also come in a single colour. Eye colour varies according to the coat, and may be any colour from blue to amber to deep brown. Some have eyes of differing colour, particularly merles.
They also vary when it comes to coat length. Some have short, slick hairs while others have a longer, lusher coat. All shed moderately, and have a double coat. They may have rough or smooth coats. Smooth-coated dogs have little feathering and shorter hair, while rough-coated dogs have feathering on the chest, belly, and legs, and medium-length hair.
Females tend to be smaller than males at maturity.
There is some dispute about when these actually came into being. Some say the breed dates back to the time of the Vikings, when they arrived in what is now known as England and Scotland, and bred spitz-type dogs to the dogs the Romans had used for herding livestock. The result was an agile sheepdog that was well-suited to the climate and topography of the highlands that bordered Wales, Scotland, and England.
Modern Border Collies can all be traced back to one dog that was born in the early 1890s.
The “collie” part of the name may come from the Gaelic word for “useful,” the word “coalie” or “colley” which means black, or from the name of a breed of sheep. They were first called Border Collies in 1915.
They were used as working dogs, invaluable to farmers for their excellent herding abilities. They are still used today by farmers and ranchers all over the world.
These dogs are intense, energetic, extremely intelligent, watchful, great at solving problems, and easily trainable. They are so smart that they can figure out how to get into closed cabinets and closets, so can get into a bit of mischief on occasion. They need early and ongoing socialization and training. They can be shy and aggressive if not exposed to new situations, people, and other dogs on an ongoing basis. They are not safe around cats or other small pets. They like to be in charge and will take advantage of a lenient owner to do what they want. They are modern-day Houdinis and can escape fenced yards and even locked crates.
They do best if trained with positive reinforcement. A trainer needs to be confident, calm, and fair. Harsh words or mistreatment will cause a dog of this breed to shut down. Their herding nature is deeply ingrained and a bored, under-exercised, under-stimulated Border Collie will take to herding anything that moves – the broom, children, bugs, bicycles, and even cars. Their herding may involve nipping and chasing after people, and can result in tragedy if they run into the path of a car. They should always be kept on leash in an unsecured area.
They become bored very quickly and this can result in destructive behaviours like chewing, barking, howling, and digging. They are also prone to separation anxiety and should not be left alone for extended periods. Adequate exercise can help reduce separation anxiety, but this is not a breed that should be left alone all day.
They are a demanding breed that is intensely loyal, have high endurance levels, and always want to work. They are sponges for human attention and affection, and will closely bond with their human handlers.
Care and Grooming
They need to be brushed or combed at least once a week when not shedding, preferably once every few days, and once a day or every other day during shedding season. Rough-coated dogs need to be brushed to avoid tangles and mats. Smooth-coated dogs require a bit less maintenance. They don’t need regular bathing unless they roll in something nasty or feel dirty to the touch.
Unless the dog runs on hard surfaces like concrete, its nails will need trimming once every four to six weeks. Check its ears once a week for debris, wax, and signs of irritation or infection. Use a vet-approved cleaning solution on a cotton ball to remove dirt and built-up wax – never use a cotton swab in your dog’s ears as this can damage the eardrum and cause deafness. You also need to brush its teeth once a week.
This breed needs at least two hours of work or vigorous exercise each day, with no exceptions. They are not suitable for people who are sedentary. They need to run, catch, herd, train, and jump. The most suitable daily exercise involves two good walks with some off-leash running and playing, a game of catch or tug of war, and obedience or trick training. They make wonderful cycling, rollerblading, and running companions. They love to play Frisbee, play and swim in water, and hike. They excel at obedience, agility, and herding competitions.
Take care not to over-exercise your dog in intense heat, as it will push past its physical limits in high temperatures and could end up with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Border Collies live to be 12 to 15 years of age on average, but some live much longer in good health. There are a few health concerns to which they are prone, such as collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, primary lens luxation, cataracts, chronic superficial keratitis, nodular episclerokeratitis, epilepsy, familial cerebellar degeneration, congenital deafness, and hip dysplasia.
Suitability As A Pet
These are not dogs suitable for apartment dwellers. They do best in a country or rural home with lots of land on which to run and play. They are never still, even when indoors, and need constant mental stimulation and tons of exercise, which makes them completely unsuitable for couch potato owners.
They can be fine when raised with cats, but can develop aggression even towards those animals. It’s best to not have cats around a Border Collie. They do fine with children but be aware that their herding instinct may cause them to herd the kids around the house.
People who are at work all day should not choose a Border Collie as a companion.
Border Collie Organisations in Australia
National Border Collie Council
NBCC Secretary Ms Sheryl Pretty
PO Box 148 Glenhuntly VIC 3163
Email : [email protected]
Border Collie Organisations in the UK
Border Collie Rescue on Line – Front Door
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