Thinking of Getting a Border Collie?

Needed Information for Prospective and Current Owners

With the recent media attention focused on the Border Collie, many people are now considering adopting a Border Collie as a potential new pet.

PLEASE Read This Posting if you are one of these people.

While Border Collies are very intelligent, they also require a larger time and energy commitment from their owners than many other breeds. The following post is a compilation of writings by Border Collie owners.

Note that a mailing list is available for discussing issues and topics relating to Border Collies. You can join by sending a e-mail message to:

In the body of the message put the single line of text:
          subscribe BC-L <your real name>
Mailing list members are happy to talk to you and answer the questions you have about Border Collies. If you decide that a Border Collie is the right dog for you, we can help you choose a responsible breeder and stay away from puppy mills and pet stores, where you will very likely get an inferior, potentially unhealthy Border Collie. We may also be able to match you up with a rescue Border Collie that really needs a good home. This is a great resource for future and current Border Collie owners.

Our Main Message

Border Collies are much more work than many other breeds. Many Border Collies end up in shelters when their owners decide that they are just too much trouble to have around because they need so much exercise, attention, and training/mental stimulation. Please read this post before you decide that a Border Collie is the dog for you!

What Kind of Pet Does a Border Collie Make?

As a general rule, Border Collies are not a good pet for a typical pet owner. Border Collies are usually very intense "workaholics". They are happiest when they have a job to do, whether that job is herding, obedience, agility, or any of the other active occupations and dog sports they excel at. If these dogs are not given a "job" to do, they are very likely to become extremely destructive. Hanging out around an apartment or house being the "guard dog" isn't a job for a Border Collie!

Border Collies won't usually exercise on their own. Most require their human counterparts to participate in their exercise programs. Merely putting a Border Collie into a fenced area as a form of exercise will NOT be enough for them.

These dogs need to be physically and mentally challenged, and if you cannot provide that for them, they'll do it themselves - at the expense of your lawn, furniture, walls, whatever looks tempting to dig or chew on! They are extremely quick, high-energy, "busy" dogs and they must have plenty of exercise.

Border Collies are bred for endurance: a working Border Collie is able to run as much as 100 miles a day over sometimes difficult terrain, then go out and do it again the next day. A one- or two-mile run is barely a warm-up for a Border Collie. People without the time to give a dog plenty vigorous physical and mental exercise every day would be well advised to find a calmer dog. A bored Border Collie can become neurotic and destructive.

What is it Like Living with a Herding Dog?

Be sure you know what you're getting into if you think you want a Border Collie. Border Collies have been bred for hundreds of years to hone and refine a very strong instinct to herd sheep. Border Collies herd everything that moves: livestock, birds, other dogs, cats, children, and even bugs.

Many people have absolutely no patience with the way the herding instinct displays itself and operates in a family situation, and many Border Collies end up abandoned at the local dog pound because of it. Border Collies run hard. They will:

Many, many young Border Collies are killed each year chasing cars - they will run in front of the moving car, trying to herd it.

Are Border Collies Intelligent?

Border Collies are very intelligent dogs and learn fast. This is actually a problem at times because they will learn things that the owner didn't intend for them to learn. Some of these newly learned behavior patterns can be difficult to reteach. Their intelligence is one of the reasons that they tend to get bored (and into trouble) easily. But then, it's also one of the reasons they excel in obedience training/competition, herding, agility and other dog sports.

What Kind of Escape Artists are They?

Border Collies are extremely agile dogs and can easily jump or climb a 6-foot fence if they decide there's something more interesting on the other side. They are also good diggers and chewers, so if they can't jump a fence, they might try to dig under it or chew through it if they want to get out. And don't forget their intelligence: some Border Collies are good at opening doors and latches!

What are Some Special Medical Problems in Border Collies?

Like most medium- and large-sized dogs, Border Collies are prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD), which can cause mild to severe lameness.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is another problem and causes a central loss of vision. It generally shows up in dogs around two years of age, and progresses over the years and may eventually lead to total blindness.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), a malformation of the optic nerve, is another eye problem that is becoming more and more common in Border Collies. Like PRA, CEA can also cause blindness.

Border Collies are also prone to epilepsy, a neurological seizure disorder.

Is a Border Collie the Right Dog For You?

The people who make the most satisfied Border Collie owners are people who enjoy spending a lot of time with their dogs and are willing and able to make the commitment to exercise and train in some way every day; who are very active, who like to hike, jog, and/or take long walks with their dogs; who don't mind living with a dog that never really settles down, even in the house, even after a lot of exercise, even when its owner is tired from a long day at work; and most importantly, who have a real job for the dogs to do, whether it's one of the dog sports that these dogs excel at, or, of course, herding a flock of sheep.

Please feel free to copy and distribute this post!

Page updated 23 August 1995