26 October, 2020

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Border Collie Temperament & Personality

Border Collie Temperament & Personality

Overview

Of all the popular sheepdog breeds, the Border Collie is one of the most well-known in mainstream consciousness. They were first bred in the hilly knolls along the border of England and Scotland. They are iconic for their intense glare, known to control flocks of sheep with their authoritative aura alone. 

Border Collies have a high amount of stamina, which suits their drive for hard work and play. Their dutiful personality puts them a step above the rest when it comes to being a sheepdog, and they are still considered the best sheepdog all around the globe, by farmers and ranchers alike.

They are also known to be an intelligent breed, which is necessary for the independent work they do as sheepdogs. In addition, their breed’s history of herding has led them to adapt a sleek frame and athletic build. They are agile dogs, and despite being medium sized, are often dealing with larger creatures in their work, making them brave as well. When not playing or working, most owners have them participate in agility contests such as frisbee, obstacle courses, and flyball.

Physical Characteristics

Border Collies vary slightly, depending on gender, but not by much. Males can grow to a height of 19 to 22 inches, while females are slightly shorter, only growing 18 up to 21 inches. Weight can range from 30 to 55 pounds. Their average lifespan is 12 to 15 years old. 

The Border Collie has two coats, and these double coats come in two types. One type of coat is smooth and short, with a little feathering in the legs. The other type is rougher, with flat or slightly wavy medium to long fur. Both are coarse on the outside coat and soft on the inside coat. Most Border Collie coats are colored black with white, but can be a variety of blends.

They have double coats, which come in two variations. The first type of coat is short and smooth, and the legs have a small amount of feathering. Their colors are usually black and white, but they can also be gray, brown or white. The second type has a rough texture with longer fur in a wavy or flat pattern. Their coats are loose and coarse on the outside, while remaining soft in the undercoat. 

Despite their size, Border Collies have tough muscular bodies, which are toned by constant physical activity. They often hold a keen and focused expression that shows their intelligence. Some shepherds actually prefer their Border Collies with “battle scars” from their work, such as chipped teeth or scars gained in the line of duty, to preserve the spirit of their ancestors.

Personality

Authoritative

Border Collies, thanks to their aptitude for herding cattle, are often “leaders”. They will follow you of course, but just as often, they will be “herding” you as well. If you have other pets, especially rowdy ones, they will often try to use their hallmark “glare” to keep them in line. This can apply to their human owners too, though that does not mean they will not bow to your final word.

Active

As stated before, they have a naturally active personality. They prefer activity to rest whenever possible, and it is important for Border Collie owners to provide them with that. A Border Collie can become stressed both physically and mentally. An active daily life should be required for any pet parent.

Compulsive

Border Collies are dutiful dogs, but their active personality can lead them to be compulsive during playtime or if they are bored. They will run after other pets, your children, or even moving vehicles. This is not necessarily a sign of aggression, but because they want to have an activity they can focus on. It’s important as owners that you don’t let them be bored for too long.

Friendly

Being a breed suited for farmhands, they are used to being around other animals. They usually do not register all new animals as threats, and are actually quick to befriend them. The only issue is if their outgoing personality conflicts with more laidback animals such as cats. Border Collies will often try to “herd” other animals even if they are only wandering the house. 

Extroverted

While Border Collies can be kept in an apartment, it is not recommended if you aren’t going to be exercising with them often. Border Collies are very active dogs and an apartment on a higher floor may not give them the physical activity they desire. If you do not regularly exercise with them, expect a very stressed out and bored Border Collie.

Border Collies, although friendly by nature, tend to develop an incessant need to bark, dig or scratch at walls when not given proper training and exercise. While all dogs have such a tendency, it is amplified with the Border Collie’s natural inclination towards constant activity. Border Collies start their “teen” years at around four months old, and will grow to full maturity by 16 months old.

Border Collies always prefer the outdoors to the indoors. It is not a good idea to own a Border Collie if you plan on just leaving them inside the house by themselves all day on workdays. They are naturally active dogs, and it’s important to keep them mentally and physically active on a daily basis. Failure to do so could lead to them developing unwanted behaviors such as chasing and barking at shadows, scratching on the floor, and running around in circles.

Disciplined

Border Collies are well suited to jobs thanks to their ease of training. Though their most popular career path is being a sheepdog (being sheepdogs and all), they are also a good fit for search and rescue jobs. Their loyalty, athleticism, obedience and intelligence makes them formidable competitors in dog contests as well. They are one of the best dogs to work alongside humans in jobs like this.

History

For the mainstream viewer, most non-Brits are likely familiar with the breed of the Border Collie from their appearance in the sheepdog trial contests in the movie “Babe.” However, their history as intelligent and agile sheepdogs actually stemmed from a fascinating worldwide empire: The Romans.

The Roman Empire, in its many innovations and cultural adoption, were also one of the first peoples to breed dogs specifically for the purpose of sheep breeding. Their occupation of Britain influenced the country greatly for centuries to come, and in this case, dog breeding was one of those influences. Against the Roman Empire, the Vikings brought their ships, as well as their own sheepdogs, built smaller and lighter than the heavy sheepdogs of the Roman Empire. 

These two breeds would eventually interbreed, and from this mixed breed the ancestors of the Border Collie was born. They combined the Roman dogs’ hardy natures with the Viking dogs’ quick and slender frame to create a dog that could easily traverse the hilly knolls of the Scottish Isles. 

In particular, the Brits have a deep history with this breed, thanks to their cultivation in mainstream culture by Queen Victoria and her stalwart companion, the Border Collie named Sharp. The Border Collie as a breed was bred with the mantra of “function over all”. They may not be the prettiest or biggest dogs, but they are tailored to be the ultimate herding animals. 

Where other sheepdogs wielded their authority over the flock with loud barks and nipping at sheep’s heels, the Border Collie is unique for its ability to stare down an entire flock. It was in 1873 that this ability was discovered, when one Border Collie by the name of Hemp supposedly disciplined an entire flock with only a stare.

The modern Border Collie was officially identified by name in 1915, right after the First World War when their temperament and function was considered different enough from other collies to be given a unique name. The reason why it took so long to gain their own name was due to their unassuming appearances. While other breeds looked more distinct, the Border Collie was bred without aesthetics in mind, and so was often grouped with other collies. They were officially inducted into the AKC (American Kennel Club) to much controversy.

Border Collies are, to this day, known as one of the greatest herders in history.  Their fast reactions to stray flocks, intense commanding stares, and incredible stealth ability, the Border Collie encompasses all the necessary traits for the perfect sheepdog.

Feeding

Border Collies don’t really need anything more specific than a diet of high quality dog food at appropriate amounts. What constitutes an appropriate amount is entirely dependent on their size, weight and other health factors. Do not go overboard with treats, and when feeding human food, always research what is and that it isn’t toxic for them. Lastly, make sure fresh and clean water is present for their consumption at all times.

Exercise

Border Collies are a high energy breed that requires daily physical activity. You don’t necessarily have to go on walks everyday, Border Collies consider any activity with a clear goal time well spent. Best give them an open area where they can do lots of activities, so a yard with a clear view of the outside is highly recommended. If not for walks, train your Border Collie to do basic tricks. As for sports, Border Collies  excel in agility-based events such as frisbee, flyball and obstacle course. Border Collies need an owner that is active, because these dogs will not just lie down and wait while you are away at work or going on a video game binge. 

If you want to have your dog join contests, exercises that involve whatever challenges they need to accomplish are highly recommended. A game of catch with a flying disk, going on jogs to build up muscle and stamina, and even just basic tricks ensure that your Border Collie learns discipline and patience.

Grooming

The double coat of the Border Collie makes it so that baths aren’t actually required as a weekly or even monthly activity. Baths are only necessary when your dog is extraordinarily dirty or smelly. Their double coat is weather resistant, andcatches dirt before it reaches their skin. A light brushing with a pin brush twice or thrice a week is sufficient grooming during non-shedding season. 

For shedding season, make sure to brush them daily and in one spot, to minimize the amount of vacuuming hairs you will have to do around your home.Like other breeds, Border Collies rarely need to have their nails observed, a trim or filing once a month is sufficient for their health.

Adopting a Border Collie

Define to your breeder exactly what you want from your dog. Do you want it as a herder companion, a show dog or best friend? Reputable breeders have a keen eye for picking the right dog to suit you exact needs. Whether you are adopting from a reputable breeder or adopting a Border Collie from an old acquaintance, make sure to have them screened by your local veterinarian for any ailments they might have, both for your sake and the dog’s. 

Ask their original owner/breeder if their particular litter has a history of medical problems. It’s often recommended to adopt a puppy that has finished their breastfeeding period and gotten accustomed to playing with their fellow pups, as it minimizes the risk of health issues arising or aggressive behavioral shifts.

A Border Collie’s training starts the first time they enter the door of your home. Even at a few weeks of age, Border Collies are intelligent pups that start to observe and retain all the information around their new home. Training your pups early will prevent any hard-headedness that they may develop if you train them during their “rebellious” phase.

When your pup is 3 months old, try and enroll them to a puppy kindergarten, or at the very least, visit their original litter if they’re still around. Socialization is crucial to getting your Border Collie accustomed to other dogs, and by extension, all other creatures they might encounter. Luckily, Border Collies are one of the breeds most accustomed to the presence of other animals thanks to their genetic disposition towards herding livestock.

Training

Border Collies are some of the most “professional” dogs in the world. Over generations, they were bred to prioritize function over everything else, making their training potential high. 

However, their training isn’t to be pets, but to be herders, which can be a challenge if you want to utilize their natural intelligence and instincts to non-herding activities. This guide will be focusing on how to train Border Collies from puppy to adult dog. A Border Collie lends itself well to training, but they will need a patient and loving trainer to be at their maximum potential.

Establish Authority

ew owners may find the Border Collies too unruly, and that is why they end up in shelters. Make sure that you are prepared to set aside a significant amount of time towards training and paying attention to your Border Collie pup. Always provide outlets for both mental and physical energy. In addition to imprinting their name, they must learn all the basic tricks such as sit, heel, stay and follow. This will take some time, so be patient with your pup. 

Obedience is key to a happy Border Collie, and they must see you as their shepherd. As previously stated in the article, puppy kindergartens are very helpful for this kind of training. Not only will this help with socializing, it also gives them plenty of other dogs to exercise with.

Exercise Often

Border Collies are a very active breed. Their ancestors spent much of their time working as herders, guarding the farm, or playing with their owner’s family. Border Collies are not the type of dogs to be okay with just lazing around all day. Border Collies are great companions while jogging (not just short walks) and open field frisbee games. In case you don’t feel like being outside, there are indoor facilities available for Border Collies. Urban dogs can participate in agility training, and it is one of the most strenuous dog sports one can have their pet participate in. Of course, in the times you cannot do this, working on the basic tricks such as sit and stay works out. If you have a yard, making a DIY course of tunnels and things to jump over would be a fun way for them to pass the time.

Socialize Early

Border Collies are very familiar with a family unit and will enjoy your company. However, their natural drive for herding may lead them to “herd” small critters such as birds, cats or children. It’s not that they are uncomfortable with other animals. They simply just think that they need to be “controlled” and they perform their genetic urge to herd unruly animals. It is best to train young Border Collies to differentiate between friendly pets and people, and “herd” animals such as livestock (if you live on a farm). Introduce your puppy to other dogs as well. Set playdates with other dog owners to get the human interaction training started as well.

Use Your Dog’s Instincts

Border Collies are natural herders, and it is best to capitalize on that urge. If you don’t own other small critters for them to “herd”, make sure to find the nearest herding competitors in your area, or border collie trainers. If you cannot find a trainer, there is an interesting game called Push Ball they can try, Push Ball, or “Treibball” in its origin country of Germany, is a game where dogs “herd” a bunch of balls of varying sizes into a goal by pushing them. The owner will be commanding the dog to push the balls where they need to go. It becomes a great communication training exercise for you and your dog, all without the need to involve live animals.

Be Firm but Gentle

Border Collies are emotional dogs. They are used to owners that treat them with respect, because an unruly dog was not a good sheepdog. If you are too harsh with your dog, they will often ignore you. Establish authority not through intimidation, but through kindness and persuasion. Patience is required to get your dog’s obedience. A good Border Collie is loved by their owner and the dog, in turn, respects their authority. They should be pleased to follow their owner’s orders naturally, not through fear and intimidation.

Health 

Border Collies are a hardy breed and aren’t too prone to diseases. However, there are still risks as well as genetic maladies that you may want to know about. When adopting a puppy from a shelter or breeder, always ask for their health records to find out what to expect.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is often found in Border Collies through inheritance. Seizures may affect your dog, and this usually pops up in the first six months of their life. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if they have epilepsy or not. Medication is a must if you know your Border Collie has epilepsy. Do the work and look at detailed guides for handling seizures in dogs.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondritis Dissecans is a form of joint disease found in Border Collies. The cartilage of the dog’s joints deteriorate, and without it, the joint will stiffen and eventually become too painful to use for the dog. OCD is spotted within the first four months, but can develop later in life. Surgery is often the solution for severe cases of OCD.

Dysplasia

Dysplasia, particularly in the hip and elbows, is a common disease for Border Collies. The majority of Border Collies may develop this malady later in life due to their active lifestyles. They are genetic conditions that can manifest at any age. This disease causes joints to dislocate on their sockets, making movement incredibly stiff and painful. 

Constant trauma to the joints from physical activity will worsen the condition. Consult a veterinarian for the best course of action when it comes to this disease. Dysplasia will require medication to ease the pain. For severe cases, surgery will be necessary to fix the dislocated joints affected by it.

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