The Border Collie
Border Collie Pup
The original home of the Border Collie is the county of Northumberland, the most North Eastern of the English counties on the border of Scotland and England, hence the name of the Border Collie . Historically it comes from one of the cattle droving breeds with some Spaniel added. They are famed for their intense stare, which is mesmeric for sheep and cattle.
There are two types of border collie:
- the coarse haired variety with thick straight hair about 3 inches ( 7.6 cm.) long
- the sleek variety with shorter hair about 1 inch ( 2.5 cm.) long
Interestingly the Border collie has been bred for agility and intelligence and its looks have often been overlooked. As a result they come in as many colors they are typically black with a white blaze, but blue, red, sable, tan and black do occur, there is visually nothing typical about a Border collie or border collie puppies. The bearded collie has longer shaggier hair. They all have a thick waterproof undercoat on the underside of them
As a working dog the border collie does not take kindly to being under utilized and many would say that it is downright cruel not to use this exceptional dog's natural herding ability. Border collies have a tendency to be neurotic and destructive when bored. They are loyal and affectionate which makes them ideal candidates as family pets on the one level, but on the other hand they are bred and trained to be working dogs.
Because of the intense herding instincts of the majority of Border collies they are not suitable for households that have children. The Border collie should never be mixed with someone who does not understand the ramifications of the herding instinct; they only make family pets when this instinct is not strong. Whilst border collies are beautiful dogs their herding instinct is that, an instinct, it cannot be bred out of them. And the interest of child and dog are never compatible. They are there to round up stray sheep, and they do that by a sort of disdainful stare, if this fails they escalate their efforts and bark and nudge a recalcitrant sheep.
The herding instinct is simply a toned down aspect of the killing instinct that wolves possess, it has been refined so that they encircle their prey, the sheep, and dominate them rather than kill them. To a border collie a child is a sheep without a fleece and they carry on as normal using whatever methods are necessary to bring the child within the fold. For a child this is terrifying and the more a child reacts by screaming and protesting and trying to get out of the way, the more the Border Collie will want to rein it in. Both dog and child are doing what comes naturally if a collie does not get its own way by barking and persuasion it will nip and then bite. The interest of dog and child are never going to be mutually inclusive and as such it should never be attempted. Any responsible breeder of the Border collie will inform you that they are working dogs that do their job superbly and they are not intended to be pets. It is not that they have to be de-trained, it is their natural instinct.
The herding instinct in Border Collies is a little different from other dogs. They drive the sheep towards the handler rather than away from it, and whilst anyone who has seen the film Babe will attest, they do not start belligerently, they have a sort off dominant stare, but if they do not get their own way they can be brutal in bringing the sheep into line. In Europe they are generally shot once they have tasted blood, as no farmer would trust them again.
The Border collie moults an average amount of hairs, but they do benefit from regular combing and brushing, as this keeps their coats gleaming with health. As they are active outdoor working dogs it is not unusual for them to have tics, and their coat and ears should be checked once a week.
How to Groom a Dog Correctly
They are active bundles of energy and do not respond well to being tethered, as working dogs they need to work, and if not they require at least two hours of exercise a day.
Training border collies can be difficult. It can sometimes seem that they are not responding to training. Often they are trying to puzzle something out; they do have a genuine desire to learn, but because they are aware of nuances they respond better to one handler whose nuances they know. Many farmer find that they are better with three or four dogs as the company helps to keep them active and alert. They do require a lot of attention and they will make sure that they get it if ignored.
The Border collie is a skilled dog that can be trained to do specialist work; in the Netherlands they have had some outstanding results by training these dogs to fulfill a few tasks of the physically handicapped. Their performance in obedience and ability makes them excellent police dogs as well as sheepherders.
In conclusion: a Border collie in the correct surroundings, as a working sheep dog where agility obedience and loyalty is prized, is almost the nearest dog to perfection possible to find. But to take them out of that environment is often not just a challenge, but an accident waiting to happen. Their considerable energy and intelligence will be used against you if you let it!
Ideal weight: 13-22 kg
Average height: 45-55 cm
Life expectancy: 9-15 years