The Border Collie, a working dog, has above-average intelligence and demands more mental and physical stimulation and time than other breeds. If you are considering adopting or buying this breed it is essential to do your research first, chat with other owners and consider your lifestyle before bringing a Border Collie into your home.
Border Collies are active working dogs, a loyal and loving breed that will be challenging work mentally and physically on you. The breed will require your dedication, time, patience and money so bringing a Border Collie into a family with young children may be unsuitable because of time constraints. Life will be a rollercoaster with tears and frustration if you do not work with your puppy during its early developmental stages.
One crucial point is that, like any dog, a Border Collie may suit a family, being with or without other pets, a one-person home with or without visiting pets, quiet homes or noisy homes. Consider your current life commitments before adopting or buying a Border Collie.
Because some Border Collie owners are ill-prepared, the breed is often booked for euthanasia at eighteen months old. Read our article about training and product suggestions from eight weeks to twenty-four months old.
In this article we shall use Bertie as an example of the breed’s challenging behaviour. In October 2020, an 8-week-old Border Collie puppy became a part of Anita’s family. Anita is experienced with the Cocker Spaniel breed, a single Mum, employed full-time, has a teenage son and her Mum is a ‘dog sitter’ Monday to Friday. Like Gizmo, her late Cocker Spaniel, this Border Collie puppy would accompany them almost everywhere.
Bertie was bought from a local farmer who, unfortunately, never gave him early puppy training and instead was left to run around the farm of his own free will. The reason Anita bought a puppy is because rescues decline you as an adopter when you are working.
Because of her experience with a working dog, Anita believed a Border Collie would be a suitable pet. However, the first 6 months of Bertie’s integration into family life became a steep learning curve.
Are you ready for a Border Collie to join your family?
Border Collies are working dogs known for their high energy levels, and above-average intelligence. This breed requires an understanding of its specific behavioural traits and energy during the early developmental stages of its life.
Their character traits can lead to destructive and obsessive behaviour if the correct physical and mental stimulation is not provided for their breed. Bertie continued being destructive and obsessive even after a long walk and some mental activity.
In addition, a Border Collie has natural herding instincts and problem-solving skills. The breed will attempt to herd cars so vital to keep it on a lead near vehicles. Its natural ability can lead to herding adults, particularly young children, constantly and innocently nipping them, causing fear for younger children and parents. Today, 2023, too many healthy dogs are being presented for euthanasia because they are in the wrong homes or an owner cannot afford adequate care or training because of the cost of living. It is essential to understand the Border Collie before buying or adopting.
Setting the stage for the future
The ‘setting the stage’ section is explored further in my new article.
8 to 12 weeks – the puppy will be curious and energetic … and teething
- Establish a routine
- Basic obedience training to stop chewing
- Provide teething chew toys and frozen food
- Provide mental and physical stimulation
12 weeks to 6 months – as the teething stage develops, they may develop destructive behaviour by chewing, ripping and pulling at inappropriate objects or fabrics.
- Provide appropriate chew toys
- Manage the destructive behaviour
- Provide mental and physical stimulation
6 to 12 months – the adolescent stage is characterised by increased independence and hormonal changes.
- Consistent training
- Engaging interactive play
- Address behavioural challenges
7 months onwards – a Border Collie displays strong herding instincts, which may result in behavioural difficulties.
- You must understand herding behaviour (nipping, chasing)
- Engaging & structured activities suitable for their natural instincts (agility, herding trials, obedience training)
- Reinforce recall and impulse control (strengthening recall to manage its responses to herding)
- Creating a regular physical exercise routine to meet the Border Collie’s high-level needs
- Providing enough mental challenges using puzzles, interactive games and training sessions to prevent boredom-related behavioural issues
Shopping list & activities for a Border Collie (any age):
- Brain Teasers for Dogs: interactive games you can implement at home
- Interactive Dog Toys made by a Border Collie owner for the breed
- Dog Activity Toys at VioVet
- Make you dog feels its working on a walk by wearing a travel backpack
- Consider trail walking and get your wearing backpack
- Puppy paddling pool filled with plastic ducks for herding fun
- Puppy swimming at a designated pool but wearing a life vest
- Train your Border Collie to put clothes in the washing machine
- Teach your Border Collie to help with the housework by retrieving objects
- Consider finding agility or herding courses or experiences for your Border Collie
- Woofz Dog Training (for puppies and grown-up dogs) app
- 50% off Woof Training premium
- Play fetch with a flying disc
- Furbo UK – Talk & interact with your dog when away from home
- Furbo UK on Amazon
- I highly recommend Pet Insurance – Fluffy gives rewards and offers FREE dog training, 24/7 vet, support from behaviourists & trainers, a community and discounts on toys, food and more
- The Complete Guide to Border Collies books, kindle
Border Collies have two main phases during their adolescence.
Owning a Border Collie: financial & time commitments
Owning any animal is a long-term commitment both on time and finances. Financially will include purchasing accessories to benefit your puppy’s training. Examples are fencing to protect your garden, covers to protect your car interior, a boot guard, safety harnesses, and an indoor crate. You may need to consider doubling your purchase if someone is looking after your pet in their home, as Anita did when her Mum looked after Bertie during working hours. Read our article Cracking a Border Collie’s Behaviour: Building a Fulfilling Bond
Watch the Videos: Products purchased for Bertie
- Best Strong Multi-Purpose Pen for Dogs, Young Dogs, and Rabbits indoors or outdoors
- Pet Ultra Mate Kennel is ideal for travel or camping or a house at home for your puppy
- Pros & cons harnesses, halti, collars, car seat belt
- Lamtwek Natural Foraging Snuffle Food Enrichment Mat – Sniff, Fun, Dog Puzzle Toys, Dog Brain Toy
The following relate to Bertie:
- Very alert
- Separation anxiety
- Requires constant attention to stimulate his mind
- Exceptionally smart
- Quick to learn but bores easily – creates backsteps and forward steps with training
- Mentally challenging
- Natural herding instincts (anything that moves, cars, children)
- Requires constant attention (eg around cars)
Several Border Collies have died in road traffic accidents because they attempted to herd cars.
Missing Border Collies have been found in unusual locations. Read more at the end of my Dog Lost article.
Border Collies are known for nipping into the air. Watch the Video: Light & Shadow Chasing – Bertie demonstrates this trait.
Animal rescues sometimes need potential adopters to have breed experience. This is because some breeds, like the Border Collie, need people with understanding, experience, and knowledge of how to fulfil that breed’s needs. Without it, a dog may be back in a rescue, causing emotional trauma, confusion, anxiety and sometimes, shutdown emotionally. This is unfair to a dog.
Again, research the Border Collie, interact with other owners, search on YouTube, visit charity websites, and allow yourself a realistic perception of life with this breed.
- Can we cope as a family?
- Will I trust this breed around my family?
- Can I afford a Border Collie puppy?
- Can I provide the time for the demands of this breed?
The effects on an individual or family can be:
- Mental exhaustion
- Time-consuming monitoring your Border Collie’s behaviour at home
- The financial outlay for accessories
- Financial loss because of damage
- Re-organising the house (and the inconvenience) to prevent your Border Collie from damaging furniture, belongings or internal parts of the house
- Physical pain from nipping
I want to point out that a Border Collie is a loveable dog, especially Bertie!
Read out article Cracking a Border Collie’s behaviour: building a fulfilling bond
The Covid-19 puppy
Because of regular lockdowns and restrictions, mixing with other people was illegal; puppy groups, training classes, doggy daycare, and general meet and greetings with other dog walkers were closed.
After restrictions were lifted, the impact created puppy socialisation and behavioural issues with meeting other dogs and people.
Another issue is children and people wanting to fuss a little puppy, ignoring pleas from an owner that it is in training. When the cute puppy jumps up excitedly and may playfully nip, this can cause implications between the owner and parent. Asking for distance can sometimes lead to verbal abuse too.
The Border Collie and behavioural destruction
The reason for destruction can be because of teething and the need to ease the pain, and during this stage, it is vital to implement training to stop chewing personal belongings and household goods. Behavioural issues will continue as the Border Collie ages if training is not implemented when chewing starts. Read my forthcoming article Cracking a Border Collie’s Behaviour: Building a Fulfiling Bond.
Boredom from inadequate physical and mental stimulation can cause destruction too.
As your Border Collie matures, a mere stroll to the end of the road may no longer suffice. Achieving a harmonious equilibrium becomes paramount. Occasionally, despite a lengthy walk, your young Border Collie may still possess boundless energy, impeding your plans for a tranquil evening as you continuously intervene to address their mischievous behaviour. To address this challenge, let’s consider the case of Anita and her Border Collie named Bertie.
Anita diligently incorporated an approach to exercise and engage Bertie. She embarked on a regular suburban walk with him during the early morning hours, followed by an off-lead excursion in the countryside later in the day. Consequently, Bertie receives an average of two hours of walking and running exercise each day, complemented by playtime in the garden and mental stimulation at home.
Throughout the working week, Bertie spent weekdays with Anita’s Mum. Regrettably, as Bertie grew, his increasing strength posed a challenge for Anita’s elderly mother, limiting her ability to take him on lengthy walks. The lack of stimulation had ramifications for both Bertie and his environment. During weekdays, he did not receive adequate mental stimulation and physical exercise, adversely affecting both his behaviour and creating an emotional impact on Anita’s Mum because she couldn’t give Bertie enough exercise.
The conclusion is – before bringing a young Border Collie into your family, consider your family and working life, and your dog’s carer if applicable.
Without the correct balance of stimulation, you may find the following issues:
- Ripping leather off dining chairs
- Pulling at curtains until they detach from the rail
- Chewing at doors and door frames (Anita had to remove a kitchen door)
- Ripping plaster from the wall where radiator pipes go into the wall
- Chewing skirting board
- Leaning up on kitchen worktops to remove reachable objects
- Light catching, nipping and pulling at curtains
- Soaking the floor because of upturning a water bowl
- Chewing through a hosepipes
- Digging up plants
- Smashing plant pots by knocking them over
Another cause of chewing and ripping furniture and clothes from 3 to 8 months is pain from teething. We shall explore this further in my article Cracking a Border Collie’s Behaviour: Building a Fulfilling Bond (July 2023)
- This Border Collie had an adverse reaction to castration
- Trigger Stacking: Is your Border Collie or other breed coping?
- Your Border Collie naturally wants to herd sheep – but will a farmer see it that way?
- Leads, collars, harnesses, car safety were all tested on a Border Collie from puppyhood
- ANTI-THEFT walking gear for dogs?
- Protect Your Dogs: How can you prevent your wild Border Collie from escaping the garden?
The ‘rule of thumb’ for exercising your Border Collie puppy
Professionals recommend not letting your Border Collie start its young life with excessive exercise and jumping because its joints and bones still develop at a young age.
YuMove Working Dog supplement contains Glucosamine, found naturally in the fluid surrounding the joints. The fluid protects the joints and keeps them healthy. products with this ingredient is essential for older dogs with joint problems and can help ease arthritis. However, if your dog has severe arthritis, speak to your vet first. A lower-priced option is ItchPet’s Best in Show – the product is packed with multivitamins with 10 benefits and contains Glucosamine. I mix Best in Show for my cat with wet food. Speak to your vet about a supplement in your dog’s early stages of life.
To forewarn you, the breed is known for developing joint issues later in life. For instance, it is said that agility training should not start until your Border Collie is over 12 months old, although some trainers state 18 months.
Back to exercise.
The ‘rule of thumb’ is 5 minutes of exercise every month twice a day throughout puppyhood. And to confuse you further, Anita found this did not work for Bertie. So you see, it depends on your puppy.
Bertie would destroy home areas if he weren’t physically and mentally stimulated. So, applying the ‘rule of thumb’, your puppy may need more mental stimulation. For example, foraging. If you cannot afford the foraging mat, Anita recommends throwing treats on the floor, hiding them around the house, or tossing a few on the lawn. This will give your puppy a foraging experience and mental stimulation.
|Age||Ratio||Amount of exercise|
|3 months||3 (age) x 5 mins||15 mins twice per day|
|5 months||5 (age) x 5 mins||20 mins twice per day|
|7 months||7 (age) x 5 mins||35 mins twice per day|
The ‘rule of thumb’ applies to any breed, by the way. It would help if you judged your dog’s needs, so this rule may not work for some dogs but will for others. Every puppy and dog is different.
Simple things to help mentally stimulate your Border Collie
Join a supportive Facebook page designed for Border Collie owners. If you consider owning this breed, you can gain invaluable honesty and advice from owners. Read posts to identify the challenges others have faced. Ask questions, but do this before you adopt or buy.
Here are a few stimulating ideas but your Border Collie will need more than those given below:
- Enforce boundaries, and when you say ‘No’ or ‘Leave’ your voice needs to be loud and strong
- Give a treat for good behaviour. Bertie was interested in Paddywack chews – he loved them
- Invest in a Kong and freeze it (Ideal for teething)
- Offer a raw carrot or a frozen treat )ideal for teething)
- Have a squeaky toy to hand
- Offer knotted tea towel to play with
- Fill an old vitamin bottle with stones and shake it to divert attention from nipping
- Place a treat under their nose, then give it when they stop nipping. It must not be seen as a reward, though.
- Foraging mat with your puppy’s favourite treats
Avoid the following.
- Do not pull away too fast if your puppy is nipping – your Border Collie will think it a game
- Do not play tug-of-war games
- Keep hands away from your dog’s mouth
- Do not teach contact tricks. An example is Hi-Five
What happened to Bertie?
Bertie went to live with a friend of Anita’s, who had three rescue dogs. The relationship worked but Bertie remained boisterous but happy and showed extra happiness whenever Anita and her son visited (Bertie was close to the son). But, it’s thought Trigger Stacking developed and reached its pinnacle.
Today, Bertie is happy in a one-person home without other pets. Visiting children and dogs are okay. Bertie has a beautiful life with needs met, as shown in his Instagram channel.
What is the timeline for teething in a Border Collie
A Border Collie puppy will feel out of sorts, grumpy, in pain from inflamed sore gums, and itchiness. Because of the soreness, a puppy will chew everything in site.
|From 3 weeks||Puppy and Mum will be together. Baby teeth will appear.|
|5 to 6 weeks old||At 6 weeks, a puppy will start using its teeth|
|12 to 16 weeks old||28 baby teeth will start coming out to make way for adult teeth|
|6 months plus||42 permanent adult teeth. Teething has ended|
**any baby teeth remaining may need to be removed by a vet
Three simple ways to soothe sore gums for a Border Collie puppy:
- Freeze a carrot or banana
- Wet and freeze a rope toy or knotted tea towel
- Give a puppy an ice cube frozen with treats, yoghurt, peanut butter
At what age do Border Collies calm down?
Your Border Collie may not calm down until they are 18 months old. Be prepared as this differs between Border Collies. The breed excels in agility, obedience and training, so consider registering them with local training clubs.
Here is an example of what types to search for:
- Agility courses
- Herding events
- Fly ball sport
- Individual fly disc sport
- (safe) Swimming
You could build an agility course in your back garden.
- Buy a Fly ball for your garden.
- Buy a frisbee and use it at the local park.
- Push garden canes into the earth to create an agility course, then teach your dog to walk around and between.
- Or, for now, purchase the 3 piece obstacle course and enjoy some more back garden fun!
Product reviews & giveaways:
Sometimes, companies kindly send Poppy’s Pets products to be tested or as giveaways. Any giveaways are highlighted on Social Media so please follow Poppy’s Pets on Facebook for announcements. See what’s being tested at the moment!
- ItchPet – **no added grain dental treats (Closing date 30 June 2023)
- ItchPet – **no added grain shin & coat (July 2023 giveaway)
**ItchPet shows new and old packaging on the website. Please check your pet doesn’t have allergies from ingredients
I have a column in the Withernsea & District Community News as Poppy’s Pets