Border Collie Breed Guide: History, Temperament & Care Tips

by Aliyah Diamond
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Border Collie Breed Guide
Is a Border Collie the right fit for you? Learn all about these dogs in our Border Collie guide with info on breed history, personality, trainability, and more.

Originally bred on the border of England and Scotland, Border Collies are one of the smartest dog breeds. These medium-sized working dogs are extremely energetic with a love of herding and running. If you’re an active person with a large, fenced yard, this might be the perfect breed for you.

Keep reading to find out more about day-to-day life with these dogs in our Border Collie breed guide.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: Like most working breeds, energetic Border Collies can easily get injured. It’s a good idea to enroll your pup in a pet insurance plan that can help cover the costs of unexpected vet bills that may pop up at any point in their life.

Border Collie breed history

The Border Collie was developed from sheepdogs on the border of England and Scotland — hence the name (the word ‘collie’, which refers to sheepdogs, is Scottish).1

The breed was originally developed to help guard and herd sheep and over the years, it has upheld its reputation as a highly intelligent working dog. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria became fond of Border Collies which increased their popularity as sheep-herding dogs. In the 20th century, the breed was brought to the sheep ranches of New Zealand and Australia. The Border Collie was officially recognized by AKC in 1995.

portrait of border collie smiling

Border Collie characteristics

Physical appearance

Categorized as a medium-sized breed, the average weight of a Border Collie is around 45 pounds for males and 42 pounds for females. In terms of height, males reach up to 22 inches, whereas females stand as tall as 21 inches.

Border Collies appear very similar to Australian Shepherds, but they’re lighter in weight and have a longer, bushier tail. Their body is slightly longer than they are tall and their ears are perched high atop their heads and often folded over at the tip.

Border Collies can have two types of coat: rough (feathered, medium-length) or smooth (coarse and short). The longer-haired members of the breed usually have a lush mane, as well. Both types are double-coated and come in an impressive range of colors with diverse markings:2

  • Blue
  • Blue Merle
  • Red
  • Red Merle
  • Black
  • Gold
  • Lilac
  • Slate
  • Seal
  • Brindle
  • Sable
  • Sable Merle
  • Saddleback Sable
  • White Ticked
  • White and Blue / Blue Merle
  • White and Red / Red Merle
  • White and Black
  • White and Gold
  • White and Seal

bordie collie dog running

Temperament and personality

The Border Collie temperament is energetic, hardworking, loyal, and smart.

In fact, Border Collies were named the smartest of all dogs by Stanley Coren, a canine neuropsychology professor at the University of British Columbia in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs.”3

This breed averaged an 82.4% passing rate with the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS).4 The test evaluates the dog breed temperaments by scoring categories such as motivation, reaction, and more. The results showed Border Collies to be generally friendly, well-mannered dogs.

Border Collies are nicknamed “workaholics” and these energetic dogs are best suited to country living. If confined without company and activity, they can develop destructive behaviors.

Due to their herding instincts, Border Collies may be very protective of their family and territory, which makes them great watchdogs. They also get along well with kids and other pets they are raised with but can be somewhat reserved or even hostile to strangers. How friendly and social a dog is with unfamiliar humans and other animals has a breed component, but is also strongly associated with how your pet is socialized and exposed to new experiences throughout their life.

Average lifespan

The life expectancy of a Border Collie is relatively long at 10 to 15 years on average, although some members of the breed can reach 17 years old. The oldest Border Collie on record is Bramble who lived in the UK from 1975 to 2003 (28 years).5

If your Border Collie is treated well, has regular exercise, is provided a healthy diet, and visits the veterinarian regularly, they have a much better chance of living a long and happy life.

Border Collie care tips

Training and exercise

Early socialization is very important for Border Collies in order to prevent shyness around strangers. Obedience training should start from an early age and continue throughout the dogs’ life to provide enough mental stimulation and deter negative behaviors like nipping and running off to chase cars. Mental stimulation through training and other activities that require your Border Collie to think are great ways to keep their mental exercise needs met and encourage appropriate behavior in the home.

Border Collies are very intelligent, learn quickly, and respond well to praise. They do very well at canine activities such as agility, herding, obedience, rally, tracking competitions, as well as sports like flyball and flying disc. These sporting activities are great ways to exercise your Border Collies body and mind at the same time.

As mentioned before, these dogs are athletic and highly energetic and require vigorous exercise (at least two hours a day). They do best when given a job to do and lots of space to run.

Diet and nutrition

Border Collies generally need to be fed about three-quarters to one full cup of dry dog food twice a day and provided with fresh, clean, water, available at all times. Your Border Collie’s exact nutritional requirements may vary based on their size, age, activity level, and food brand. You should always consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about the best food type or volume for your dog.

Keep an eye on your dog’s calorie intake and activity level. If you notice weight gain or have any questions concerning your pet’s food, feeding schedule, or exercise, be sure to get in touch with your vet.

Grooming requirements

Border Collies are considered average shedders. Their dense, weather-resistant double coats require brushing once or twice a week. During shedding season, brushing sessions should take place daily. As with all breeds, Border Collies’ nails should be trimmed regularly.

Living with Border Collies

Being extremely energetic dogs, these pups are best suited for active owners. Border Collies not only love to run but they also need lots of attention from their owners and a job to do, be it fetching a ball or herding livestock.

black and white bordie collie running

Common Border Collie health problems

In general, Border Collies are considered to be healthy, but like all purebreds, they are prone to certain dog health issues due to their genetic makeup. Some common hereditary conditions in Border Collies include:

  • Hip dysplasia, a condition that occurs when a dog's hip joint doesn't develop properly.
  • Epilepsy, one of the most common brain disorders that cause seizures in dogs.
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD), abnormal growth of the cartilage on the end of a bone.
  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA), an inherited disease that impairs vision.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an inherited condition that causes gradually progressive degeneration of the retina.
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs), a group of inherited neurodegenerative disorders characterized by progressive declines in neurological functions.
  • Trapped neutrophil syndrome, a common fatal inherited autosomal disorder that compromises the immune system and has only been found in Border Collies.

Pro Tip: Be sure you are aware of what signs of illnesses to look for so you can quickly address any health concern. Remember, having Border Collie pet insurance can help reduce the stress of expensive vet bills and give you the peace of mind of knowing that your four-legged friend is protected.

Adopting or buying a Border Collie

If you’re thinking about welcoming a Border Collie into your family, check out the Border Collie Society of America’s breeder referral directory and list of rescue groups throughout the States.

If you are interested in similar breeds, consider looking into German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Canaans, and Shetland Sheepdogs.


Key Takeaways

  • Border Collies are smart and highly energetic dogs with a strong desire to herd. They are best suited to country living due to their need for lots of space to run. If confined, these dogs can develop destructive behaviors.
  • Border Collies learn quickly, and respond well to praise, which makes them easy to train. They are good with kids and other pets and make great watchdogs.
  • These beautiful pups are considered average shedders and require brushing once or twice a week.
  • Like other dog breeds, this breed is prone to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and Collie eye anomaly.

References

  1. AKC, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Border Collies” Accessed Nov. 15, 2021.
  2. AKC, “Border Collie Breed Standards” Accessed Oct. 28, 2021.
  3. Stanley Coren, “Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds” Accessed Nov. 15, 2021.
  4. ATTS, “Breed Statistics” Accessed Nov. 15, 2021.
  5. Oldest.org, “Oldest Living Dogs in the World” Accessed Nov. 15, 2021.
Aliyah Diamond

About the author

Aliyah Diamond

DVM Candidate Class of 2023 at Cornell University - Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Aliyah Diamond has more than ten years of experience in animal hospitals - working with dozens of species from dogs and cats, to elephants and snow leopards. Her lifelong passion for helping animals currently has her earning her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Cornell University and helping Pawlicy Advisor educate pet parents.

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