Once kept almost exclusively as a working herding dog, the Border collie today is hugely popular all across the world, and particularly here in their home country of the UK. Highly intelligent, full of beans and generally very enthusiastic about everything, there is a lot to recommend the Border collie as a pet or working animal, but they can also be very challenging to keep, train and manage!
The Border collie is definitely not the dog for everyone, and while every dog is different, virtually all Border collies share at least five very specific personality traits across the board; these same traits can help the Border collie become an excellent working dog, but also, may potentially make them a handful and hard to manage within the domestic home.
Read on to find out more about the five universal personality traits of the Border collie.
The Border collie holds the esteemed position of being ranked number one in the world in terms of canine intelligence, which is one reason why these dogs have such a strong and successful working history. The Border collie will often pick up new commands with just a couple of repetitions; but this also means that they can pick up bad habits and negative behaviours just as quickly too!
Some people refer to the Border collie as “too bright for their own good,” and it is certainly true that in order to successfully train and manage a dog of the breed, you will need to be an experienced and competent dog handler, and be able to stay one step ahead of the Border collie’s quick and logical mind.
The Border collie is one of the most lively, active dogs around, and they can both achieve high running speeds and keep going all day without flagging. Even when they are absolutely exhausted, they will still go the extra mile when it comes to taking commands or carrying on playing, which makes them excellent workers, but hard to keep satisfied in suburbia.
Many Border collie owners who live in towns and suburbs where the dog cannot run freely all day get involved in canine sports, such as flyball, agility or obedience, all of which provide the dog with an outlet for its physical and mental energies, and help to keep them happy and fulfilled.
Border collies may be quick to bring you a stick, ball or other object to throw or play with, but they also like to hoard their resources as well! Border collies always have a favourite toy or object that they prefer above all others, and inviting you to play with it with them should be regarded as the highest compliment!
Many Border collies will hoard or collect toys, and it is not uncommon to find a whole selection of acquired items buried in their beds or other safe spaces! Teaching your Border collie to share and not become aggressive about their resources is important for owners of dogs of the breed.
The high intelligence and fast responses of the breed make them experts in anticipation, and this trait makes them both excellent workers and able to work independently. They can stay one step ahead of the herd when working with flocks of sheep or other animals by always thinking one step ahead, knowing what the herd is likely to do next and establishing the best ways to manage this.
This also means that your Border collie will soon learn even the most subtle cues for things such as dinner, walks or visitors coming over, and will display an almost psychic-seeming ability to know what is coming next! This trait helps them both when working and when competing in canine sports, where fast responses and knowing what is coming next will give them an edge… and it also helps when the dog wants to get their own way!
High intelligence and a strong working drive do not come without their downsides, and in the Border collie, this can sometimes manifest as obsessive behaviours. Running in circles in a herding motion, refusing to take no for an answer when you have had enough of playing catch, and digging, chewing and hoarding can all be manifestations of this, and these problems are apt to be much more pronounced in dogs that are bored or not having all of their needs fulfilled.
In extreme cases, the bored or frustrated Border collie may even resort to obsessively licking or chewing at their own skin, or destroying the household furniture.
Keeping your Border collie happy and entertained, with plenty of exercise that incorporates mental agility and learning new skills is vital to avoid potentially obsessive behaviours becoming a problem, as a dog that has full, active days that tire them out are exponentially more likely to be calm and relaxed in the house.