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How Clever Are Border Collies? Is Your Border Collie A Really Intelligent Dog?

When it comes to dogs of different breeds, intelligence levels can be really variable – some dogs seem to pick up training commands almost the first time they’re told it and follow commands first time without fail, whilst some dogs seem to struggle to master “sit” and need to be told everything several times before they’re apt to comply!

How easy or hard it is to teach a dog anything is of course tied to their intelligence, but this is not the whole story. A really smart dog might not be the easiest dog to teach if you don’t realise that they’re cleverer than most, because they might learn faster than you realise, and soon get bored and switch off.

Also, you might think that a first-time dog trainer will get on better with a smart dog than one that’s a little slower to learn, but this isn’t always the case either. A smart dog can potentially get ahead of their trainer, who in their turn will fail to recognise this, leading to frustration and confusion on both sides.

This means that whatever dog breed you own or might be considering buying, to train them effectively and get the best out of them, you need to have an idea of how smart they are first.

This is hugely important when it comes to the Border collie, for reasons that will soon become clear. This is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK overall, but also one that is all too often chosen by owners inexperienced with the breed, and unable to provide them with the most appropriate lifestyle.

If you’re considering buying a Border collie, learning about Border collie intelligence first is vital; and in this article we’ll answer the question of “how clever are Border collies?” and explain to you how to tell how intelligent your own Border collie is.

Read on to learn more about Border collie intelligence levels.

How is Border collie intelligence judged?

There are any number of ways to assess canine intelligence on a dog-by-dog basis, and a large part of this does of course depend on what you want the dog to do. Border collies are a popular working dog breed and so can be assessed for working skills that are essential for their roles, and sheepdog trials and formal competitions are hugely popular and hotly contested within the breed.

However, there is one well-known formal benchmark for canine intelligence that not only provides a broad indication of what the average dog of each studied breed should be capable of, but that ranks all of the included dog breeds in intelligence order too.

This is known as the Coren methodology, as drawn up by canine psychologist Stanley Coren and published in his 1994 book “The Intelligence of Dogs.”

The methodology assesses dogs based on how many times they need to be taught a new command before they understand it, along with how many repetitions of a command they need on average before they will follow it.

The methodology studied 138 different dog breeds, and ranked them all in order, as well as grouping them together into broad collectives of breeds displaying a similar level of skill.

The Border collie was one of the 138 studied and ranked, so let’s get onto answering the question of how clever are Border collies!

How clever are Border collies?

Border collies are highly intelligent dogs. In fact, based on the results of the Coren study, the Border collie is the most intelligent dog breed in the world.

The Border collie ranks in first place compared to the other 137 dog breeds studied, with not a single other breed beating them in either intelligence or obedience.

This also of course means that the Border collie heads up the list of the top ten most intelligent dog breeds of all, being within the group reserved for dog breeds displaying excellent working intelligence and obedience.

How clever are Border collies? Cleverer than any other dog breed, bar none.


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How fast do Border collies learn new commands?

So, how does Border collie intelligence apply in practice, and how fast do Border collies learn?

Dogs of the breed will understand a brand-new training command with fewer than five repetitions of it, which is faster than some people learn, and understandably may well take the first-time border collie owner or new trainer by surprise!

How obedient are Border collies?

In terms of Border collie obedience, when properly motivated and given known commands, Border collies are highly obedient and will follow the command they are given first time an impressive 95% of the time or better.

How many commands can Border collies learn?

The study didn’t attempt to assess or measure how many commands a Border collie can learn; this would be almost impossible given all of the variables involved, and the fact that dogs can and do learn new commands over the course of an entire lifetime, and may forget some commands with disuse as well as of course having a potential limit to the volume of commands they can remember.

However, given how smart Border collies are and how responsive to commands they are, Border collies are highly likely to be able to remember more commands than dogs of any other breed too; and this might well exceed 50, for some working dogs at higher levels.

Working out Border collie intelligence for any individual dog

If you own a Border collie, you probably already have a fair idea of how smart the breed is.

You can work out how smart your Border collie is compared by the average by teaching them a new command and seeing how many attempts it takes before they understand it; and assess Border collie obedience by seeing how often your Border collie will follow commands first time too.


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