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The Border collie is the UK’s 13th most popular dog breed overall, and one that most of us have at least a passing familiarity with from seeing dogs of the breed out and about on walks – where they can invariably be seen running around and playing with great enthusiasm.
Border collies are also widely used within working-herding roles too, and if you live in a rural or farming community, you’re probably used to seeing dogs of the breed working as well, and usually with great enthusiasm.
Border collies have a huge range of potential applications and can be a good fit for many different owners, which is what helps to make the breed so enduringly popular. However, the Border collie is quite a high-maintenance dog breed to own and manage, a fact that is often overlooked or paid insufficient attention by first-time owners of dogs of the breed.
If you are considering buying a Border collie, it is vitally important to make sure that you know what you’re getting into and don’t bite off more than you can chew, which means doing plenty of research into the breed and its core traits before you make a decision.
In this article we will share ten important things you need to know about the Border collie dog breed – before you buy one. Read on to learn more.
First of all, most people know that the Border collie is pretty smart, but not everyone knows quite how smart; and this is in fact the cleverest dog breed in the world ranked by working ability.
This means that Border collies can learn and execute a much larger number of commands than the average dog in the right hands, and they are also highly responsive and able to adapt and predict what’s coming in order to respond at high speed, and watching a Border collie at work can be very impressive.
However, this high intelligence does mean that the Border collie gets bored very quickly, and that they can pick up bad habits as easily as good ones.
You might assume that high intelligence makes the Border collie really easy to train, but this is not strictly true. Whilst a competent trainer will find a Border collie more straightforward to train than a less intelligent dog because they know how to work with the breed’s core traits and harness them in the right ways, very smart dogs can in fact be more of a challenge to train than others if you’re not experienced with them.
People who aren’t familiar with the breed often find that their dogs out-think them in terms of what is coming next, what is required, or what the dog has already learnt within the first couple of minutes, which results in frustration and loss of concentration from the dog and confusion and annoyance from the owner.
Training a Border collie isn’t really comparable to training most other breeds, and so needs to be researched from scratch and bespoke tailored to suit the dog.
Border collies are one of the most energetic dog breeds of all, and their endurance is unparalleled, which means that they need high energy exercise and off lead play, and they need lots of it.
Border collies ideally spend several hours a day outdoors exercising, working or otherwise running around, and at a bare minimum, dogs of the breed will need two hours a day of very lively walks, although for many dogs of the breed, the latter isn’t really enough.
If you’re not highly active and keen to spend lots of time walking your dog, the Border collie would be a poor choice.
In most dog breeds, there is a roughly even balance between the number of pedigree and non-pedigree dogs of the breed offered for sale at any one time, but in the Border collie breed, non-pedigree dogs are far more numerous than pedigrees.
There are several reasons for this, and understanding them can provide a deeper insight into the breed as a whole, and you can learn more about it here.
When we talk about registering pedigree dogs in the UK, we almost always mean Kennel Club registration, which is the umbrella organisation for pedigree dog breeds and generally the only one widely recognised as an authority.
However, a notable exception to this comes in the form of the ISDS or International Sheep Dog Society, which registers Border collies based on working merit and working breed line history, and which many Border collie owners use instead of the Kennel Club. Interestingly, a dog that is afforded pedigree status by the ISDS is also then eligible to be registered as a pedigree with the Kennel Club too!
The Border collie’s intelligence, high energy levels and superior working abilities makes them one of the best dog breeds to choose for canine sports. This is a breed that can regularly be seen taking the top prizes in higher level competitions in sports like agility and flyball, and if you’re looking for a good breed to pick, the Border collie may well be it.
Border collies are almost frighteningly smart and often seem to pre-empt what their owners do, and the breed as a whole can be complex to understand and work with. Time and experience helps you to understand your own dog and harness their core traits more effectively, but getting to know lots of dogs of the breed and how they think and respond to things is important before you choose your own pup.
Border collies can be found in a variety of different colours and pattern combinations, one of them being merle. Merle is an accepted colour within the breed – but double-merle is not. Double-merle colour is achieved by mating two merle dogs with each other, but doing this results in the puppies produced with double-merle colouration having a greatly increased risk of inheriting eye and ear problems too.
Additionally, double-merle Border collies cannot be registered with the Kennel Club.
Most if not all pedigree dog breeds by their nature come accompanied by an increased risk of developing certain health problems by means of heredity. This is true of the Border collie too, and there are a number of health testing protocols in place for the breed that breeders can use to identify healthy breeding stock to use.
You can find out more about Border collie health and health tests here.
If you’re prepared to take your time, do plenty of research and spend time with lots of Border collies before you make a purchase, dogs of the breed can be a great fit for even first-time owners who know what they’re getting into. However, choosing a Border collie without being sure about what caring for the breed involves is a recipe for disaster, and likely to leave you with a highly strung and unruly dog that is hard to manage and a constant challenge.
Think carefully before choosing a Border collie as your next dog, and don’t rush into a decision.
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