Border Collie

Passionate, athletic, adaptable and as smart as they come, the Border Collie is an exceptional dog breed valued for qualities far beyond the herding skills for which it was originally bred. Border Collies descend from sheepherding dogs raised around the England and Scotland border region, which gives them their name. Though still used as working dogs, many Border Collie characteristics make them equally suited for canine sports, family life and even service tasks. Border Collies possess deep intelligence, strong devotion and a free-spirited nature, effortlessly combining many of the most desirable dog traits into one wholly distinctive—and highly trainable—companion.

Characteristics

Lucky pet parents of Border Collies know what a privilege it can be to care for such an affectionate, intelligent dog. Their smarts are matched only by their energy—these pups are athletes at their core. Border Collies are as mentally active as they are physically, making them naturally suited to pastimes such as agility training and dog sporting events. Border Collies love to run and thrive in living situations where they can spend plenty of time outdoors. Don’t assume this love of wide-open spaces means these dogs can’t be focused, though—the Border Collie temperament is deeply devoted, making them eager to please their favorite people. In fact, this unique blend of exceptional intelligence and love of companionship makes most Border Collies generally easy to train and highly loyal to the humans in their household.

Height

Measured from the floor to the top of their shoulders when standing or sitting

18-22 inches

WEIGHT

Their average adult weight

30-55 lbs

LIFE EXPECTANCY

The average number of years they live

12-15 years

COLOR

Common fur colors

Black, blue, gold, red sable, seal, lilac, blue merle, slate, mixed

GROUP

Their AKC classification based on heritage, traits, form and function

Herding

Size

Tiny Jumbo

LIVING SPACE

Apartment Ranch

EXERCISE

Sedentary Active

PERSONALITY

Antisocial Outgoing

BARKING

Mute Loud

PROTECTION

None Bodyguard

BEHAVIOR WITH KIDS

Needs monitoring Babysitter

TRAINING

Headstrong Obedient

SHEDDING

Minimal Abundant

CLIMATE

Warm Cold

Diet and nutrition

To get the proper nutrition that fuels their high-energy lifestyle, most Border Collies thrive when fed a high-quality, life stage appropriate, commercially available dog food. Your Border Collie should eat puppy food until they’re about 12 months old, at which point you can introduce adult dog food. Your vet may recommend that you switch from adult food to senior food as your dog enters their later years—even energetic Border Collies will eventually slow down as they age and their nutritional requirements change.

Throughout every stage of your Border Collie’s life, make sure you look for foods that have an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on their packaging. This is a guarantee that a dog food has been certified as nutritionally appropriate for the life stage and characteristics for which it is being marketed, and it’s one of the best ways to ensure that your Border Collie receives balanced nutrition. Buying commercially available and properly certified dog food means that you provide your energetic pup with a complete array of nutrients and beneficial supplements.

Your dog’s age, size and activity level, among other factors, all influence the correct amount of food for them. Border Collies are extremely athletic and need lots of exercise, which means they can quickly pack on extra pounds when they’re not given enough opportunities to expend energy. Remember that treats should make up no more than 10% of your pup’s overall daily calorie intake. Dogs who are overweight or have other health problems have unique nutritional needs and may require special foods or supplements. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right diet for your Border Collie and answer any dietary questions you have.

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Supplies

Devoted, daring Border Collies are treasured for their adventurous spirit and enthusiasm. They love to romp and run just as much as they love spending time with their favorite people. That’s why accessories that facilitate outdoor excursions and interactive play are among the best dog supplies a pet parent of this breed can have on hand.

Border Collies love having a skilled job, and they love partnering with their pet parents. You can satisfy that quest for rewarding work ingrained in the Border Collie personality by going on outdoor adventures together. Border Collies are highly adaptable, and since boredom is the bane of their existence, they’ll gladly jump into a collar or a car for the sake of an expedition. Supplies that help you travel with your Border Collie—from vehicle barriers and seat belts to harnesses and leashes that help keep your dog out of harm’s way—come in handy on journeys to national parks or dog-friendly beaches.

Interactive toys that let you bond with your bright pup while providing enrichment and energy release are a wonderful choice. Those that facilitate games of fetch and tug, as well as toys that test dexterity—such as flyers that can be caught mid-air—encourage positive Border Collie behavior and indulge their desire for connection and affirmation. You might even want to try a water-friendly fetch toy that lets your active dog get wet—many Border Collies love to swim.

Since love for outdoor adventures is one of the signature Border Collie traits, protecting your dog from fleas & ticks is especially important. An unprotected Border Collie can easily pick up parasites while romping through fields and woods, leaving them susceptible to flea- and tick-borne illnesses. These illnesses can range from deeply uncomfortable to downright deadly—practice pest prevention by committing to a routine flea & tick treatment for your Border Collie.

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Border Collie training tips

Border Collies are known for being one of the most trainable dog breeds. Extremely high intelligence, a strong work instinct and a desire to please pet parents make Border Collie training fun. Remember that your Border Collie is looking to you for guidance and partnership. It’s up to you to provide an environment that will help your dog succeed in following your cues and the encouragement that will make them proud to respond to your positive reinforcement.

    Practice patience with puppies

    You’ll have good odds of successful positive reinforcement training if you start when your Border Collie is a puppy. These bright dogs are ready to begin learning basic cues by eight weeks old—the age when many Border Collies go home to start a life with their pet parents. It’s recommended to begin with simple cues such as “sit” and “stay” when your pup is this young. It takes some time—and some repetition—for a puppy to develop the skill and patience to respond favorably to these new words. Your puppy will be ready to start learning more complex skills between the ages of three and six months.

    Provide an outlet for energy

    A Border Collie’s high intelligence helps make them easy to train, but these same traits make consistent enrichment and activity necessary. Without proper outlets for mental and physical energy, a Border Collie’s behavior can turn destructive and undo a lot of positive reinforcement training. A bored Border Collie may resort to chewing on shoes and furniture, excessive barking, digging up the lawn or other undesirable behavior. To help your Border Collie follow their positive training faithfully, give your dog plenty of exercise and enrichment—puzzle toys and interactive games like fetch are great for mental stimulation.

    Mix it up

    If your Border Collie seems to be getting bored during training, try keeping things fresh by incorporating several skills into each session. Spending too long on one task could cause your Border Collie’s attention to wander, especially if they’ve already picked up the skill pretty well. Because Border Collies tend to excel at complex and advanced tasks, don’t limit positive training sessions to just one activity. Keep your Border Collie on their toes by trying several cues in each session or build on basic cues with increasingly complicated ones.

    Positivity for performance

    Positive reinforcement training is the best approach to Border Collie training. Using force, anger, humiliation or aggression to teach your dog how to behave isn’t just inhumane—it’s also ineffective. Your smart, loving Border Collie wants to do a good job and is eager to please you. Rewarding your dog with praise and treats when they respond favorably to cues and complete tasks gives them plenty of incentive to follow your instructions. Punishing your dog when they misbehave only creates anxiety, mistrust and apprehension, making them more likely to engage in unwanted behaviors. Be a good leader and use encouragement and affirmation to guide your pup’s positive training.

    Special skills

    Border Collies are typically so responsive to complex cues that some pet parents decide to take positive training to the next level. Border Collies’ nimble athleticism and intelligence help them excel at agility training, dog sports and competitive events—some even flourish as service dogs. If you’re interested in having your Border Collie learn more than basic cues, you may find outlets like competitive sporting events or service dog certification ideal.

    Suggested Border Collie training services

    Teaching complex skills to a Border Collie can be a rewarding experience. Still, you may want some extra guidance when it’s time for positive reinforcement training with your smart pup. Whether you’re looking for group or individual classes—online or in person—count on Petco’s dog training services for a solution that fits your schedule and budget. Puppies and adult dogs alike are welcome alongside their pet parents to learn how to build trust, communication and consistency from a great positive reinforcement training team.

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Common Border Collie health problems

Border Collies tend to be generally healthy dogs, but they are predisposed to certain health problems. For example, Collie eye anomaly is a genetic disorder that can cause blindness and is particularly prevalent in Border Collies and some other herding breeds. Another potential problem is hip dysplasia, a joint issue that can be especially pronounced in highly active breeds like Border Collies. Knowing the signs of some common Border Collie health issues can help you keep your dog comfortable and dynamic.

Dental disease—or periodontal disease—is common in all dogs, especially as they age. Just like humans, dogs’ gums and teeth are susceptible to infection, disease and damage if not properly cared for.

How to spot it

Red or swollen gums, discolored or loose teeth, visible plaque or tartar and bad breath can all be signs of dental disease. If your Border Collie experiences discomfort when chewing, it may appear as appetite loss or weight loss.

Recommended Solutions

Usually, the best way to help prevent dental disease is daily tooth brushing with a dog-appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste. Your veterinarian can tell you whether scaling or other treatments are needed.

While Border Collies tend to be very active dogs, they can still become overweight—especially if they don’t get enough opportunities for rigorous exercise. Because dogs at an average weight for their breed and size tend to live longer and healthier lives, it’s important to keep an eye on your Border Collie’s silhouette.

How to spot it

You’ll probably notice if your once svelte Border Collie develops a little extra padding. An increased Border Collie weight may also make your dog sluggish or cause them to pant more than usual.

Recommended Solutions

Talk to your veterinarian if you have trouble keeping your Border Collie slim. They may recommend a special diet or an altered feeding schedule.

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of one or both hips that leads to osteoarthritis. It can occur in many dog breeds, but it can be especially prominent in highly active dogs like Border Collies whose joints experience increased wear.

How to spot it

Symptoms can include pain and limping in one or both hind legs. Make sure to pay attention to how your Border Collie walks and rises.

Recommended Solutions

Treatment may include medications and nutritional supplements that reduce pain and inflammation, weight loss, physical therapy, therapeutic laser treatments, acupuncture and other solutions. In severe cases, surgery may be the best option.

This genetic disorder causes abnormal development of a dog’s eyes, and the effects can range from minor to severe. In extreme cases, total blindness may occur.

How to spot it

If your Border Collie begins bumping into things, seems increasingly clumsy or confused and is hesitant in familiar surroundings, this could be a sign that they’re experiencing vision problems. A veterinary ophthalmologist may make a diagnosis of Collie eye anomaly.

Recommended Solutions

There is currently no treatment available for this Border Collie health issue. Since this disorder is inherited, the screening of breeding pets is crucial.

Like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a disorder that affects a dog’s joints. In this case, the abnormal development of one or both elbows leads to osteoarthritis.

How to spot it

Pain or limping in one or both front legs may indicate that your Border Collie is experiencing joint pain from elbow dysplasia.

Recommended Solutions

Treatment can include anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medications or supplements, physical therapy, therapeutic laser treatments, acupuncture and other treatments. As with other types of dysplasia, your vet may recommend surgery in severe cases.

Border Collies appear to be genetically predisposed to seizures. Watching a beloved dog experience a seizure may make you feel helpless, but learning about seizure disorders in dogs can help you remain calm if your Border Collie experiences an episode.

How to spot it

Border Collies with seizure disorders typically experience their first one between the age of six months and five years. Unfortunately, there is currently no genetic test available to screen breeding pets for seizure disorders, meaning your dog’s first seizure may come as a surprise.

Recommended Solutions

Seizure-reducing medications can help Border Collies enjoy a good quality of life. Some dogs require multiple drugs, and others may not respond adequately. Consult your veterinarian about the best course of treatment.

Border Collies are at increased risk for degenerative myelopathy—a slowly progressive deterioration of cells within the spinal cord. This deterioration leads to hind end weakness and eventually paralysis and incontinence. While it may hinder your dog’s physical function, the condition itself is not painful.

How to spot it

A Border Collie with degenerative myelopathy may develop weak, stumbling or uncoordinated movement in the hind legs.

Recommended Solutions

Physical therapy, nursing care and assistive devices can help maintain a dog’s quality of life, but treatments can’t stop or reverse degenerative myelopathy.

An underactive thyroid—or hypothyroidism—is a Border Collie health issue usually caused by a dog’s own immune system attacking and destroying the cells that produce thyroid hormones.

How to spot it

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include weight gain, lethargy, cold intolerance and recurring skin problems.

Recommended Solutions

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe an oral synthetic thyroid hormone replacement.

Recommended health testing

Health testing that is considered especially important for Border Collies includes hip dysplasia screening and eye examinations.

While the OFA/CHIC—Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and their Canine Health Information Center—lists the following tests as “optional but recommended,” ethical Border Collie breeders should also use DNA tests to screen their breeding pets for the following:

  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
  • Trapped neutrophil syndrome

Other recommended Border Collie screening tests include:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Shoulder evaluation
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis—or hypothyroidism
  • Congenital deafness
  • Heart evaluation

Other tests may be recommended on a case-by-case basis—consult your veterinarian for guidance.

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Border Collie grooming

Border Collies have a double coat consisting of a short, thick, fluffy bottom layer and a longer, glossier outer layer. This coat sheds a moderate amount, but Border Collies are not considered excessive shedders. Regular grooming can help keep your pup’s coat in good shape, especially given their love of spending time outdoors. Grooming can help keep bugs, dirt, leaves and debris from becoming matted in your dog’s fur or getting tracked throughout your home. Excess Border Collie fur can be lightly trimmed from around the toes and ears, but you should never give your dog a full haircut or shave—their double coat helps regulate body temperature and protect them from sunburn.

  • Brushing

    Border Collies are not considered high-shedding dogs, but their double coat sheds moderately year-round and may shed extra hair during the fall and spring. The coat of a Border Collie is not particularly high maintenance, but give it a brush at least once a week—especially if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors and tracks in debris. A deshedding brush can help you tackle your Border Collie’s undercoat during the two seasonal blowouts, but a slicker or pin brush should be sufficient for most routine brushings.

  • Bathing

    Border Collies don’t need to be bathed too often—about once every three months should do the trick. Excessive bathing could irritate your Border Collie’s skin and strip it of the natural oils that condition the fur. If your outdoorsy dog likes to play in the dirt, you can use a damp towel to give your pup a wipe-down. For your dog’s quarterly bath, fill the tub no higher than their knees with lukewarm water. Wet your Border Collie’s coat thoroughly, lather with a shampoo formulated for canines and rinse completely—leftover suds can make their skin dry and itchy. Afterward, towel-dry your Border Collie and finish with a blow-dryer. Make sure to dry inside your dog’s ears thoroughly with a dry towel or cotton pad.

  • Nail trimming

    Regular nail trimming keeps your Border Collie from snagging and damaging these sensitive parts of their paws. To trim your dog’s nails, make sure your dog is in a comfortable position and hold a foot firmly but gently in your hand. Focus on one toe at a time and trim each nail at a 45-degree angle. Go slowly to avoid cutting into the quick that extends from the toe into the top portion of your dog’s nails. The quick is pink and much easier to see in light-colored claws than dark ones. It’s better to use caution than to risk hurting your Border Collie, but trim your dog’s nails enough so that they don’t touch the floor.

  • Teeth brushing

    Some Border Collie health issues are beyond your control, but frequent brushing of your dog’s teeth is recommended to help prevent periodontal disease. Most veterinarians recommend brushing once a day, but you should brush your pet’s teeth at least three to four times per week. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated for dogs and focus on the gumline and those hard-to-reach back teeth. Dog toothpaste usually comes in a tasty flavor like chicken or peanut butter to entice your dog into participating in this important task.

  • Professional grooming

    Your Border Collie deserves all the care and attention you can provide—and because this breed is so energetic, a lot of your bandwidth may be expended on games of fetch or long hikes. If you want to focus on giving quality time to your canine and let someone else handle the chores, choose Petco’s dog grooming services. You can request a breed-specific grooming session for your Border Collie or customize a grooming package to fit your budget and your dog’s needs. Our knowledgeable stylists are ready to give you a day off—and give your pup the spa day they deserve.

Adopting a Border Collie

The Border Collie personality is an almost-too-good-to-be-true blend of intelligence, athleticism, independence and affection. These dogs enjoy many activities—whether it’s a long jog, running around a ranch, romping with the kids in the backyard and cuddling on the couch after a busy day. They’re ideal adventure buddies for active pet parents, playful companions for children and even tend to get along well with other dogs in the household. Border Collies’ intelligence and devotion—and their famously easy trainability—make them highly prized friends for many pet parents.

The Border Collie temperament isn’t known for being high-strung or needy, but the exercise needs of this energetic breed may be too much for some people. They also need plenty of enrichment and mental stimulation to keep from getting bored. It’s also important to note that—since Border Collies are herding dogs—they may occasionally engage in herding behavior. This can include gently nudging kids or other dogs, meaning it may be necessary to monitor a Border Collie during intense playtime.

If you’re ready to open your heart—and your home—to a dog in need, you might find your new best friend through the Petco Love Organization. Adopt or foster a dog in need or simply donate to help change lives—both pet and pet parent alike.

Are you curious about all the other wonderfully distinctive dogs you could adopt? Our Dog Breeds Guide is a great way to determine which breed suits you best.

FAQs about Border Collies

No. Border Collies crave affection, but as former herding pets, they need plenty of opportunities to stretch their legs. They may think they’re lapdogs—even though some can grow to about 50 lbs. as adults. The Border Collie temperament is highly loving and devoted toward pet parents, and these dogs are happy to snuggle up on the couch or in bed. However, they’re typically not the right size and don’t have the proper energy levels to be lapdogs.

Some aspects of the Border Collie personality are low-maintenance, but these dogs have specific needs that some pet parents may find challenging to meet. Among the low-maintenance Border Collie characteristics are a coat that only needs to be shampooed every few months, a highly adaptive personality, easy trainability and a beautiful balance of playfulness and devotion. The breed’s undeniable need for strenuous daily exercise is the highest maintenance of all their traits. An hour or two of daily activity is mandatory for Border Collies, and it’s optimal if that workout comes in the form of interactive activities such as games of long-distance fetch, dog sports or a shared hike.

Border Collies are recognized as one of the smartest dog breeds around—a trait passed down genetically. The working skills for which Border Collies have been bred over many generations require well-rounded intelligence, and selective breeding for these Border Collie traits has resulted in incidental breeding for high intelligence. The adaptability, agility and finesse it takes to instinctively herd a group of livestock make Border Collies excellent problem-solvers.

Your Border Collie will be happy to sleep anywhere comfy—it’s up to you to decide where you want your dog to spend the night. If you’re content to let your pup sleep on the couch or your bed, that’s fine. In fact, your affectionate dog will probably be happy to sleep as near to you as possible since these dogs love to cuddle. If you decide you want your pup to sleep in a bed of their own, you may want to try an orthopedic bed to support your Border Collie’s joints while they rest. These beds can be especially helpful for highly active breeds whose joints withstand a lot of daily wear.

One place your Border Collie should not sleep is outside. Though these dogs love to spend a lot of time having outdoor adventures during the day, they crave human connection and need to spend time with their pet parents. No matter how independent your Border Collie may seem during daily excursions, bring them inside to be near you while you both sleep.

Do you have other questions about what’s appropriate for your pet? Take a look at Petco’s New Dog Guide to find answers to some of your most pressing questions.