There are a great number of reasons why a Border Collie may be just the right dog for you and your family. As with any breed of dog there are also some important considerations that may make a Border Collie a poor match for your home and lifestyle. No matter how much you may want to own a Border Collie, if it isn't the right match for your life then it really isn't fair to the dog, or to you either. Making informed decisions about a Border Collie before you bring a puppy home makes it easier on everyone. Often people that want a Border Collie but don't have the right lifestyle can find another breed that has the traits they want without the traits that will make owning this beautiful breed a real challenge.
Am I prepared to deal with a true working dog?
Border Collie are truly a working breed, which means they have been developed, over hundreds of dog generations, to work on a daily basis. They come hardwired to herd, it is not just something you can optionally teach them to do. All Border Collies have different levels of herding instinct, but it is important to know that at some point in time they will likely start to herd.
In reality the herding instinct is actually a modification of a behavior that all wild dogs and wild carnivore animals use. Herding is a gentle version of the pattern of hunting for food in wild dog populations. Herding breeds have been selective bred to circle and manage animals but not actually kill them. Some Border Collies will nip and bite when they herd, and occasionally one will be much more aggressive and may attack and kill smaller animals. This is a normal behavior for a dog and one that training and work will prevent from every occurring.
What they start to herd is bit more difficult to predict. Often Border Collies that aren't on farms and don't have access to livestock look for things in their environment to herd. Other pets, kids and even stray animals are all fair game to these dogs. Without something to do a Border Collie will become bored and can become destructive since they do need to be working to feel part of the family.
Am I prepared to socialize and training the puppy and continue on with the adult dog?
Although a very intelligent and easy to train dog, the Border Collie will quickly learn which people he or she has to listen to and which people can be completely ignored. Unlike many dogs the Border Collie does treat all family members differently and according to how consistent and firm the person is with regards to training. The person that is not consistent with the dog will have little if any control over the Border Collie and the person that is aggressive or hostile towards the dog will be avoided by the dog.
It is also important to realize that when a Border Collie goes into herding mode, he or she will tune out everything but what they are trying to accomplish. This often means they ignore the owners demands to stop snapping or growling at the kids or nipping at the heels of visitors. Without regular obedience training and learning how to work with this breed they are often seen as difficult to train or just too aggressive to be kept in a family.
Training the Border Collie, because they are smart enough to figure things out, also means you can't do the same old tricks all the time. These dogs need to be mentally challenged to get a proper workout on a daily basis. Getting them involved in agility events, herding competitions, obedience work, Frisbee challenges or even Flyball competitions is a good way to stimulate both their mental exercise needs as well as their physical activities.
How much exercise do I enjoy, every day, regardless of the weather?
If your answer is "not much" or "I only like to exercise on nice days" then a Border Collie is not a breed to consider. These dogs have been developed to be able to walk, run and lope for miles and miles per day, up and down the steep, rugged terrain of rural Scotland, England and Wales. A quick walk around the block on a leash is not going to be enough for these dogs and will only result in the dog being rambunctious and hyper when inside the home.
Even with a larger fenced yard these dogs may not get the physical or mental exercise they need. After all if they just sit outside with nothing to interest them they are not getting any type of real exercise. Border Collies do enjoy being outdoors and should have daily time in a fenced yard, however they also need to have a purpose to their exercise.
For those that are active outdoors and love to jog, hike, walk or just get out and about a Border Collie will definitely be able to keep up. One concern with these dogs is that they do need to be well trained before being allowed off-leash as they can be prone to chasing and may be difficult to deal with if they do decide to go after something. However, once trained and worked with off leash they are excellent at following either verbal commands or hand signals, which is a terrific training option and helps keep both you and the dog on your toes.
Can I deal with a dog that may be smarter than me about some things?
A Border Collie is not a dog that will simply keep doing things by rote, they are constantly modifying their behavior based on the environment and what they think you want them to do. When you try to keep them out of a room, they may see the blockade as a challenge to finding a way into the room. If you put the dog treats in the cupboard, learning to open the cupboard door may be a trick they quickly learn. Everything in life is a learning experience to a Border Collie, and they rarely forget.
In addition, the Border Collie is naturally a curious dog. They will explore and discover things within their homes and environments. For some owners this is extremely challenging. Even the fact that they learn human words and associations so quickly can be problematic for owners that arenâ€™t used to these types of dogs.
Knowing what to expect before bringing home a Border Collie is important. These dogs can be outstanding family pets and companions as well as working dogs, but it does take commitment and work on the part of the owner to make the match successful.