As the name suggests, the Border Collie is thought to have been developed in the counties around the border of Scotland and England in the 1700’s. They were bred to herd stock, but the early dogs were hard to manage, and very rough on the animals. Breed fanciers of the time carefully chose their bloodlines for a more gentle and biddable temperament, and this has resulted in an intelligent and hard working breed of dog that is considered to be the world’s best sheep herder.
The United States has two Border Collie registries. Most dogs are listed with the American Border Collie Association, which emphasizes working ability in the breed. However, the AKC also recognizes the breed; this was only done in 1995. This recognition caused great concern amongst Border Collie club members. They felt that there would be too much emphasis on a dog’s appearance, and not enough importance placed on their working ability. Unfortunately, this has led to conflict between registries. Although the AKC welcomes dogs registered with the working registries, the American Border Collie Association doesn’t acknowledge AKC pedigrees. In fact, any dog that has won an AKC conformation title is not permitted to be registered with the American Border Collie Association, no matter how good a worker they are.
The Border Collie is a medium sized dog, growing up to 22 inches (55cm) at the shoulder, and weighing in at around 45lbs, or 20kg. They have a long nose, erect ears that are folded at the tip, and an intelligent expression. Most dogs have a mid-length double coat which is protects them from bad weather. However, there is a short coated variety, and their coat only grows to a length of 1 inch.
Although people would be most familiar with the black and white Border Collie, these dogs come in a variety of attractive colors. Blue and white, chocolate and white, and red and white colored dogs are becoming more popular.
Border Collies are extremely clever, and are considered the most intelligent dog breed in the world. They are quick to learn, and love to work. This means that their owner must give them a job to do, whether that job is obedience, agility, flyball, or search and rescue. These dogs are too clever by far to leave to their own devices. They will get bored and make their own fun with the laundry and garden, or even worse, develop behavioral problems such as barking, digging or escaping.
Because they were developed to work with people, these dogs are loyal to their masters .They will let you know when a stranger is about, and are good watch dogs. They also do best with a firm and consistent leader.
These dogs have a very strong herding instinct, and will chase anything that moves, which can include your other animals and even your children. This tendency can also extend to chasing cars which can be extremely dangerous.
Border Collies are generally sound dogs, however prospective owners need to be aware of some health conditions that can occur in the breed.
These dogs can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, and all prospective breeding stock should be x-rayed before being mated. Only those with healthy joints should become parents. This will help to reduce the likelihood of these diseases appearing in their puppies. Osteochondrosis dissecans is another orthopedic condition that has a genetic basis and can be minimized with careful breeding.
Border Collies can be born with Collie Eye Anomaly, a hereditary condition that can affect one or both eyes. It may extend from reduced vision to complete blindness.
They are susceptible to Ceroid Lipofuscinosis; an illness which results from the accumulation of fats and proteins in cells of the brain and spinal cord. This leads to neurological symptoms which may not be easily noticed in the early stages. They include an abnormal gait, loss of vision, and an inability to concentrate. Symptoms first show up when a dog is around 20 months of age, and worsen over time. There is no treatment, and this disease is ultimately fatal.
Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome is another condition that affects the Border Collie. The bone marrow produces neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell. However, the bone marrow can’t release these cells into the dog’s circulation. The result is a less effective immune system, with diarrhea, fever and repeated infections. Symptoms first occur anywhere from 6 weeks to 7 months of age, and it is unusual for affected dogs to survive to adulthood.
Fortunately, DNA tests are available for these diseases in the Border Collie. Before you choose your little black and white bundle of fluff, ask the breeder what tests and x-rays have been performed on their breeding dogs, and what were the results.
The Border Collie coat is easy to take care of. Bathing once a month should be more than adequate for these dogs, and a weekly brushing will remove any loose hairs.
The hardest part about caring for this breed is their great need for mental stimulation and physical exercise. They are a working breed, and love to be active, so don’t enjoy a sedentary life. They excel at dog sports such as obedience, agility and flyball racing, all of which will work their body and mind. In many areas, there is the opportunity to train a Border Collie to herd ducks, sheep and cattle. This allows them to do exactly what they were bred to do, and they love it.
A long daily walk and regular play times are essential to keep a Border Collie happy. These dogs are wonderful running companions and will jog by your side for miles.
Border Collies are a very popular breed of dog in the United States, but they are not a breed for everyone. They are not suited for apartment living, and aren’t happy being left in the back yard to their own devices. They are also a poor match for owners who aren’t active themselves. The ideal Border Collie owner is an active adult, or a family with older children who are keen to walk their dog regularly, or to share a game of ball with them.
The Border Collie has an average lifespan of 12 years. Before you consider bringing home that little working dog puppy, make sure you can meet their need for physical activity and mental stimulation, otherwise both you and your dog will be very unhappy for a long time.