Here’s another collie dog that looks nothing like Lassie! The term collie is a generic one used to describe any number of shepherding dogs, not simply one dog of one appearance. The border collie is a graceful and natural herder for farmers worldwide, but prospective pet owners should be aware of their energy level, which is one of the highest in the canine kingdom.
Border Collies have a sweet temperament and are one of the most intelligent breeds in all of dogdom, but please do not adopt one unless you have both a medium-to-large back yard and ample time for training and exercise. Neither you nor the dog will be happy. But if you’re looking for an athletic, medium-sized dog with easy grooming requirements and wits to match your own, the Border Collie might be for you!
The Border Collie was bred for herding and hails from the border region between England and Scotland. Her ancestors were the Landrace Collies common to the British Isles. Besides herding she was also bred for intelligence, a trait she retains to this day. It is believed that the word “collie” comes from the Celtic word for “useful.”
In 1915, Britain’s International Sheep Dog Society coined the term “border collie” to distinguish its collies from the Kennel Club’s collie. The two dogs were bred from the same stock but exhibited certain differences in appearance. All purebred Border Collies today can trace their ancestry back to one of two dogs who exemplified the breed. They were introduced to Australia and New Zealand in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some breeders today oppose the use of Border Collies as show dogs, fearing the herding instinct will be bred away. So, to this day, the breeding quality of a Border Collie is judged on one of two bases: herding ability, as determined by the International Sheep Dog Society; or purely by conformation and appearance. Border Collie registries exist in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Turkey.
The adult male Border Collie typically weighs between 30 and 45 pounds and stands 19 to 22 inches tall. Females are slightly shorter, at 18 to 21 inches. The Border Collie’s coat can be smooth or rough, and she sheds copiously during seasonal changes, lightly otherwise. Border Collies can be solid, bicolor, tricolor or merle, and many colors are on their palette — they can be black, white, brown, liver, red, tan, blue merle, brindle, and Australian red, a blonder color than the standard red. Occasionally an all-black Border Collie is seen. Their eye color can be brown, blue, or one of each.
The Border Collie isn’t merely intelligent; some consider her to be the smartest breed among the canine population. And while we apologize for the repetition, it can’t be overstated: they need training, exercise and mental stimulation. They like to solve problems, so they do well on agility courses, which are becoming more available at dog parks across the country. They absolutely need hard running exercise to exhaust themselves; jogging with their person or fetching a tennis ball provides the exercise, but make sure it’s enough. And, you can always get your dog involved in herding trials, which will force her to think AND to exercise.
It’s important for the owner to understand that the dog’s exercise needs to be a daily, 60- to 90-minute commitment. Without sufficient exercise, the Border Collie becomes bored and finds unacceptable ways to amuse herself around the house.
Training should not end with the puppy obedience course. This is a dog that needs to learn new things, which makes agility and herding trials such an appealing option.
You should have a large yard to amuse a Border Collie, since her traditional environment is a farm. She still makes a great farm dog, herding cattle and sheep.
Border Collies typically live between 10 and 14 years. Conditions sometimes affecting this breed include hip and elbow dysplasia; Collie eye anomaly (CEA, a congenital, inherited eye disease involving the retina, choroid, and sclera); early or adult-onset hearing loss; Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS), a particularly sad immune disorder that kills puppies who can’t fight infection; glaucoma, juvenile cataracts, osteochondritis, hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus. For those diseases that can be fatal, there is no cure, but a DNA test is available to identify afflicted dogs.
Border Collies do not require a great deal of grooming. They shed mostly during changes in the seasons, and during this time daily brushing of the dog will reduce the frequency with which you sweep your floors. They can be bathed just once every few months, as the natural oils in their skin are beneficial in keeping the hair from matting. Finally, pay attention to your Border Collie’s ears, which are prone to infection. Regular cleaning with an inexpensive product available from your veterinarian will prevent infections.
Many Border Collie rescues exist both regionally and nationally. If you can’t find one close by searching the internet, look for one of the many national organizations dedicated to protecting the breed.
Here is a link to Border Collie rescue in Texas: http://www.bcrescue.org/