Border Collies are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the UK. Yet they are often misunderstood and can have a bad reputation. People think that Border Collies are nervous, obsessive and snappy – that’s not a myth, they can be like that! But there is more to the breed than this. Hopefully, the ‘farm collie’ that you had as a child is NOT the same as the responsibly bred Border Collie you buy from an KC Assured Breeder.
Let’s look in more detail at a few of the biggest myths around the breed:
1. Border Collies are black and white
Let’s start with the physical attributes – do we think all Border Collies look like Bonnie (above)? According to the Kennel Club’s breed standard, there are quite a few variables. For example, “the nose should be black, except in brown or chocolate colour when it may be brown. In blues the nose should be slate colour.” And the eyes should be “brown in colour, except in merles, where one or both or part of one or both may be blue.” It goes on to describe variability in size, in the set of the ears, in the length of coat and so on.
As for colours, what a choice we have! I have written about this in more detail elsewhere, but Border Collies come in all sorts of colours!
2. Easy to train
I have to talk about this one next. Everyone knows that Border Collies are extremely intelligent, right? So that must mean they are easy to train, right? Wrong. Well, actually it is true, but they don’t train themselves! Oh no wait, that’s not true either, they DO train themselves, and that’s why you have to watch them carefully. They will also train YOU!
Pictured here we can see Aura, making me throw the ball for her. She does love her ball! Aura will demand that I throw it, again and again – she’s relentless! However, it is Sunny who has always been able to persuade anyone and everyone to throw a ball for her.
Border Collies want to learn, to do, to keep busy. Many people struggle to get them to stop and settle and if they are poorly managed they can become neurotic and obsessive. They need owners who can keep them focused and doing what is required. And no more.
3. Need lots of exercise
Border Collies are designed to work. They should ‘normally’ be out on the hills, with the shepherd, moving the sheep from one place to another. This might take a long time and involve being on the go for hours on end. But they don’t do this all day every day. I often think the breed is one of the closest to wild dogs (if you get a Heinz 57 dog it will often look a bit like a collie). This means they are built for stamina and speed, stealth and strength.
However, the shepherd also needs them to be able to cope with doing nothing much, for long periods as well. Fortunately for us, because not many people these days require a dog to be on the go all day long.
So yes, Border Collies, can exercise all day. Do they need to? No. I always tell my puppy owners “You can exercise your Border Collie for 3 hours a day or more. All you will get is a fit dog! The more you do with them, the more they will need you to do. You will NOT succeed in tiring them out.” Be warned!
4. Good with children
A well-bred, well raised Border Collie should be a super family pet. But they are certainly not the ‘obvious’ breed when it comes to spending time with children. Their tendency to herd can make them nippy. Our collies used to try desperately to round us up if we were out on a walk, or running around a field. They would nip at our heels as we went to leave the house.
My second Border Collie, Buzz, loved being part of our family. But he tended to guard and was a bit ‘sharp’ if things got a bit too exciting. I feel that Border Collies can easily become anxious if children are noisy, or lively. They do not like being chased, or grabbed. Other breeds, particularly Labradors, are far more tolerant, although all dogs should be managed sensibly around children.
5. Make great pets
Yes they do. If they are well-bred, well-trained and well cared for, they make absolutely fantastic pets. Find a responsible breeder, go to training classes, practise and praise. Then enjoy!
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