Category Archives: Border Collie breed information

5 Myths about Border Collies

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

A ‘typical’ Border Collie?

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!

ball games

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
Constantly on the go

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 childhood 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.

Border Collie puppies
Good with children?

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

border collie myths
They certainly know how to pose!

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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Border Collie: Interview with an owner

Border Collie – what are they like to own?

Today I am interviewing myself.  I was in an agility class on Saturday morning with five other people and Busy was the only Border Collie in the class.  This is fairly unusual, although increasingly agility is being done by all sorts of people and dogs, as people realise just how much fun it can be!

Border Collie

I said to Busy “now behave, you are representing Border Collies here!”  I was struck by just how much she is typical of her breed, and how different that looks compared with the Cocker Spaniels, Labrador, German Shepherd and Terrier that were in the class with us.  So what exactly does make this breed different?  And why would you choose it, or NOT choose it?  I had a page on Border Collie Breed Information when I started this website, which talked about what makes them so special, but I thought I would now try and offer a more direct comparison with other breeds.

Intelligence – the No 1 trait

Everyone knows that Border Collies are intelligent.  According to the Stanley Coren Intelligence of Dogs list they are the most intelligent breed.  But what does that mean?  Everyone believes that being really intelligent means:

“Border Collies are easy to train”

To some extent that is true.  They have a fantastic desire to work and to please.   That means they will try really hard to figure out what you want and will then do it for you.  However, it also means they can easily outsmart you!  If you don’t believe me, try visiting my house.  If you go outside with my dogs, you will discover after about 30 seconds that you are throwing a ball!  No matter who you are or what you think you wanted to do, you will be THROWING A BALL!  Sunny will train you to do this instantly.  This is what happens:

  • Sunny finds a ball
  • Sunny brings it to you
  • She looks at you with pleading eyes, quite obviously saying “throw the ball”
  • If you fail to pay attention to this instruction, she will pick the ball up and throw it at you, then do a bit of ‘woo wooing’ to get your attention
  • You throw the ball

Seriously, she is relentless.  I have seen her do this with toddlers who can barely walk, never mind throw a ball.  She will insist that everyone, of any age, throws the ball.

Border Collies train you.  They are so smart, they figure out how to get you to do what they want.  Then they never let up.

Border CollieFitting into family life

I have had seven Border Collies and I personally have never owned another breed.  So you could say my experience is limited, but I certainly do know about this breed.  I have written about my life in dogs up until the point of getting Sunny, who is definitely my dog of a lifetime.  Re-reading these posts, it seems clear to me that I never chose to have Border Collies, they were chosen for me.  I never considered how well they fitted into my lifestyle, or whether there were other alternatives.  This is the breed for me and no dog I have ever met has made me think differently.

Over the past 12 years, since owning Sunny, my experiences of Border Collies have changed my views of the breed and their suitability for family life.  I think they are great in a family, provided they have been well bred, well raised and are well managed!  Which is a challenge in itself, isn’t it?

I think if you take on this breed on purpose, after full consideration, you might just be able to cope.  They are potentially fun to have, as you can certainly train them to do a myriad of different tricks, sports and activities.  But that is the key – you must do something.

Difficult characteristics

A Border Collie who is left to its own devices can be:

  • neurotic
  • snappy
  • reactive to children, other dogs, cats, cars, etc
  • obsessive
  • manic
  • demanding

I am so used to the tendency towards these characteristics that I don’t always recognise these things in my own dogs.  Generally, I believe my dogs to be calm, well-trained, well-behaved and super friendly.  However, they are definitely demanding and their behaviour can be ‘full on’ if I do not pay attention.

Border Collie

Ounce demands that I play with her at various intervals throughout the day and gets really cross and shouty if I don’t do as she wants.  Aura gets really worked up over kitchen noises and when people arrive.  Busy struggles to control her excitement and then cannot listen to instructions.  Sunny is as I have already explained.  Luna is lovely 🙂

I often tell people that Border Collies are the most commonly re-homed breed.  I think this is not entirely true, but very often they are just too much for people.

How much exercise?

I have talked about how much exercise  dogs should have in general.  A Border Collie will basically have as much as you want to give it.  My 79 year-old mum potters along the shoreline with hers, (Luna’s sister) and that’s fine.  Mine have an hour off lead, plus training and play.  Most people do way more than that.  It doesn’t really matter.  What is really important is that they have a routine and a consistent amount of exercise so that they are not over-exerted suddenly.  Of course if they are fit, they will easily cope with the odd mountain walk on holiday.

Unlike some breeds, Border Collies are designed to go all day, every day.

A word of caution here; do not let your dog tell you how much exercise they want and DO NOT THINK YOU CAN TIRE IT OUT!  That would be a big mistake.  Border Collies do not tire.  Sunny did the Three Peaks with my sons a few years ago.  She would walk up and down a mountain for 6 or 7 hours, sit in the pub for a bit and then play frisbee with the kids in the campsites.  NB: You MUST let your dog rest properly, so that they learn to be calm.  If you let it, your Border Collie will just keep going.  The Duracell Bunny has nothing on a Border Collie!

Border CollieHealth issues

Border Collies are really tough, resilient dogs.  They have few health issues, the most notable being epilepsy.  Sadly, there is currently no test for this, so we try to prevent it through careful, responsible breeding.  Other health issues, such as Collie Eye Anomaly and Hip Dysplasia are tested for prior to breeding.

Collies to have a tendency towards sensitivity with their digestion.  They are not a foraging breed, not being particularly food driven, but can have issues with sickness and are inclined to be fussy eaters.

They may also be injured through a tendency to tear around, as well as taking part in more dog sports than most breeds.  They are known for hiding injuries though, as they would rather just keep going.

Best advice?

Get a Border Collie if you like a challenge!  They are not a breed for lazy people.  Not just because they definitely, absolutely, categorically should be exercised, but because they demand stimulation.  This can be play, or training, or tricks, or just cuddles and conversation.  Anything will do, just DO IT! (throw the ball :p)

Border Collie


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WSD vs BC: Which is better?

WSD – What is it and why do you want one?

Working Sheepdog (WSD) is generally the name given to a non-pedigree Border Collie.  They can also be called just ‘sheepdogs’ or just ‘collies’.  Basically, if it looks a bit like a Border Collie (BC) but isn’t registered with the Kennel Club, it’s called a WSD.  With me so far?

Farm collies are usually WSDs, because they are not designed to be pets, but working dogs.  WSDs who work sheep are registered with the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS).  This prestigious organisation registers and monitors Working Sheepdogs in the UK and Ireland.

wsdRegistration of WSD

If you have a litter of puppies with WSD parents who are ISDS registered, no problem!  You can register these on the ISDS register and they will be assigned a registration number – usually 6 digits.

Once registered as an ISDS WSD, you can register your dog as a KC Border Collie.  That’s because in order to be a ISDS registered WSD you must meet stringent breeding and health requirements.  They must have known heritage, in other words their parents must both be ISDS registered.  And they must have had all the relevant eye testing.  (Still with me?)

If your WSD is not from ISDS lines, but you would like it to be ISDS registered, you can do so, by meeting the society’s requirements.  They can transfer based on competition success.  Alternatively,  they can be put through a ‘working test’ as follows:

The dog must pass a test of skill in Outrun, Lift, Fetch and Driving and general farm duties on a packet of sheep at a test location nominated by the Society or Associate Club and assessed by two Examiners.

In other words, in order to become ISDS registered, a WSD must actually be a ‘working sheepdog’.

wsdRegistration of a BC

In order to register as Border Collie with the Kennel Club, you must have parents who are pedigree Border Collies.  Or you can have an ISDS registered WSD parent or parents, as above.

If you want to have a dog with an unregistered parent or parents (ie neither pedigree nor ISDS) put onto the Border Collie pedigree register, you have to apply for a breed transfer.  This is a long and arduous exercise, that involves:

  • an application process, with accompanying documentation
  • preliminary approval
  • two breed judges examining the dog to confirm that it meet the breed standard
  • a DNA profile to confirm the breed
  • all relevant health testing required for the breed – eye testing and hip scores as a minimum
  • judgement passed by the KC panel.

Once this has been done, a pedigree certificate will be issued, with a pedigree registration number.  The dog’s pedigree name will have three asterisks after its name – Dentbros Busy the Imp***.  Their progeny will have two asterisks – Dentbros Lilac Wine**.  And so on, until Ounce’s grandchildren will be FULL PEDIGREE BORDER COLLIES!

Busy’s sire was an unregistered but nevertheless pedigree Border Collie.  His great grandmother had not been registered and has some WSD in his pedigree, but after that his family were all from BC stock.  This process recognised and registered Busy’s heritage (although the Kennel Club won’t list her sire on her registration certificate or pedigree).

Still following all this?

wsdWhat is the point?

You may well ask.  Does it matter AT ALL if they are ISDS registered WSDs or KC registered BCs, or both? Or not?  It’s a complicated question, but the answer is quite simple.

What do you want your dog to do?

This is at the heart of almost all the posts I write on this site.  What is the point of having a pedigree dog?  Why do I need to think about a particular breed?  I have been doing the breed blog to encourage you, my readers, to think properly about what makes dogs different from each other.  As this article about breeds found in shelters says:

“A large proportion of the dogs that end up in rehoming centres are there because their original owners simply found themselves unable to manage the dog that they took on, or had not done enough research about the specific needs and issues surrounding their breed of choice.”

The list of breeds given in the article is as follows:

Mixed breeds are obviously the most commonly re-homed dogs, because there are more mongrels than any pedigree dogs.  And because Designer Dogs are an unknown quantity!

Talking about the BC, the article says:

“One half hour walk once a day is unlikely to keep a Border Collie happy and healthy, and many first-time Collie owners find that they have grossly underestimated the needs of their new pet.”

Qualities of a WSD

In my opinion, a puppy from WSD stock will be more likely to be:

  • nervous
  • snappy
  • obsessive
  • herding

A puppy from pedigree Border Collie stock is more likely to be:

  • cuddly
  • adaptable
  • relaxed
  • sociable

So again I ask you, what do you want from your dog?  The moral of this rather convoluted post is:

“Don’t buy a WSD if you want a family pet”

wsdAsk for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Border Collie Colours

What colour should a Border Collie be?

My friends and family are tired of me telling the story of the person who had applied for a puppy from the A-Z Litter when I had the two black and white boys remaining.  They rang before they came to say that they didn’t want this one because they were looking for a ‘classic collie’.  This photo of him (taken by Bridget Davey Photography) went on to feature in a magazine article on Border Collies, as it was a great example of the breed.  Lol.

This morning I was asked if I would be charging more for Ounce’s puppies if they are lilac and white, like her.  I said I would not do that, because for me, others factors are more important in determining who has which puppy, as I have said elsewhere.

Yesterday I received an enquiry for a ‘brown’ puppy.  I very snobbishly replied that I breed chocolate and white or red and white, not brown.  Of course deciding whether a border collie should be red or chocolate is a bit of a matter of opinion.  Both Sunny and Luna are registered as red and white, because I didn’t realise chocolate was an option.  Now I know that reds are much lighter, like Charlie (who is registered as a chocolate :p).

Apart from a few reds, I have produced chocolate and whites, black and whites and four chocolate merles, here demonstrated by Nell, Lyra and Jumble.

The only other colour I have had is the gorgeous Chester – my blue boy.

The Kennel Club lists the following colours for Border Collies:

  Black & white Blue & white Chocolate/ Red & white Lilac & white
Solid yes yes yes yes
Tricolour yes yes yes yes
& Tan yes yes yes yes
Merle yes yes yes yes
Merle tricolour yes yes yes yes
Sable yes yes yes yes

Gold (otherwise known as EE red) can occur with all these variations, as can Slate.

Other colours: Cream, Seal  Source: Kennel Club BC colours

Someone on Facebook, Wonderful World of Border Collies, shared this infographic with me:

Amazing isn’t it?  I put a post into TheBorderCollieGroup which generated a huge response – lovely!  Personally, I don’t care what they look like, as long as they are healthy, happy dogs.  Of course that is easy for me to say when I own the MOST BEAUTIFUL PUPPY IN THE WORLD!


If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.