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Border collie, yes or no?(94 Posts)
Do border collies make good family pets, yes or no? Would love to hear from people who own this breed, and why you would, or wouldn't recommend. Thanks 😊
They are a working breed and were designed to herd for hours and hours in the open air. Hence they need A LOT of both mental and physical stimulation. If you can provide, this they are fab. If not, they tend to become bored, frustrated and even destructive and/or anxious.
I love dogs, but border collies do my head in a bit tbh <sorry>! They seem to be particularly popular where I live (rural). Lots of them seem very intense in the way they interact with people and other dogs. My dog often doesn't like them. I know several people with very neurotic ones who they've rehomed after their original owners couldn't cope with the amount of exercise and stimulation they need. They are incredibly intelligent and I've known a few lovely, unproblematic ones,but I wouldn't have one if you paid me.
I agree. They need a lot of exercise & mental stimulation, lovely, intelligent dogs but not ones to lie on the sofa all day. I grew up on a farm with ones who worked sheep all day, tireless they are. We did have dogs as pets in the house...two Pekingese!
Best dogs in the world.
If you want to give all your time to being with your dogs. They need an average amount of exercise about 90mins off lead but also need a lot of mental stimulation on top of that and even more importantly enforced chill time.
They need a job to do so agilty, obedience, scentwork etc.
If you have a lot of free time, love to be with dogs a lot then they are a great fit. They can be a bit ocd at times and do need sensitive positive training and handling.
Thanks for the advice everyone
I have a border collie, working line.
They are and they aren’t a good family pet in my truthful opinion.
I love mine but I’m not sure I’d have another.
Firstly, it’s regularly thrown about they need massive amounts of exercise and stimulation.
I personally disagree with this.
Lots of high adrenaline exercise, like ball throwing or agility, particularly if mixed with mental stimulation on top makes my collie whiny, hyperactive, bitey, pacing, unable to settle down.
When i drastically reduced high adrenaline activities and mental stimulation she transformed into a very placid, lazy dog.
She will literally sleep all day and isn’t bothered in the slightest about missing a walk.
That said, once you get her out there’s no stopping her.
She can go literally all day.
The typical working collie often has large periods of time without work where it has to largely entertain itself.
In some respects they are very different to common ‘family pet’ breeds.
They aren’t gregarious and ‘love everyone’ dogs generally speaking like you’d expect from a stereotypical ‘family dog’ breed like a Labrador for example.
They are usually one person dogs, prone to jealousy and aloof (shouldn’t be aggressive) to strangers.
Mine is more bonded to me, she likes DH but he doesn’t get the same level of obedience that I do.
As an adolescent she did experiment with trying to break up any hugs etc between me and DH.
You need to be really firm re this behaviour, dog needs to know it’s unacceptable and consequence will follow it.
My collie will welcome guests that I welcome into the house warmly.
She is indifferent to everyone else.
Strangers on walks she will ignore.
If they stop to talk to us she’ll tolerate one or two strokes then back away and start pestering me to resume the walk by nudging my hand, looking at the route then back to me repeatedly, whining.
She likes children, she will be happily be petted by them.
They are usually very high prey drive dogs although often lack the instinct to follow through and kill, not always though and it can differ with different animals.
For instance, I am 99.9% my collie would kill a squirrel if she caught one but she used to herd up our chickens and never harmed one.
Don’t underestimate the problems a high herding instinct can cause.
I couldn’t reliably walk mine near groups of cars for over a year, ditto runners and cyclists.
Only groups, she didn’t react to singles.
The herding instinct is usually present from 6 - 8 weeks.
It’s really important not to allow it directed on people.
I used to interrupt her with a stern AH and put her in another room and ignore for a few minutes as a puppy if she tried to herd anyone.
It’s not funny and it’s not cute.
Border collies are consistently fairly high on the bite scales.
Allowing herding to be directed to people is a bite waiting to happen.
I find that other dogs are often not terribly comfortable around her.
Even at distance when she doesn’t know they are there.
I think the way she carries herself/moves and the fact she is fairly hard eyed upsets them.
After many negative experiences she is wary now of other dogs.
Fine usually with small dogs, pugs are her favourite, she will avoid larger dogs.
If forced to interact she’ll usually growl and lip curl at them.
Allowing her to interact with other strange dogs to socialise her is my second biggest regret and it is the main reason that I don’t think I see another collie in my future.
The first regret is too much exercise and mental stimulation that I was told to do by absolutely everyone (who’s never actually owned a collie!)
These dogs need very careful socialisation with other dogs.
Calm, good natured dogs you trust.
If I had my time again, I would have trained her to walk, play, fed treats etc around other dogs to get her totally comfortable with the presence of other dogs, but I wouldn’t have let her interact unless I knew them well.
You need to be careful to interrupt herding behaviour like staring at them as other dogs don’t like it.
To a certain degree, high strung is a trait of the breed and potentially problematic for a family pet.
Collies are very quick to react to stimulus and they are very sensitive dogs, both to your emotions and to correction.
A mildly raised voice will have some collies cowering though mine is pretty ‘hard’.
There are border collie breeders out there, the Kennel Club show/Crufts type, who breed super friendly, placid, little to no herding ability, ‘Labrador like’ temperament border collies which although some may view as better family pets, IMO those are not ‘real’ border collies.
They look like them, but the personality is very different.
Think it would be tragic if you bought one and contributed to what is in my opinion the slow destruction of all the best loved working breeds by the Kennel Club.
Thank you @frostedviolets, your answer was very informative and has given me plenty of food for thought. I appreciate your honesty!
*I find that other dogs are often not terribly comfortable around her. Even at distance when she doesn’t know they are there.
I think the way she carries herself/moves and the fact she is fairly hard eyed upsets them.*
Yes, that's what my dog has a problem with, I think. When we walk up the long, straight road through my village and there's a border collie coming the other way, my dog is on alert even when the collie is a long way off. It's the lowered body and intense stare that do it, I think.
One of my friends has a collie and walks regularly with me and my friend with our two dogs. The collie ignores my dog but obsessively herds and barks at my friend's dog. Not in an aggressive way, but to get her to play or go where she wants. It's pretty tiresome though.
my dog is on alert even when the collie is a long way off. It's the lowered body and intense stare that do it, I think
They have a rather predatory sort of stance I think compared to other dogs.
I really didn’t anticipate how badly she would be interpreted by other dogs.
And it doesn’t have to be up close.
A lot of the time my collie isn’t aware the other dog is there.
This alone, I would think very, very carefully about getting a collie OP because believe me, it is no fun having a dog that learns to snarl and air snap at others after repeated aggression.
It is the main reason that although I love my dog and she is a wonderful family pet, I doubt I would have another.
One of my friends has a collie and walks regularly with me and my friend with our two dogs. The collie ignores my dog but obsessively herds and barks at my friend's dog
The owner should not allow this.
My own dog showed herding behaviour towards other dogs at 10 weeks old when I brought her home.
Like herding directed at people, herding behaviour directed at other dogs must be stopped immediately as it really frightens other dogs and in many cases can result in a very aggressive response.
The other problematic thing re herding behaviour and other dogs is that the natural instinct of an unsure collie is often to try and regain control - hard eye staring, lying down etc which obviously agitates the other dog even more.
Don’t get me wrong I do love my collie.
In some ways she is an excellent family pet - loves children, calm and placid (if not over exercised and trained), sleeps all day (if not over exercised and trained), easily trainable, never showed a sniff of aggression to anyone, very quiet/virtually never barks but I can’t lie, they really are in my opinion a ‘specialist’ breed.
The herding instinct can honestly make them very difficult to live with.
An additional potential issue to be aware of is that all the herding breeds - collies, German shepherds, kelpie, Australian shepherds etc are all prone to nervousness and noise sensitivity which again can be problematic within a family setting with noisy children.
Mine isn’t particularly nervous and not noise sensitive, she sleeps through fireworks even but it is really important to socialise really really really well and get them used to sudden loud noises from puppyhood, start low volume at first.
Check the parents have a nice confident temperament as usually, nervous mommy = nervous puppies irrespective of upbringing.
They are prone to a few health issues.
CEA/PRA which causes blindness.
All ISDS (international sheepdog society) registered puppies are, I believe eye tested and from eye tested parents.
MDR1 sensitivity, more common in Rough collies rather than borders but borders can be affected.
MDR1 sensitivity means they metabolise certain medications differently which can be very dangerous, ivermectin is one medication they can’t have, there will be others.
Hip dysplasia, care needs to be taken not to let them get overweight, particularly as pups and no over exercising.
5 minutes per month of age walking until 1 year.
And epilepsy are the main ones off the top of my head I can think of.
Double coated breed so they do shed a lot, they come in short haired as well as long but the short is still double coated.
@frostedviolets can I ask what made you get a collie? Also do you let her off the lead whilst out walking? One last question, which dog breed do you think would be really well suited to a family?
P. S I really appreciate you taking the time to give such great advice on this!
can I ask what made you get a collie?
I have always loved the herding breeds, I wanted a fairly large, active dog that wasn’t overly demonstrative with strangers and easy to train.
Very nearly got a German shepherd but DH ultimately thought a border collie would be ‘easier’ as in slightly smaller, less territorial/guardy.
Also do you let her off the lead whilst out walking?
Yes I do, she really loves being off lead and has excellent recall.
one last question, which dog breed do you think would be really well suited to a family?
Depends what traits you are specifically looking for?
Activity levels/gregarious or aloof with strangers/barky or not barky/size/coat type/prey drive etc
P. S I really appreciate you taking the time to give such great advice on this!
Thank you, glad I’ve been of help
I've had (6 in total) collies for the past 38 years, and I think they're absolutely wonderful dogs - nothing much to add to what @frostedviolets said above, all of which I agree with. I'm currently on my second black lab/collie cross (as well as a border collie) and have found them much more placid dogs, but lacking the collie's quick intelligence. I've never had a pure lab, but friends have, and they seem to make very good family dogs.
I'm a dog walker and I have two border collies on my books. Both 12 years old. One was a working dog and the other has always been a pet, although his owners did canicross with him up until recently.
They are both incredibly intelligent but also very persistent and needy. They constantly want to play and will pick up and drop their balls constantly to get you to throw them! Both have calmed down with age but they will also "go" constantly until you stop them.
As lovely as they are, they certainly aren't a breed I would consider. Both needed a lot of time and attention when younger - as I said, one was a working dog on a farm and the other has an owner who did canicross and agility with him every single weekend. Even now, they get three walks a day of at least 45 minutes at a time and could easily go for longer!
Now they're older they do rest after a walk and are both incredibly obedient.
I dog-sit for over 20 dogs (one at a time!) and the Border Collie has my absolute heart.
What Gethesprinkles said in the first post pretty much nails it. Also they are a great dog in terms of relationship with their owner but why aren’t the most easy going or sociable of breeds with other dogs.
And not ideal if you have young children as they tend to want to herd and ankle nip which can feel intimidating,
I grew up with border collies and although high maintenance they were great pets for us. I don't remember but my mum tells me how I would hold on to them to help me keep my balance when learning to walk and would stand on them to be high enough to look out the window. They were gentle with me and very protective. Never nipped but if I got too far from my mum the collies would herd me back They are very trainable but like others have said they do need alot of exercise and stimulation. My parents have 2 rescue collies now - previous owners didn't have time to walk them enough and their behaviour became too manic in a house all the time - literally climbing the walls. They are very loving dogs and have calmed down a lot but still a few bad habits. As much as I love collies though I don't think I would have one, cause I'm not at home enough to give them the stimulation that they need.
Collies do bounce off the walls a bit.
My stepdad had one when I met him and it was still a big ball of energy even though it was 11 years old! He was the sweetest dog though, always wagging his tail.
What Gethesprinkles said in the first post pretty much nails it
I don’t mean this to come across rudely, but I’d be interested to know whether gethesprinkles or yourself have or have had this breed?
The post you mention said:
“They are a working breed and were designed to herd for hours and hours in the open air”
Which is true.
Then follows with this:
“Hence they need A LOT of both mental and physical stimulation. If you can provide, this they are fab. If not, they tend to become bored, frustrated and even destructive and/or anxious”
Now, the vast majority people I hear say this have never had a border collie yet say it as if gospel.
I cannot speak for all the border collies out there but following this advice made my collie seriously unpleasant to live with.
IMO, this breed does best with peace, quiet and nice calm exercise.
They do not need hours of agility, fly ball, obedience, mental stimulation etc etc
Yes they do make lovely pets if you treat them correctly, they need lots of off lead walks each day, I'd say at least 5k. Plus a 3k on lead walk at night and lots of stimulation. If you're into agility training that's fab and they'd love that. Or if you're rural and can let them have lots of garden or fields to run in.
If you're only going to do a mile or so on lead walk every day on the school run, them expect them to entertain themselves with either you in or out of the house, you'll end up with problems.
I had a bearded collie and he was really intelligent which meant when left to get bored he'd entertain himself, usually at the houses expense.
I've known a lot of collies and they all stink.
If you don't want your house to pong I'd get another breed.
*I've known a lot of collies and they all stink.
If you don't want your house to pong I'd get another breed*
I think this is due to being double coated and not enough grooming.
I groom mine everyday and she doesn’t smell at all.
If I don’t groom her within a week or so she’ll develop that characteristic ‘stinky dog’ odour 🤢
Would you consider a bearded collie op?
Every border collie I've met has been hyper and extremely energetic.
Beardies are slightly less hyper and make fab family dogs.
I’ve got a collie plus two german shepherds and to be honest the collie is so much harder work. I adore him, he is clever and intelligent and is so obedient but he is not very affectionate and isn’t really the type to want anything other than for me to throw the ball. The ball would come before life itself and he can get a bit possessive with strange dogs if he has it. He is sharper, obsessive and has much more energy than the shepherds. I wouldn’t have another just because I prefer the off switch that seems to be missing in the collie brain.
I also know a friend with two and they are both quite dog aggressive. I think this is because dogs don’t tend to like the stalking behaviour and so they have been attacked a few times. My GSD hate collies on walks and tend to be quite defensive from first sight!