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Border collies - would love to hear your experiences.

(74 Posts)
Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 09:18:14

Hi dog owners.

We have friends with a gorgeous tricolour border collie bitch who they plan on having pups - they have offered us one as they know we have been thinking about getting a dog for ages (they want the homes sorted before they go ahead with a litter). I would love to hear about your experiences of collies before we commit.

I had a collie/lab X when I lived at home (she was my responsibility to walk and feed) - she was lovely, sweet, clever, a bit nervy and needed lots of exercise and stuff to keep her brain busy. She was extremely loyal, easy to train and soft as butter. So I guess she was a real cross of the two breeds.

DH grew up with GSD and Beauceron so used to quite tricky dogs.

We live in the country and have plenty of open spaces around us, have a largeish garden and I work from home. We feel confident that we could give a border collie a good home with plenty of exercise (we walk and cycle) and understand that they need lots of mental exercise and if possible some sort of 'job'. We have two DC (10 and 8).

Would love to hear your experiences of this lovely breed and any advice on things that we haven't thought of/might not expect. Thank you!

Booboostoo Thu 03-Apr-14 09:39:10

Border collies are extremely intelligent dogs and a pleasure to train and work with, but they do need quite a lot of physical and mental stimulation. If you are up for two energetic, long walks a day, no matter what the weather, and weekly agility/flyball/obedience training classes this may be a great breed for you.

One note of caution about the breeder. Are your friends border collie breeders? Have they been developing a breeding strategy over a few litters and does it fit in with what you want in a dog? How have they selected their bitch and dog and do their ideas of what you'd want in a breeding pair match what you want? Have they carried out all health screening tests available for the breed?

Preferthedogtothekids Thu 03-Apr-14 10:03:24

I have a fabulous rescue collie, he's the most obedient and loving chap ever.

Have you considered saving a life and getting a collie from a rescue? there are tons available who need a home like yours.

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 10:10:12

Thanks Booboostoo.

Friends are not professional breeders themselves - his parents are and they will be breeding with a male from there, the bitch was from one of the parents litters. We haven't met the male dog yet. Will ask about health screening tests before we commit, would like to think that they do this properly but will definitely check. As far as I know breeding strategy for this line is show dogs rather than working dogs.

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 10:13:24

Preferthedogtothekids - yes, we considered a rescue (my collie/lab X was a rescue. She was given up because she was too destructive sad she did brilliantly with us and was a wonderful dog).

Only thing is, we live in France and it is unusual to see collie rescues in our area. I know there are loads of the poor things in the UK but they are a quite an unusual dog where we live.

Booboostoo Thu 03-Apr-14 11:48:12

I'm in France as well!

Well worth checking on the screening tests, some French breeders are a wee bit behind the times! I was looking for a GSD and was told by 3 different breeders that they don't check for degenerative myelopathy because their dogs are French and 'clean' so couldn't possibly have it!

Owllady Thu 03-Apr-14 11:51:07

I have always had collies but they have always been rescues, so came with their own sets of problems and personalities smile

I would say research the breed first if this is your first dog together. Do you have the time? Are you about most of the day? And will you be long term? I personally think for a collie you do need to be with them most of the time and they can live until 18 yo (longer in some cases I have heard of) they crave company and mine have always tended to think it's their job to keep a close eye on me at all times! Health wise, mine have always been pretty healthy (touch wood) but they do have a tendency to lose their hearing and go deaf, so bear that in mind when training them. Involve gesture/sign and body language.

How they are will depend on their personality to a certain extent. I have had a bossy collie girl who given her own way would have ruled the roost, and often tried to do so. A collie like this WILL take over if they don't have confidence in you. So you need to research again first and be willing to have to stick to a routine and be quite firm. My other two hitches haven't been bossy though, one was quite stubborn but I think that was just her.

Check out positive based training classes prior to getting her as you will be there for much longer than everyone else. Are collies easy train? I think not myself. They are intelligent and they pick things up quickly, but that's a double edged sword tbh as it means they learn things they shouldn't. You really do have to be one step ahead of them. The more they have to do or think about, the better they will respond. We do agility on top of obedience, but you can do sport with them and its a great breed fir that.

I did laugh at your cycling comment grin you have to really watch they don't herd you on a bike! This will depend on how strong the instinct is to herd as it differs, but they can be right buggers and its useful to know beforehand how to deal with any herding problems that may arise.

They are wonderful dogs though and you do get back what time you out into them and they do become your best friend (I know that sounds corny, but mine have definitely been loyal, faithful companions and I am always devastated when I lose them)

Owllady Thu 03-Apr-14 11:54:03

This is mine. She is sable in colouring. She is a gorgeous girl, very eager to please

Booboostoo Thu 03-Apr-14 11:57:47

I'm in the south (between Toulouse and Carcassonne) and struggled to find a positive trainer down here. It's all dominance and crap about personal protection dogs! I've finally found one trainer but he is the only one in a very wide area.

Owllady Thu 03-Apr-14 12:04:04

Lots of people on here do clicker training through kikopup (?) On YouTube smile but just make sure you socialise in other ways as bc are a bit bonkers and need to learn lots of new experiences

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 13:02:18

Gosh, thanks for all the replies. Lots to consider. Will definitely see if breeders are up to date on health issues and I'm not surprised to hear that trainers in France can be behind the times! (I find France can be behind the times about lots of things....)

I've been watching some Kikopup videos on YouTube, that woman is ace and we will definitely do positive training with any dog we get. Her collie is amazing.

I see what you mean Owllady about the cleverness being a double edged sword. My collie X was bright as a button and picked things up easily but definitely needed to be 'directed' so that she didn't find herself things to do that were a bit naughty. She did used to herd us a bit sometimes especially if she felt anxious about anything. Don't remember her particularly herding bikes but will definitely remember that and see if we can train a future dog to be ok with bikes or be ready to forget taking dog out with bikes if it triggers too much of a desire to herd! Your girl is absolutely gorgeous and looks a lot like my much loved collie X (who I always had a hard time seeing the lab in physically, but she definitely had the lab love of food...)

With regards to time - I work at home but not full time so certainly at the moment that is ok. Children are old enough that I don't have to be constantly entertaining them. Of course my work circumstances could change in the future and although not looking likely at the moment, does need to be a consideration.

Lucky you finding a rescue collie in france Booboostoo - so many of the ones round here are Beauceron or Beauceron crosses, I regularly check our local ASPA and you see loads of these. I don't really trust this breed and don't think they are family dogs. FIL had one that put me right off them, although I appreciate it isn't fair to generalize about a breed on the basis of one or two individuals. Anyway, they are too big - we want a medium sized dog.

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 13:24:34

Ooh sorry, see it is Preferthedogtothekids who has a rescue collie and not Booboostoo, who has a GSD and is in France. Got you mixed up!

nuttymutty1 Thu 03-Apr-14 13:35:09

Best dogs ever! They do need a lot of time, usually in the format of mental stimulation. They will not lie quietly at your feet all day when you work for example.

However they are very easy to amuse and tire out if you are prepared to give them time. They do need work to do and I would recommend doing a dog sport with them. They can be quite independent dogs and not want other dog company much so this can need work although others are really party animals.

They learn everything quickly good and bad and despite people saying are not easy to train - they learn what they want to learn first then will ned careful consistent reward based training to learn the rest smile

They can be reactive and highly strung and will need careful and time consuming socialisation.

You could get a rescue collie and take back to France. If buying a puppy check eyes, joints and if any epilepsy in either dogs several generations back

LadyTurmoil Thu 03-Apr-14 13:42:50

SPA Carcassone has a border collie - I know they had 4 recently but at least one has been adopted - they have 2 on the website: Heart and Ako.

and their FB page is

Many of the people running the refuge are English!

needastrongone Thu 03-Apr-14 13:43:52

Our agility trainer has 8 (yes 8) collies. They are quite simply amazing, but I still think she's mad smile That said, watching her 18 month old pup going round an agility course, with that level of skill, at that age, just shows their potential in the right hands. She's very firm with them, not in a negative way, in a consistent way.

Lol at the cycling, ever walked while being herded smile

17leftfeet Thu 03-Apr-14 13:45:09

Our collie was very destructive as a puppy -she chewed through the kitchen door once

My ex used to be a groundsman and she was out with him all day everyday plus big romps out at weekends

By the time she got to 10 she was quite happy to spend most of the day 'relaxing'

Once we got through the chewing phase she was the most well behaved dog, she did used to round the dcs up but never aggressively

I would love another but don't have the time and it wouldn't be fair

throckenholt Thu 03-Apr-14 13:55:05

we have had 3 border collies (have two currently - one is 6 and the other 18 months).

>lovely, sweet, clever, a bit nervy and needed lots of exercise and stuff to keep her brain busy. She was extremely loyal, easy to train and soft as butter

sums them up - except they don't need as much physical exercise as everyone says - they really need mental stimulation and in my experience they need company. So if you are working from home, and with kids of that age it would be ideal.

None of ours have had 2 long walks a day - but they do have half an acre to race around in at their leisure, and someone always at home (to throw a ball for them grin). When we take them for long walks in the countryside they love the mental stimulation as much as anything (and sleep very well in the evening following).

throckenholt Thu 03-Apr-14 14:02:27

By the way - regarding training - IME young collies are not at all food oriented so treat based training doesn't work (unlike with a lab smile). By the time they get to 5 then they start to respond to food much more.

And they have a tendency to work out their own rules for a game, and morph them over time to suit their inclination. grin

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 14:15:32

LadyTurmoil thank you for the link, he looks lovely. However we are very far away from Carcassonne.

throckenholt - I have read before that they don't need as much physical exercise as is often said, and that the mental element is just as, if not more, important.

needastrongone - gosh at 8 collies! That does sound quite mad.

17leftfeet - bad luck on the chewing. My old collie lab X wasn't a chewer of big things like doors but she was destructive if left alone for too long. She had a thing about towels and would chew any she could find. I taught her to help putting laundry away and that seemed to 'channel' her towel love.

Owllady Thu 03-Apr-14 14:22:07

They can be reactive and highly strung and will need careful and time consuming socialisation.

God yes. I had forgot all this before I had this one smile

I don't know how anyone can have 8 collies (as bonkers as a collie maybe) Do they all live in the house? I am just jealous as I have always had two but H has said one only now, sniff

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 14:41:11

Yes, on socialization. It seems that collies can be not great with other dogs if not socialized as a matter of their puppy training.

I think my main worry would be to have a collie that is just too highly strung and we aren't able to provide enough of a 'farm like' lifestyle for a nervy collie.

Lots to think about...

Really want to meet the future father - future mother is very sweet and not too nervy, she is very bouncy though! We definitely won't commit if not sure for any reason and will just keep waiting for the right rescue dog to come up...

Owllady Thu 03-Apr-14 14:45:31

We aren't farmers. We do live rural atm but haven't previously. I don't think it matters where you live. They need time and they need love (like most dogs) sorry if I sounded a bit negative blush it's just lots of people have them thinking it will be like one man and his dog, when so much work has to be done to get up to that kind of level and most of us just want a well behaved family pet, which they are too smile

throckenholt Thu 03-Apr-14 14:56:34

My younger one is very nervy - especially with other dogs. But she is improving slowly (fine after the initial few seconds if she stays around long enough to find out). She tends to make a lot of noise while backing away (shouting loudly I'm not scared of you <honest>). At 18 months now there is a definite improvement as she gains confidence and maturity.

They can also have a tendency to be chasers. The one we had as a child loved wheels - used to attack the wheelbarrow and bike wheels, and the hoover wheels. Two we have had react to passing cars and surge after them - others have been totally oblivious to them.

They can also have a tendency to over think things. My older one is terrified of the hoover - to the extent that he legs it to the end of the garden if he even sees you carrying to dust container to the bin ! And he hates fireworks - shakes like a leaf.

The younger one hates being combed - if you even mention the word (not even to do with her) she will go and hide.

Difficult to predict which triggers any given dog will have - but I am almost certain any collie will have some !

Once they get an idea in their head (and that can take seconds) it can take a lot of effort to shift it.

For me - having lived with collies I find other dogs lovely but somehow lacking in personality.

throckenholt Thu 03-Apr-14 14:59:50

Just read your comment about farm environment. I don't think they need that - they will thrive on that, but also thrive in other environments. They need company, mental stimulation and moderate exercise. You can't over exercise them - they will take as much as you can give them and come back for more - so don't even think about trying to physically wear them out.

They really are not a dog to be left at home on their own for extended periods, especially when young.

Beachcomber Thu 03-Apr-14 15:26:05

Owllady - it's OK, you didn't sound negative! I am really appreciating all the comments. I think with the farm comment I meant not expecting a collie to be 'just' a pet and giving them an environment that doesn't over stimulate them. We are lucky to live in the country surrounded by farms, fields and woods, however one side of our garden is on a country lane that doesn't have loads of traffic on it but does have some and I wouldn't want a nervy collie to find passing cars an issue (we know a collie that runs up and down and barks like a mad thing when cars pass and want to avoid any such behaviors!).

As throckenholt says though, we cannot know in advance what potential triggers might be...

Arf at hoover, my old collie X HATED the hoover and would give you that reproachful look that collies do so well when it came out.

I have heard on the exercise to be careful not to do too much as you never tire them and just end up creating a honed athlete that needs huge amounts of exercise! Which makes sense - I guess you have to get the balance right. We have open space right next to us so would be able to do plenty of fetching games.

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