published 1st July 2017
This month’s medium-sized breed -The Border Collie - continues to hold popularity with many dog lovers because of its intelligence.
Border Collies make a great family dog, and have few aggression issues or other problems, providing they are kept entertained. This breed needs determined training to channel their energy in the right direction.
If Bark Busters is called in to deal with Border Collies, it is mainly because of their barking or herding issues. Check out our behavioural/training issues in relation to Border Collies further on in this article.
Ever since man started raising sheep, they needed a trusty dog to help protect stock and herd from pen to pen for safe keeping. A dog’s natural herding traits was carefully bred into the Border Collie's ancestors, which originated in the border regions between Scotland and the Northern parts of England.
Farmers would show off the prowess of their best sheep dogs to other farmers while at the markets and soon developed a reputation for having the best working dog litters. The original outstanding dogs that were used to herd and guard sheep or livestock in the 1800’s were further enhanced through breeding and natural selection.
In the late 1800’s, Queen Victoria saw one of the dogs at a show and became an enthusiast of the breed.
A gentleman by the name of R.J. Lloyd Price is one of the first people to organise sheepdog trials. In 1876, he brought a hundred wild Welsh sheep to the Alexandra Palace in London for a sheep herding demonstration. The Livestock Journal described the astonishment of the spectators at the sharpness of the dogs, whose only assistance from their handlers was in the form of hand signals and whistles.
If thinking about a Border Collie as your next dog, you need to give some thought to the time you can devote to such an energetic breed. It would be unfair to keep this breed couped up for long hours – they are definitely not “couch potatoes”. They do not do ‘home alone’ too well and can exhibit separation anxiety. If you lock them up for hours on end, it won’t be long until you get complaints from your neighbors about endless barking.
In order to establish yourself as the “Top Dog”, you will need to provide a comfortable “time-out place” if you need to go to work or out for the evening.
In reality, you can’t spend 24/7 with your dog. For this reason, we recommend that you practice some good management of your Border Collie for those times when you are not able to keep them actively engaged. You will need to provide some kind of entertainment for them, something that keeps them busy and something that engages their brain. Be sure to pick an activity that does not over-excite them or visually stimulate them such as a lure or a windup toy.
Never use laser beams or torches to entertain your dog. These type of activities over-stimulate the dog’s senses and can scramble a dog’s brain, sending them over the edge mentally. See “games to play with your Border Collie”, further on in this article.
If you have a busy lifestyle, then consider day care or dog walkers. Always do your own research into the right people to care for your precious pet. Also check that they hold adequate insurance and have experience in dealing with this breed.
Popular Working and Sporting Dog
The keenness of the Border Collie and its attractive look and appeal, is what made it a popular dog for obedience trials, dancing with dogs’ competitions, and agility competitions. Once you see a Border Collie perform, you will be impressed.
Points of interest
They move gracefully with determination, focused on the task ahead which is a learned behaviour from their sheep dog herding ancestry. Once they lock their interest on something, nothing else takes their focus.
Border Collies were bred for their stamina, always presenting their ‘A’ game. They ran all day, without exhaustion, as they accompanied the shepherds at a moment’s notice.
Border Collies are easy to train, but beware if they get bored … that’s when mischief begins. Suddenly they will be barking, chasing cats or digging. Make sure you have the time to devote to keeping their mind and body engaged. Their personality is characteristically alert, energetic, hardworking, and smart. They learn quickly — so quickly that it's sometimes difficult to keep them mentally challenged.
They are a visual breed who constantly scrutinises your face. They are highly sensitive to your moods and subtle looks and will predict what you are about to do, even before you know what you are about to do yourself.
Personality and Temperament
The Border Collie is renowned as a fun loving energetic breed with an outgoing personality that is constantly seeking gratification from activity. They love activities that are focused on running or chasing after things and often mix well with people and other dogs. If their energy is not pointed to something meaningful, their strong herding instinct can lead to chasing cars and small animals.
They generally have a very stable temperament, capable of fitting into most households. They can be trained to herd chickens, ducks, geese, and any livestock.
The Border Collie is a breed without too many ‘hang ups’. They generally have the perfect temperament/personality to be a safe family dog.
This can of course be dependent on their temperament, upbringing and positive exposure to things as they grow and mature.
The breed is not generally renowned for any guard dog abilities, but will naturally bark at strangers or a perceived threat. They do need to be strictly controlled or they will bark at any kind of movement if their behaviour is not kept in check.
See barking issues this article.
The right training for your Border Collie
You need to be absolutely sure of the type of training you need for your Border Collie. These are a very trainable breed but they do need understanding, patience and some thought to the type of training that suits their intelligence. They need consistency and direction and some guidance in how to hold their focus.
A highly intelligent breed such as the Border Collie needs to be doing something every single day.
“The Border Collie is highly intelligent, with an instinctive tendency to work and is readily responsive to training. Its keen, alert and eager expression add to its intelligent appearance, whilst its loyal and faithful nature demonstrates that it is at all times kindly disposed towards stock. Any aspect of structure or temperament foreign to a working dog is uncharacteristic.
The general appearance shall be that of a well proportioned dog, the smooth outline showing quality, gracefulness and perfect balance, combined with sufficient substance to ensure that it is capable of enduring long periods of active duty in its intended task as a working sheep dog. Any tendency to coarseness or weediness is undesirable."
Border Collies thrive when they have a job to do and space to run.
This high-drive breed is extremely energetic and requires beyond just a walk around the block or a romp in the yard.
Due to their tendency to herd objects and people, they do their best with mature, well behaved children. They love their families but may be some what reserved with strangers.”
This is a highly capable breed that likes nothing more than to be working at any task you set for it.
Bark Busters International Head Trainer
Border Collies are an all-round sweet dog, usually very soft in nature, but are highly driven by the chase of a ball or something that moves quickly. They are generally easy to train and love to work either in obedience trials or other types of events such as fly ball, agility or sheep herding trials.
They are fairly easy to care for, just a brush every day to make sure their coat does not get tangled, especially behind their ears.
Border Collies love to be around the family, but still happy to be on their own, but without proper training they can be a nuisance with their barking and herding tendencies.
In the tropics flies can pose an issue as they will snap and bite at them.
If you are consistent you will have no problem training a Border Collie, they love to learn new things.
Millie – a rescue puppy -- was 6 months of age when Bark Busters was called in to address her unpredictable aggression towards strangers.
Millie would growl and snap if strangers approached or tried to touch her. This is quite common behaviour in temperaments such as the one that Millie has, which we diagnosed as ‘fearful’.
Many puppies are born with a fearful or shy temperament that makes them predisposed to overacting when strangers approach or try to touch them.
We started out explaining dog psychology to her doggie parents and the fact that all dogs need strong leaders and especially dogs with Millie’s temperament.
When they don‘t get the much-needed leadership and security they crave, they become concerned for their own well-being and they then take matters into their own control and start acting out.
This aggression can commence at about 6-12 months of age and when it happens it catches everyone, who knows and loves them, by surprise.
It’s a self-protection response that is simply indicating to the approaching stranger that they should STOP their approach or the consequences could be dire.
The reason that this ‘aggression to strangers’ generally starts somewhere beyond 6 months of age, is due to the fact that young pups won’t deal with things, they usually just practice avoidance, until they feel capable of seriously repelling an approach.
We started her owners off with some basic commands for them to gain control of Millie’s aggression. We explained that she needs to always know that she can default to them when things don’t go her way or when she feels she needs protection. Where the owner is concerned, it’s a ‘we have this’ approach, so she learns that her humans will take care of things that scare her.
We also had them change the way people interacted with her. They have to be pro-active, raise their hand in a STOP signal, and hand the approaching person a packet of treats. Visitors should then throw her a treat versus trying to pet her or stare directly into her eyes.
This worked amazingly. In no time Millie felt less concerned or worried about approaching strangers, knowing the humans had control and she was in safe hands.
She actually began seeking people out more as they approached and waited for the treat she knew was coming.
Everyday Illnesses and Injuries
Your Border Collie’s health concerns will change over the course of their life. A puppy might be more prone to eat something they shouldn’t, a 2-year-old Border Collie may be more likely to show signs of separation anxiety, and a senior Border Collie is far more likely to develop arthritis as they age. Border Collie’s also have personality and physical traits that may make them more prone to certain conditions or situations—because they are an incredibly intelligent breed, a Border Collie without enough mental stimulation may become frustrated more likely to get into trouble.
If you are ever concerned about your dog’s health, your local veterinarian is a great resource—no matter how small the question.
Genetic Health Concerns
The Border Collie is generally a healthy breed, but this doesn’t excuse them from genetic conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia. Most reputable breeders now have their breeding stock checked and scored for these hereditary ailments by a vet. You can request proof that the puppy you are purchasing comes from parents that have been checked for these issues.
Because many other health issues are also hereditary, you should do some research on the ancestry of your puppy and any health issues of that particular breed.
Many rescue organisations also check for common-ailments before making them available for adoption.
In any type of training you wish to undertake, you need patience, direction and know-how.
Bark Busters believes that dogs are predisposed and hard-wired at birth, to want to belong to a social group that has a strong leader at its core. It’s what makes them feel secure, safe, less anxious, knowing that their needs are going to be met.
There are several different types of training available, such as treat training or clicker training as well as other types that use force.
Bark Busters training employs ‘communication’. We speak to dogs in a way they understand and they respond quickly. We train the brain and look for comprehension, cooperation and understanding from the dog so we know what we are requesting it to do.
We believe that hands should only be used to pet the dog and that no dog should ever fear being touched by their owners hands.
Treats might be one way to make the experience a pleasant one and might achieve that goal, but many dogs either come and take the treat and run off or they don’t care because they are not hungry.
Either way, the treats have their limitations and that type of training does not offer the complete answer for all dogs. Some doggie parents are sick and tired of carrying pockets full of treats in order to get their dog to comply with their wishes.
Wouldn’t you prefer to be able to utter one word and have your dog stop in its tracks, return to you and actually love you for who you are, not what you can give them?
Then Bark Busters training is the right method for you and your Border Collie.
Bark Busters training explains how to communicate with your dog in their language since they can’t speak English. Our training is based on trust, respect and forming a strong bond between a dog and human. By using voice tones and body language, you will have a well-trained dog in no time. Most pet parents see amazing results after the first lesson.
Come When Called
When we identify issues with recall, we invariably identify cases where the human has sent the wrong messages to their dog by only calling it by name. They generally demand that their dog return, using harsh commands, which frighten the dog or try to grab their dog’s collar or tackle their dog out of frustration.
If you want your dog to “come” when called, negative reinforcement will not work. Your dog must feel that it can approach you without fear or concern that you will hurt or harm it when it does.
It is probably not your intention to scare the dog, but is an unforeseen consequence of harsh tones. Your dog may think its name is “bad dog”!
When calling your dog, it must first want to be with you, then it must want to stay with you. How you react when your dog approaches will depend on whether they want to stay and spend time.
It is very important to keep the invitation to approach appealing, in a high-pitched enticing voice, and lower your height. Don’t forget to offer lots of praise when they arrive.
Never grab their collar, or try to hold onto them, because this will cause your dog to try and avoid your hands.
Never chase your dog. That will only cause your dog to run away. It is better to run backwards, lower your height, or even lie down.
The Border Collie is a barking breed. They are easily visually stimulated which is often why they bark so much. They will bark at anything that moves quickly, such as bikes, skate boards and the like.
Barking in the car, barking at people on bikes, and barking at lawnmowers are high on the list of behavioural issues that Bark Busters training addresses.
Dogs do not have great discerning abilities. They see something whizzing past and it concerns them. They don’t recognise it as a human on a skateboard or a human on a bike. They bark just to send it on its way. The fact that it was already going that way is lost on the dog and it mistakenly believes that their barking is what dispatched it.
With the Border Collie breed, you also have the strong herding instinct and that just adds to the problem.
How to Stop Barking at Skate Boards
You can try limiting your dog’s exposure to these depending on where you live and how often you walk your dog.
Control of any barking issue should always be addressed indoors first and when your dog is not adrenalised.
To address barking, you must catch your dog in the act and let them know, via communication that what they are doing is wrong.
You can also buy a skate board and attach a string to expose your dog to this object with some ‘sensory overload’. Start off feeding your dog near the board, then start moving it, just as you offer your dog its meal.
Adding more movement during feeding time might help ease your dog into getting accustomed to them.
How to Stop Barking at Pushbikes
You can try getting a friend who has a bike, to walk their bike past you and your dog and drop a treat on the ground. Let your dog sniff the bike but don’t encourage your friend to try to touch your dog, just drop treats.
Add to this exposure over time until your dog is thinking treats are coming every time it sees a bike.
If you do have success with this you will need to make sure your dog is responsive to the recall or always on lead when around bikes.
How to Stop Barking in the Car
As mentioned earlier, the Border Collie is easily stimulated visually. It’s that look that they use to intimidate the sheep that is at play here.
Dogs can become over-stimulated in cars as images do flashing by.
We have seen great success with the Bark Busters style of training to stop inappropriate and unwarranted barking.
There are many places to acquire a puppy, but the right breeding and temperament are vitally important if you want a hassle-free dog.
First check out the local Breed Specific Rescues, animal welfare shelters, RSPCA’s as they have many great dogs looking for homes, who for no fault of their own, have ended up at a rescue or animal shelter.
You won’t know their breeding, but these organisations test their dogs for temperament and soundness.
You will be also be doing a good deed by giving a needy dog or puppy a forever home. Did you know that approximately 1.4 million companion animals are euthanised each year? When you are at the shelter, try to avoid selecting the fearful or over-zealous puppy, but at the same time, consider that the dog might just be traumatised by their surroundings. Animal Welfare and Rescues do amazing work in trying to save dogs and match breeds to the right owners.
Many of our Bark Busters trainers volunteer their services at local shelters and rescues to assist in rehabilitating dogs.
Select the Puppy that Suits your Personality and Lifestyle
When selecting a Border Collie puppy, be sure to select the personality of puppy that suits your lifestyle.
If you do choose to go to a breeder, then try to view both parents, to determine the puppies personality.
View the interaction of the pups as that will tell you a lot about their personality. Avoid the bullies or assertive types if you want a dog that is going to be good with children.
Tips for Bringing A New Puppy Home
We are often asked by prospective dog parents if they should get one or two puppies. We always answer the same way -- only if you want two dogs!
Dogs are pack animals and they love having company, but the selection of two dogs is something that must carefully thought through.
Two neutered males can cohabit without too many issues if their doggie parents treat them equally and do not display any favouritism. Unequal treatment is usually behind most Sibling Rivalry cases.
A male and a female of equal energy can also cohabit – this is the best match of all -- providing that the female and male are equally matched in size. If they are differing sizes, its best that the male is the larger of the two. Make sure that the female is spayed or problems could occur if a large male tries to mate with a smaller female.
Two females are not the perfect pair as females invariably want to rule the household. With two females, each will try to be the boss, which can lead to fights.
Select the right diet for your dog, one that possesses all of your dog’s nutritional needs. You will need a diet that can provide all of the energy that an active Border Collie requires to keep it’s coat gleaming and in good health-do your own research on what diet is best for your dog.
Your dog needs a place to call its own, a bed of its own or a place where it can feel safe such as a den-like crate that is warm and cozy.
Your dog’s feeling of security comes from Leadership and the fact that you as its leader will make all the decisions -- you need to ensure you provide education and guidance for your dog, based on patience, understanding and communication.
Your dog needs to be entertained to reduce boredom. Toys and activities are essential to keeping your dog stimulated and busy and to ensure that your dog is less destructive. Bored dogs misbehave!
Check out the GameChanger® by Bark Busters, this toy is a real Game Changer!
We have discussed at length the wrong kind of games to play with your Border Collie. What are the right games, you might ask?
’Tug of War’ is okay and playing ball is good, provided your dog is not the type that gets fixated on the ball and refuses to stop playing when requested. Hide and seek is a great game too. These are games where you hide things from your dog: toys or a tennis ball and then encourage them to find them. You can increase the degree of difficulty as your dog gets better at the game.
Start out where your dog sees you hide the toy, then repeat over and over, ‘Find or Seek’
Remember to give a lot of praise when they find it. These type of games are more calming for your Border Collie, than those type of games that encourage your dog to become over-excited.
Border Collies are great family dogs but they do need to be controlled around children or they might try to herd them. They are highly intelligent and do learn quickly, so spend time educating them as to what is good and what is not. If you are patient and understanding of their capabilities, you will be able to enjoy many great times as a family with your dog. Never leave any dog alone with children regardless of the breed.
Bark Busters has the ultimate toy for all dogs that provides dogs with several options. It’s an interactive puzzle toy that delivers a treat. It’s a chew toy, that they can carry around and take to their bed. They can’t rip it apart like many “stuffed” toys. It’s a workout toy, that they flip over with their nose and scratch at with their paws. It will possibly be your dog’s favourite toy. The Gamechanger® comes in four vibrant colours and will give your dog hours of fun and mental stimulation.
There is nothing more upsetting than losing your dog – the trauma is unbearable. To help lost dogs and their humans become reunited, we have created the WaggTagg™ by Bark Busters.
This pet identification tag is free to all new Bark Busters clients and this brightly coloured tag cannot be missed by the finder. The finder simply needs to scan the tag, which sends a text message directly to the dog owner and several other nominated people. One of your contacts could be your vet for cases where your dog might have a medical condition. The tag will not reveal any sensitive information to the finder because it protects the dog owner’s privacy.
No renewal fees
Once your dog is registered in the WaggTagg™ data base, it is there forever and you won’t pay any renewal fees. No “chip” reader necessary!
Dogs are reunited quickly with their family
We have several success stories where dogs were reunited with their owners before their owners knew that their dog was missing.
Many dog owners and walking enthusiasts are constantly searching for the ‘’holy grail’ of the ultimate dog walking equipment. With this in mind, the Directors of Bark Busters -- Sylvia and Danny Wilson -- set about designing what they believe to be the best walking harness available. They have tested hundreds of walking devices over the years and have found that none of these came close to being the ‘holy grail’ of walking devices.
Although they will readily admit that their harness is not for every dog, they are finding that 95% of dogs that use the WaggWalker® harness, report that it is a Game Changer and works towards stopping dogs pulling on the lead.
The harness uses ‘operant conditioning’ via sound to communicate to the dog (the sound the chain makes when it is clicked and released quickly) that it is out of the desired walking position.
The harness comes in 6 sizes and is suitable for dogs 6 months and older.
With today's dog owners having such busy lifestyles, more and more dog owners are turning to dog parks as a way of socialising and exercising their dogs. While this is great fun for most dogs and dog owners, not every dog will do well in this environment.
Breeds like Border Collies are incredibly high energy and love to run and herd. While this sounds like a perfect match for a dog park, owners must pay close attention to how their dog directs its focus. If the dog is allowed to run wild and herd, the dog will likely have high levels of adrenaline. While adrenaline is helpful on a farm or ranch, if the dog becomes too focused on the wrong target in the dog park, this could quickly turn into a problem. If a dog doesn't enjoy being chased or nipped at the heels in this manner, they could feel threatened and become agitated. While the Border Collie is just doing what it lives to do, if the dog being chased feels threatened and turns on him, this could escalate into a fight. Because the dogs have no prior relationship and are in a high stress environment, this can easily happen.
The best way to prevent this behaviour is to be sure you have strong voice control over your dog in low, medium and high level distraction environments before attempting to visit a dog park. Try visiting the dog park in off peak hours and practice gaining focus from your dog before you allow him to run off and play.
Scott Schwab - Bark Busters Denver Colorado
This article is based on Bark Busters research. Founded in 1989 and now established in 7 countries, Bark Busters is the world's largest home dog training company.
The information contained here is based on our company’s research, our dog training experience and expertise, and in the interest of animal welfare. This information in regards to the popularity of this breed was updated in 2017 after a poll of our international operation worldwide.