My brother has a Border Collie named Nico. She’s a beautiful dog, very intelligent, great with his kids, and the perfect herding dog for his large property!
Border Collies have a lot of appeal to potential dog owners. They are often highlighted in movies like “Animal Farm” and “Snow Dog.” It’s no wonder that a lot of people would think about getting a Border Collie when they decide to get a dog. But is getting a Border Collie a good idea for a first-time dog owner? I dug in a little further and here is what I found out.
Border collie owners and experts do not recommend getting a Border collie as your first dog. Border Collies although easy to train are very high energy and need a lot of mental stimulation. New dog owners may struggle with this, which can lead a Border Collie to turn to destructive behaviors.
With that said, it is possible for a new dog owner to be successful with raising a Border Collie? There are a lot of great qualities that a Border Collie has that can make them an excellent dog, but first-time owners need to know what they are getting into before bringing on the challenge of raising this breed. Continue reading to find out if getting a Border Collie as your first dog is right for you!
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Why Border Collies May Not Be Suitable for First Time Owners
Have you ever noticed that Border Collies are featured in many Hollywood movies, commercials, and hit tv shows? That’s because they are incredibly smart, easy to train, and among the most beautiful of dog breeds out there. All Border Collie owners will tell you they are amazing dogs to have!
Taking that into consideration, why wouldn’t they be a good breed to start with? Well, the biggest reason…. sometimes they can be too smart for their own good!
Dogs in general are a lot of work, but certain breeds require more time and attention than others. Border Collies are one of those breeds. You have to be 110% committed to investing your time into training and exercising throughout their lifetime.
They Require a Lot of Exercise
Border Collies need a minimum of 2 hours a day of exercise. If you lead a very active lifestyle that you can incorporate your Border Collie into then this may not be a problem for you. But if you rather spend your time chilling in front of the fire reading a good book, don’t get a Border Collie!
If your Border Collie doesn’t get enough exercise they can turn to destructive behaviors as well as whine cry and bark a lot!
Border Collies are Working Dogs
Border Collies are working dogs, they need a job to do! They were bred to herd sheep, and if not given enough exercise and meaningful tasks to do, they can be found herding any living thing around them including, cats, your children, or even you!
You don’t necessarily need to live on a sheep farm, but you will need to be prepared with a list of jobs you can train your dog to do. Here is a list of jobs that other owners have given their Border Collies
- find the ball
- fetch things (newspaper, slippers, people)
- help herd kids to bed
- find and put away specific toys
- run an agility or obstacle course
- puzzle toys
- learn to play sports
My brother has taught his Border Collie to find and retrieve antler sheds!
Border Collies are workaholics and if not given work to do they will invent it, and believe me the jobs they invent for themselves will not please you. You can expect a bored Border Collie to chew things up, lick excessively, bark excessively, dig, get into and eat things they shouldn’t (see this article I wrote about eating rocks, dirt, and poop), and basically cause destruction.
Border Collies are Smart
Many people agree that Border Collies are the smartest dog breed in the world. Not only is this proven by massive numbers of Border Collies in show business, but a British Columbia neuropsychologist named Stanley Coren did research and wrote a book called “The Intelligence of Dogs” He uses trainability and execution of commands to measure intelligence and as many predicted Border Collies came out on top as the most intelligent!
The average dog has the capability to learn around 165 words and signals. Border Collies can double and triple that number. One of the smartest Border Collies ever, named Chaser has learned over 1000 words including distinguishing nouns and verbs.
If you aren’t confident in your dog training abilities and able to be an assertive yet loving pack leader in your collie’s life the smart Border Collie will pick up on that quickly and take advantage of you in a heartbeat.
Having a smart dog isn’t a bad thing, but you have to make sure that you are smarter! First-time dog owners may not have the skill set needed to train a dog like a Border Collie. If you aren’t willing to invest the time and cost into learning how to train and teach your Border Collie, then this isn’t the right breed for you.
Border Collies Demand Time
If you have a lot of other responsibilities or you are gone at work for a significant portion of your day it could be very difficult to find the time you need to keep your Border Collie occupied.
You will need to be prepared to spend a lot of time playing with teaching and coming up with activities for your Border Collie to do. If you are able to keep your Border Collie busy your rewards are a super fun, playful, sensitive, extroverted, and intelligent dog!
The exact amount of time can vary from dog to dog, but you can expect at least 2-3 hrs of quality time spent doing things with your Border Collie, and then another hour or more coming up with things to keep your dog busy when you can’t be constantly engaged with them.
If you don’t have the time needed to keep your Border Collie happy you will start to see your Border Collie turn to destructive behaviors to keep themselves occupied.
Border Collies Need Space
With family homes trending on the smaller side these days many people may not have the proper space a Border Collie needs. If you live in a small apartment, townhome, or house without a lot of yard space Border Collies can feel really cooped up and have nowhere to focus releasing their excessive energy. Border Collies are best for people with large yards, or lots of property where they can run freely and explore.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a well-behaved Border Collie as an apartment dog. If you are out exercising and leading an active lifestyle more than you are sitting at home, and you can come up with sufficient activities to keep them occupied then a Border Collie could be great for you.
Border Collies are Escape Artists
Because Border Collies are so smart they can sometimes turn into little Houdini’s, figuring out how to escape any type of containment you may try to enforce on them. Just look on YouTube, you will see countless videos on the escape of the Border Collie. They are so smart they figure out how to unlock and open doors, dig under or jump over fences! If you think their area is secure, think again, because it’s probably not.
If your Border Collie is well-occupied and has had plenty of time to exercise before you put them in their crate, or other confined area then you shouldn’t have a problem.
If you neglect to give your Border Collie the proper space, exercise, and stimulation that they need, they will seek it in destructive ways. This will be shown as excessive barking, chewing on things, trying to show dominance, and having a lot of neurotic undesirable behaviors that will be hard to correct.
Border Collies Are NOT Big Into Cuddling
One of the main reasons I wanted a dog was for the soft, warm, furry cuddles. Although there are always exceptions to this rule, Border Collies, in general, do not like to cuddle. They will be loyal loving companions always at your side, but when it comes to sleeping and resting they prefer their own space.
Border Collies Can Be Sensitive
Because they are so smart Border Collies can be highly reactive and sensitive. When training them they may respond to every little movement you make trying to out-think you and respond ahead of your next move. This can be very frustrating for new dog owners who are just learning how to train a dog.
Their sensitivity also requires specific attention to socializing them when they are young. They need to be taught to have good associations with other people and animals.
If you don’t take the time to properly socialize your Border Collie while they are young he can become very shy, standoffish, and possibly reactive.
They can also become sensitive about their food possibly becoming very picky eaters (link to an article I wrote about how picky Border Collies are).
What Would Make a Border Collie a Good First Time Dog for You?
- You are a highly active person who loves to exercise with your dog
- You have a lot of space
- You have a lot time to invest in learning how to train and care for your dog
- You have a lot of patience
- You can be creative in coming up with jobs for your dog
- You have a desire to teach your dog a lot of cool thing
So a Border Collie is the right breed for you if you are a very active person who is outdoors a lot jogging, hiking, or generally going on adventures.
If you are willing to invest a lot of time learning about the breed, how to keep it properly stimulated, and take classes on how to train and care for your Border Collie then they can be a great dog for you.
Border Collies will take a significant amount of time and energy, but the investment you make in time and energy will be greatly rewarded in a loving and loyal dog!
With some dedication and thought on your part you can have a well-adjusted, well-behaved, super loyal four-legged best friend. Border Collies can thrive in a lot of situations if given the right guidance, but they can also turn into complete disasters if neglected even a little.