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Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.
Pet Care. Pet Training. Pet Stories.


Breed Guide: Border Collie

10/18/2021 by Stacy Painter
October 18th, 2021 by Stacy Painter

Reviewed for accuracy on August 10, 2021 by Cathy Barnette, DVM

border collie lying in grass

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Border Collies
  • Size of Border Collies
  • Characteristics of Border Collies
  • History of Border Collies
  • Border Collie Standard Information
  • Caring for Border Collies
  • Common Health Problems of Border Collies
  • Diet and Nutrition for Border Collies
  • Where to Adopt or Purchase Border Collies
  • Related Breeds
  • Pet Insurance for Border Collies

Introduction to Border Collies

The Border Collie is a popular dog in America because it is smart, loving, and full of energy. These dogs were bred as working dogs but are common household pets today. They have been featured on numerous TV shows and in movies, and they have set world records for everything from skateboarding to rolling down a manual car window! You’ll often find Border Collies working as search and rescue dogs as well because of their unique skills and instincts.

Size of Border Collies

Border Collies are medium-sized dogs that are athletic and muscular. When fully grown, this breed of dogs gets to be about 30 to 55 pounds..

Here’s how big you can expect your Border Collie to get, based on gender and age:

Weight Chart3 months6 months12 months24 months
Male Border Collies10-15 pounds20-25 pounds35-45 pounds40-55 pounds
Female Border Collies8-12 pounds18-22 pounds30-40 pounds30-45 pounds

Border Collies usually reach heights of 19 to 22 inches tall for males and 18 to 21 inches tall for females.

Characteristics of Border Collies

Border Collies are well-known for their athleticism and excellence in agility training. In fact, Border Collies are happiest and healthiest when they have a job to do – whether that means herding animals on a farm or being challenged with an obstacle course in the backyard.

As you get to know a Border Collie’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics:

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsMedium
Good with PetsMedium
Need for ExerciseHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedHigh
Amount of BarkingLow
Amount of SheddingMedium

Overall, Border Collies are moderately adaptable dogs that do well in both hot and cold weather. However, they do not like being left alone and live their best lives with active owners who are home most of the time to be with them. These are friendly dogs that are fairly easy to care for in terms of health and grooming. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about Border Collies is that their energy is very high, which means they need plenty of exercise and playtime. Border Collies can be great watchdogs but should be trained to bark appropriately and not excessively.

border collie attentive

Photo by Baptist Standaert on Unsplash

History of Border Collies

Border Collies have been part of the American Kennel Club’s Herding Group since 1995. However, these dogs have been around for a lot longer than that. These dogs originated in the Border country between England and Scotland, which is how the dogs got their name.

Border Collies are linked to crosses between herding dogs of the Roman Empire and spitz-type herders from Viking raiders. These particular dogs excelled at working to herd livestock in the rocky highlands of Scotland and Wales. In fact, the dogs were first classified as Scotch Sheep Dogs. They became known for big bursts of energy and great running speed. Scotch Sheep Dogs were shown at the second dog show held in England in 1860, and Queen Victoria became a fan of this type of dog. R.J. Lloyd Price is credited for bringing these dogs to London’s Alexandra Palace for a demonstration, where spectators were impressed with how keen the dogs were to their handlers’ whistles and hand signals.

James Reid, the secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society first used the term “Border Collie” in 1915 to distinguish this dog from other similar types. Many of today’s purebred Border Collies can trace their lineage to a dog called Old Hemp, who lived from 1893 to 1901.

Border Collie Standard Information

The appearance of a Border Collie is well-balanced and muscular, with an alert expression and an intelligent mind. These dogs are highly trainable and have an intense energy that is unique among canines.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Border Collies.

Head:

  • Eager and alert expression
  • Moderately sized eyes set well apart
  • Strong muzzle that tapers to the nose
  • Strong teeth that meet in a scissors bite

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Muscular and slightly arched neck
  • Back level with muscular rise over loin
  • Broad chest
  • Moderately deep and short loin

Forequarters:

  • Parallel forelegs when viewed from front
  • Long and laid-back shoulder blades
  • Elbows neither in nor out

Hindquarters:

  • Long, broad, and deep thighs
  • Hock about one-quarter to one-third of dog’s height
  • Compact, oval feet
  • Dewclaws removed

Coat:

  • Rough variety coat or smooth variety coat acceptable
  • Seasonal shedding is common
  • Whiskers remain untrimmed

Color:

  • All colors and combinations of colors are judged equally
  • White patches on body should not predominate
  • Predominant ear color should match main body color
  • Black and white colorations are most common and familiar

Gait:

  • Able to change speed and direction easily
  • Topline firm with no roll or bounce
  • No wasted motion or exaggerated movement that is inefficient

Caring for Border Collies

It is important to take good care of your Border Collie so that he or she lives a long and healthy life. These dogs have great personalities because they learn quickly and are always up for a challenge. They are sensitive to their owners’ cues and thrive on keeping busy with plenty of activity. If you don’t keep a Border Collie busy, the pup may start engaging in undesirable behaviors, such as digging or chasing cars.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Border Collie.

Best Living Environments:

  • Lots of space to run and play
  • House with a backyard
  • Farms and ranches
  • Families with older children
border collie dog sitting

Photo by Yoav Hornung on Unsplash

Type of Exercise:

  • Herding work with livestock
  • Going on runs
  • Agility training
  • Playing catch with frisbees and balls
  • At least two hours of exercise per day

Mental Enrichment:

  • Needs steady mental stimulation
  • Benefits from agility and obedience exercises
  • Enjoy having a job to do

Training Strategies:

  • Highly trainable dogs
  • Socialize dogs early but can still be reserved with strangers
  • Eager to please, so give plenty of praise

Grooming Tips:

  • Brush once or twice weekly, especially during shedding season
  • Trim nails regularly
  • Check ears regularly and clean as needed

Common Health Problems of Border Collies

Border Collies are generally healthy dogs that have a life expectancy of about 12 to 15 years. Even though these are hardy dogs, they are still prone to medical issues, especially as they get older.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Border Collies.

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Deafness
  • Epilepsy
  • Progressive renal atrophy
  • Ear infections
  • Allergies

When you take your Border Collie to the vet, consider a hip evaluation and ophthalmologist evaluation to allow the early detection of these issues.

Diet and Nutrition for Border Collies

Because of Border Collies’ high levels of energy and activity, these dogs need a high-quality dog food that is either commercially made or prepared at home under a vet’s supervision. Adult Border Collies typically need about 1.5 to 2 cups of dry dog food per day, depending on the caloric density of the food and the dog’s activity level. A very active young dog may require more food than an older Border Collie or one that spends more time indoors.

Some people feed their Border Collies a raw food diet, but it is important to consult a vet first. Raw food diets are not always balanced and are associated with an increased risk of bacterial contamination. Overall, Border Collies need high protein diets to support their high-energy lifestyles. True working dogs may need a little extra protein in their daily diets.

border collie in grass field

Photo by Lukas Ruzicka on Unsplash

Where to Adopt or Purchase Border Collies

If you are interested in purchasing a purebred Border Collie, the American Kennel Club’s PuppyFinder Marketplace lists puppies from registered litters and breeders who follow AKC rules and regulations. The Border Collie Society of America is a breed-specific organization that promotes responsible breeding and ownership to learn about this type of dog and preserve their working attributes and intelligence.

You can also find Border Collies and Border Collie Mixes at shelters if you would rather adopt a pet who is in need of a good home. All Border Collie Rescue in Houston, Texas and New England Border Collie Rescue are examples of groups to look into based on where you live. Many different states have Border Collie Rescue organizations, including Arkansas, Arizona, and Colorado.

Related Breeds

The Border Collie belongs to the Herding Group of dogs, which was actually part of the AKC’s Working Group until 1983. Something that all Herding Group dogs have in common is the instinct to control other animals’ movement. These breeds were developed to protect livestock, but they are often used for police protection and even to gently corral children today.

If you are interested in Border Collies, you might also want to learn about other Herding Group dogs, including the following:

  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Belgian Laekenois
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Pyrenean Shepherd
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Swedish Vallhund

Pet Insurance for Border Collies

Border Collies are wonderful dogs that deserve to be taken care of at every stage of life. To ensure that your dog gets the necessary care at a price you can afford, a pet insurance plan from Healthy Paws is highly recommended. Our insurance plans can help cover emergency care, accidents, genetic conditions, illnesses, cancer, and even alternative care for Border Collies to give you peace of mind. With no costly add-ons and the option to use any licensed vet you choose, Border Collie lovers trust Healthy Paws whenever their pups need a little extra care and medical attention.

Contact us at (855) 898-8991 to learn more about our easy-to-understand pet insurance plans and to compare rates.