The Ultimate Australian Guide To Border Collies
Loyal, playful, and obedient, the Border Collie has earned its place as one of the most beloved dog breeds. These dogs serve as expert sheep and cattle herders—a task they can manage easily due to their intelligence and susceptibility to training. Today, Border Collies are also faithful pets that can bring great joy to the right owners.
Border Collie Breed History
The Border Collie has existed for over 130 years in its modern form. Yet, the breed’s roots are much deeper, reaching back to the medieval age and beyond. The Border Collie’s ancestors can be traced to the earliest livestock farmers in Britain.
The very name of the breed reveals the primary value that people saw in the dogs: “Collie” is the Gaelic term for “useful.” The “Border” part of the name comes from the fact that the breed developed in the border regions of England and Scotland.
Initially, collies were widely used as sheepdogs and were bred with care, primarily with gundogs, although there were numerous matings between Collies and loose countryside dogs. Still, the pairing of the common working Collie and the gundog brought about the Border Collie.
The breed’s usefulness was most apparent in the British wool trade, which spanned the British Empire. Due to different climates and work demands, a range of Border Collie variations developed. However, many specific traits became common across the breed.
Although Border Collies have shown up on sheepdog trials since the late 19th century, the breed wasn’t recognised internationally until 1995, despite the strong support it enjoyed for decades.
Border Collie Appearance
The Border Collie has an athletic, elegant build. Slim, strong, and explosive, these dogs look beautiful and move quickly and with agility. While slightly elongated, their bodies maintain good proportion. Border Collies have long muzzles, round head tops, and semi-erect ears.
The breed has long legs which are well-developed but not overly muscular. Border Collies have well-sprung ribs and broad, deep chests. The lush, downward-facing tail is among the most recognisable traits of the Border Collie.
Border Collie Coat Colour and Grooming
The breed has a characteristically smooth coat of moderate length, with a dense undercoat that makes the Border Collie better adjusted to various weather conditions. While coat length and texture are specific and standardised, the colouring is anything but. According to accepted breed standards, Border Collies can be any colour except predominantly white.
The most common colour of a Border Collie is black and white. However, a variation of the black-and-white coat with cream or tan colouring is also frequently found, with the third colour usually appearing on the legs and muzzle.
The breed also comes in blue or red merle, chocolate, sand, slate, slate merle, lilac, lilac merle, seal, and seal merle variants. All the colouring variations feature a mixture of white, while blue merle, red merle, chocolate, and seal merle may also feature a third colour—tan. Red and chocolate colours are among the rarest.
Some breeds of Australian Border Collies can have a special colouring that gives them their name: the Australian Red Border Collie. Also referred to as “ee-red,” these dogs have the usual basic colouring with a red overlay that provides a distinct tone.
When it comes to grooming, Border Collies are relatively low maintenance. Dogs with longer hair require brushing once every two or three days, while those with shorter hair can be brushed once weekly.
Border Collies don’t tend to get very dirty, so frequent bathing won’t be needed. You can bathe a Border Collie twice or even only once a year. At maximum, these dogs shouldn’t be bathed more than once a month, although that might already be excessive.
Border Collie Size
Border Collies have a relatively lightweight constitution, albeit they’re not weak by any measure. The dogs grow to medium size, with males and females reaching nearly the same weight and height. Where males weigh up to 28kg, females can reach about 25kg. In terms of height at the withers, males may grow up to 55cm. Larger females will be only slightly shorter at 52cm.
Border Collies will continue growing until they turn 16 months. Here’s a chart of their physical development by age and expressed in maximal weight:
At three months:
- Males: 8kg
- Females: 7.5kg
At six months:
- Males: 15kg
- Females: 14kg
At one year:
- Males: 19.5kg
- Females: 18.5kg
It is worth noting that larger dogs will take more time to reach their full size, while smaller ones will stop growing earlier.
Border Collie Breed Pros and Cons
Border Collie Pros
Border Collies are constantly counted among the world’s most intelligent and popular dog breeds. While their gundog origin makes them great hunting dogs, their friendly nature means the Border Collie will be more than suitable as a pet. Here are the pros of the breed in a nutshell:
- Playful and energetic
- Sharp-minded and eager to learn
- Generally healthy
- Recognised breed
- Great for outdoors and exercise
- Weather-resistant, durable coat
- Enjoy mental stimulation
- Less pricey than other, more popular breeds
Border Collies are both physically and mentally active. They can play for a long time, especially if the game involves fetching, catching, and jumping. These traits also make the breed excellent at learning agility moves. Once a Border Collie learns a trick, they’ll be able to repeat it without fault every time.
These dogs also enjoy puzzles and games that make them think. The Border Collie will respond well to mental stimulation and learn as many new things as possible.
Border Collies are pretty much built precisely for their highly active lifestyle. They are hardy dogs with few health conditions and a long average lifespan. From their adaptability to various terrain types to their resistance to cold weather, Border Collies can thrive in harsh environments.
While the price might not be a deciding factor for potential dog owners, it’s worth noting that Border Collies aren’t as expensive as certain other breeds. Completely healthy pups can be bought for around $200–$700.
Border Collie Cons
Of course, not everything about Border Collies can be considered a plus. The breed’s lively nature and herding background may cause particular issues. While the positives far outweigh the negatives, having the breed’s cons in mind would be wise when making the decision to bring one into your home.
Cons of Border Collies include:
- Herding behaviour toward humans
- Territorial tendencies
- Will try to escape enclosed spaces
- May get restless without proper mental stimulation
- Require regular exercise
- Cautious by nature
- Particular health issues, albeit few
The Border Collie has a profound instinct for herding, which means they may view people around them as their “herd.” As a result, this breed may nip people occasionally to attract attention. The same can happen with other animals if the Border Collie decides they’re not going where they’re supposed to.
When it comes to small children, the dog will refrain from nipping them. However, the kids might get a nose poke if they aren’t willing to stay within the dog’s area. The herding instinct also makes the Border Collie stare at people relentlessly. While unnerving, such staring simply means the dog is focusing on the person, often waiting for instructions.
Border Collies also tend to perceive their surrounding as their territory, and may become agitated at the sight of strangers and even joggers passing by. Defending their territory plays into the Border Collie’s cautious nature. They’ll bark at unfamiliar noises and show extra caution in front of unfamiliar faces. Luckily, proper socialisation can prevent such bad habits.
As a breed used to broad open spaces, Border Collies are hard-wired for exploration and moving freely. This means they won’t accept being left in an enclosed space, especially for long periods. Plus, these dogs will easily get over shorter fences or under them due to their physical condition and strength.
Border Collies can develop various behavioural disorders if not stimulated mentally and physically. They’ll need plenty of daily exercise to help them burn off their generous energy supplies, and the same applies to mental stimulation. Otherwise, the Border Collie might start destroying furniture and other objects or develop an eating disorder.
Finally, although the Border Collie is among the healthiest and most resilient breeds, they aren’t immune to all health issues. In particular, these dogs can develop eye, ear, and hip issues. Epilepsy is also a possible issue for Border Collies.
Border Collie Personality
The character and personality of the Border Collie are largely defined by their physicality and herding/hunting background. As working dogs, they are the happiest when assigned a job. As shepherds and herders, they yearn for open spaces and plenty of freedom of movement.
The Border Collie will be friendly, devoted, and loving to all household members. Yet, they might not be the best choice for small children, especially if they are restless. The dog might try to herd such children, although the animal will never hurt them.
The Border Collie’s herding instinct isn’t necessarily directed strictly toward humans and animals. The breed will often try to herd other objects like cars or bicycles. Of course, this can be dangerous for these dogs if they start chasing after vehicles, which they are, unfortunately, known to do.
Border Collies have the hardest time adjusting to the unknown. They might not respond well to strangers and initially act reserved or shy. However, without proper socialisation, this behaviour can turn into aggression or hostility toward other animals. The dogs can also have extremely sensitive hearing, making them leery of strange noises, which will only contribute to their uneasiness.
Socialisation is the most important factor in developing positive personality traits in a Border Collie. If socialised with other dogs and people when they’re still young, Border Collies likely won’t exhibit bad behaviour. Furthermore, they’ll be better prepared to handle various scenarios, including unfamiliar environments, animals, and people.
The Border Collie can behave anxiously or compulsively in certain situations. For example, the dog may spend a lot of time going in circles, staring at people or animals, or even waiting for the washing machine to finish its cycle. While this behaviour may seem peculiar, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your Border Collie. If you see them focusing on a particular object or task, they’re most likely just amusing themselves.
Due to their high intelligence, Border Collies with sufficient training will improve every aspect of their personality. They enjoy learning and may even develop new behaviours on their own just by observing their environment. Naturally, not all self-taught behaviours might be welcome—for instance, your Border Collie could learn how to open doors.
Border Collie Health
Border Collies aren’t prone to many health issues. However, they may be susceptible to certain genetic defects since they are purebreds.
Border Collie Joint Issues
The breed can have problems with their joints, particularly hip dysplasia. This may happen with age, due to excessive movement, or as a result of accelerated growth. In such cases, the joint can wear out or its cartilage may crack. The most common issue with joint cartilage is osteochondritis dissecans or OCD.
Border Collies have a genetic predisposition for OCD. Luckily, not many dogs develop the condition. Unfortunately, if OCD does develop, it can’t be cured. However, the condition is manageable through specific diets and medications to help with the pain.
Regarding hip and elbow dysplasia, Border Collies show a disposition toward such issues. Still, they don’t have significantly higher chances of developing such conditions than other breeds. Furthermore, if dysplasia occurs, it can be treated successfully with therapy and, if needed, surgery.
Border Collie Metabolic Issues
While Border Collies aren’t particularly prone to metabolic issues, they can suffer from intestinal blockage, pancreatitis, or liver problems. Such issues can be quite severe and are worth keeping an eye on for early prevention and treatment.
Border Collie Eye Problems
A particular congenital disorder impacts Border Collies and is even named after the breed. The issue in question is Collie eye anomaly or CEA. The disorder may cause vision impairment or, at worst, blindness.
CEA affects the retina, which is why it’s officially regarded as a neurological issue rather than one connected to the eye.
Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is another severe issue that can develop in Border Collies. In this disorder, the nerve cells in the eye atrophy, causing a partial or complete loss of sight. This problem occurs in adult dogs up to eight years of age.
Unfortunately, there’s no efficient therapy against PRA, although there are alternative ways to help the dog cope with the condition. For instance, Border Collie owners can ensure the path the dog frequents is clear of obstacles. Also, particular assistive devices can make orientation easier.
Border Collies have a higher risk of developing cataracts—clouded eye lenses. Yet, it’s worth noting that cataracts are a common issue in many breeds, and the problem is by no means exclusive to the Border Collie.
Border Collie Other Health Issues
While rare, malignant hyperthermia can occur in Border Collies. This genetic disease comes with severe symptoms, including strokes in muscles and even organ failure.
Epilepsy is also possible in Border Collies. The breed can suffer from two different seizure types: focal and generalised. The focal type is caused by a discharge in a specific brain area, while a generalised seizure occurs throughout the brain and includes both hemispheres.
While these seizures are very unpleasant to witness, they don’t have to be life-threatening. However, it’s important to recognise such a seizure and contact a veterinarian as soon as it starts.
Border Collies can also inherit hypothyroidism, which can disrupt the regular function of the thyroid gland. This disorder comes with various symptoms but is relatively easy to treat with a particular medication.
With all these issues listed, it’s crucial to remember that Border Collies likely won’t develop health issues. The breed is renowned for its good overall health and may avoid common maladies better than many other breeds.
Border Collie Care
Certain universal aspects of dog care apply to Border Collies. For instance, their teeth and ears need regular cleaning, and the dogs will have to be groomed weekly. However, the most important element of Border Collie care is exercise.
Border Collies won’t be satisfied with merely some roaming space. These highly energetic dogs will require plenty of activities—at least two hours of brisk daily walking will be the absolute minimum.
Since everyday walks can be quite intense for the owner—the Border Collie must be walked on a leash—other physical activities might represent a better option. In particular, this breed enjoys agility training and various dog sports. However, more than enjoying such activities, Border Collies excel in them.
Finally, it would be wise to check the Border Collie’s nails every once in a while. If the dog is active enough, their nails might wear down naturally, but they may need some trimming occasionally, regardless of the activity level. Well-trimmed nails will increase comfort and make the dog feel better on its feet.
Border Collie Feeding
Like all other dog breeds, proper nutrition is essential for Border Collies. The portions will naturally differ depending on the dog’s size and age.
Border Collie puppies need about 700 calories daily, divided into five meals. The first meal should be in the morning, while the last should be served to the pup at least two hours before bedtime.
Adult Border Collies will follow a different feeding schedule. Active dogs will need about 1,000 calories daily, but with fewer meals. An adult Border Collie should have up to three meals a day—the first in the morning and the rest in the afternoon.
It is worth noting that Border Collies don’t make a habit out of begging for food. In fact, they might not ask for more food even if given a relatively small portion. A Border Collie might even leave food in their bowl for later.
Similar to most other pets, Border Collies will need access to fresh water. This will help them stay hydrated but will also promote better food digestion.
Border Collie Suitability With Children and Other Pets
Border Collies will be naturally compatible with well-mannered kids but may be unsuitable for smaller or particularly noisy children. As mentioned, the Border Collie will always try to herd everything around it, including small kids who want to wander away.
On the other hand, the dog’s potential sensitivity to loud noises can make them nervous in loud environments. While the Border Collie probably won’t show aggression or adversity, the dog may become traumatised in such situations.
A similar principle applies to the Border Collie’s relationship with other pets. The herder dog will likely try to bring order to the perceived chaos around them and keep its “herd” together and safe.
Border Collie owners who wish to remove or alter the described behaviours should work on the dog’s socialisation. Exposing this breed to different environments, new people, and other animals at a young age will make them more relaxed. In that case, the Border Collie will be perfectly suitable for kids and other pets.
Border Collie Australian Rescue Groups and Breeders
Several active rescue groups in Australia specialise in Border Collies. While many groups function via social media, there’s a particularly notable organisation named Border Collie Rescue Australia, or BCRA.
When it comes to breeders, many organisations are dedicated exclusively to Border Collies. The breeders in question are mostly smaller, although they can reach nationwide customers through sites like DogzOnline and PerfectPets.
Notable larger breeders include:
Border Collie Summary
The Border Collie is an exceptional breed in many regards. Counted among the leading breeds in intelligence, these dogs are ready to learn and adopt new habits. And with natural sturdiness and good health, they have plenty of time to develop.
Getting a Border Collie might not be the best idea for everyone. These shepherd and hunting dogs thrive with physical activity and plenty of mental stimulation. That’s why they need an owner ready to commit to their development—preferably one who enjoys exercise as much as these lively pups.
If you love long, intense walks and playing with your dog for hours outside, a Border Collie will be the best companion imaginable. Their impeccable sense of loyalty and love for the entire family will introduce a new dimension to your everyday life.