BORDER COLLIES – GOTTA LOVE ‘EM, QUIRKS AND ALL
Written by Janet Legg of Border Collie Rescue
in Washington and Oregon
What is a Border Collie, you ask? Well, here are my personal observations:
BORDER COLLIES are incredibly wonderful -- The Best dog on the planet. They are very wise souls who can look at your face and get into your head. They are extremely affectionate, and are known to stand up on hind legs to wrap their front legs around your neck and lie their head on your shoulders against your cheek... no question, it’s a hug.
They read your body language and know way ahead of time if you are "thinking" of walking to the park or taking a drive, or simply gonna take a "nap".
They love their toys and will gather them all up into a pile for play or checking over carefully. I have heard of Borders who "Clean Up" putting all their toys back into the toy box in the evening.
They will watch television, especially Animal Planet when there is whistling and barking going on, or owners issuing commands to their dogs. All the Border Collies stop what they are doing and watch the television when I show the "Breed All About It - Border Collie" video, obviously recognizing the command-whistles and the sheep moving across the fields... as well as the excited dog barking during Flyball and Agility.
They usually either totally ignore other dogs or get along famously well, but their main focus is usually their people... not other dogs. They listen intently and respond quickly to human demands. They want a job to do and look back to Dad to tell them to "go left" "go right" or "go faster... “go slower". They love taking direction.
They are incredibly versatile, more so than any other breed I know. They can be extraordinary
sheepherders, or an Agility or Flyball competitor like no other; and a terrific Frisbee catcher.
They can also be a water retriever ("get the duck") or a Pointer ("show me, where is it?"). They can
be a boatman, a tracker (Search and Rescue), a hiking, jogging or camping companion. I mean VERSATILE.
They do not ever say "NO THANKS" or "I CAN'T" but usually tell you "Let's do it, show me what you want". They are forever eager to learn and do new things.
They are the best athletes available. No other dog can beat them at sheep herding or at Agility or Flyball. Coordination? Oh yes, very coordinated! They can turn on a dime, leap high in the air then land on their feet like a cat. They are fast - like lightning.
Although they can and will nag owners to "throw the ball, Daddy, throw the ball" until heck freezes over, the dogs can learn a simple command such as "enough is enough already". "Quit now". "Lie down" and be peaceful and quiet. And the good news is you don't have to nag, but simply say it one time (say what you mean and mean what you say). The Borders can lie for hours at your feet while you compute or watch television, but are forever watching and waiting for you to “go”.
They love to go -- anywhere and everywhere. They love to be with you, even if it isn't anywhere exciting or great. They just have to be near you. They will even lie down in the bathroom while you shower and shave, wagging their tails whenever you make eye contact.
They learn extremely quickly. Just show them once, they will remember. Sometimes one single mild correction is enough to never see that behavior ever occur again. They are sensitive and get their feelings hurt often when corrected even just verbally. They may pout, hang their head, and lie flat on the ground, sad and dejected, appearing inconsolable. And they remember! (They do accept apologies eventually.) But don’t give in to their sad-sack look and allow them to test the rules.
They stay home. They are not big wanderers, but prefer to be home bodies (at least if they like their home and are getting good care and adequate exercise).
They can be protective of their home and family--Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. They can and will bite, and anyone who states “my dog would never bite" is completely wrong. ANY dog will bite under the right circumstances. The Borders tend to give a quick nip and often not cause a rip-and-tear wound. But biting should be promptly and always corrected, never allowed to occur. Never encourage the dog to protect aggressively, unless trained using Schutzhund or other valid controlled protective training program. An announcing bark is adequate for most family dogs, followed by encouragement to “make friends”.
Ah ha. Barking. My favorite thing about Border Collies -- They tend to be silent. Barking is not all
that common in the breed (unless bored, frustrated, ignored, kenneled, neglected). They were bred to
move sheep through the fields without uttering a sound - silent at all times. They give "the eye"
instead... which says everything the sheep need to "hear". "Move you dang woolies! Move to the right!"
Any dog will mess up your house. The bigger the dog, the bigger the damage. The only difference with Border Collies is the speed that they create the horrible mess (the speed of light). Ripped up carpeting, linoleum, torn drapes and blinds, chewed cabinets, chewed door moldings, drywall destroyed creating a walk thru to other rooms or the outdoors, even broken windows or sliding glass doors. Although this is a worst-case scenario and not every dog will make a mess every time you leave – but these things do happen. Better safe than sorry - confine the dog securely and safely when you leave – followed by reward for being good when you return.
Border Collies are extremely sight and sound sensitive. They see things that move even slightly (you may not see). They hear things barely audible (you may not hear or notice). Many other breeds ignore sights and sounds that Border Collies simply cannot ignore. Things that can cause a Border Collie to act fearful, aggressive or simply obsessive are: shadows (moving lights), flying or crawling bugs, air movement, vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, toaster (it dinged and popped!!!), rustling paper or tin foil, a human cough or a sneeze, crying or laughing, let alone thunder & lightning, gunshots and the 4th of July fireworks.
Most Border Collies display SOME but not all of such quirks in their personality. But Border Collie owners learn to live with them and even find them humorous. Owners learn to accept these quirks as part of the BC charm and personality, even if they are not preferred. They simply learn to love these dogs so deeply that “so what if the toaster ding sends the poor dog running to the back of the house in a panic?”
Commitment: Only very seriously committed dog owners should consider getting a Border Collie. Committed to providing adequate daily exercise, as well as training, fun activities and regular communication. They love time spent with their family.
If a person wants a dog that they can put in the back yard for TEN hours a day, to leave alone 24-7 -- or only allowing them indoors at night, a dog that never gets out of its own backyard, never played with or talked to, is never made to think and do, is never trained, a dog they can pet only occasionally and toss down food for... the Border Collie is DEFINITELY NOT THE DOG FOR THEM. They should get some other breed rather than a Border Collie. Or Better Yet? Get a dog statue to put in the yard to look at occasionally. Or get a furry-fuzzy stuffed toy. Don't get ANY LIVING BREATHING dog.
For more information about Border Collies, please check out these sites:
Dog Owners Guide: The Border Collie