Sheepdogs, especially German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds, have often been victims of their success, and the Border Collie is unfortunately not spared by this wave of “fashionable dogs”.
Indeed, these breeds are reputed to be “intelligent” and, therefore, for many, “easy” to train.
However, an intelligent dog means a dog capable of developing strategies, anticipating and taking the initiative. Which, you will agree, is not something that just anyone can manage. And yes, one could quickly be overtaken and not be in control of his dog at all.
As you know, if you follow our articles closely, I am the owner of a Border Collie: H, for four years and recently the owner of a second Border Collie: Qara, who is already six years old. And I have often been accused, especially since Nature de Chien is developing nationally and no longer locally (by people who know me personally), of having Border Collies without being aware of the breed’s particularities.
And to reassure you of my legitimacy on this subject, let me tell you my story and that of my dogs.
I was born in the countryside; one could even say that I was born in a sheepfold since my parents are shepherds and always have, as far as I can remember, used Border Collies to work on their flock. It is, therefore, very natural that when I was old enough to have my dog, I chose this breed that had always fascinated me and for which I had, and still have a very particular attachment.
However, aware that I was not a shepherdess and that I would not have a flock of sheep to herd, I did not adopt the first Border Collie that came along.
It was then that I met H, a little one-year-old Border, who, unfortunately for him, had not “declared himself to the herd” (a term used to know whether or not the dog will have a strong instinct for herding). This lack of interest meant that he had to stay “locked up” in a kennel for his entire first year.
So I chose to adopt H, even though he comes from an excellent working lineage, to offer him another life environment knowing that despite his lack of interest in the herd, he was still a “working” dog and that, inevitably, one day or another, he would need to spend more time than the others.
And I was not disappointed! The first weeks, the first months, were sometimes difficult for him as for me because his lack of spending was visible: destruction, barking, unmanageable in leash, etc.
So I had to make choices, decisions and do everything I could to spend his immense energy.
Activities to propose to a Border Collie.
If you don’t have a herd, here are some activities you can/should offer a Border Collie to make sure he’s sufficiently spent at the end of the day:
Walks every day, even if you have a yard. I invite you to read our article on the perfect walk for your dog. Whether it’s a working dog or not, every dog needs at least 30 minutes of exercise outside of his yard every day. And of course, 30 minutes for a Border Collie is not enough! A Border Collie needs at least one to two hours of exercise a day.
The walks should be rich in mental, physical and olfactory stimulation. It’s not enough to walk on a short leash for two hours in the middle of the city. You have to be able to combine work time (walking on a leash, not moving, etc.), relaxation time (freedom or semi-freedom if your dog has not yet learned to recall or if the environment does not allow your dog to be completely free), and also time for educational games with you, to strengthen your relationship and his education, and to exercise him both physically and mentally.
If you don’t have time to walk your dog enough (which is a big problem if you have a Border Collie), don’t hesitate to offer your dog activities at home: occupancy toys, intelligence toys, tracking games, learning tricks, etc.
Give your Border Collie regular educational and play sessions that will stimulate him mentally! Don’t hesitate to consult our article: how to play with your dog.
Regularly learning new directions will also be necessary, and above all indispensable, at any age. Since Border Collies are working dogs, they will need regular intellectual stimulation throughout their lives. There’s no such thing as a lifetime achievement with a Border Collie; there’s always something more to reinforce or do.
Take part in specific herding courses. Even if your dog doesn’t seem very interested, you’ll see that he’ll still have a blast, and so will you! For H, he started enjoying this activity at the age of two.
If you don’t have a herd to play with, try Treibball! It’s an activity similar to herding but with big balls that the dog has to bring back to the master. It’s like giant soccer for dogs, and it’s great.
Border Collie Training
As we’ve seen, the Border Collie is a brilliant dog, but “intelligent” doesn’t mean easy to train – quite the contrary! A Border Collie will be fun to work with, but you’ll need a consistent and appropriate attitude!
The complexity of the Border Collie breed is reflected in both its robust character and its remarkable sensitivity. The owner’s attitude must therefore be both firm and subtle.
Border Collies can sometimes exhibit very “fussy” behaviours such as staring, herding (other than a flock), insisting, etc. In this case, the owner must show patience, firmness, consistency in his words and actions, and above all, understanding. A Border Collie that behaves in a way that could be described as deviant is often a Border Collie that is not understood and therefore not sufficiently stimulated.
And to return to my personal experience, this lack of stimulation and, therefore, this “neglect” (let’s call a spade a spade) can sometimes lead to hazardous situations, and I’m thinking in particular of Qara, the six-year-old bitch I recently adopted.
Indeed, her lack of spending and the negligence of her mistress pushed Qara to externalize her unhappiness aggressively and dangerously, particularly against the child of the household who, to add a layer, was not informed of the rules of life to adopt when there is cohabitation dog/child. This pushed Qara towards the exit, and, fortunately for her, it is an association respectful of the race which took her in before I took over.
Finally, the Border Collie is a brilliant dog; it can easily show initiative (which does not necessarily go in the direction we want). This is if it does not consider its master as a reference being. The coherence and the firmness of the master will thus be essential here.
I could talk at length about this breed that is particularly dear to me, but you now have all the keys to know whether or not you are ready to welcome a Border Collie into your life and, if so, how to educate him well and meet his needs.
But the most important thing to remember is that a Border Collie is not a dog to be put in the hands of just anyone. It takes time and daily investment to make him a good dog throughout his life.