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A Beginner's Guide to Raising a Border Collie


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As a soon-to-be border collie owner, I'm curious as to what everyone does to best raise a well balanced border collie. While I'm pretty confident as to my abilities to raise and train dogs in general, border collies seem to be a whole different ball game! Having seen many people asking for help with their fearful BC's, or overly hyper and destructive BC's, what are people's thoughts on the most important things to do when raising a well balanced, happy dog? I imagine that regardless of the future of the dog (herding, sports, stay at home love bug), the process should be similar to create a happy, healthy BC!

 

A "Things you wish you knew when you got your first BC" question!

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I don't think there's anything that's border collie specific you need to know. Raise your BC pup the same way you'd raise any other dog you'd like to grow up well adjusted.

 

One thing I do think many people overlook -- and again it's not BC specific but it may be more likely to come back and bite you in the butt (pun intended) with a BC than many other dogs -- is to quietly praise the pup for being calm and quiet. When the pup collapses after playing or lies down to take a nap, as puppies do, softly stroke the pup and tell it it's a good dog. It helps with developing an off switch and reinforcing that quiet behavior is appreciated.

 

Too many people only engage with the pup in play and when it's active, and forget to reinforce calm and quiet. That can be a recipe for a whirling dervish. :o

 

Have fun with your pup . . . . and don't forget to send pictures!

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This website has an extensive bibliography. It also includes a number of brief monographs on choosing/raising/training border collies. They are found in the menu items above the photo of BC at top of this page.

 

Click on "View New Content" below the search window, toward the upper right corner, and a list of recent threads will appear. Currently the first page contains titles regarding: socialization, nervousness, exercise, resource guarding, dominance vs. positive reinforcement, and feeding.

 

Border collies, as you know, are athletic, intelligent, and biddable. Train to bring out those qualities. I agree with GentleLake, that you raise them like pups in general, and don't forget to provide praise for relaxing. Some border collies have a default "on" switch. For those you may have to enforce rest periods. I tried to avoid waiting for my pup to figuratively collapse from exhaustion, yet clearly it not infrequently happened. For me, an overly fatigued pet (while it is awake) is a difficult pet. Thus, a wire or hard-shell transportation crate gives puppy/dog an undisturbed place to settle, and helps with nighttime potty training. Additionally, I have found that a crate is perfect place to let wet/muddy dogs dry-off. They do not have to spend a lot of time in one.

 

Remember to relax with him/her. Laugh and smile. My dog responded well to that. Pictures and stories are mandatory. -- Best wishes, TEC

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Yes, to the above 2 posts.^^^

 

If you are referring to many topics on these boards about "Having seen many people asking for help with their 'problem' BCs", you seem to have an impression of border collies as different/special/harder-to-raise/etc. IMHO, most of those posts reveal that the OP has made one or two fundamental training &/or socialization mistakes or may be exposing the dog to an inappropriate environment or .....

 

If you go back and read previous posts (as TEC suggests), it should help you understand what went wrong and how to ameliorate it -- or better yet, prevent the problem in the first place.

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Also remember that people who aren't having issues generally don't join forums like this to talk about how brilliant their border collie pup is. Some do of course, but just as in business where happy customers are rarely heard from and unhappy customers are more than willing to take their complaints public (not the best analogy, I know), folks who aren't having problems with their border collies aren't going to be the ones who seek out a forum such as this one and then ask questions about the problem/issue. So of course someone who comes to this forum and sees all the questions/concerns might think that a majority of folks have problems with their border collies when in fact what they're seeing is a self-selected bias toward owners of border collies with problems because naturally those are the folks who will seek help/input from others.

 

J.

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Also remember that people who aren't having issues generally don't join forums like this to talk about how brilliant their border collie pup is. Some do of course, but just as in business where happy customers are rarely heard from and unhappy customers are more than willing to take their complaints public (not the best analogy, I know), folks who aren't having problems with their border collies aren't going to be the ones who seek out a forum such as this one and then ask questions about the problem/issue. So of course someone who comes to this forum and sees all the questions/concerns might think that a majority of folks have problems with their border collies when in fact what they're seeing is a self-selected bias toward owners of border collies with problems because naturally those are the folks who will seek help/input from others.

 

J.

Really good point Julie, I first came here looking for advice about Brody's aggressiveness, never bothered looking for advice when we had our first border collie, I stayed because I enjoy learning about the breed and the more I know the better I understand my own dogs and the fosters.

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This really isn't about raising a balanced border collie, though it does have a part about how to successfully live with a bc. Before I got my pup I found this video quite insightful. I can't really say that its accurate or not since I've only recently brought my first border collie puppy into my home but it's very intersting and informative in my opinion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tGqTi57Bks

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I lurked here for a while, reading, before making the decision to take Jack from his previous owner. This knowledge base is wonderful. Here's one "quirk" with Jack. Flashlights! I forbid them. He will get fixated and stare at the floor. My family thought it was hilarious that he does like a cat and will chase the light all over the house. THEN come the problems. He'll stand in one spot expecting the light to come back and won't listen to anyone. Now if he just sees a flashlight he goes into stalk mode.

The "interesting" (haha) part to me is retraining my family. No, kids, we don't click/treat for coming in the darn room (then mom hides all the clickers forever).. Retraining my husband- "NO, honey, dominance theory will NOT work unless you WANT him to pee on you!" Yes, I did. I laughed my BUTT OFF when my husband attempted an 'alpha roll' on Jack-- and Jack peed all over him. That never happened again. :)

I have to come here every day and read more. Plus my books. But then again this is my first Border Collie, and I'm still anxious sometimes.

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I would say training the "off switch" is probably the most valuable, breed specific, advice you've gotten. Sure, every puppy should be taught to "settle", but I think BCs really do need it more then most. I wish I had been more aware of it when my pup was very young, it would've been easier if I had started training that from day 1.

But, I have a different piece of advice, based on my own personal experience: Mental stimulation at that young age is far more valuable (and safer) then physical exercise.

Physically these dogs will go and go and go and go, they are seemingly tireless. As a dog savvy person I'm sure you already know the risks of too much physical activity for a young, growing puppy. I was not dog savvy, but while researching getting a puppy I read about this a lot. I thought I was keeping the physical activity within reason, but looking back I realise I allowed him to do way too much and likely did damage to his body. I will never entirely get over the guilt of it... but we live and learn. I'm not one for regrets or living in the past, but I figured this was a good opportunity to share my mistake and hope it helps you avoid doing the same.

With a breed as driven as the border collie, if they are allowed to set their own pace, they will almost assuredly be pushing themselves to the limit and beyond. They make "overdoing it" look pretty damn easy, actually. Of course every puppy needs exercise, but just be extra careful with that growing body. Prioritize mental stimulation, exhaust the brain, and you'll still have a tired, happy, healthy puppy.

 

ETA: Physical risks aside, there is a theory that however much exercise you provide for a dog is the baseline for what that dog will need. IOW, if you exercise a dog for five hours a day you are creating a dog that needs five hours of exercise a day. This seems like a common pitfall for new BC owners, as there is so much literature about about how much exercise the breed needs. It's a pretty common topic on these forums, new users asking how much physical exercise the dogs really require.

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Camden's Mom, while this is definitely good advice, I really don't think you should be indulging in a guilt trip about how you raised Camden.

 

The sad truth is that sometimes things just go wrong, no matter what you do to try to prevent them, and it's quite possible that things would have turned out as they did even if you'd raised Camden differently.

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Camden's Mom, while this is definitely good advice, I really don't think you should be indulging in a guilt trip about how you raised Camden.

 

The sad truth is that sometimes things just go wrong, no matter what you do to try to prevent them, and it's quite possible that things would have turned out as they did even if you'd raised Camden differently.

 

Oh, sorry if it sounded like I was trying to orchestrate a pity party for myself, that wasn't my intention, honest! :rolleyes: I do realize that sometimes things just work out a certain way and I'm much more the type of person who would rather forge ahead then get hung up on the past. Having said that, I always hope that I can learn from my mistakes and was sharing the advice on that principal.

 

And I do not mean to discourage the OP from ever allowing her pup to play and run and be active! Good luck trying to keep a BC puppy from doing all those things. ;)

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I don't think there's anything that's border collie specific you need to know. Raise your BC pup the same way you'd raise any other dog you'd like to grow up well adjusted.

 

One thing I do think many people overlook -- and again it's not BC specific but it may be more likely to come back and bite you in the butt (pun intended) with a BC than many other dogs -- is to quietly praise the pup for being calm and quiet. When the pup collapses after playing or lies down to take a nap, as puppies do, softly stroke the pup and tell it it's a good dog. It helps with developing an off switch and reinforcing that quiet behavior is appreciated.

 

Too many people only engage with the pup in play and when it's active, and forget to reinforce calm and quiet. That can be a recipe for a whirling dervish. :o

 

Have fun with your pup . . . . and don't forget to send pictures!

I was just sitting watching a little TV with my 4 mo. old BC laying quietly in front of me. I read this and it reminded me that as much as I revel in these quiet moments, I haven't been praising it enough. I just gave her a few good pets and she rolled on her back to enjoy a belly scratch.

 

It gets much easier a couple months in!

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I would say training the "off switch" is probably the most valuable, breed specific, advice you've gotten. Sure, every puppy should be taught to "settle", but I think BCs really do need it more then most. I wish I had been more aware of it when my pup was very young, it would've been easier if I had started training that from day 1.

 

But, I have a different piece of advice, based on my own personal experience: Mental stimulation at that young age is far more valuable (and safer) then physical exercise.

 

Physically these dogs will go and go and go and go, they are seemingly tireless. As a dog savvy person I'm sure you already know the risks of too much physical activity for a young, growing puppy. I was not dog savvy, but while researching getting a puppy I read about this a lot. I thought I was keeping the physical activity within reason, but looking back I realise I allowed him to do way too much and likely did damage to his body. I will never entirely get over the guilt of it... but we live and learn. I'm not one for regrets or living in the past, but I figured this was a good opportunity to share my mistake and hope it helps you avoid doing the same.

 

With a breed as driven as the border collie, if they are allowed to set their own pace, they will almost assuredly be pushing themselves to the limit and beyond. They make "overdoing it" look pretty damn easy, actually. Of course every puppy needs exercise, but just be extra careful with that growing body. Prioritize mental stimulation, exhaust the brain, and you'll still have a tired, happy, healthy puppy.

 

ETA: Physical risks aside, there is a theory that however much exercise you provide for a dog is the baseline for what that dog will need. IOW, if you exercise a dog for five hours a day you are creating a dog that needs five hours of exercise a day. This seems like a common pitfall for new BC owners, as there is so much literature about about how much exercise the breed needs. It's a pretty common topic on these forums, new users asking how much physical exercise the dogs really require.

This is an interesting point. My little 4 mo. old loves to move (no surprise here...) She loves to play "soccer" in the yard, run after frisbees and do the occasional chase game. She seems to get bored easily with the "mental stimulation" I am trying to give her. At first I was heavy on the training and she picked it up quick (sit, down, roll over, heel, stay at 3 mo. old) I was worried though that it was a bit too much "boring" work too early on. So I switched my approach to less training (only working on walking nicely on leash and some basics around being a polite dog) and more about fun. The goal being to make hanging with me fun.

 

Any perspective on exercise or game-based brain games? During "soccer" games I will try to get her to predict where the ball will go or during tug games I have her trained to "drop" and "take" over and over. Clicker training time isn't the most exciting for her.

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Clicker training time isn't the most exciting for her.

 

Let me guess . . . she isn't terribly food motivated, right?

 

If clicker training isn't fun, then find what motivates her -- i.e. what is fun for her -- and use that as your reward.

 

Food isn't the only thing you can use as a reward in clicker training. ;) Maybe tug?

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Let me guess . . . she isn't terribly food motivated, right?

 

If clicker training isn't fun, then find what motivates her -- i.e. what is fun for her -- and use that as your reward.

 

Food isn't the only thing you can use as a reward in clicker training. ;) Maybe tug?

You got it! Food is basically interesting to a point, but then she gets bored with it. The soccer ball, however, she can chase until she's blue in the face. But I find it difficult to train her with that since she is so fixated. The overall problem is that I haven't trained her to listen to me very well. Maybe it's her age, but she will definitely blow me off at times.

 

Actually, this little pup is far more aloof than any other I've had, so finding her big reward has been tough. I have to say I really admire this about her, but it makes training a little more challenging.

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