Jump to content
BC Boards
Sign in to follow this  
Usangi

Border collies in the city

Recommended Posts

I recently started a thread here about a rescue dog we were fostering, and had some really helpful replies. My wife and I have talked a bit about what we'd do next but for the next few months or so we'll be having a dog free home.

 

But our experience made me think a little bit more about the possibility of permanently having (and not just fostering) a border collie in the city (I live in Cambridge, UK), especially in a house like ours which is a Victorian terraced that has no front garden, and the front door opens directly into the street.

 

I've read a lot of the threads about calmness and the 'off switch' of border collies, watched kikopup videos and seen how calm her border collies is, and remember my grandparents border collies who were both very calm. This is very important to both my wife and I. We want to be able to run (my wife is interested in canicross) and hike with a dog, to play frisbee with it, and to teach it new tricks. But then when this is done, when we've done an evening walk and some training, we'd like it to be able to settle down when we watch TV or read books, and to be able to take to a cafe at the weekend, and lie down patiently while we talk, read or do work there. When I think about it, I think I want to have a dog that behaves a bit like a service dog.

 

But when I look at all the rescue centres, the border collies either all seem to have behavioural problems, or are a bit older but not necessarily suited to an urban area. In fact, one well known UK border collie rescue has said that they do not rehome to people living in cities. From our experience with our last foster, I can now see the reasons for this. There seems to just be too many noises and smells for a border collie to cope with.

 

I imagine one solution is to contact a load of rescue places and put our names on file, and tell them that we're looking for a dog that has been brought up and copes well with cities. The other option is to begin looking for a breeder and start from scratch with a puppy, looking for parents that are not so reactive to noise and motion, although I understand this is still no guarantee. Another possibility would be to go for another breed that would fit into our lifestyle and which we would like the look of and temperament of.

 

Just to be clear, we're not rushing into anything at the moment but just looking for people's advice and experience. It will likely be at least a year, maybe two, before we actually make a decision to take on a dog permanently.

 

Any advice, experiences etc, would be very welcome!

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Mr. Usangi,

 

Having read your other post, I see trouble ahead. Yes, Border Collies can be urban pets (see Carol Benjamin and Denise Wall's Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep?- I've seen Border Collie boat dogs too (life on a fifty foot sloop). With experienced doggers these dogs live with their owners - wherever and whatever. Inexperienced owners with a farm, flock of sheep and land can -and do - create MONSTER Border Collies.

 

To have dogs that enrich rather than merely complicate your life (they'll do that too) one needs experience. But how to get it without making MONSTERS?

 

I'd suggest that during your interlude, you interview local trainers (many will have Border Collies) and offer to intern (unpaid) with one whose methods and results you admire.

 

If you learn you don't particularly like working with dogs, that's a good lesson too

 

Donald McCaig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that you will have the highest probability of success by working with a local rescue that is accustomed to placing dogs in an urban environment similar to yours. Given that this is your first dog, I think that the breed is less important than the individual dog.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A border collie can live very happily in a city and they can make good pets, what most of them are going to be though is intense dogs who do get bored easily if you do not provide enough stimulation for them. My border collies are pets, they have never worked sheep, my youngster who is now almost 10 months comes from good working lines, he is a great pet but needs a good walk and some training every day to keep him that way. If I don't make the time to work that very sharp mind of is, we pay by him finding his own entertainment. Right now I am supposed to be working and both my border collies are fast asleep on the sofa. We will play in a little bit and then they will happily watch tv with us this evening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a Border Collie, from working lines, I live in the city in a medium sized apartment, and a small yard (not big enough to have her run around in). She is the happiest dog I know. She's calm inside the house. She can be on her own for hours, and she's always quiet. When I take her with me to a cafe, she'll be alert, but calm. What you're describing can be done.

 

However

 

It's not easy! I got there, by sacrificing a lot (most) of my free time to my dog the first year I got her.

Border collies can be very reactive, it's how they are wired. Mine, even as a puppy, was reactive as well. We had to go above and beyond to get her used to noise, dogs, cars, people. With lots of guidance, training every day, and help from a professional trainer, we turned her into a relaxed and happy dog.

And even now, the 'dog schedule' is pretty extensive.

My schedule to keep her, and us, happy is this:

 

- she gets three pee rounds of 20 minutes a day

- One good off leash run of about an hour. Either in a park nearby, or we take a 10 minute drive to the woods or the beach.

- During every single round, we always incorporate some sort of training: frisbee, tricks, general obedience.

- Once a week we have her private hour long sheepherding class

 

I love this schedule. Working with her is the highlight of my day. That's why I have a Border Collie. And if you think of it that way too, and have the time to provide the above or something similar, then I don't see a problem.

 

That being said: 'starting from scratch' with a border collie puppy, while you're just looking for an active type dog suited for the city, might be asking for trouble. An 8 or 9 month old bored border collie, is just about the worst thing you can have in your city apartment.

 

So you have to ask yourself: Why do you like this breed in particular? If the answer is something like: 'I want to do competitive sports', or 'I want to herd sheep', or 'I'd love a dog that I can do advanced training with', then this might be the breed for you.

 

I think what Donald McCaig said sums it up perfectly. If that's not the case, that's a good lesson too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've had Border collies in the city, long before I started doing stockwork and owning sheep and all the rest of that slippery slope. I will say, it's a lot easier to find good places to take a dog for *real* off-leash hikes in the UK than it is in the US. (In the US the best you're likely to find in many places is a small, 1-acre "off-leash park" where owners stand around chatting while ignoring inappropriate behavior that eventually leads to some dog getting injured or killed, and dogs get exercise by constant mindless chasing of balls. Anything else earns you a ticket and a fine for having a dog in violation of leash laws). IMO the ideal for exercise (if you don't own livestock) is closer to taking a dog somewhere like your local common where it can explore its environment (off-leash) while both the owner and the dog get some exercise hiking. Combine the hike with activities that stimulate its brain ("find ball!" - looking for a ball you've left behind on the trail; practicing obedience commands at a distance or with distractions), and you've got enough to keep most Border collies happy. If that's the sort of thing you're aiming for, and you're willing to make the time, I think many Border collies can be content, even living in a city. Sure, you will need to instill an "off switch". And you'll need to train it so that it won't bolt out the front door, or react excessively to traffic noise. (One of my three was reactive to traffic, but we eventually cured him of it). So yes, most of what you describe is, I think, possible, assuming you're starting with the right "raw material".

 

My dogs have, ever since they were puppies, "chilled" in the evenings while we eat dinner, watch a movie, or read in the evenings. All of them come to the office with me every day, where they snooze (or occasionally schmooze with visitors) while I work. We don't take them out to cafes very often - not many such are dog-friendly in the US - but if I did, I think two of them would lie calmly until someone paid attention to them. The third would become a total wiggle-butt any time anyone looked his way or spoke in a high-pitched or excited voice.

 

I have had Border collies for 50-odd years - long before I did any competitive sports/stockwork/advanced training. Before I had Border collies, I had a lot of other breeds of dog. What set Border collies apart from other breeds, for me, was their desire to please *me*, and their ability to attune to me.

 

It's most definitely NOT a breed you can get and turn loose in your back garden and ignore, 24/7. It craves two-way human interaction. If you can't provide it, it's not the breed for you. If you can, much is possible, as long as you're willing to work towards it - and the "two-way" part is incredibly rewarding.

 

Here in the US, I know of many Border collies that have been very well raised and trained, and that are not working out as trial dogs, such that the owners are seeking pet homes. These dogs have usually been very well socialized as puppies, so that they're good with other dogs, tolerate highly stimulating environments with aplomb, ride well in a car, have been crate trained, and so forth. Some might be well suited for agility homes, but probably not all.To find them you'd have to make connections with the local herding community. The ones I've known of have not gone through rescue, but have been privately placed. It's another option you might consider, but it'll take some work on your part.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much everyone for your replies. You have certainly given us lots of food for thought.

 

Donald McCaig - thank you for your book recommendation too. I've downloaded a kindle version and am reading it with much pleasure. We have enquired about an opportunity to volunteer as class assistants on puppy and dog training courses, and just waiting to hear from them. We're hoping this is a good way to get to know trainers.

 

We'll probably also speak to some local rescues, one which often has border collies, to hear their views.

 

The question my wife and I need to answer, it seems, is whether dedicating significant time every day to a dog is what we would like at this point in our lives.

 

Thank you again everyone. Much appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The question my wife and I need to answer, it seems, is whether dedicating significant time every day to a dog is what we would like at this point in our lives.

 

An important thing to remember is that while border collies may need even more human interaction than some other types of dog, almost all dog crave and need interaction and connection with their people.

 

It's in their DNA. It's what makes them dogs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Usangi, thank you for being committed to dogs. It seems that ANY dog you adopt would thrive in your care.

 

That being said, my experience is that border collies need more interaction, quite a bit more, than many other breeds. A couple modifiers to that:

 

1) There's quite a bit of flexibility between individuals. Some bc mellow considerably with age, and are content to have a couple good walks a day, some trick training or visiting of other favored humans and/or dogs daily. In other words, it's not hours of dedicated attention to the dog for 13 or 14 years.

2) You get what you train in, to an extent. Others have expounded on this above, so you might re-read the posts about training for high activity levels vs training to fit into YOUR life.

3) All of my dogs have responded to MY activity level. When I'm bedridden by illness or injury, my dogs have always kept careful watch. Possibly to see if I'll crack open the dog food bin before I die, but probably it's only to catch me the instant I recover and can resume a normal schedule. I work from home sometimes, and I must give off a different scent when I'm focused on that, but none of my dogs have bugged when I busy with something serious. There might be a heavy sigh here and there, or a muzzle gently placed on my thigh whilst I pound away at the computer, but it's appropriate.

 

So, yes, there is definitely a break-in period, getting a dog (any dog, really) settled into your household and 'installing' the behaviors you need/like, but after that, it seems to be not a big deal for dog lovers to make adjustments.

 

I applaud your diligence in thinking things through, but wanted to weigh in on the optimistic side. I will never be without a dog, possibly a border collie, as long as I am able to grasp a leash.

 

Good luck, please let us know how you get on.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

 

ETA - having a dog has saved me from several downfalls - I get out a lot more than I would without a dog. Being an introvert and prone to depressive episodes, getting out and at least saying 'hi' to other humans on daily walks, etc, is a Very Good Thing for me. I get more physical activity w/a dog, I get more mental activity as well. Specifically, having a dog to walk after a long work day is also a Very Good Thing for me. Calms me down, energizes me, all that good stuff. I'm probably not the only person who has noticed this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Doggers,

We were preceeded at the Pa Farm Show by some wonderful draft horses and I confessed to someone that I'd always wanted a couple horses but am now too old.

 

"if you wanted them, why didn't you get them?"

 

"Because every animal you take in changes your life and there was never room."

 

 

Donald McCaig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had a young and very intensely energetic border collie while living in one room in Los Angeles with, of course, no yard. But, as DutchBorderFan said, it took dedication on my part to make it work. All of my free time was spent doing things with my dog and the first thing in the morning and first thing when I get home hour long walks took precedence over everything else, even my own well being. Rain, dark, sick with the flu, too bad....time to walk the dog for an hour and spend a half hour throwing something for him to fetch. It's the choice I made, and I never regretted it. You just have to know yourself well enough to know if you are ready for the commitment.

 

To be honest, is a way it was better for my dog than where I live now, because living in the country and having a large fenced in yard can allow me to be lazy about taking the dogs out for hikes. Living in the city I had no choice. Don't misunderstand me: I would never go back. But my point is that you simply need to know what it takes, and that you are willing to do what it takes, wherever you live, and whatever breed of dog you get.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be honest, is a way it was better for my dog than where I live now, because living in the country and having a large fenced in yard can allow me to be lazy about taking the dogs out for hikes. Living in the city I had no choice. Don't misunderstand me: I would never go back. But my point is that you simply need to know what it takes, and that you are willing to do what it takes, wherever you live, and whatever breed of dog you get.

 

Yes! exactly this. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I farm now but when I lived in suburbia with high drive working dogs, Cattle dogs and Border collie I spent a lot of my free time with my dogs. Rain, hail or shine I was up crack of dawn before work and sometimes walking dogs late at night. Weekend activities always included the dogs. The commitment level was high maintenance but my dogs repaid in spades. Same as other people have mentioned. Even on my farm when there is not a lot of sheep work or I am working I walk the dogs twice a day. They always chill out when I am not doing anything. I have a young dog currently and I often take her for extra moonlight walks if it has been too hot in the day and I also do conditioning and training work inside with her every evening. I also have puzzle balls, snuffle mat, bones etc that I leave with her if I have to pen her for any length of time. It can work and will possibly depend on the dog but all mine have been active and needed to be involved in my life to be happy.

 

I have fostered the occasional working breed that has been handed in for behavioural problems and it has generally stemmed from complete lack of understanding of the dogs needs by the previous owner. I myself have dogs from rescue that were completely out of control and they have turned out to be terrific dogs. They just needed a home that understood their needs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...