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Is a Border Collie right for me?


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Long time lurker, first time poster here. I was wondering if you could give me some friendly advice. My husband and I are planning for our next dog, and we've had our eye on Border Collies. We currently have a Smooth Collie; she is a wonderful companion and hiking partner - just an absolute dream of a dog, and we couldn't ask for a better friend and pet. However, for our next dog, we'd like a breed that has more drive, a bit more "oomph" and intensity, and more athleticism. Our Smooth Collie is a sweet, mellow weekend warrior with low-moderate energy and low drive.

 

I'm struggling with whether my husband and I would be a good fit for a Border Collie. I don't quite feel that I have "earned my stripes" for a BC just yet. While our Smooth Collie has her CGC, we haven't really worked beyond that despite my lofty dreams of getting her into agility or trying out herding with her. I would love to pursue trick training, agility, and herding with a future BC; however, the dog would be first and foremost a companion. I'm apprehensive about using our first BC to dabble in these sports without any prior experience with our current dog. I've heard so many stories about how it's easy to ruin a BC in that mistakes in training are not easily forgiven, and I'm concerned that our inexperience with dog sports will be a disservice to a BC. That said, I do think having a BC with which to dabble would be great fun! Am I wrong?

 

A little about us and what we can reasonably provide our future dog: We work full time and have two cats and the aforementioned Smoothie. My husband is a hardcore runner and would love to run long distances when our new dog is old and mature enough for that level of physical energy (our current dog loathes running, which saddens my husband). We would love to play fetch/frisbee with the future dog, and as I mentioned before, I would be very interested in pursuing trick training, agility, rally, OB, and/or herding with it. My current dog and I love off-leash hiking in the woods, so a solid recall and owner-orientedness is very important to me.We can provide up to 2 hours of exercise/training reliably every day, and more on the weekends. A good off-switch is an absolute must. We do plan on having a child, but hopefully at least a couple of years after we get our puppy.

 

I'm pretty sure that what I need to be looking at are working dog breeders; from my research, it appears that these lines have the steadiest temperaments and have good off-switches. Again, my main concern is that I am too novice in the Things I Have Done With My Current Dog department for a BC, but I would love to try those Things once we have one. The main thing stopping us now is that there are no facilities near us that offer classes outside of normal working hours, but once we're ready for our next dog, we will have moved to a location with many more resources for training. I'm also concerned that a working dog breeder will not sell a puppy to a home with no working experience or concrete working plans.

 

Am I overthinking things? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Novice shmovice :)

Overthinking something like this is always good, but it sounds like you are a perfect home for a Border Collie.

 

Every Border Collie owner at one point started with their first Border Collie. That first one probably teaches you the most and requires you to become expert at handling dogs and training dogs. From what I read in your post, you're probably going to love doing that and won't mind spending lots of time on that. Perfect!

 

Dabbling in different sports, in my opinion, is necessary anyway to find out what your dog and you like best. You won't ruin your dog! A border collie thrives on doing things with its owners, so the more you 'dabble', the more you'll build your relationship with your dog.

 

And yes, my opinion is also that it's best to get one from a working line. Character over looks!

 

There will be few breeders that will decline you. Find a reputable breeder: visit a few before you decide, and do some proper research on the parent dogs. Tell him or her the same story, and make sure that the breeder helps you pick a puppy based on character match.

 

Ask as many questions as necessary when preparing, lots of great experienced people here that love to type.

 

And have fun!

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I'm a first time BC owner, and I did not think much at all when I got Spillo!

I also had zero formal training experience, even if I always had a dog in the family. but it was trained using common sense...

so I started from scratch and I raised him on my own. we surely had ups and downs and I had to learn a lot about BC temperament, but today I can say he is a great dog, very sweet and well behaved. not perfect of course, but perfection is boring :D

I'm also a runner and he is primarily my running partner, he is always ready to go and I'm sure your husband will love to run with a BC.

Spillo comes from sport line, at least from his father side, which is an agility great champion; however every activity we do, including herding, we do it for fun and for learning something new, but without too much expectations.

you have already a very good plan and I honestly think you would do great!

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Well my first dog ever was a high drive working bred ACD and I had lots of youthful energy so I did just fine. As to dog sport and herding, when I started I had zero experience with those sorts of activities. I never expected things go perfectly and still don't. As long as you are having fun with your dog!. I am still very novice with herding but I live on a farm and my dogs work well for me. Trials would likely be another matter lol. Agility, well my BC and I just go out there and have fun. Sometimes we do really well more than often we don't but who cares really. I am sure in the hands of an experienced agility person with all the resources my boy could have been a star. But he has me and we have fun. As to mistakes in training, yeah been there and sometimes I have had to go back with certain obstacles or foundations and start from scratch. Border collies are always keen to learn and as long as you have put some foundation down and have a good respectful relationship with your dog it is fine.

 

The thing with dog sports is not to get too hung up on it all, things go wrong, things can be retrained and in the end it is about having fun. People can get very intense about this stuff. I don't and I don't pay heed to anyone who might make mean comments, which can put some novice handlers off. There are also plenty of supportive people. There is always a ton to learn but never lose the joy of just having fun with your companion.

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Thank you all! I've officially gotten the OK from my husband to start our search. However, this is pretty late in the game, since we'll ideally want a puppy by mid-July. I don't have my expectations set too high since I'm sure many litters are already be spoken for at this point, but I'm going to give it a shot. I wanted to visit some trials to get a sense of the breeders in the area, but it doesn't look like there will be any USBCHA events in our neck of the woods for months. Anyone have any suggestions?

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Some bloodlines are better at settling that others. No matter what line you get, you still need to teach a pup to be calm in the house.

 

Some Border Collies will never want to live with kids just like some adult humans never want them. It's not something you can predict in a pup, though your odds are better if many dogs from that same bloodline are good with them. Correct socialization around children from an early age would be important. Correct socialization would be 1) NEVER forcing an interaction and 2) always making sure the interactions are positive.

 

Mental exercise is far more critical than physical for this breed. If you have 2 hours a day to devote to a Border Collie, that is enough time. It's best though that you split it to before work and after work sessions. Make sure it's not just running, but also involves training, mind games and challenges. Border Collies thrive on this. It's also important that the dog truly be a part of your family. They crave being with their owners more than anything and can't stand to be left outside along all the time.

 

You would be surprised how many good working litters have pups available. Generally this happens because people have unexpected life events, so can't take a pup, or they signed up for a pup from the litter and the bitch went into heat later or earlier than expected, so the timing was wrong, or the person only wanted a female and there are only males to choose from. If you can be flexible on timing, coat length, sex, color, markings, etc, you can generally snag yourself a fabulous puppy.

 

Sign up for agility, obedience, etc with your current dog. If you don't love the sports for what they are, you won't follow through just because you have a Border Collie. You can also learn a lot about what foundation training you need to start with a pup by trying to train an adult pet dog. She will help reveal places where you as an owner need to improve your techniques.

 

Finally, think carefully before adding a Border Collie. It's not the exercise requirement that truly sets them apart, it's their minds. They are fabulously weird, eccentric geniuses. You have to be ok living with and working around their quirks. If you just want a nice, easy, adaptable family pet you are better off with another Collie.

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You will probably do fine, from what you have said. Everyone is a first-time owner the first time. :-)

 

I want, however, to put in a big plug for getting a dog from a rescue. The best part about doing that (apart from giving a home to a dog who really needs a home) is that you will know something about the dog's personality ahead of time. The dog will have lived with a foster home for a few weeks to a few months, and the foster people can tell you what you are getting into. Getting a puppy is basically a crap shoot, even from a good breeder. You will get a well bred dog, but the personality might not suit you as a first time border collie owner. It's safer to get a dog who is a year or 2 old, and about whom you know something. Just sayin'. (and, I am a big rescue proponent, so forgive me for getting on a soap box)

 

Rescues often get in young dogs, so if you really want the puppy experience you can often find that as well.

 

And allow me also to recommend to you that you stick around on these forums, because there does not exist anywhere a better place to get advice, referrals, and support for all things border collie.

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Whereabouts are you located? I know of a litter of working-bred Border Collies, just born this week, and not all are spoken for.

 

We're currently in Connecticut, but we by the time we are ready for a puppy (July of 2017), we will have moved to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately March or April would be a bit too early for us!

 

Some bloodlines are better at settling that others. No matter what line you get, you still need to teach a pup to be calm in the house.

 

Some Border Collies will never want to live with kids just like some adult humans never want them. It's not something you can predict in a pup, though your odds are better if many dogs from that same bloodline are good with them. Correct socialization around children from an early age would be important. Correct socialization would be 1) NEVER forcing an interaction and 2) always making sure the interactions are positive.

 

Mental exercise is far more critical than physical for this breed. If you have 2 hours a day to devote to a Border Collie, that is enough time. It's best though that you split it to before work and after work sessions. Make sure it's not just running, but also involves training, mind games and challenges. Border Collies thrive on this. It's also important that the dog truly be a part of your family. They crave being with their owners more than anything and can't stand to be left outside along all the time......

 

Thank you so much for your insight. Those are all valid points. After all, it's very common for BCs to get dumped at shelters because new owners find they are in way over their heads. I'm definitely not planning on keeping the dog outside all the time (our current dog is an indoor-only dog since we currently don't have a yard), and mental exercise is a high priority for us. My current dog and I are learning Rally foundations on our own, which is great fun. We've gone through a couple of Fenzi courses together and are now beginning to learn Nosework. I'm dying to enroll her in in-person class, especially for agility, but to my frustration, all classes within an hour's drive are during the work week, during work hours (Thursday from 1-2 PM? Really?!). The city we're moving to has many more dog training resources and times available, which I'm very excited about. I agree that another Collie would be a safe, easy choice - we have considered another one since our current dog is so great. But she is quite low-drive and lower energy than we'd prefer. I realize that we don't need to go full-ham with a BC in order to get more drive and energy, but I think we are up to the challenge.

 

You will probably do fine, from what you have said. Everyone is a first-time owner the first time. :-)

 

I want, however, to put in a big plug for getting a dog from a rescue. The best part about doing that (apart from giving a home to a dog who really needs a home) is that you will know something about the dog's personality ahead of time. The dog will have lived with a foster home for a few weeks to a few months, and the foster people can tell you what you are getting into. Getting a puppy is basically a crap shoot, even from a good breeder. You will get a well bred dog, but the personality might not suit you as a first time border collie owner. It's safer to get a dog who is a year or 2 old, and about whom you know something. Just sayin'. (and, I am a big rescue proponent, so forgive me for getting on a soap box)

 

Your soap box is completely valid. We got our current Smooth Collie as an adult for all the reasons you mentioned, and we have reaped its benefits countless times. I have to admit that I'm currently struggling with whether we should get an adult or puppy. I'm ready for a puppy this time around, but there are so many adults in rescue that need homes (I actually have had the Glen Highland Farm application open on my computer, staring me in the face, for a few days now). To be honest, my primary concern is for my cats. We've fostered a few times in the past, and even with tested, "cat-safe" dogs, we've had bad experiences. Getting a puppy my cats can boss around would help tremendously with that.

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Not sure where you are located but Glen Highland Farm recently took in a litter of puppies. Plus other puppies are available as well if you are set on a pup and not a dog.

http://www.glenhighlandfarm.com/ghfdogs.htm

 

You can also look at handlerspost.com

 

Hah, I've actually had the GHF adoption application open on my computer for the last few days now. I'm definitely considering it...

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Border Collies have a wide range of energy levels and "drive". If not used to it, having a dog at the upper level of the drive spectrum can be very intimidating and can lead to frustration for the dog and owner. Depending on how the litter was bred, even a dog at the bottom of the drive range of that litter can be too much. If this is your first agility dog, I think that it would be a big mistake to acquire a very fast, high drive dog at this time. A lot of the crappy behavior that one sees in the agility ring (spinning, biting, screaming) is because the handler is "overmounted" and the dog is frustrated.

 

I'm not saying that you should not get a Border Collie--you just need to be aware that within the breed there is a wide range of "drive" and that one person's high drive dog may be another person's slug. This is just something to be aware of when speaking with breeders and owners.

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Border Collies have a wide range of energy levels and "drive". If not used to it, having a dog at the upper level of the drive spectrum can be very intimidating and can lead to frustration for the dog and owner. Depending on how the litter was bred, even a dog at the bottom of the drive range of that litter can be too much. If this is your first agility dog, I think that it would be a big mistake to acquire a very fast, high drive dog at this time. A lot of the crappy behavior that one sees in the agility ring (spinning, biting, screaming) is because the handler is "overmounted" and the dog is frustrated.

 

I'm not saying that you should not get a Border Collie--you just need to be aware that within the breed there is a wide range of "drive" and that one person's high drive dog may be another person's slug. This is just something to be aware of when speaking with breeders and owners.

Gotcha, thank you! That makes a lot of sense. I am definitely not looking for a high-drive BC - moderate drive would be OK for me.

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Gotcha, thank you! That makes a lot of sense. I am definitely not looking for a high-drive BC - moderate drive would be OK for me.

 

This is exactly why I recommended you choose a breeder that helps you pick a puppy based on character. Experienced breeders aren't fortune tellers, but they usually can distinguish the crazy driven ones from the more laid back ones in the litter :)

 

even in one litter there can be such a huge variety..

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Hah, I've actually had the GHF adoption application open on my computer for the last few days now. I'm definitely considering it...

I would fill it out now even though you are moving. Have it on file with them so they are aware that you are a serious adopter. Then when a dog or puppy comes in that you are interested in, you are already pre-approved.

 

A cat should never have to boss a puppy around. As someone with two border collies and two cats, I feel the dogs should never bother the cats to the point that they are stressed.

 

The one dog came to us as an adult and was scared of the cats at first. The other came in as a 10 week puppy and it was probably a full year before she could be left alone with the cats. She always loved them, was gentle with them, and one is her playmate (they bat each other around) but... she was also a puppy and that in itself means that she could be rude, in their face and want to chase them longer than they wanted to be chased/played with. It is definitely easier to bring in an adult dog that is already known to be okay with cats vs. a friendly pup that is going to want to play with the cats, even if gentle and polite.

 

GHF does cat test their dogs but it is still up to the individual cats in your home to get along with the puppy. Each cat, like each dog, is not the same. My cats are quite confident and sleep on the bed with the dogs. If I had more nervous, shy cats, they would probably hate and be stressed out by my young dog. Any young pup coming into a home with cats is most likely going to need some management by the humans until they really mature and settle in to the household. Just something to think about.

 

Also, my young one was the shyest and most docile when I picked her up. Her littermates all came up to us on their own and she had to be picked up to meet us. Well, fast forward and she is annoyingly outgoing with anyone and everyone, especially total strangers. Our biggest focus on training as a puppy and into adulthood was being calm greeting strangers when out on a leash and at the door in the house. She is fabulous now at almost 2 years old but it was a lot of work to get her to not go over threshold when meeting people. I never would have predicted that from the puppy we first met. Puppies are always a crap shoot in many ways.

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To be honest, my primary concern is for my cats. We've fostered a few times in the past, and even with tested, "cat-safe" dogs, we've had bad experiences. Getting a puppy my cats can boss around would help tremendously with that.

The thing about getting a dog from a rescue is that if the dog doesn't turn out to be good with the cats, you can return the dog, no problem, if you have made it clear that you need a dog who has lived with cats. Many foster homes have cats. I do, and so am able to tell people definitively if a foster dog is respectful or not.

 

What I would recommend, though, is to have the foster person bring the dog to your house, if they are able and willing to do so. That way you will see if the dog will be OK with the cats. Although some dogs will settle down with cats and be OK after a while, I always recommend not adopting any dog who is not good about the cats right from the first. I don't like stressing out the cats, and behavior problems can ensue in the cats if you do.

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My recommendation (if you want a working-bred puppy from someone who actually works their dogs - oh, and you do know to run as fast as you can from people who advertise "working LINES", yes?) - is to be somewhat flexible as to timing, as well as breeder's location. Obviously getting a puppy while you're in the process of moving is a recipe for disaster, but if mid-July is ideal, you should also be open to getting a puppy in August, September, October, and November (though a lot of sheepdog people in the mid-Atlantic will be gearing up for the 2017 National Sheepdog Finals in late Sept.-early October, which would mean they're less inclined to breed a litter that would be ready to sell the closer you get to the Finals).

 

Also you might want to be open to the notion of buying a pup from one of the top working breeders from out of state and having the puppy shipped. I know it's scary to buy a pup sight unseen (and parents unseen), but there actually are a *few* individuals who many of us would feel comfortable working with on that basis.

 

If you absolutely want to meet the parent(s)/breeder (sire may well not reside with breeder), then I assume you've checked the NEBCA calendar? http://www.nebca.net/trialschedule.html . You also might want to join the sheepdog-L listserv. That way you can find out about clinics that might be in your area. You might learn a lot (and make useful contacts) just by auditing a couple of clinics (without having to travel *too* far). (It also might help answer the question for you as to whether you want to pursue stockwork).

 

The NEBCA breeder's directory (http://www.nebca.net/breedersdirectory.html ) lists many breeders in your area. Don't expect they'll all have puppies available at any given moment. (Caveat emptor, do your research on everyone - asking for recommendations at trials or clinics is a good idea!). Carol Campion (not on this list) is also in Connecticut.

 

We're currently in Connecticut, but we by the time we are ready for a puppy (July of 2017), we will have moved to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately March or April would be a bit too early for us!

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Hi, fellow Nutmegger!

 

I adopted a year to year and a half old Border Collie at the end of September. My previous dog was a very, very chill Australian Shepherd/Beagle Mix.

 

My sense is that they range a lot in personality. Mine is very affectionate and has a GREAT off switch in the house, not at all the crazed Border Collie stereotype. But he does get bored alone at home when I'm at work and will be naughty, especially if there is any food on any counter he can reach.

 

My guy will go running, but will sometimes get too excited while running on leash and start leaping about in the air or wanting to play with sticks. (I don't run, but my g.f. does).

 

Mine does well with a moderate amount of exercise -- maybe 2 miles a day of walking -- and the rescue trained him wonderfully not to pull on the leash. He's up for more, of course, but doesn't seem to act worse if he doesn't get it..

 

I would be cautious about adopting a BC if you're planning on having little ones, though. My guy is much, much, much more reactive than the corgis I grew up with (and the first one we had wasn't great with little kids either, with herding nipping). When we spent a weekend with my g.f.'s friends, who have a 4 year old and a 6 year old, he was fearful of them at times and their running definitely triggered his herding instincts. When he's scared, he barks pretty vociferously.

 

Also, my guy isn't all that fond of other dogs, so that may be something to think about. But maybe if you get a puppy it would be less of an issue?

 

Mara

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This is my first post. A fellow Nutmegger as well. Newly out of work and have a deposit in for a Border Collie due to be born in Feb. Before Christmas we had to put our Jade down. She was our first Border Collie. Up until this time I always had Golden Retrievers. Both wonderful breeds. Now that I am not working 60 hour weeks and the Kids are basically grown, I can be real selfish with my time and a new partner. The feedback you get from a Border Collie is unreal. Its a better return than any stock investment you can make. Our first one included zero research. We saw an ad, went to the Farm and picked out a puppy our daughter, Emma, wanted. For a while we had two dogs. Fine with me. Wow, what a game changer. I really had to put my thinking cap on and figure out what was going on here. I'm hooked. Thinking hopefully of agility training along with great walks by the lake and woods surrounding our home. Not to mention frisbee.

 

If you are on this web site considering getting a Border Collie, seeking assurrances that this is the right move. Sounds like you've already made up your minds. It's not always smooth sailing but the rewards last a life time. Good luck on your quest.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Food for thought...

"Border Collies are extremely intelligent and active dogs. Intelligence and hyperactivity are not characteristics that most people are capable of handling. Border Collies need constant attention and if they are not true working dogs, they need to be given "chores" and "tasks" around the home to serve as outlets for their boundless energy. If no outlet is given, they will find one on their own (generally one not desirable). Being smart allows them to learn quickly, not only how to behave but also how to get into trouble. It is not easy to "fool" a Border Collie into doing or not doing something. You must always be one step ahead of them and sometimes it isn't so easy. The hyperactivity is also something you must think long and hard about. Some individuals are certainly calmer and less active than others but the breed as a whole, because of their breeding goals, is highly active. If you live in a small apartment or have no place to run the dog in wide open spaces, I think another breed of dog would be better suited for your circumstances. If you want a dog that lies around the house most of the time, is rarely noticed, and is generally unobtrusive, then a Border Collie is not for you. They demand (literally demand) lots of attention and lots of activity. If you do not have the time or energy to devote to the dog, then there are better choices."

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Dear Doggers,

 

Well, er: not entirely true. I give similar (not entirely true) warnings but less frequently because the "fact" that the Border Collie is a difficult pet is happily embedded in the culture.

 

That's fine by me. If the prospective owner is too lazy to check things out for themselves they probably shouldn't have any dog much less such a trainable athletic dog.

 

My lamented friend Margot Woods liked to say, "Border Collies are 'incident critical" . You make a training mistake and before you can undo it your Border Collie will have repeated the move three times and got it into muscle memory.

 

Donald McCaig

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>>> fabulously weird, eccentric geniuses<<< Liz P, thanks so much for this!

 

I'm on my 4th bc. I had a blue heeler years ago that a friend found on the side of the road, so Gibbs is also my 5th herding breed.

 

They've all had their own personalities, but the quick learning, the lazer focus and intensity, the need/drive for being part of a team with a human - each dog has had those characteristics. And they all had their own quirks, too.

 

Thanks to all who've participated in this thread!

 

Ruth and Gibbs

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