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Border Collies in college, Border Collies in cities

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Hello! I'm a third year at a university in the SF Bay Area and really want to get a Border Collie. I'm experienced with working dogs - I competed and titled my family dog, an Aussie mix, in high school in agility and trained 8 GSDs and Malinois in schutzhund. I've fostered for my local BC rescue and GSD rescue.


I live in an apartment with roommates who like dogs but aren't super knowledgable about them. They just adopted a 1 year old BC - looks purebred to me but is very quiet luckily. She is still a BC though and they were completely unprepared for her - she is a car chaser, reactive on leash, and has separation anxiety. I worked through these issues with her and she's now a great little frisbee dog, but after I move out and stop running and hiking with her and training with her I'm not sure what will happen.


Training my roommates dog has convinced me that having a BC in college would a great thing for my mental health and happiness. I keep telling myself I should wait to get a BC until a few years after college when things are more stable, but it just feels like that's just postponing my own happiness. I miss dog sports, and I'm really interested in Search and Rescue, although the time commitment is pretty extreme. I've talked to 2 different people about pups - one is Cheryl Williams who I know is spoken of highly here - and the decision is really mine at this point. The thing is, I'm considering moving to London or NYC for a year after I graduate. I would absolutely bring the dog and still do the same sports and training etc, but I don't have a lot of experience with having a BC in an urban environment.


I would love any advice on having a working BC in college and/or having one in a big city.

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Might have a hard time getting a dog to the UK due to immigration constraints, quarantine, and associated costs, which run very high from what I have heard. Also very hard to find an affordable place to live in NYC that allows a dog, unless of course you have lots of money and money is no issue to you.


As far as having a border collie in an urban environment, the only thing that is really important there is how much time you can dedicate to the dog and how dedicated you are to using that time to provide the dog with what he or she needs. It can be done; I know because I have done it. But it does require intense dedication to the dog and a desire to spend a great deal of your time off doing dog things. If you have already done all those things you mention with dogs and want to continue to do those things, or at least whatever version you can manage in an urban environment, then you will do fine in my opinion.


When I did it (young very intense and active BC in Los Angeles living in one room, no yard), the greatest challenge was finding open grassy space where I could get away with throwing a frisbee for the dog. I would get kicked out of one place and have to find another, was risking getting fined, and so on. It was also imperative both for me and for the dog to get clean out of the city and into nature for off-leash hikes at least once a week, which required planning and good timing because of traffic, but was well worth it.

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I got my pup in second year uni, 2.5 years ago now. I can already tell it was the hard decision. I wouldn't say that I regret it or that I didn't think it through enough, but rather that it's impossible to predict your future and doubly so when you're young. It makes almost every life decision more complicated and limits your avenues a little bit or a lot. Finding dog friendly housing can be a bitch, especially if you're not sure where you might be moving to in the next few years. I ended up switching cities because it was so impossible to find housing in the one I was in.

Do you want to travel the world, go on vacations? Road trips? Would your family or a friend be willing to take the dog for a few months if absolutely necessary? What if the dog gets carsick? Is there any possibility you might end up with a significant other who's allergic to dogs? You can't ever decide to spend the night at someone else's place on a whim with a dog. You can't start that yoga class right after work every day. When he's a puppy there's no telling how many important things he might accidentally destroy.

You have to have back-up plans, and you have to be willing to make sacrifices - with money, with time, with living conditions, with things you want to do. Your room-mates or significant others have to make a lot of those same sacrifices with you. And, unfortunately, your dog might get the short end of the stick despite your best efforts too. You can't promise him that there won't be periods where you just don't have enough time to give him, or where you're so exhausted or depressed or overwhelmed by other things that it's all you can do to sit in the living room and throw a ball for him, or cuddle up with him at the end of the night. There could be times where he's alone 10 hours a day 5 days a week and there's nothing you can do about it. You can't promise you'll always have the money to buy him good food or new toys or hire someone to come walk him every day. He won't necessarily always get the socialization sessions or agility classes or the herding lessons that he'd love.

The problem with being at this point in our lives is either you don't have a lot of concrete plans or you have plans that very likely could change. Everything is up in the air, your life is already a bit of a question mark coming out of uni and mixing that with another big question mark that is a dog is hard.

So that's my warning. And it comes from experience. Part of me thinks getting a dog this early was really stupid. There have been months where he's put me through hell and months where I've only given him a fraction of what he needs. But having someone there with you to go through it all with is huge. I never feel alone anymore. After I broke up with my long term boyfriend I barely talked to anyone for 5 months. The only thing that got me through it was my dog. When I was in the middle of OCD, paranoia, anxiety, terrified of being alone at home I felt okay because Aed was there with me and I felt safe with him. He gets me out doing things, he gives me goals and makes me excited and makes me happy. He's a good dog and I love him. I don't know how my life would have been without him these past couple of years. It's impossible to say if it's worth the sacrifices or if it would be for you.

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Just a thought, as I'm in agreement with the others. You're in a time of life when you don't know what will happen next, and want to leave doors open to travel, or cram yourself into a tiny downtown apartment, or work all hours or party all night or both, etc. etc. etc.

You have amazing training background and experience. Why not 'borrow' dogs for awhile (which is what you have done so far). See if there are canine outreach folks you can hook up, and offer to help out with training programs for folks who can't afford proper dog training, or help out at rescue (a gsd rescue would love your experience), be a neighbourhood dog walker and pick up some cash, or do it for free for a housebound senior or a friend.

Not to mention, your roommates border collie may well end up needing a good home, and that could be you in a pinch.

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All great replies above. And I agree whole-heartedly with them.


I am on the side of wait and see what the next few years bring. Think of a dog as a kid. Some people have, or make, a lifestyle that accommodates kids at an early age. They 'settle down'. Others want to travel, change jobs, and/or be more flexible with their future plans. To me, you sound like the second type - and there is nothing wrong with that. But is it fair to involve a dependent dog for YOUR "mental health and happiness", as you stated in your post? What about the mental health and happiness of a dog?


I agree with offering your services to help walk, train, or foster dogs when your lifestyle permits. There are so many great opportunities out there now, as compared to when I was at your stage 40 years ago. (I am so ancient.) We were so limited 'back in the day'.

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I can relate to this. I also live in a city, and thought about getting myself a border collie every week when I was in college, with the exact same reasoning: I don't want to put it off, I want this in my life, and my life is now.


While generally speaking a great philosophy, I'm so so happy I ended up waiting until after college.


Why? Because even now, with my really flexible work hours, my work from home situation and no intentions of moving to the UK for a year: it was a hell of a job raising a border collie in the city and keep her happy. And I had a boyfriend helping me out as well if I needed to go to some unplanned meeting all of a sudden.


I couldn't have done it in college. It would have been a huge time consuming and life altering thing that I would not have been able to cope with. And I wouldn't have been able to pay for it either: keeping a border collie in a city requires quite a budget.


The urban environment makes getting a border collie a bit more complicated: in my opinion it can definitely be done! But it requires even more time and effort!


From your story alone: you sound like a great border collie owner, a person that a border collie would thrive with. But maybe not right now? Not just for the dogs sake, but also for yours..

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