Jump to content
BC Boards

Suitable environment for BC?


Recommended Posts

Hi everyone!


I'm new to this forum and am currently a prospective BC owner. I've always loved BCs and have wanted to own one, but previous working/living conditions haven't made it feasible. Recently my situation has changed a bit, but I'd still like to get some feedback from you guys on whether or not my current situation would make for a happy BC.


1. Living environment: high-rise apartment, approximately 1400 square feet, in a tropical country (winter lowest temp approx. 10 degrees Celsius [50F], summer high approx. 38 degrees Celsius [100F], relatively humid)


2. Currently in-between jobs and making a career transition, so will have more time to spend with the puppy during his/her first few months for frequent potty breaks, training, etc.


3. Even after starting my next job, I expect to be able to take the dog out morning & evening for exercise (ranging from 30 min to 90 minutes each time), and also come back during noon for 30-45 minutes. My goal is to at least minimize the "continuous duration of time" that I am not at home (where the dog is alone) to no more than 4-5 hours maximum. Hiring a dog walker during the day is also a possibility.


Is this enough physical exercise & socialization time?


4. In the evening in addition to exercise I should be able to spend at least 1 hour or more on mental exercise/tricks/training/etc., and of course, whatever else I'm doing will be in the dog's company as well.


Is this enough mental exercise time?


5. I should be able to set up a crate/xpen in one of the spare rooms of my apartment. The apartment has a wooden floor but I'll probably put some plastic/foam-based material on top of the wood in that particular room to avoid scratches. I prefer to start with just the crate to get the dog more quickly adjusted to going to the bathroom outside of the house, but the reason I'm considering the xpen is because if I'm at work, the xpen will give the dog more space to move around. (though I am a bit concerned that BCs are too smart and will find a way to escape or jump out) If I set up a pen I'll probably also find some heavy weights to secure it in place.


6. This will be my first dog - I've done research about the breed, watched many mental training videos/guides, etc. But at the end of the day, what are the key things that a first-time BC owner should pay attention to most?


7. Many of the videos I've watched teach how to use positive reinforcement and breaking down desired actions into small steps with clicking/rewarding, etc. But as a puppy, there will surely be times when they do something that you don't like, and want them to stop. Before you are able to properly teach them the cue for stopping (or letting go/leaving it), what's the best & recommended way to stop a puppy from doing what he/she is currently doing?


8. (slightly off topic) I've seen some videos of BCs being able to use the toilet (and flush it). Is this possible for both male and female dogs? :P


Thanks for reading and look forward to your advice! :)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I... think my biggest red flag here is actually 'high rise apartment'. It isn't because of space or lack thereof - your apartment is the size of my house, or nearly so. I have a friend in something 1/3 that size with 3 herding dogs and a large hound - but that house is on a FARM. It's that BC can very often be very sensitive to noise, motion, and sometimes other dogs and people. Leading to a lot of hysterical barking, overstimulation, and discomfort on the part of the dog.

Reading things will tell you they're smart and active, but they won't tell you that they're also often reactive (in that lunge/growl/bark way.) There's also a potential issue with the fact that many, many, BC are very selective in who their dog friends are, and very intolerant of those who they decide they don't like. That could make exercising a dog in a city environment a nightmare. They're just not dog park dogs, and there are often tight quarters where you have to pass other dogs/be around them.

And my other concern, actually, since I'm here, is that BC are highly intelligent, but that does not mean really easy to train for someone who has no dog training experience. It means they LEARN quickly. Any mistake you make in training the dog will be magnified by the intensity of border collie. I can think of dozens of examples where simply being a little off in timing a reward has led to highly UNdesirable behavior becoming ingrained and taking weeks to undo. Highly intelligent does not mean 'highly obedient' all the time, either. In fact it can mean 'I think I know better than you, and I'm doing that'. Combine that with high emotional sensitivity and you've got a situation that takes some... delicacy and skills to handle.

None of this means don't get a BC/you shouldn't have one. I'm just saying you really, really, need to be aware. And I'd actually advise having professional help on hand from day ONE.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi CptJack - thanks for the feedback!


To clarify, in my apartment there are only 2 units on each floor, and the unit on the same floor as mine rarely has anyone in it (the owner of that unit is an airline pilot based in a different country and is only occasionally here). This should make it a bit better in terms of noise & motion I'm thinking?


Also regarding "noise, motion, and sometimes other dogs and people" - is this something that can be mitigated by more socialization and outside playtime when the BC is young? (to get them used to all these noises of being in a city environment) Or is it generally not suggested to raise a BC in a city environment?


As for being a first-time dog owner, I think you've made some good points. Actually I've "partially" raised a Shiba Inu before together with my previous roommate, from when the puppy was 8 weeks old. But I'm not sure if that experience will help me much with a border collie, given the different personalities and temperaments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re: can a bc be raised successfully in a city environment? It all really depends on the individual dog. Some bc are more sensitive to that type of stimulation, others less. Some bc are naturally outgoing w/people, some are less.


BC can be quirky, as well. Some would do well riding in elevators, for example. If I were you, I'd contact a couple rescues and see about getting a dog at least a year old, whose personality is more obvious.


You don't say where you're located, if you mention a general area, perhaps someone here would know of a good rescue in your area.


Ruth & Gibbs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It does depend on the individual dog, as Ruth said. What it does NOT depend entirely upon is socialization. A lot of these 'sensitivities' and inclinations toward reactivity are just part of the dog's wiring. The bottom line is, when you get into dealing with a dog who is highly attuned to notice everything about it's environment and respond to it, reactivity as at least a potential (to sound, to motion, to other dogs, to people, to just weird things) become possible. When that is genetically in place, no amount of socialization in the world will make the dog effectively ignore it - it being motion, sounds, dogs, people, and generally the busy environment a city is.

That is not to say all BC are like this - I'm not saying that at all, and it's not true - but the best bet of avoiding it is NOT to get a puppy and think you're going to use socialization to expose the dog and have no issues. Your best bet is a known dog who is fine. And barring that, if you must have a young puppy, to really, deeply, talk with breeders about their dogs and what they produce.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It does depend on the individual dog, as Ruth said. What it does NOT depend entirely upon is socialization. A lot of these 'sensitivities' and inclinations toward reactivity are just part of the dog's wiring.


This. And socialization and early temperament are also not guarantees that the dog will be well rounded as an adult. I've now had 2 dogs who were both well socialized and seemed to be pretty bomb proof as puppies and/or young adolescents. One became very reactive (and aggressive) at about 9 months old. The other became fear reactive with other dogs at about 14 months old. There was nothing in their early experiences or personalities to predict this.


So I'm also going to recommend looking for an older dog to start out with. By at least 18 months, you should have a pretty good idea what their temperament is.


And something else no one's mentioned yet is that some border collies don't do well in hot climates. My current older dog is miserable on really hot (say roughly 30 C) days in summer here, where it's also humid but probably not as humid as in your tropical climate. And he's noticeably miserable when we visit nursing homes where older people tend to keep their rooms very warm. Smooth coated dogs often tend to do better in hot climates, which is why the smoothies are more popular on farms in Australia (and why kelpies were developed to handle the climate) the southern and western US.


Best of luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

agreed. You don't really know what you've got before maturity.


And Thinking more about it, even the most stable adult dogs: a-) have gone through some weird stages that would easily be made worse by being flooded - intentionally or simply because they can't escape what they're having issue with (ala living in a city) and b-) are actually not all that social with non-household dogs and people.


There's also the possibility of a really negative experience during a fear period because of relatively high density living making it impossible to really control the dog's experiences. Especially if you think you're going to use leash walking on public streets and dog parks for most of the dog's exercise. This is true with any dogs, but BC can really take 'single event learning' (where something happens ONCE and it's a problem FOREVER) to the next level.


Just overall... I don't think BC need a farm, certainly not all of them do, but BC puppy and a really urban environment? I have concerns. A BC puppy and an urban environment and someone inexperienced with how 'high intelligence' and 'high drive' and assorted other BC traits play together and what they really MEAN in practice? ...I wouldn't!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll chime in with my first thoughts...you're making your life more difficult than it needs to be. I think the odds are stacked against you but certainly can be a success story since I don't know you personally or your situation. But from what you have written, I think you would be better set up for success by finding an individual adult dog through rescue who fits the lifestyle you have to offer. It's a selfless thing to think about, "what can I offer a dog" instead of I want this particular dog/breed and how can I make them fit into what I can offer.


Lots of people successfully live with border collies in city settings but as someone who has zero dog owning, training, handling experience on top of no border collie experience who lives in a city apartment...just sounds like an uphill battle for both you and the dog. The best thing to do is find an adult dog who can thrive in the environment you have to offer (whether that is a border collie or another breed/mix).


One thing that also jumped out, is that 1 hour a night of trick training is not realistic. As a young pup you are lucky to get several 2-3 minute sessions in per day. Even with an adult dog, we do maybe 10-15 minutes of advanced trick training at a time. My dogs will quit on me after a certain point or get frustrated (even if they are getting click/treat for each behavior) as the repetition gets to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I never like to tell people they can't have a certain type of dog, and I think if your heart is completely set on a border collie you could figure out a way to make it work. But, if you have reservations, there are other breeds in the herding family that would be a bit more adaptable and probably make your life a lot easier.


I live in the suburbs with a BC/ACD mix who isn't really dog-aggressive but is also not social enough to enjoy a dog park unless it's nearly empty. It comes with some challenges but we've figured out our groove. For us, that involves frequent runs, hikes on local trails about once a week, weekly agility class, and bringing her just about everywhere we go (including work because I'm ridiculously lucky). We do some trick training but honestly, I think talking to her and including her in what we do is more important. I've also become a connoisseur of all the local dog parks, know when the regulars go, know when the dogs my dog hates are usually there, etc. so that she does get some opportunity to safely run loose.


Most of the concerns I have for you have already been outlined, but I'll re-emphasize the ones that hit me hardest when I read your post:


-What's your normal activity level like? How's your social life? What do you do most Saturdays? Are you someone who gets out of the city once the work week is over to hike, or do you tend towards more of a movies/shopping/bars routine? Are you interested in getting involved in dog sports?


-Do you have a good "walking route" for your prospective dog? A walk that has spaces she can sniff, a bit of grass, not-too-heavy traffic, and that feels safe for you to walk early in the morning or late at night?


-How much local green space is there? Are you within walking distance of a park, or a baseball diamond? It doesn't have to be a park especially for dogs.


-Do you have a plan for the heat? I run with my dog but anything over about 23 C makes me nervous, and it's generally not humid here. When it's over 30 C we limit walks. She's a fluffy black dog and just touching her when she's been out in the sun lets you know how much heat that fur can absorb. I'm assuming that if your summer highs are 38 and humid, it's regularly over 33 for days at a time. How are you going to handle that?


Finally, if you do decide to get a border collie, consider where you're getting one carefully. An adult rescue who's lived in either city or dense suburbs and is already well-socialized could be a really good fit for you. Getting a puppy is a bit of a mixed bag, because you'll be raising it in a very different environment than what they were bred for. Sometimes that works out just fine, but there are lots of examples in this thread of behavior that would be very hard to handle in an urban environment that only surfaced post-adolecense. Another option is to look at rescuing a mix--there are no guarantees, but a border collie x lab (or Golden, or generic mutt) will generally be mellower than a purebred.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have had good advice, especially from Cpt. Jack and Gentle Lake, and I fully second what they say. In your situation, getting a border collie puppy is, in my opinion, really asking for trouble.


If there is a border collie rescue in your area, contact them and ask them if they would approve you for a low-drive adult dog. that would be your best bet.


A puppy is always a gamble.....you don't know what you are getting. An inexperienced person who has not trained dogs before nor had a border collie will most often find him or her self overwhelmed with a border collie puppy, even if they have a more ideal situation in which to offer the puppy exercise. I think that you are doing well to consider this carefully, and ask people who are familiar with this breed, and personally I think the chances are too high that you'd get in over your head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All good advice so far, and I'd second (or fourth...) the idea of adopting an older dog. Fear periods come and go with puppies - and the age at which they hit can vary a lot.


If you do go with the x-pen idea (which is how all my pups start out living in the house!): get a scrap of linoleum. 6'x6' is ideal, 5'x5' would do. Get a cover. A wire cover. Get heavy clips to attach it to the pen. Get four cement blocks - that way, if pup--or older!--decides to push the pen to the edge of the lino and chew on that, he (or she) will have to be VERY strong.

And yes, this is the voice of experience speaking - 7 month old, 33-ish pounds, loves to chew (well past teething), and did it.

(Oh yeah, he climbed over a 3' x-pen when he was less than 4 months old!).


Another thing you'll want for any age left alone for awhile: a number of Kongs (I have five!), filled with good food, frozen. I am currently using cooked ground turkey and pumpkin, with some cream cheese sometimes as "glue." Keeps 'em busy!


Good luck, and of course, post pics here when you get said monster!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for the feedback!


In summary, seems like everyone's major concerns boils down to:

[a] the randomness of a BC puppy's sensitivity/temperament post-adolescence

inexperience with training a BC

[c] city environment that may give the BC even more negative stimuli or distractions

[d] climate


Replying to as many questions and prompts as possible below :)


1. Adult rescue - have thought about it, but as BCs aren't a very popular breed here (in Taiwan, not a big country with only 20M population), there are rarely any BC rescues around. The few breeders here have been breeding BCs for a relatively long time, and I've identified one which takes great care in terms of health, environment, genetic testing, etc. of the kennel. The kennel itself is also located in another city but slightly smaller and less dense in population than the one I am living in.


2. I live in a more residential neighborhood of the city, meaning that the sidewalks are quite large and there are multiple parks nearby. Also not as many people walking around as in the center of the city. The apartment complex itself also has a large open courtyard on the ground floor which takes a human being about 5-10 minutes to walk from end to end at a leisurely pace. This space could be a pretty good area for the dog to explore since the entire courtyard is gated with grass/plants/flowers.


3. The average summer temperature would be about 32C during the day, and is slightly cooler in the morning and evening when the sun is not at its peak. Still not an "ideal" temperature for many dogs, but I will generally use the early mornings and evenings to go out.


4. In terms of the potential randomness in the puppy's temperament post adolescence - I guess there is no solution for that and it'll be something I'll have to consider seriously, since there aren't really any adult rescues around. I have been considering other breeds such as the Shiba Inu, but the Shiba is also known to be a challenging breed to train (just in a different way from the BC). It does give me a bit more confidence that I've already spent several years with one from when he was a 2 month old puppy until adulthood, so I'm not completely unprepared.


5. If I had a dog I would definitely be able to incorporate him/her into my lifestyle. For example instead of going to the gym I would just go for a run outside, which I do on a daily basis already. On weekends I usually don't plan too many activities - just a combination of exercising, shopping, walking around outside/exploring, going out for meals, etc. In general, weekends I will also have more time with the dog to play/train or take him/her for hikes & other activities.


Of course at the end of the day I'll still need to have more in-depth discussions with the breeder, and also visit the parent BCs to see their temperament and how they are doing. If it turns out to really not be suitable to raise a BC, I could always go back to consider other breeds.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also regarding "noise, motion, and sometimes other dogs and people" - is this something that can be mitigated by more socialization and outside playtime when the BC is young? (to get them used to all these noises of being in a city environment) Or is it generally not suggested to raise a BC in a city environment?


As for being a first-time dog owner, I think you've made some good points. Actually I've "partially" raised a Shiba Inu before together with my previous roommate, from when the puppy was 8 weeks old. But I'm not sure if that experience will help me much with a border collie, given the different personalities and temperaments.



Hi there ~


Just wanted to add to the remarks about border collie temperament. I also have strong reservations about a border collie in a very urban environment, especially for a first-time BC owner. The simple fact is, border collies are all a little weird (genius and madness being close cousins!) and you just can't predict what strange quirks might be hard-wired into their brains. Some border collies can't stand being around non-herding breeds and react to them negatively. Some decide they are scared of the sound of bus air brakes, or freak out over passing motorcycles, or try to attack and chase passing bicycles and skateboards. Some may become scared of people in hats or men in sunglasses or ladies on orange rain coats - and there may not be any logical reason why.


They are bred to respond to the motion and movement of livestock, so being around cars and bikes, scooters or mopeds and other vehicles can totally overload their senses, too. There are a lot of posts on these boards where distraught owners came seeking help for just that sort of thing - young dogs who have become over-reactive to things commonly found in an urban environment.


As for negative responses to other breeds, again, it depends on the dog but it's not at all uncommon for border collies to be "breed snobs." Many of them just don't like non-herding breeds. They may take special offense to dogs who are very forward and in-your-face-friendly, or may be snappish with little yappy dogs. This behavior can be mitigated with training so they learn to focus on you and not strange dogs, but it would be something to keep in mind.


So, really, it boils down to taking a dog bred for a distinctly rural environment and shaping him for an urban city setting. It can be done, it has been done, but I'm not sure I would recommend it for a first-time down owner who is unfamiliar with the border collie breed, especially when you must get a puppy and not a rescue dog. All just food for thought, of course. :)


~ Gloria

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I need to address the 'difficulty of training a Shiba compared to a BC' again. Especially since I get the impression you thinking they're easy to train is a or the major reason you want one. I never, ever, tell someone they can't have the dog they want, but I fully believe in people actually getting what they want and actually being informed and here I'm not sure you are.

Shiba's are hard to motivate, independent, and not particularly biddable. They're primitive dogs and pretty cat like. The difficulties there are in convincing the dog that doing what you want them to do is worth their time. You are right in saying both that that is nothing at all like a border collie and that they are not the easiest breeds to train in the world.

Border Collies are highly intelligent and extremely biddable, but that does not make them easy to train! Easy to teach things to and picks them up quickly, but not easy to *train* (which is more than learning a new behavior). They are not. Even if we remove the (fairly high) possibility of you ending up with a dog with environmental issues with which you'll have to be able to handle and train (which is one of the hardest things to work on in the world and usually requires help of professionals even for very experienced dog trainers) lest the dog bite someone or another dog and end up euthanized, they are not easy to train. That's like saying a computer is easier to use than a calculator - or that having used a calculator means you're ready to program a computer. That isn't how it works.


When my BC was a puppy, she missed a tug toy and bit my finger. I yelled - not at her - just yelled because it hurt. It's been 3 years. She *still* won't go near a toy that looks like that one did. Because what she took away was not 'don't bite' it was 'I played with that, owner got mad. Got it, never again'. I didn't exactly work on that one, but it's definitely a thing that stuck.

When she was about a year old a smoke alarm went off in my kitchen. Took weeks of steady work to get her back in when anyone cooked. Because she immediately learned -with one experience - that the stove on = Horrifying loud sounds that she hated. She'd submissive grin, tail tuck and creep through the door when coaxed, then run and hide in her dog bed downstairs.


I once - ONCE- marked and rewarded her weave poles before she'd done the last two. My timing was just off (hey, she's fast). I don't even know how long it took before she stopped popping out early, but it was a long freaking while. A LONG while.

If she isn't doing what I asked her to do and therefore not getting positive feedback, she spins in circles, barks, and repeats the wrong behavior on loop with increasing levels of franticness. Over and over and over and over. This isn't cute. It's a problem. Because stopping that and getting her to do what I actually want is then almost impossible since-


ANY level of negative feedback when she's wrong and thinks she's right (or any situation that isn't work), even an annoyed look or just being frustrated in myself in a way she can sense? She's submissive grinning, tail tucked, very sorry and needs to have her feelings soothed before she'll work again. The combination of the last two? Means if I make mistakes in setting up a training session so she has success, my timing is off, I'm less than perfectly clear, and the training session is over. Heck, the training session is over, and either she's frustrated or she's a puddle of sad, either way it's done.


And not a single bit of that deals with the difficulty of dealing with a reactive, over-aroused, frustrated, or frightened dog because it's being put in an environment that is inherently counter what they were bred to do. But every single one of those things - soft, emotionally sensitive, learning from one error that something is scary or something is desired, low frustration tolerance - applies there, only ramped up by 'dog who is not in its head and screaming at everything'.


They're awesome. I love mine. She's the best dog I've owned in 30 years of owning dogs. She is wonderful and a lot of fun. She is also, hands down, the most *difficult* dog to train I've ever had, and that includes breeds like great pyrs, hounds, terriers, toy breeds and all kinds of mutts of various sorts.


If I wanted easy to train? Well, my sheltie/beagle/chi mix wins that one, but if I wanted it in a breed? I'd probably get a poodle - and I'm not being facetious. If I wanted to get easy to train and a herder? I'd get a sheltie (and be aware they are also prone to fear issues and being loud as heck). If I wanted to get easy to train and not likely to bark a ton and higher energy? Probably an english cocker. If I wanted easy to train, a short coat, and not inclined toward being loud as heck? A Rat Terrier.

I got a Border Collie for a lot of reasons, but not a single one of them had to do with being easy. Which is good because my god they are not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With all due respect (and I don't say that facetiously but honestly, because I have a ton of respect for what CptJack has done with Molly), I don't think the example above is representative of training most border collies. Molly's what I would consider a special case, a dog with pretty severe emotional and behavioral issues that are no fault of CptJack's, who has worked tirelessly to overcome and has done so with great success. I don't feel I'm giving away any secrets because CptJack's written about it here and elsewhere. Molly's reactions are not normal (or average) for border collies or any other kind of dog and have required not only intensive behavior modification but medication to achieve the remarkable success in getting her to the place she is today. Not average, not typical . . . by a long shot.


All the things CptJack says about their quick learning sometimes going awry is true. They can -- and do -- very easily and often learn things we never intended them to learn, sometimes to the detriment of both dog and human, that have to be actively unlearned with great effort.


And, yes, as she and others have already pointed out, there's the very real tendency for border collies to become painfully over-reactive in environments that overstimulate them; it's a side effect of the purpose for which they were bred and the unique characteristics that make them so good at what they were (and, ideally, are) bred to do.


The sad fact is that with their exploding popularity there are so many people who are no longer breeding the dogs carefully for their intended purpose . . . fueled by the demand of people who have no interest, really, in using them for what they were meant to do and keeping them in environments that can be problematic for even a well bred dog. But those especial sensitivities that have been mentioned, the ones that make them outstanding livestock dogs, are also the same things that make them sometimes unsuitable for other environments. And combined with what we here on these Boards consider poor breeding just exacerbates the problem. Shepherds in the Border Country needed to have good, steady dogs that they could depend on day after day after day. There's no way they'd be breeding or even keeping a reactive hot mess of a dog who'd fall apart at a correction in training. I can't tell you how many times when I was training my sheepdogs that I had to give a correction -- dogs need to learn when they're doing something wrong, or that they're too eager (and thus unsettling the sheep) or even just that what their inclinations are aren't getting the sheep where the handler needs them to go.


But people today treat their pet dogs differently and even many working dogs now are pet dogs too. And we think about them differently and aren't so willing to cull the problem dogs, and even if we are it's usually by passing them on to someone else instead of the way it used to be done. And greed has also played a part when some shepherds see a way to supplement their often meager livings by breeding more often and selling pups to anyone who'll pay the price, or people looking for sports dogs are willing to overlook manic behaviors in their own drive to win, or backyard breeders pair any two dogs just to make a buck or just because they love their dog and think it needs to reproduce (just saw an ad on Craigslist for someone looking for a female BC to breed their border collie mix to :rolleyes:). All of these things contribute the the rise (I believe) we're seeing in unstable temperaments.


But for every example of an unstable dog with emotional/behavioral issues someone else can give you an example of a very different dog. Ten years ago I adopted an approx. 1 1/2 year old border collie who'd been a stray. I've had and been around border collies for over 35 years, and while I don't have proof, I have no reason to believe he's not purebred. If he's not, he's like Molly, very, very close to being so. He came to me shut down and wary from his experience. Wasn't house trained and seemed to have had no training of any kind. He didn't know how to play with toys, people or even another dog; my older border collie mix taught him how to play with her. He regained his confidence and was very easy to train. Despite his poor beginnings, his temperament was sound, so much so that with a mere 6 months of socialization, confidence building and training, Bodhi became a therapy dog. He's bomb proof and has amazed me repeatedly over the last 9+ years of working at this with his demeanor, his aptitude and his willingness to do whatever I ask him to.


So, yeah. You need to know and be prepared for what can go wrong if you decide to get a border collie. If it is what you really want to do and want to get a pup, be very careful about where you get your pup from. It sounds like you're already considering the implications of which breeder to choose, which is a good thing. Also keep in mind that any breeders in Tiawan are probably breeding for different purposes than working livestock dogs. Sport- and show-bred border collies are already very different dogs than their working ancestors, so much so that show border collies have been shown to be a genetically distinct breed. So some of the cautions you've been getting may not apply to the same extent. Try to meet as many dogs from this breeder -- not just the ones in their kennel/home, but also ones they'd bred and sold to other people -- as possible. Make sure you like them and are comfortable that they're dogs you can live with. They're the most likely indicators of what the pup you get will be like.


Again, very best wishes on your journey.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nope, absolutely no secrets about Molly's temperament/emotional issues being atypical. The reactivity nonsense and degree of it with her are insane. I certainly don't feel disrespected! Kind of flattered, though, since she has been a lot of work and ending up with a normal dog is pretty wild.

I do feel the need to point out that not a thing up there mentioned her temperament or behavioral issues, or her reactivity. Not a single solitary one. The examples I gave and mentioned her are specific to her, yes, but they were attempts to give concrete examples of tendencies I see near constantly, to varying degrees, within the breed that encapsulate why highly intelligent and easy to train aren't the same. And, yes, that includes being soft, emotionally delicate outside of being highly into work, and having low frustration tolerances as well as single event learning.

If I wanted to give examples of Molly's temperament issue I'd start talking about stuff like her spooking and blowing up at lemon pound cake appearing on the counter and how THAT, rather than something truly aversive (smoke alarm) scared her off the kitchen for another 3 weeks, the time a magazine on the ground made her pee, or many, many, incidences of her blowing up at people/dogs.


I could also say that if she'd been raised in an urban environment without the capacity to escape her triggers for a while she'd have been euthanized, but that's not relevant because it's not normal. In degree, not existing at all.


She's got issues. She has some pretty major temperament issues. But I'm around enough BC to know what's within the range of normal and what's not. Not liking a lot of other dogs and being more difficult to train because of the speed of learning requiring good precision and clarity and timing, a low frustration tolerance, over arousal and being soft/sensitive to handler correction is WELL within that norm, you know?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, for the environment that you are describing, mkdlin, I would strongly recommend that you not get a border collie at all. They are not high-rise apartment dogs, no matter how you look at it, and considering that you are not an experienced dog trainer, or even owner, the chance of ending up with a lot of problems is very high.


I also agree with what was said above about border collies being biddable and eager to work with you but definitely not necessarily easy to train.


As a person who has trained a fair number of border collies in the past 17 years I would say that I personally love training a border collie over all other breeds. But that is only because I have some degree of understanding what it takes, and how very, very meticulous and careful I have to be in my timing of markers and rewards, my use of verbal cues or arrests, and the development of a fair bit of patience from working with multiple dogs in rescue, some of whom had very severe problems. This patience is for me as well as the dog, and I have now an understanding that I will probably mess up sometime, and then I have to go back and correct it, sometimes for weeks or even months, without getting angry or frustrated.


The last thing I would ever do is give a border collie puppy, or even an adult, to someone without dog and training experience. I have been called in to help with folks who got themselves in over their heads with a border collie puppy, and sometimes the result is heartbreaking. These folks had only the best intentions, never abused the dog on purpose, but their inexperience led to the creation of their worst nightmare rather than the dog they wanted, and the tendency is strong to blame the dog, because, as they often say, "that worked for my other dogs!".


I truly would recommend to you that you get a poodle, or a poodle mix. Miniature poodles are very nice dogs, for the most part. They are small, can easily be groomed (you can learn to do it yourself) so that they are easy-care. They don't shed. They have no problem living in high rise apartments and would be satisfied with the kind of exercise and parks you describe. They are very very easy to train, and are athletic and agile. I bet that there are some decent poodle breeders there. I think that you would end up much happier if you get one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for the additional suggestions and feedback. A lot of different & unique perspectives and experiences, and I'll need some time to digest all of that :P - but seems like the consensus is that the chance of success is relatively low and an alternate breed would be a better choice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wanted to chime in here about "suitability" for a Border Collie. We are completely unsuitable, by most standards. We live in a city/cities (we spend summers away), live in a hot climate with a rough coat (medium one, though), and after getting a puppy, I found out I was pregnant. Pivo is our first Border Collie.


We've made mistakes. We did not react quickly or efficiently enough to motorcycles, skateboards, etc. This is still an ongoing issue (a MUCH bigger deal in Spain where we live in summer). We are also dealing with MAD thunderphobia. Dealing with these issues when they arise has been more than challenging. I've read books, watched youtube videos, called his breeder. Knowing what I know now, I would be much better prepared to handle these issues in a different dog--but I know that every border collie is different and wired differently.


There have been wonderful surprises. He has never been anything but protective and loving of our son. They are really good buds. Pivo waits by the door for him to get home from school, and Pivo is a really good first baseman when needed to field a team of wiffle ball.


Lastly, Pivo was born on a farm and bred to work on a farm, but he is very much a city dog. He likes "his" bars (in Spain, he gets to go INSIDE of them and be told by Basque old men what a "txakurra ona" [Good dog] he is). We've trained him to pee in the sewer grates in Spain since our apartment is not super close to a green space. I'm sure he knows which neighbor lives in which apartment.


I'm not going to say it's easy. I'm replacing trim behind our bathroom toilet because of the thunderphobia and a little frustrated by it. But I didn't get a border collie for it to be easy nor did I get one because they are so smart. I got one because I wanted a true member of the family. We very much have that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't really visit these boards much anymore (perhaps some old timers will remember me) but this thread is driving me crazy.


I raised and lived with border collies in apartments and condos, including highrises, in dense urban areas, for most of my adult life. Fostered countless rescue border collies. Raised several rescue litters in said apartments. All of them were fine, well adjusted dogs. I live on a farm *now* but my border collies I've raised on the farm are no better and no less well adjusted dogs than the ones that were raised downtown in apartments. I've still got one of them left; she's nearly 15 and still truckin'. They grew up walking city streets and playing in dogs parks, and they were all FINE. They had lots of border collie and type dog friends who lived in the same environment they did. They were all fine too. And I did it all while working full time.


I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again now; in 19 years of rescuing border collies, I've never received a single dog from someone in apartment who said "this dog just can't handle the city living." They all came from suburban or rural homes. And there have been over 1,000 of them.


Once, many years ago, whilst running a border collie rescue, I got turned down for adoption by another border collie rescue that simply could not conceive of a border collie living in an urban apartment.


Go ahead and get a border collie if you want one. Just don't expect it to use the toilet. Doesn't matter how smart they are, that's just unrealistic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got my 2 year old border collie at a time when I lived in an apartment. I don't think that is the issue. The OP has said she has zero dog handling/owning/training experience and there is no option for an adult rescue. You are a very experienced dog owner so having a border collie in a city setting was not a big deal. Same for me, I had years of experience personally and professionally (working in a kennel) that made it much easier to train, handle a border collie in an apartment.


I also think you see a lot of border collies coming into rescue from suburban and rural homes because those are the people that get border collies. There are more living in suburban/rural settings than city settings so that means more are likely to come into rescue from those settings. Most people don't get dogs like border collies in a city setting unless they know what they're doing. So that dynamic would skew where dogs are coming from.


I still think as someone who doesn't actually appear to know the breed well, she may be interested in getting a border collie because of impressive YouTube videos of them doing advanced tricks or because they are known to be smart (which many mistake for easy to train). I think part of why people are saying for her to maybe reconsider is because she may very well be very disappointed that the pup she gets grows to be a dog that is nothing like what she wanted. Any dog can learn impressive tricks or be an active companion, it is up to the owner to have the knowledge to teach the dog those impressive behaviors. Now maybe if she said that she has known many border collies personally and loves their sensitive nature, their athletic ability or had some more in-person experience with the breed, people may be more inclined to agree that it would be a good idea given that she is up for the training and exercise needs.


Just my thoughts, as I agree with you that lots of people successfully live in urban areas with these dogs. But they typically have more experience and knowledge with dog training or the breed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I second what Waffles has said.


As some of you might remember, I got Jester while living in one room in Los Angeles, with no yard, and I made it work through diligence and total dedication to spending virtually every minute that I was not working doing something with the dog, including two hour-long walks a day and finding out of the way places where I could let him off leash to chase a frisbee. And day-long hikes every weekend. And training. And so on.



I had a lot of dog training experience, including border collies, and I got a two year old dog at that point. Even so, I had my bathroom remodeled by the dog and other interesting experiences.


And I have said this to others who have been concerned about city living with a BC, and I also have adopted out my foster dogs more than once to someone who lived in an apartment, when it was clear that person had enough dedication and border collie experience, or had the dedication and the time and was adopting a low-drive adult.


However, this person has zero experience and would get a puppy.


Huge, huge difference. For both the person and the dog. I stand by my recommendation that this person get a different breed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yep, add me to the list.


It isn't wanting a puppy, it isn't the lack of experience, it isn't living in a city. It's inexperience wanting a puppy while living in a city. Any TWO of those factors, I'd have kept my mouth shut. All 3? I feel it only fair to tell someone what they want may well not match up with the reality.

Link to comment
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.

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.


  • Create New...