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Getting a border collie question


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We just lost our Standard Poodle. We are looking at getting another dog-probably a border collie. But the more I read, the more concerned I get. The thing to know about us is that we are truly dog lovers. We will dote, love, walk/run with our dog. We have two kids, 10 and 13.I am nervous about 2 things. I keep hearing about the "energy" level in these dogs. Are they hyper? or are they just in need of exercise? Also, this "nipping". Do I need to worry that at any given moment a border collie might nip at one of my friends or kids' friends?they seem like such wonderful dogs. If all they need is exercise, I can handle that, and if it really isn't an issue that they will bite then I can't wait to get my border collie. but i need to know what I am in for. thanks!

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Hi Hildy,


We're just about neighbors. The nipping you're referring to isn't the sort of nipping that another breed might do. It's the sort of nipping herding dogs use to move livestock. If your intention is for a companion and family pet, then you must keep the dog busy (not 24/7)---mental stimulaton as well as physical exercise is important. In our area there are plenty of places where you can take the dog for puppy classes, obedience/household classes. The northeast Ohio area has enough going on to keep a dog owner busy. I really like standard poodles, but the main difference you'll see, if you get a border collie, is that the border collie is much more goal-oriented, needing a job to do. People tend to get this breed, and find that it's a much more demanding relationship than say, a golden, poodle, or any other breed. That's why so many border collies wind up in rescue.


I live with 10 border collies & they are not bouncing off the wall. I would also be careful in getting a border collie in this area because there is no one I would recommend as a breeder in the northeast Ohio area, although some have ads running all the time. There is the occasional person who might produce a decent litter, however.


If you'd like, you can e-mail me privately and I can give you some resources.


Good luck whatever you decide.



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We have a 7 year old BC, who is a pet/companion and he's lovely. If you're ***HONESTLY*** willing to put in the time to be sure they're busy and well exercised then, they're a good choice!


There are some nights when it's raining and miserable, and all you want to do is hop in bed, but.....ya GOTTA take the dog out (and I don't mean opening the door and letting him out to pee), you've got to run him (or at least we do, and our BC is very sedated in personality than average!)


The other thing I'd really REALLY like to recommend is that you get one from rescue...please PLEASE PLEASE, do NOT buy BC from a BREEDER. There are HUGE numbers of BC's in rescue, because families less active than your own, just can't handle them...


Breeders just keep "making" puppies without any thought to where they're going to go. BC's are a herding dog, and should be bred to herd, but many breeders focus on making them pretty or whatever with out any thought to the integrity of the breed. Please don't support that.


Besides, a rescue dog will likely already be house trained and you'll know going in what kind of personality the puppy has, thus taking the guessing game out of wondering if this BC will be a good fit for your brood!


Good luck and happy playing!



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I want to second the good idea about getting a rescue pup or older dog. It really can make things easier. However, if you are set on a pup, not all breeders are just out to make money- there are many excellent breeders that will take the time to educate you and who produce nice dogs.


The other thing I want to say is that they will make excellent pets if you put the time in to them. I personally don't find that I have to go overboard on exercise/running. They do get plenty of that, but the real key to successful pet Border Collies is training and STRUCTURE. They sometimes have to be taught to relax (think long downs) , but if you expect good behavior,instead of begging for it or hoping to tire them out (doesn't work), you will get it.

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Hildy -


Sorry to hear about your dog. And welcome to the wonerful world of Border Collies. I've never had to deal with BC's around children, but they can herd them - especially when they are running around and have a ball! So I can't help you there...but...I do have some questions to ask yourself:


Why do you want a Border Collie instead of the breed that you are familiar with?


What Border Collie traits appeal to you?


If you did get a puppy or a young rescue in need of training, would you take the dog to obedience classes? Would you assign that task to someone else in the family? Would that person take it seriously, or drop it in a few weeks or months?


Would the dog ever be alone with the children? (ie, you are still at work, but the kids get home from school and are with the dog for a few hours.)


Would you ever take the dog herding?

Would you go into agility? Fly-ball? Obedience trials?


What type of daily schedule would you be willing to adhere to for this dog? (45 min walk in the morning - rain/sleet/snow - 15 min of training in the afternoon after work - fun play time later in the day)


Would a dog that has the reasoning power of a 12 year old bother you?


Would a dog that is ALWAYS watching you (ALWAYS) and listening to every word you say get on your nerves? How about a dog that can easily learn a vocabulary of over 100 words? Spelled out too! (no joke!)


Would a dog that has a built in alarm clock upset you at 6am on Sunday morning? (oh I just loooovvveee that!)


Hmmm...anything else?


Would a dog that seems to be the most satisfying to train make you happy? Good or bad, he will learn it.


How about a dog that can easily develop some sort of OCD - such as barking at shadows or reflections, chasing clouds or planes, staring at the same thing for minutes at a time - drive you nuts? If you are not there to break the habit right away, it's hard to catch later.


Do you plan to go out on the 4th of July and leave your dog at home? Or will you be willing to train the fear of fireworks out of him/or kennel him?


Most of all - are you willing to put up with the HAIR!!!!???


(I've had poodles and they are NOTHING like BC hair.) If you have any issues with dirty floors - well...turn around now!


That's all I can come up with right now. I love my dog to death. I probably won't have kids - would rather have BC's for the rest of my life. But I'm devoted to my dog. He goes herding, training, to the park. I base my weekend on what we can do with the dog. And heaven forbid itf it rains! I'm out there in a rain coat for the walk anyway.


just something to think about. My poodle was smart, but if I take a breath, my BC is right there next to me "Is it walkie time? Did you need to play with my squeaky toy? Oh...how about my ball? Can I lick you somemore? Did you think about feeding me? How about letting me out? Was that the car keys I heard? Or did you pick up my leash? Did someone say the word "go?" Just asking...you can go back to watching TV now." I'm SURE that's what he's thinking! :rolleyes:



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Border Collies are about MENTAL stimulation, not running them until they're too tired to think. If you provide your Border Collie with enough of it, you will have less problems in the long run. Don't think that if you take the dog for a run that it will leave you alone at night. I would say that I spend about 90% of my time that I'm home interacting with my dogs in some form. That's not saying that they're constantly on the move...if I'm down, they're down, but they will come and check on me. They'll try to engage me in a game of catch while I'm watching ER or the news (insert your own favorite show here)They will play fight noisily in front of the tv (this is their morning ritual while I'm watching the Today show) They think they need to help me cook dinner...go to the bathroom...do laundry...etc..


An example of their quirkiness: Periodically I take them to a friends house, who has a large yard and an 11 year old boy and lots of young neighbors. They love it, unless the kids decide to jump on the trampoline instead of play with them. Anyway, the other day, my friend and I decided to set up our lawn chairs on a patch of cement on the other side of the lawn because the ground is wet and the chairs make holes. My dogs (both Border Collies) kept taking their frisbees and toys over to the spot where we used to sit, and then would turn toward us and look at us like we were insane. These dogs are addicted to routine. My dogs wake me up at 7 every morning regardless of whether I have to be up. Every night at 10 they start demanding to be walked. Right now, it's 5 and DANGIT, HUMAN it is PAST our walk time.


No dog is an accessory to be only admired as it sits in the yard or lies in its bed...but a Border Collie is even less so. They are a demanding breed. Both of mine have had bad habits I've had to break. Marengo chewed everything, wouldn't come unless it benefited her, chased kids and bikes, still chases and barks at noisy vehicles. Rave bites tail pipes unless I'm one step ahead of her and call her off, prefers to stare at stuff instead of play, is a classic case of ADHD, and used to be an ankle biter. (it was no fun to cure that one and most pet people would call me a dog abuser, but dangit I don't like to bleed) I will not leave EITHER dog alone with kids outside. For one thing, no kid I know has the authoritative voice it takes to break through their concentration if they go after a car (or whatever)and I can never really trust them not to knock someone over in excitement, and I can't trust that Rave won't suddenly decide to latch onto an ankle or a crotch if she deems someone out of control. 9.9 times out of 10 she doesn't...but you never know.


People have a misconception that Border Collies are easy to train because they've seen all the cute tricks they do on tv. I would imagine that those people spend a TON of time with their dogs, because yes, they learn fast, but a Border Collie UNLEARNS just as fast as it learns. (or adapts the tricks and training to their own needs and desires)


My philosophy on life (and it's worked very well for me so far)is "When in doubt, DON'T". When I started researching Border Collies, I read every article I could find (which was a lot amazingly, since it was 13 years ago and I didn't have the internet)and they all said the same thing "Doesn't make a good house pet. It can be done, but it's hard". Never ONCE did I think I couldn't handle it...and I've followed through...through the good times AND the bad. And there WERE bad. Lots of bad. I wouldn't be happy with any other breed, because I like the challenge. That is the decision you have to make. Will I relish the challenge, and will I follow through. If not, don't. When there is any doubt...don't.


If you want to read an honest book about what it's like to live with a Border Collie...and the challenges you might face..and how much time was spent interacting with the dog..read "A Dog Year" by Jon Katz. Don't focus in on his dog being a rescue though, because remember that the poor thing belonged to someone who couldn't handle it first.

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I always feel pretty out of step in these "should I get a border collie" threads, but I'll speak up so you get the full range of opinions. I don't think most working-bred border collies are hyper or require an excessive amount of exercise. Mine (five dogs, ages 12, 7, 4, 3 and 2) have just been through a winter when they got very little exercise day after day. Of course, they'd have liked to have gotten more, but they adjusted. They know they're to leave us alone till the alarm goes off, so they do. If any of them do stuff that we don't like, we try to train them not to; if it's something we care enough about to be resourceful and persistent, we pretty much always succeed.


Border collies aren't hearthrugs, but if you're genuinely interested in your dog and in spending time interacting with and training him or her, I think you would find a border collie rewarding. I constantly hear from pet owners who think their border collies are totally wonderful. Choose with care, though. If you get a rescue, question the fosterer carefully and get to know the dog as well as possible. If you get a pup, buy from a good, helpful, honest breeder and spend some time with the parents to see if they're what you'd like your dog to be. And good luck, whatever you decide.

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We added two 8 month old pups to our family in December and are absolutely thrilled with them. They do keep us busy and on our toes...but they're also perfectly happy with the downtime as long as they're included in it.


We really don't treat them any differently then we have our other dogs, we expect certain behaviors, forgive a few others, and enjoy the spontenaity that is a puppy. We are fortunate that we both work from home and therefore there's plenty of hands on time, whether it's a long hike or working in the garden, or going to Good Manners class, they're always included.


Of the two, our female is much more demanding. Will can get by on just following us around and being the perfect car buddy, Gracie on the other hand needs to help with everything. They both adore kids and literally melt when they see a kid.


Regardless of the choice, just make sure it's the right one for your family. Don't be pressured into any one decision.


Good luck.



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Gotta say that while there are probably plenty of dogs (not just Border Collies) with the sort of problems other posters have mentioned, my experience has been more in line with what Eileen and Maria have said. Mind you, I?m afraid to say mine are show/obedience bred, but I was wise enough to choose for temperament and structural soundness first, and appearance a long last.


My guys (15 month male, 13 month female) can be as crazy as any other Border Collies, but they learnt very quickly that they?re not going to be played with/stimulated all day long. Last year for 3 months they spent their days in their crate in the car while I was at work - walks at break times - that was because they had escaped through what I thought was a dog-proof fence to go and play with some kids on the street - but it was probably a good thing.


I just had them on a 2 and a half week holiday travelling on the mainland, and they were just so good and adaptable. Never slept outside at night since I got them as babies, but they slept like little logs in the car outside where I was staying - not a sound. Some days they were able to have free runs - other days there was a lot of car time and just on lead walks. Not a problem. They just go with the flow. And if I want to sleep in, they do too - unless they really need to go out and pee.


They do do lots of stuff with me - obedience training, therapy dog visits and walks - mostly on lead but some off lead beach visits, and they do have a fenced acre to run around in (they haven?t escaped since last September, so hopefully it is dog-proof now!) And what are these wild youngsters doing right now - sound asleep in chairs in my living room - it?s serious mid-day nap time.


You do need to be prepared to make and enforce the rules of your household, and they do like mental stimulation, but I?ve got to say what Eileen says has been my experience too.

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Hello, in reply to your not knowing forsure about a BC...I believe what Denise says just about hits it on the head. I have a 10yr old male an with any luck in aweek or so another 5 yr.old male.. they are active but not bouncing off walls.. I've had a rough collie a german shepard an a terrior.( not all at the same time) Shadow is my 1st BC an not my last. As a matter of fact I don't believe I will or could love another breed as much. If what Denise says appeals to you then go for it you won't be sorry. As for a raincoat???? hahaha I also have to take a umbrella not for me...for my Shadow..lol. good luck. Sue

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I'm with Eileen. If you have the kind of family that will include your dog in life (you'll never go to the bathroom alone again!), are willing to be diligent in training and have the time/energy/space to give them some good exercise - you should do fine with a BC. We get the boys out for long walks and frisbee/ball every day, but on the occassions when we can't - they don't instantly turn into wild ones. If you have super demanding schedules or cherish your personal space, you might want to consider another type of dog.

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You're absolutely to be commended for asking this question before you choose a breed and for choosing a breed based on how it fits your lifestyle. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! The short answer is that the breed does have some "behavioral quirks" because it's appropriately and proudly been bred for herding ability (see web page ). The long answer is that whether these quirks become problems depends to a large degree (but not exclusively) on you and what type of owner you are.


Jaime (and Eileen) hit the nail on the head - success depends upon having realistic expectations / boundaries and the willingness to teach the dog what you expect. FWIW, my most "difficult" dog is not one of our border collies, but our GSD from working lines.


Our dogs don't participate in doggie sports and we don't focus a lot on "entertaining the dogs." In fact, about 6 months of the year our home is blanketed with several feet of snow and my dogs do fairly little on a daily basis (we do ski or snowshoe with them when we have the time, and the dogs will help me out with chores, but not every dog gets to work and they don't get worked every day). Exercise and stimulation are part of the equation, but are not sufficient to ensure "good behavior."


Honestly, we really don't have problems with hyperactivity, destructiveness or other behaviors. We in no way qualify for a "trainers of the year award" - we don't use clickers or other fancy techniques - we just expect them to behave, don't do things to intentionally "hype them up" and try to be fair and consistent in our training.


This isn't to say it's always been smooth - dogs are dogs - puppies are puppies. Inci a while back wisely said something to the effect that "training is lifelong" and I've found this to be absolutely true . . . Perhaps one of the most important things to teach a dog early on is a command for "don't do that." If you have this command, and a good working relationship with your dog, many potential problems can be dealt with . . .


The intent of this long and rambling post is that border collies can be very good dogs if you want a dog (hair, smells, teeth, etc.) and if you're willing to train the dog. These dogs are not good "lawn ornaments" but they make great working partners in a variety of *jobs.*



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I have to think that Jake takes a lot of his cues from the calm Golden and some from the semi calm Shiba. He is at the bottom of the packs pecking order. The Golden is just a lazy lug but will play with Jake pretty hard when he bugs her enough. The Shiba will run circles around Jake but not for any great length of time. They all interact in as a tight group even though they have three diverse personalities.


What I am trying to say is that Jake has learned from the others in his pack how our family is run and goes along with it 99% of the time. I do take him to agility classes, go for long walks and throw toys for him but a lot of the time he will just relax by my feet while I am at the computer or just be content being with me where ever I go.


Jody & Jake

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