Breed GroupPastoral/Herding
Life Span12-15 years
HeightAround 50cm
Weight12-25kg (25-55lbs)
OriginGreat Britain
Best ForVery active households, or working dogs.

Border Collie Breed Guide

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Border Collie Overview

Dog Breed:
Border Collie
Breed Group:
Intelligent, energetic, loyal. Will herd anything!
Around 50cm
12-25kg (25-55lbs)
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coat Colors:
Common colours include: • Black & White • Liver/Chocolate & White • Tri-Colour • Merle (e.g., blue, red, chocolate, sable)
Area of Origin:
Great Britain
Best For:
Very active households, or working dogs.

Border Collie Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Border Collie

  • Can be neurotic and prone to behavioural problems if become bored

  • Reliable and intelligent herding dogs

  • Often excel in canine sports such as agility

Border Collies are an old breed with a long history as a reliable, loyal herding dog for sheep and cows. They are intelligent, athletic, highly focused dogs who thrive in an environment with lots of things to keep both their minds and their bodies busy.

Nowadays Border Collies are commonly kept as pets, but they still require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy. If you are a keen runner looking for a doggy training partner, then look no further – adult Border Collies can be trained to run long distances with ease.

As working dogs, Border Collies are very intelligent and usually keen to learn new tricks. They can learn a wide variety of obedience tricks, and are also very successful at doggy sports such as Agility or Flyball.

Border Collie Breed History

  • Originally used for herding sheep and cattle

  • Two ‘types’ – show and working

  • Old breed, native to Great Britain

Border Collies are native to Great Britain, and they and their ancestors have been working alongside British shepherds for hundreds of years. The original ancestors of the modern Border Collie are thought to have been Roman guard dogs who arrived during the invasion of Britain nearly two thousand years ago, and Viking herding dogs who came on ships from Scandinavia that raided and eventually settled in the north of the British Isles. Mentions of these native herding dogs can be found throughout British history.

The “Border” in their name refers to the areas around northern England and southern Scotland – sometimes known as “The Borders” – where the breed is thought to have originated. The origin of “Collie” is less clear. It may come from coaly/colley, meaning “coal black”, as many of the early collies were black or black & white. Other theories suggest it comes from the Scandinavian name Colle, or the Gaelic cuilaen/cuilien, meaning “puppy”.

Regardless, the breed has been referred to as the Border Collie since 1915, when the secretary of the International Sheepdog Society named the breed to separate these distinguished dogs from other herding breeds. Border Collies were officially recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1976, and the American Kennel Club in 1995.

Today, Border Collies are hugely successful working dogs, excelling both on the farm and in competitive sheepdog trials, as made famous by the movie Babe. They have also found work off the farm, most notably as search and rescue dogs.

There are two different types of modern Border Collie. Show dogs are bred to conform to a certain look (called the “breed standard”), but not necessarily for their herding ability. Working dogs are bred first and foremost for their herding ability, and so their appearance may be a little more varied than the show variety. However, even show dogs will retain some of the natural herding instinct.

Border Collies of all types also excel at other doggy sports such as competitive obedience, agility or flyball. Indeed, they are so successful that some event organisers now put on separate ABC (“Anything But Collie”) categories so other breeds can have a chance to shine.

Border Collie Size & Weight

  • Border Collies are a traditionally a medium to lean build, but well muscled

Their size can vary quite a bit, especially amongst non-pedigree dogs, but larger males may be up to 50cm (20in) tall. A healthy adult Border Collie may weigh anything from 12 to 25kg (25-55lb) depending on their height and build.

Border Collie Personality & Temperament

  • Highly intelligent with high requirement for mental stimulation

  • Slow to accept new situations and people

  • Can be nervous, anxiety is common

Border Collies are generally loyal to their families and are very loving of those they considering to be within their pack. However, they are often rather nervous of outsiders – both doggy and human – and may be slow to accept visitors or new additions to the family.

They may also be anxious in new places, or in situations where there is a lot going on around them. These tendencies can develop into anxiety if not addressed, so it is important to try and get Border Collies as comfortable as possible in a wide variety of situations. Good socialisation at a young age can help to prevent this. With older dogs who may have developed some anxiety, it is best to speak to a veterinarian or qualified behaviourist.

Border Collies were bred as working dogs, to be out on the hills herding and guarding sheep. As such, they are highly intelligent and alert dogs, designed for hours of running each day. This need for exercise and mental stimulation does not vanish just because they are living as pets, and if it is not fulfilled, Border Collies can become bored, or anxious, or both. Boredom can lead to behaviours such as chewing, barking or whining, which are distressing for both dog and owner.

Border Collies are not usually aggressive dogs – they might bark, but it is rare for them to attack unprovoked. However, their anxious natures can make them defensive, and they may lash out if they feel threatened. They should be allowed to get used to new people or new places in their own time, and have a safe space to retreat to if they feel scared.

Border Collie Health & Grooming

  • MDR-1 gene mutation causes sensitivity to drugs

  • Buy puppies from genetically tested parents

  • Low-maintenance grooming needs

Border Collies may have long or short fur. Short fur is generally low-maintenance, and a gentle brush once a week is usually enough to keep it clean and remove any loose pieces. Border Collies with longer coats should be brushed 2-3 times a week, and checked over daily for matts or anything like twigs or mud that might have become trapped in their fur.

There are a number of inherited health conditions that are recognised in Border Collies, including several different eye problems, and a mutation (MDR-1) that can make them very sensitive to certain drugs. Many of these conditions have genetic testing available, so breeding dogs should be tested to make sure they don’t pass on any issue to their puppies.

Hip dysplasia is another inherited condition in Border Collies.  This occurs when the hip joint does not form properly, and can cause lameness and pain. Breeding dogs should have their hips x-rayed to make sure they are not passing on serious issues to their puppies, but unfortunately this does not completely prevent this condition. It is also important not to overexercise young puppies, and prevent older dogs from becoming overweight, in order to reduce their risk of issues.

Border Collie Training

  • Extremely intelligent and eager to learn

  • Will need careful training to redirect herding instinct

  • Excellent sporting dogs

Border Collies are widely considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds of dog and are generally very eager to engage and learn. They can learn a huge number of different commands and tricks – it is likely that you will run out of things to teach before they run out of enthusiasm to learn!

Border Collies are probably best known as sheepdogs, but they have talents that go far beyond herding. Border Collies have been very successful in a number of different competitions, including agility, flyball and even dog dancing!

Many Border Collies have strong herding instincts. This comes from generations of selective breeding, and even young puppies may instinctively herd smaller creatures such as ducklings. However, pet collies generally need training to re-direct this instinct – you do not want them trying to herd other dogs, or children, or cars! Thankfully with a little work and some patience, most Border Collies can learn to control these instincts.

Border Collie Exercise Requirements

  • Extremely intelligent and eager to learn

  • Will need careful training to redirect herding instinct

  • Excellent sporting dogs

Border Collies have a lot of energy and need at least two hours of exercise per day. If they do not get enough exercise, they can become frustrated, and start destructive behaviours such as chewing or digging to relieve this.

It is not just enough to give Border Collies exercise – they need mental stimulation, too. Try doing some training each day, or playing games, or varying their walks and

Border Collie puppies should not be over-exercised, as this can increase their risk of hip problems in later life. As a general rule, they can have five minutes of structured exercise for each month old they are – for example, a 4-month-old puppy can have 20 minutes per day.

Border Collie Diet & Feeding

  • Feed a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their lifestage

  • Puzzle feeders are great for mental stimulation

  • Avoid working dog foods unless struggling to maintain weight

Border Collies are generally good eaters, and will do well on a standard complete diet. Adults have different nutritional needs to puppies, so make sure the diet is suitable for their life stage.

Obesity is a common problem with Border Collies, especially if they have been neutered, so it is important not to over-feed them. “Working dog” foods are high in calories and only suitable for active dogs who have difficulty holding their weight on normal food.

Border Collies are prone to neuroticism and this can quickly develop into anxiety. They’re often described as ‘too clever for their own good’. Tiring your dog out with brain games, including puzzle feeders, is a useful way to reduce their anxiety levels.

Border Collie Rescue Groups

Sadly, Border Collies and Collie crosses are common breeds to find in rescue organisations, as people take them on without being aware of their specific needs as a breed. General rescue organisations such as the RSPCA (, Dogs Trust ( or Wood Green ( often have Border Collies and Collie crosses looking for a good home.

Breed-specific rescues include:

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