Originally bred for their working ability, Border Collies were used by shepherds on the border between England and Scotland for centuries, herding sheep and cattle.
Although Collies still work on farms today, the breed is now also a beloved household pet. Their loyalty and love of affection make them excellent companions for experienced owners with plenty of time on their hands.
Their lively nature and intelligence allow them to learn new tricks easily, making them fun dogs to have around. In fact, Border Collies are considered one of the smartest dogs in the world.
Find out everything you need to know about this lovable breed in our in-depth guide.
How much does Border Collie insurance cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure a Border Collies with ManyPets was £320.28. Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £412.25, so Border Collies cost almost £100 less to insure than our average.
Border Collie popularity
Of course, Border Collies excel at herding sheep, but they’re also a popular choice for rescue, sniffer, and tracker dogs, thanks to their intelligence and high working ethic. They make great guide dogs for the blind too!
Border Collie training
Border Collies are one of the smartest dog breeds in the world and can learn new tricks with ease. They’re considered an easy-to-train breed.
However, their intelligence and ability to think for themselves can sometimes cause stubbornness. With consistent training from a young age and an experienced owner’s guidance, though, Border Collies will follow instructions relatively easily.
Breed bad habits
A Border Collie's intelligence can sometimes become a problem: just as quickly as they learn new tricks, they can learn bad habits. Giving your dog attention when they bark or beg for food teaches them that bad behaviour works in them getting what they want.
Border Collies are working dogs with high energy, so they need lots of playtime to keep their physical and mental health in good shape. They also crave attention and companionship, so behavioural issues tend to rise when these needs aren’t met. They can resort to chewing on or destroying items around the home out of boredom.
Originally bred to herd sheep, Border Collies can’t help but chase things. They can often run after humans, other dogs, and cars, so like any dog, keeping them on a lead when outside is critical to keeping them safe.
Border Collies are an intelligent breed and should pick things up quickly.
They can have a stubborn streak, so they’ll respond better to positive reinforcement techniques — like treats for good behaviour — than they will to being scolded for falling short. Instructions stick in the minds of smart dogs, so stick to using short, firm commands.
Border Collies respond well to training from a very young age. You can begin teaching basic obedience as soon as possible to prevent behavioural issues before they start.
Border Collie gender differences
Although personality differences in Border Collies are small, females tend to be slightly calmer and more focused on training than their male counterparts. Every dog is different, though, and behaviour is more dependent on the quality of training and how they are raised.
Female size information
Height: 46-53 cm
Weight: 12-19 kg
Although Border Collies are renowned for being a friendly breed, males often find it easier than females to socialise with other dogs and bond with their owner as well as strangers.
Male Border Collies can be more territorial than females, sometimes defending themselves when threatened and marking their territory. However, this behaviour often decreases once they’ve been neutered.
The sexes are usually easier to identify by physical appearance than temperament: males tend to be slightly bigger, with larger heads, more height, and a more muscular build.
Male size information
Height: 48-56 cm
Weight: 14-20 kg
Border Collie breed health
Border Collies are generally healthy dogs, but hereditary conditions can show up during development when they are puppies.
A healthy Border Collie is expected to live for 10-17 years, the average being 12 years old.
Common health problems
Some of the most common health problems that affect Border Collies include:
Osteochondrosis (OCD) — Border Collies are prone to osteochondrosis: the abnormal development of cartilage that affects the joints. Symptoms include limping and stiffness and usually show during growth before the dog reaches one year old. The condition can be managed by reducing the amount of exercise they get before they've finished growing, weight control, and painkillers. For severe cases, dogs may benefit from surgery. Although symptoms may still show after exercise, they will usually be free of pain and lameness after the procedure.
Epilepsy — A neurological disease that causes seizures: Border Collies are prone to epilepsy. Although incurable, treatment can control symptoms.
Collie eye anomaly — Collie eye anomaly is an inherited disease, often seen in Border Collie puppies at around 6-8 weeks when the eye is developing. Although vision impairment is usually mild in this breed, blindness can occur in severe cases. There's no cure for the condition, but vision loss is rare and usually won't worsen enough to cause blindness. Surgery is also available to minimise the effects.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) — PRA is an eye disease that can lead to blindness in dogs. Although the condition isn’t very common, Border Collies are prone to inheriting it. The first sign is decreased ability to see at night, but this will progress to a lack of vision in the day with time. There is currently no cure, but dogs can still live a happy and comfortable life with adjustments to their routine.
MDR 1 gene mutation — Many herding dogs — including Border Collies — can have an MDR 1 mutation (a multidrug resistance protein). This can cause sensitivity to ivermectin drugs, resulting in neurological symptoms like blindness, tremor, and hypersalivation. The best way to know if your dog has the mutation is to test, and your vet may recommend avoiding certain medications to prevent illness.
In 2022, ManyPets had 83 claims for Hip Dysplasia at an average cost of £549.46
We only had 22 cases of Epilepsy in 2022, but the average cost of a claim for the condition was £1146.41.
“Border Collies are an active breed, but there are some early signs you should look out for in puppies that may hint at joint problems,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“Changes to a puppy's gait, such as limping or "bunny hopping" on their back legs, may indicate early signs of joint issues. Speaking to your vet earlier if you are concerned, can help catch conditions like osteochondrosis in the beginning stages and help you create a proactive management plan together.
Keeping your border collie on a quality diet and at a healthy weight is massively impactful when it comes to joint health and comfort!”
Border Collie colours and variants
Northumbrian type — Also known as Old Hemp, the Northumbrian variety was bred in Northumberland, England, in the 1800s — hence the name. This variation is medium size with a rough coat and white markings. The majority of Border Collies can be traced down to the Northumbrian type.
Wiston Cap type — This variation also has a rough coat but is larger than the Northumbrian type, with bigger heads and more white markings.
Nap type — The only smooth-coated variation, the Nap type have longer legs and shorter bodies than the other types. They're known for being powerful and fast.
Herdman's Tommy type — A medium-sized variation with a sturdy build, Herman's Tommy type have a rough coat and usually come in black and white, with tan markings. Similar to the Nap variation, these dogs are renowned for their power and strong-headedness.
Solid colour is rare in Border Collies, and they usually have blaze, points, ticking, brindle, or speckled markings.
The standard colors for Border Collies include:
White & black
White & red
White & blue
White & blue merle
White & red merle
Caring for a Border Collie
Border Collies are an extremely high-energy, intelligent breed that needs lots of care and attention, so they may not be the best option for first-time owners.
Like most dogs, walking daily will keep them in good shape and burn energy to help them sleep. Plenty of playtime will also keep them stimulated and their mind active to avoid boredom.
Border Collies are notoriously very energetic dogs that have the potential to require at least 2 hours of walking per day, as well as lots of playtime. Originally bred to herd sheep, they are fast runners, reaching up to 30 miles per hour when sprinting.
The right amount of food to feed your Collie will depend on their size, activity, and individual needs. However, providing meals filled with meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables will ensure they’re getting a balanced diet.
Building a healthy diet and feeding schedule yourself can be tricky, so consult your vet for advice to ensure your pup is getting the nutrients they need.
Remember to check your dog’s water bowl and fill it up if necessary to keep them hydrated.
While most dogs sleep for 12-14 hours per day, Border Collies, as working dogs that are highly active, rest less than other breeds. Adults sleep for around 9 hours per day, but puppies will spend 18-20 hours of their day sleeping to encourage healthy development and growth.
If your Collie isn’t sleeping enough, they may be at a greater risk of obesity or illness due to a weakened immune system. Therefore, you must ensure they are getting enough exercise and nutrition. You may also need to visit the vet, as a lack of sleep could be due to illness.
“Border Collies are lively dogs by nature, so a quality diet and sufficient exercise will help them sleep, control weight gain, and keep them happy in general,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“Because Border Collies are highly intelligent and originally bred to be working dogs, scheduling the right amount of playtime based on your puppy's age is an excellent way to also sneak in training time each day!
Collies tend to have fewer behavioural issues when they have enough mental stimulation throughout the day. Pairing a short training session for a new trick followed by an appropriate length walk or run can be a winner for these pups!”
Border Collie temperament
How good are Border Collies with kids?
Their affection and loving nature make Border Collies excellent companions for kids, as long as they are properly socialised and trained as puppies.
They’ll need to be watched around younger kids, however. Due to their natural strong herding instincts, they can sometimes try to herd children, knocking them over.
How affectionate are Border Collies?
Border Collies are sweet dogs that are keen to please humans due to their working nature. They can be very protective and tend to stick close to their owners, wanting to follow them anywhere they go. Because of this, Border Collies will need someone who is around often to ensure their enrichment and exercise needs are met.
They can be reserved around strangers but will warm up quickly if they've been socialised well from a young age.
How territorial are Border Collies?
Like most herding or sheepdogs, Border Collies can be territorial and protective of their food, toys, and owners.
Border Collies are not aggressive dogs, but they can be protective if a stranger enters their home or walks up to the front door. The main way they will warn people off is by barking, making them excellent guard dogs. However, this noise can be problematic with neighbours if consistent, so good training and socialisation will help them calm down and stop barking quickly.
How friendly are Border Collies with other dogs?
Due to their protective nature, Border Collies may initially see other dogs as a threat, possibly barking or growling at them when on walks. Although no two dogs are the same, this usually won’t be as much of an issue if socialised and trained from being a puppy.
Although Border Collies prefer human companionship, they tend to get along best with other working dogs like labradors and often enjoy learning new tricks together.
How much will Border Collies tolerate other pets?
Border Collies have a tendency to chase anything that moves due to their natural herding instincts. While cats tend to run away when frightened, Collies enjoy chasing them. However, with proper introductions and training, they can be trained out of this, living happily in a multi-pet household.
How much attention do Border Collies need?
Border Collies love human companionship and attention, so it’s best not to leave them alone for too long. As lively dogs, they ideally need someone who can be around most of the day to keep them active and entertained. Like most dogs, if alone for too long, they can often resort to chewing things around the house or barking.
Border Collie coat and grooming
Border Collies have two different coat types: a rough, medium length and a smooth, shorter length. Both types have a double coat which consists of a soft undercoat and longer, thick fur on top.
Due to having thick, double-haired coats, Border Collies shed a fair amount. This happens throughout the year but occurs mostly in spring and autumn, helping them adjust to weather changes.
Brushing your Collie a couple of times a week will help to remove dead hairs and keep their coat in good condition.
How often do I need to groom Border Collies?
Border Collie coats are fairly easy to maintain, but regular grooming will keep their fur looking healthy. Rough, medium-length coats should be brushed a couple of times a week to keep them tangle-free, whereas smooth coats, which are shorter, need bruising once a week.
Border Collies only usually need bathing every three months. As working dogs, Border Collies like to be outdoors, so more frequent washing may be necessary if they get muddy. Due to their double coat that can hold a lot of water, owners should blow dry their Collie after a bath. This will prevent irritation from moisture left on the skin for a long time.
Additionally, it’s important to check the nails of your Collie regularly. Long nails can cause pain, so if you can hear them touching against a hard floor, they may need a trim. This can be done at home with dog-safe clippers or take your dog to a groomer/vet.
Are Border Collies hypoallergenic?
No, Border Collies are not hypoallergenic. Their thick, double coat sheds a fair amount, causing dander — dead skin cells present in the hair — to spread around the house. This can cause reactions in people who are allergic.
Border Collie bark sound
Border Collies have a high tendency to bark due to their herding instincts. Their bark can be fairly loud compared to other breeds, so this is something to consider if you have neighbours close by.
A Border Collie is a very vocal dog that tends to bark at anything that moves fast. This can include cars, bikes, other dogs, and even children playing. As a herding breed, Border Collies can also be territorial, barking or growling as someone approaches or enters the house. Although getting your dog to stop barking is difficult — especially with puppies — their intelligence allows them to be trained to bark less.
Border Collies also use barking to communicate how they’re feeling, whether that's excited, hungry, or just want their owner’s attention. Excessive barking may occur when your pup is bored or hasn’t had its' exercise needs met. Therefore, as high-energy dogs, making sure your Collie is getting the physical and mental stimulation they require will keep barking to a minimum.
Frequently asked questions about Border Collies
When do Border Collies stop growing?
Border Collies usually reach their adult size by around 12 to 15 months. However, this depends on the size of your dog. Larger Collies can take up to 18 months to be considered fully grown.
Are Border Collies high maintenance?
Although Border Collies aren’t usually high maintenance when it comes to grooming, they require a lot of attention. Due to their high energy and love for companionship, they need someone who has time to walk and play with them often.
Do Border Collies like to cuddle?
Border Collies love to be close to their owner, so you’ll often find them leaning against or cuddling up to you when they’re sleeping. Jumping up and putting their paws on your shoulder is also the ultimate sign of affection for Collies!