Border Collie

Tiffany Paul, DVM
Published: June 8, 2022
Border Collie

Border Collies are high-energy working dogs that are typically used on farms for herding. They are nimble and agile dogs—built for fast, sharp movements.

The Border Collie has a medium-length, double coat of wavy hair. Their average weight ranges from 30-55 pounds, and they are typically between 18-22 inches tall.

Caring for a Border Collie

Border Collies make wonderful pets for active singles and families. They have a spunky personality and love to be active with kids and parents. Border Collies also make good teammates for frisbee, hiking, and agility.

These dogs love having a job, so if you don’t provide them with something productive to do, they may turn to more destructive forms of entertainment.

While Border Collies are generally pretty sturdy, they can have a genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia—an abnormal growth of the ball and socket joint in their hips. When purchasing a Border Collie from a breeder, you should ask for records to see if the puppy’s parents were screened for hip dysplasia by the PennHIP Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP).

Overall, genetic testing of Border Collies is important when picking out a new puppy, due to their predisposition to genetic disorders.

Border Collie Health Issues

Generally, Border Collies are hardy dogs, but they can be genetically predisposed to a few health issues.

Hip Dysplasia

The most common medical issue in Border Collies is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when the ball of the hip joint does not fit correctly into the socket of the hip joint.

This results in constant rubbing of two bones against each other, leading to inflammation and pain for the dog. Over time, the inflammation results in arthritis.

Hip dysplasia can be caught early, with a full orthopedic exam and hip radiographs under sedation. Specifically, the OFA and PennHIP screening can help parents understand their dog’s risk for hip dysplasia.

If found early enough, hip dysplasia can be corrected with surgical intervention—ranging from simple surgical procedures to a total hip replacement if necessary. For minor cases of hip dysplasia, your veterinarian can work with you to find medications and joint supplements to optimize mobility and ease discomfort.

Epilepsy

Border Collies can be more prone to epilepsy, a seizure disorder. This commonly starts around 2–5 years of age and will sometimes require anti-seizure medications to help control the condition.

There is no known explanation as to why some dogs suffer from epilepsy, but the Border Collie, among many other breeds, is predisposed to this condition. 

Collie Eye Anomaly

Border Collies can also suffer from a genetic eye disease, Collie eye anomaly.

Collie eye anomaly can cause malformations of the eyes, which can result in vision defects or blindness. The eye disorder is present from birth and is usually detected by 5–6 weeks of age.

There is genetic testing for this defect, but Collie eye anomaly has very few treatment options. Therefore, finding responsible breeders who test for this genetic condition and take proactive measures to keep their dogs healthy is important.

Multidrug Resistance Mutation (MDR1)

Some herding breeds, including Border Collies, can have a mutation in a gene known as MDR1 (Multidrug Resistance Mutation). An abnormality in the gene from birth can make affected Border Collies more sensitive to drugs used commonly in veterinary medicine—such as certain medications or flea and tick preventatives.

This mutation can be easily tested for by your veterinarian with a simple blood test. Your veterinarian will then be able to recommend safe products and medications to use.

Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS)

Trapped neutrophil syndrome (TNS) is a genetic health issue that compromises the immune system, which leads to chronic infection in affected dogs.

TNS is caused by a gene mutation that is only found in Border Collies. It’s present at birth, and dogs that have TNS will typically be smaller than their littermates and suffer from developmental delays.

TNS is not curable and is considered fatal—with affected dogs typically living only a few months. However, there are medications and treatment options available to help manage quality of life and prolong life expectancy. There is genetic testing available to help flag TNS, so that breeders can ensure that they do not breed dogs that carry the gene.

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (CL)

Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (CL) is caused by another genetic mutation that results in neurological symptoms such as seizures, personality changes, and blindness. Symptoms usually arise between 15–20 months of age and lead to a drastically reduced lifespan.

Genetic testing can be performed by breeders to make sure they do not breed Border Collies with this defect.

What to Feed Border Collies

A Border Collie should be fed a high-quality food that has an increased protein content to support their high activity and muscles. A food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids will also help keep their coats shiny and joints healthy.

Talk to your veterinarian to determine which food is the best for your Border Collie, but a good place to start is by choosing an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)-approved food. AAFCO approval means that the food meets the standard nutritional requirements and regulations for pet foods.

It is also important to feed your Border Collie a lifestage-appropriate food. A high-quality puppy food can be fed until 12–18 months of age. Then, switch to an adult stage food.

How to Feed a Border Collie

Since Border Collies are so active, obesity is rare in this breed. Meals can be given twice daily, or they can be all-day grazers—Border Collies usually can be trusted not to overeat.

How Much to Feed a Border Collie

Follow the manufacturer instructions and your veterinarian’s advice on how much to feed your Border Collie to help them maintain a healthy weight.

Every food has a different caloric value, so there is not a one-size-fits-all feeding amount for Border Collies. If you change brands or flavors, don't assume that you should give your pet the same amount of food in their bowl. Follow the feeding guide recommended by the manufacturer and check with your vet to confirm the right feeding amount for the new food.

Nutritional Tips for Border Collies

Border Collies can benefit from a skin and joint supplement. This will help maintain their cartilage health during their many activities and support a nice and shiny coat.

Behavior and Training Tips for Border Collies

Border Collie Personality and Temperament

Border Collies have a lot of energy. They are a herding breed and need to have a job to do. Border Collies are also very smart. Therefore, they require a lot of mental stimulation. They have been known to herd other pets in the household or even children, so training, socialization, and consistent mental stimulation are essential with a Border Collie.

This mental stimulation can come from simple games but Border Collies also enjoy more rigorous activities such as agility, flyball, or herding competition.

Border Collie Behavior

Border Collies can be fearful of strangers and protective of family members, so socialization with other dogs and people in a variety of situations will be paramount they are young puppies, to help them develop into healthy, well-acclimated adult dogs.

Without proper training or consistent mental stimulation, Border Collies can develop behavioral issues such as herding and nipping at the heels of children or adults, and destructive habits like chewing or digging. Border Collies may also bark excessively when bored or frustrated, so be prepared to always have an appropriate activity ready for them.

Border Collie Training

The Border Collie’s working dog instincts, high intelligence, and high energy level make training a fun activity. The basic commands will be easy and Border Collies will absolutely thrive in advanced training. They are made for high-impact activities and easily catch on to games such as frisbee and fetch.

Border Collies will need to start training as soon as possible because they are prone to destruction without the proper mental stimulation. Redirecting them from their natural instincts will be important as well, so they do not herd young children or other pets.

Fun Activities for Border Collies

Basic and advanced obedience training

  • Herding work

  • Flyball

  • Agility

  • Frisbee

  • Fetch

Border Collie Grooming Guide

The grooming needs of the Border Collie are average and they do not require any specialized considerations. Because of their high activity level, Border Collies need less toenail trimming than most breeds.

Skin Care

Due to their double-hair coats, most Border Collies have protected, healthy skin and do not need special skincare routines. However, if you notice excessive scratching or licking, consult your veterinarian to make sure their skin is healthy.

Coat Care

Border Collies have medium-length, double-hair coats. They do shed, but not excessively. They need regular bathing and brushing to keep their coat clean and free of matts, but this can easily be done at home.

Eye Care

Border Collies have generally minimal eye care needs, so if you notice discharge, inflammation, or injuries, call your veterinarian to get it checked out.

Ear Care

It’s generally a good habit to regularly check your Border Collie’s ears. This will help you catch and manage wax or debris buildup that can accumulate through their outdoor activities. Any buildup can be managed with a simple ear cleaning, but if you notice inflammation, head shaking, or pawing at their ears, call your veterinarian and make an appointment.

Considerations for Pet Parents

When considering a Border Collie as a pet, be aware that a Border Collie is a working, active breed that needs to have a lot of mental stimulation or they will become destructive quickly. Also, make sure that the Border Collie you pick has had genetic testing done, since this breed is more predisposed to hereditary problems than others.

Border Collie FAQs

Is a Border Collie a good family dog?

Border Collies are good family dogs because they like a lot of activity. Busy families will need to include them in their activities, or they can become destructive when bored.

Border Collies need to be trained early not to herd young children and other pets.

Are Border Collies smart dogs?

Border collies are some of the smartest dogs around. Their intelligence requires constant mental stimulation, but they excel at dog sports and at working dog jobs.

What are the drawbacks of a Border Collie?

Be aware that a Border Collie is a working, active breed that needs to have a lot of mental stimulation or it will become destructive quickly. They can also bark excessively when bored or frustrated.

When picking a Border Collie puppy, look for genetic screening that tests for common hereditary defects such as hip dysplasia, Collie eye anomaly, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, and trapped neutrophil syndrome.

Is a Border Collie a good house dog?

A Border Collie should have ample room to run and play during the day. At the end of the day, they will want to settle down for the night with their family members. Because they are so social with their family members, they make great house dogs.

What is a Border Collie’s natural habitat?

A Border Collie thrives in the field, herding anything that moves. They were bred to work alongside humans herding sheep and cattle.

Are Border Collies well behaved?

Border Collies can be very well behaved with plenty of exercise and lots of training early on. If not well socialized and trained as a puppy, they can herd young children and other pets in the house. If not well socialized to people when young, they may be fearful of strangers.

If they are not provided with enough mental stimulation, they will become destructive and bark excessively.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Elayne Massaini


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