Border Collie: A Smart And High-Energy Breed

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Border Collie (caption: Border Collie Guide)

When it comes to working dog breeds, few dogs work like the Border Collie. This intelligent breed, a herder by nature, originates from Scotland and England and is recognized for its incredible work ethic. Our experts give you the inside scoop on Border Collies so you can learn more about them and decide if this is the right breed for you.

Border Collie History

The Border Collie, once known as the Scotch sheepdog, hails from Northumberland — located on both England and Scotland’s borders — and was bred from Viking dogs. Using the reindeer herding dogs brought by the Vikings, breeders brought in British droving breeds as well as spaniels to create a dog whose sole existence depended on hard work.

Border Collie

The combination of work drive and intelligence makes this one of the most trainable breeds and happy to work until it drops. As the Border Collie breed developed, it became recognized for its ability to “hypnotize” herd animals with its stare. Also, the Border Collie possesses a sleek body that allows it to crouch and herd efficiently and quickly.

The American Kennel Club recognized this breed quite late in 1995. The American Border Collie Association, American-International Border Collie, Continental Kennel Club, New Zealand Kennel Club, Kennel Club of Great Britain, Australian National Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Federation Cynologique Internationale, National Kennel Club, American Pet Registry Incorporated, and the American Canine Registry also now recognize this breed.

What Do They Look Like?

Border Collie wet at the beach

The Border Collie is such a well-known breed that chances are you already know what this breed looks like, even if you don’t recognize it by name. Less experienced dog lovers will most commonly think of this breed for being a “black and white sheep herding dog.”


Males stand between 19 and 22 inches tall and weigh between 30 and 45 pounds. Females stand between 18 and 21 inches and weigh between 27 and 42 pounds. They stop growing in height by around 12 to 15 months but can continue to gain weight until 18 months old.


The Border Collie’s coat is a thick and weather-resistant double coat that sits close to the skin and comes in two varieties.

1. Rough: This variety is medium in length, around three inches, and is longer around the forelegs, haunches, chest, and underside.
2. Smooth: This variety is coarser in texture but appears sleek and consists of hairs that measure only around one inch long.

Regardless of their coat classification, all Border Collies have short hair on the front legs, face, and ears, allowing for better sight, hearing, and maneuverability in the field.


Border Collies are typically known for being black and white. However, they have a variety of coat colors. This breed can also be brown, red, black, white, brown, a combination of two of these colors, or tricolored. The rarest color is the Blue Merle Border Collie, which can only occur when a parent carries the dominant merle gene.


One of the most prominent features of the Border Collie breed is the deep brown eyes that appear as “intelligent eyes.” All Border Collies have these dark brown eyes except merle coated Border Collies that may have a single blue eye or two blue eyes.


Another defining characteristic of the Border Collie is its ears, which are generally erect or semi-erect, as this breed is alerted continuously to its surroundings.

Miniature Border Collie

While not an official breed, there are Miniature Border Collies. They are simply a smaller version of the Border Collie, and the characteristics of their appearance remain the same.

Do Border Collies Shed A Lot?

Dog being brushed (Caption: A Guide To The Best Dog Shedding Brush)

Border Collies shed throughout the year due to their thick double coat. The shedding will increase to prepare their coat for warmer months and in the fall when their thicker coat starts to come in. You can help control shedding by using a shedding brush, which will keep that hair from landing all over your house.

What Are Their Grooming Needs?

Regular brushing and combing, at least two to three times a week, are necessary to ensure that the border collie has a smooth and shiny coat. However, grooming doesn’t always mean bathing since this can strip the coat of essential oils. You only need to bathe your Border Collie every 3 to 6 months, depending on how dirty their coat gets. During seasonal shedding, you may need to brush their coat a few more times a week.

How Is Their Temperament?

Dog digging hole (caption: How To Stop Dog From Digging Holes)

Border Collies are quite intelligent, and some consider them to be the smartest dog breed. However, there are lots of other endearing characteristics that make this breed a great pet. You will find this breed very loyal and protective with people they know but reserved around strangers. They are great with kids and cats in the home, but because of their herding nature, they may try to corral them unless they’re trained otherwise and may do better with older well-behaved children.

Boredom is the curse of a Border Collie. It can lead to compulsive, inappropriate behavior like digging and chewing. Though it isn’t a common trait, they can also exhibit aggressive behavior without proper training and care. You may also find Border Collies to be a barking breed. Between their herding instinct and visual stimulation, the barking may become an issue.


Dog trainer with dogs (Caption: Best Dog Trainer Review)

Training is an essential part of any dog’s life, and training needs can vary based on specific behaviors and breeds. Do your research to determine your needs. It’s important to know that this breed will require positive training and socialization. You may feel confident in providing your training, or you may want to hire a trainer. There are online options like Doggy Dan, or if you’re going to take classes or find a trainer locally, our experts can guide you on finding the right dog trainer.

Health Concerns

Dog in wheelchair on beach (caption: Canine Hip Dysplasia)

Some of the most commonly seen health problems with this breed include:

A significant concern for Border Collie lovers is the MDR1 gene. This gene is found in some herding breeds and can prove deadly. Dogs that carry this gene are sensitive to certain drugs commonly used in veterinarian medicine. While most breeds fair perfectly well with these particular types of drugs, dogs that carry the MDR1 gene may die due to exposure to these substances. Dogs can be tested for this gene’s presence so that owners can be aware of their Border Collie’s potential for complications when undergoing medical treatment. Embark’s dog DNA test can identify the MDR1 gene if your dog has it.

Handling The Cost Of Health Care

Health issues can be a concern for any pet, and the cost associated with them can be overwhelming. Our experts review the best pet insurance to help you handle the cost of your pet’s health needs over his lifetime.

How Much Exercise Do They Need?

All dogs have exercise requirements, but due to this breed’s working nature and its high intelligence, exercise is crucial. However, they’ll need mental and physical activity.

Physical Exercise

Border collie running through agility course

These herding dogs don’t have to have farmlands to claim as their own as long as they receive plenty of exercise such as agility or Flyball trials. While regular long walks are necessary for this high energy breed, it is also essential to encourage higher energy activities such as running, jogging, and playing ball.

You’ll notice, however, that Border Collies don’t like water-based sports and prefer to keep all four feet on dry ground.

Mental Exercise

Owners of Border Collies can tell you that this dog will become very bored very quickly without mental exercise. Next to an inability to provide enough physical activity, a failure to provide enough mental activity is the top reason why this breed finds its way into local shelters. See our article on the best brain games for dogs to help you keep your pup mentally stimulated.

Bowl of fresh dog food with dog and box (caption: Best Dog Food Delivery)What’s The Best Dog Food For a Border Collie?

This energetic breed requires a healthy diet to stay fit and strong. While it’s always important to check with your vet to determine the right high-quality dog food for your Border Collie, our experts review some excellent options. Whether you are looking for fresh food, raw food, or even dog food delivery service, we’ve got you covered.

What Is Their Life Expectancy?

Assuming the individual dog comes from quality genetics, the average life expectancy is between 12 and 15.

Mixes Of Border Collies

Mixed breeds have become very popular with breeders. If you’re thinking about a Border Collie mix, here are a few to consider.

  • Border Collie Lab mix
  • Border Collie Australian Shepherd mix aka Border Collie Aussie mix
  • Border Collie German Shepherd mix
  • Border Collie Husky mix
  • Blue Heeler Border Collie mix
  • Border Collie Golden Retriever mix
  • Border Collie Poodle mix
  • Border Collie Pitbull mix
  • Border Collie Beagle mix
  • Great Pyrenees Border Collie mix
  • Border Collie Terrier mix
  • Border Collie Doodle mix

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are both popular breeds if you’re looking for an active dog. Though they’re similar in some ways, they are also very different. Both are herding dogs with lots of energy and are very similar in size, but the Border Collie is slightly smaller.

These breeds are both very loyal to their humans, but the Border Collie takes the cake when it comes to smarts. When it comes to grooming, you’ll need to spend more time on a Border Collie than with the lower-maintenance Australian Shepard. If you really can’t decide, there’s the option to get a designer breed that’s a mix of the two.

Puppies peeking through fence(caption: How To Find A Reputable Dog Breeder)How Much Do They Cost?

The average cost for a Border Collie is between $600 and $1,200 in the U.S., depending on the breeder’s location and reputation. Make sure you find a reputable breeder to ensure they have your best interests and that of the puppy in mind. You may also be able to find a Border Collie rescue organization from which you can adopt. This option may be less expensive, but you may have to wait for a match with a pup in need of a home.

See The Border Collie In Action

This three-minute video from Andy Nickless shows you a glimpse of a Border Collie herding sheep on a farm.

Is A Border Collie The Right Dog For You?

If you have an active lifestyle that gives you the freedom to provide the mental and physical exercise this breed requires, a Border Collie may be the perfect fit. The Complete Guide To Border Collies is a great resource to help you learn more.

If you’re not sure you’re up to the challenge, you may want to consider a different breed. A German Shorthaired Pointer is an excellent choice for an active dog that doesn’t require as much mental stimulation, but if you’re looking for a less active dog that loves to snuggle, you may want to consider a French Bulldog.

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