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Border Collie Dog Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More


Last Updated: May 23, 2024 | 12 min read | 7 Comments

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The Border Collie is the most intelligent dog breed on the planet. Time after time, he herds the largest herds with ease and wins awards in agility, obedience, and service competitions. But does this mean he is the right dog for you and your lifestyle? Border Collies have plenty of love and affection for their family in addition to their intelligence. This sweet, hardworking pup is popular with families worldwide. There’s a good reason for that. Let me introduce you to this remarkable breed to find out if the Border Collie is the perfect pup for you.

Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight30-55 pounds
    • height iconHeight18-22 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-15 years
    • color iconColorsBlack, Blue, Merle, Brindle, Gold, Red, Sable, White
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs


Three Herding Dogs
The Border has a long history of being a champion herding breed.

Herding dogs have been around since sheep have been, and the Border Collie is an ancient dog breed. Once known as the Scotch sheepdog, this pup hails from Northumberland. This breed’s journey started when the Vikings invaded the Romans in Great Britain thousands of years ago.

The Vikings and their flocks landed with their herding dogs in tow. The Viking’s reindeer herding dog bred with the larger Roman herding dogs, and their ancestors were born. The Icelandic Sheepdog is believed to have played a big part in the Border’s mix.

The word ‘Collie’ is the Scottish word for sheepdog. The Border Collie was typically found on the borders of Scotland, hence his name.

The breed is considered one of the best herding dogs in the world. They have explosive energy, swooping on large flocks with a “hypnotizing stare” that sends them into submission. The combination of work drive and intelligence makes this one of the most trainable breeds, and he is happy to work until he drops.


Black and White Dog in Leaves
Border Collies play and work hard.

The standout trait of the breed is that he is the most intelligent dog breed on the planet. Back in the 1990s, a canine psychologist called Stanley Coren conducted mass testing of dog IQs. Time and time again, this breed continued to come out on top as the most intelligent. But you will also find that he is intense and requires a lot of hard work. The Border isn’t a sit-on-your-lap-all-day kind of dog.

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.

If sufficiently exercised, Borders can become couch potatoes at night. They are affectionate pups with the ones they love dearly. Some Borders focus their love on the one they see as their main caregiver, picking their “person.” Borders hate being left alone and are very sensitive dogs. They crave human company and become very anxious without it.

Size & Appearance

Medium Sized Black and White Dog
The Border is a medium-sized dog breed.

These medium-sized dogs weigh between 30 and 55 pounds. From paw to shoulder, he measures between 18 and 22 inches tall. Female Borders are usually smaller than their male counterparts. He has a choice of coat types, but he has an athletic and powerful body under that hair. His tail is long and usually reaches his hocks, which are basically dog ankles.

The Border Collie breed standard lays out what his appearance should be like. He is a well-balanced dog that projects agility and grace in equal measure. He has a keen and alert expression, and his eyes are oval-shaped. His eyes are usually dark in color, but blue is commonly found in merle-colored Borders. His ears are triangular, and they either sit erect or semi-erect, adding to his vigilant appearance.

What About Miniature Border Collies?

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.

Coat & Colors

Several Dogs in Field
These pups have double coats which come in a variety of different colors.

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. The smooth coat is short across his entire body. He usually has soft feathering fur around his forelegs, chest, and ruff. Surprisingly, it is coarser in texture than the rough coat type

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.

Both coats have a soft and dense undercoat that helps to keep his body warm. The top coat can be straight and slightly wavy in appearance. Whether the smooth or rough coat type, the topcoat is still soft to the touch but coarse in texture. This helps to make it weather-resistant, keeping your pup protected from the elements.

The breed standard also allows for a wide variety of coat colors. These are black, blue, blue merle, brindle, gold, lilac, red, red merle, sable, sable merle, and saddleback sable. Many of these colors can be mixed with white, and the most common colors are black and white. In a show ring, the color of his ears should match the main color of his body. It’s not uncommon to have some uniquely spotted coat color combinations, making them very visually appealing dogs.

Exercise Requirements

Black and White Dog Exercising
Stay clear of this breed unless you have at least 90 minutes to spend exercising your pup each day.

This breed cannot just live with anyone. He needs a particular type of family that can meet his intense needs. The first and possibly most important factor is his exercise requirements. This breed needs at least 60 to 90 minutes of intense exercise every day. And he isn’t going to be satisfied with a long stroll around the block. They need explosive activity to burn their energy off.

This breed is used to working the harsh lands of Scotland, so don’t think a little bit of rain will put him off either. He’s always got his furry raincoat on, and he’ll herd you out of the door if he has to. And it doesn’t just stop there.

This highly intelligent pup needs hours of mental stimulation in between outdoor adventures. You will need to play with him in the yard and supply him with a variety of dog toys. The best will be puzzle-solving toys that will keep him entertained for hours on end.

If you are seeking nonstop doggy entertainment and playtime, the Border is the best. He’ll happily play for hours on end without tiring or becoming bored. If you have an interest in doggy sports, such as tracking, obedience, agility training, or flyball, look no further.

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

Living Conditions

Dog playing catch in yard
A large yard is usually preferable for this particular dog breed.

While they can survive apartment living, it’s not considered ideal for their activity levels. Instead, he needs a large home with access to a large private yard. He’ll get cabin fever, being locked inside for hours at a time. You’ll find that he’ll enjoy sitting on the porch and watching the world go by. He might chase birds and other yard-visiting animals, but that’s only to herd them rather than catch them. The herding instinct is so strong that many of them chase cars, too. So, please make sure that he cannot escape.

He is a fantastic canine sibling for younger children, older children, or multi-pet households. This is reliant on the fact that he is raised and trained well as a pup. He is playful and sturdy enough to play but not overbearingly strong. Despite being a sweet pup, you should always monitor kids and dogs together.


Black and White Dog in Training
When it comes to training, this breed picks up on basic commands quickly.

As mentioned, this breed has a high IQ. And combining that with his hard-working ethic and eagerness to please his master makes him a doggy training dream. But you’ll want to start obedience training early because, like any dog, he can become problematic and unruly if left to his own devices.

Socialization is a crucial part of the training process. By mixing him with other dogs, animals, humans, and brand new environments, you will teach him how to face new situations. It will teach him how to be polite, play nicely, and feel confident. If you plan to work him on a ranch, getting him used to the sights and sounds of his soon-to-be working environment is crucial.

Positive reinforcement training is the best training method for the Border. Because they don’t like to be left alone, we advise crating from an early age. Although he cannot be left in there for too long, the right crate can reduce anxiety. It will also prevent him from running around your home and chomping on your favorite shoes or bedding.

Another crucial training aspect that you will probably need to learn about is preventing herding behavior in the home. If he is herding your children or other household pets, the likelihood is that he is bored.


Healthy Dogs in Pasture
When properly cared for, it’s not uncommon for these pups to live past 12 years of age.

The Border Collie is a generally healthy dog with an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. As a dog mom or dad, you have a responsibility to keep him as healthy and fit as possible. Plenty of exercise, top-quality nutrition, and keeping up to date with vet visits (no matter how much he’ll hate you for it) are all key to his health.

Like all purebreds, the breed is prone to certain health conditions. Although every dog is different, it is wise to start with the below list and learn how to recognize them in your Border. So, in no particular order, here are the most common health concerns that affect the Border.

  • MDR1 gene: 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 fare 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.
  • Hip dysplasia: This is where the affected joint, in this case, his hip, doesn’t grow evenly, causing abnormal formation. This abnormality causes increased wear and tear of the joint, which eventually causes mobility issues and arthritic pain. Hip dysplasia symptoms include stiffness, difficulty in standing or climbing, and exercise intolerance.
  • Eye conditions: This breed is prone to a variety of eye concerns. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that causes the retina to deteriorate. Pannus is a condition that is like having sunburn on the eyes, so reducing sun exposure is important for affected pups. Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is found in many sheepdogs, and it causes abnormal eye development.

Seeing potential health concerns for your Border Collie may make you feel a little stressed about their well-being and your finances. Pet insurance can help you feel more secure getting your Collie vet care when needed without worrying about the cost. Our experts review the best pet insurance to help you learn about your options and make the best decision for you and your dog.


Hungry Medium Sized Dog
A high-quality diet will go a long way in ensuring your pup maintains a long life.

As mentioned, this is a dog breed that has an intense amount of energy. As such, he needs energy-filled food made from top-quality ingredients. An average non-working dog will consume around two and a half cups of food every day. A working Collie is likely to need three and a half cups. To ensure that you don’t overfeed your pup, always follow the package instructions.

Top-quality food uses quality ingredients to provide energy rather than be pumped full of fillers and poor-quality fats. It will also ensure that he consumes a well-balanced diet that will care for his every need. Including muscle repair, eye and cognitive development, and a shiny coat, to name just a few. The Border Collie’s nutritional needs change at each of his life stages, so be sure to find a perfect dog food to match.


Black and White dog on Couch
If you don’t like dog fur, you should consider adopting another dog breed.

Their grooming schedule is not as difficult as most people think, especially if he has a shorter coat. If he has the smooth coat type, he will only need brushing once every week. The longer, rough coat needs brushing two or three times a week, depending on how long it is. The longer his jacket, the more prone it is to matting.

The Border Collie is a relatively heavy shedder during the shedding seasons. During these times, you need to increase his brushing to most days to manage the amount he sheds. A regular brushing routine is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the amount you find on your outfit. If it’s during shedding season, you’ll want to invest in an undercoat rake.

He only needs bathing once every 12 weeks or so. Of course, if he becomes super dirty working the muddy fields all day, you might want to wash him a bit more frequently. But never any more than once every 8 weeks. Otherwise, you risk damaging his natural coat oils and irritating his skin. If you need to freshen his coat, you can purchase dry doggy shampoo or doggy wipes to keep him smelling his best.

His teeth will need brushing at least once a week to keep his breath fresh and reduce the buildup of plaque. Always use specially designed doggy toothpaste, and treat him after to make it as pleasant as possible. Trim nails as needed with a Dremel or clippers. Considering that eye conditions are his biggest health concern, check his eyes for any redness or changes as you groom him each week.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Black and White Puppy Running in Field
Expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for a puppy from a reputable breeder.

Because of the breed’s popularity, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a reputable breeder. A puppy from a reputable breeder will cost around $1,000 and up.

Do your research, and always meet the breeders and the puppies in person. Look for signs of healthy and happy puppies, a clean and warm environment, and the pup’s mom. If the breeder pressurizes you into buying a dog, or you see any signs of poor health or a dirty environment, walk away immediately. Working with a reputable breeder is the most important decision that you can make for a long and happy life with your pup.

You also need to remember the ongoing costs of care, including food, insurance, and veterinary care. Making your home puppy-friendly, with beds, crates, collars, toys, etc., all cost money and must be taken into account too. Once you bring your Collie home, use our guide to find the perfect name.

Rescues & Shelters

Blue Merle Herding Dog Outdoors
As with any purebred, we always encourage looking at local rescues before adopting a puppy.

Buying a puppy isn’t the right choice for everyone, and instead, rescuing can be the better choice. Not only can you save money on the initial puppy price, but you are also giving a homeless dog a home. Head out to your local shelters and speak to the staff. If there aren’t any Borders at that particular shelter, the team might be able to direct you to a nearby one.

Alternatively, you can search for breed-dedicated rescue shelters. There are many across the country, and they focus their efforts entirely on the Border breed. The Border Collie Rescue website lists different rescue organizations state by state. And it is a great resource for those wanting to rescue a Border. If you are open to a mutt, Border crossbreeds can make wonderful family companions. 

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.

As Family Pets

Are you in love with the Border Collie breed? Is this super smart pup the right companion for your family? Borders make amazing family pets but are not the right fit for everyone.

Border Collies must be with an active family that has time to spend with them. This breed needs at least 60 to 90 minutes of intense exercise every day. If they don’t get enough physical activity, you will have an anxious, destructive pup.

The Border Collie is loving with his family but aloof with strangers. He hates to be left alone and is known to be a sensitive pup. He is friendly with children and other animals with proper socialization. They can live in apartments but do better in homes with large, fenced yards.

Other Breeds To Consider

The Border Collie is as smart as can be and fun to have around, but due to their high energy, they can be a handful. If you love the idea of an energetic pup, you should also consider the Australian Cattle Dog, Dalmatian, Beagle, or Siberian Husky. Of course, a Border Collie mixed with a calmer breed is always a great compromise, including the Border Collie Labrador Retriever mix, and the Bordoodle, a Border Collie Poodle blend.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Emma is a dog fanatic with over 20 years of experience and the proud mom of two rescue dogs, Bonkers and Chips. Before becoming a freelance writer specializing in canine content, she worked as a professional dog walker and sitter for many years. She has undergone various canine care courses and has looked after several breeds with different needs. Emma dedicates countless hours researching the latest pet care, health, food, and training developments to keep her two best buddies and other doggy clients as happy and healthy as possible.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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