Border Collies Complete Owners Manual

border collies

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Border collies are often described as workaholics. They like to be kept busy, and can become difficult if they are bored. They are the best breed for a number of activities, such as agility and flyball, so much so, that owners of other breeds often don't want to compete against border collies! They are also fine obedience dogs. Not everyone is suited to being a BC owner. You need to be able to commit quite a lot of time to the dog, or use a BC as a working dog, herding sheep.

They are the best herders, heading off stray sheep and keeping the flock together, taking it to where the owner commands. People who watch sheep trials on TV may want one of these magic dogs, but it takes a lot of training to get a BC to that stage, and untrained Border Collies are just as likely to harass sheep as any other dog, perhaps more so, because of their herding drive. Herding is a very enjoyable activity for people who have the time to learn with their dogs. It's best learnt from someone who has a lot of experienced of herding with Border Collies, since the skill involves a lot of non-verbal elements, like 'reading' the dog, getting the timing right, and developing signals that you can use at a distance. Luckily, Border Collies also have a strong retrieving drive, and you can keep them happy for hours bringing back balls in your garden. You need to teach them how to retrieve, starting out with a lot of balls, and praising them when they bring one back, throwing it again. They have the potential as retrievers, but aren't born knowing how to, they just learn very fast, and don't want to stop once they have learnt. It's a good idea to make ball playing a proper game, getting the collie to sit and stay while you throw the ball, only retrieving after you have said 'fetch', and bringing back the ball to you ending in a nice sit, presenting the ball in their mouths. You also need a command that says 'no more ball throws'. Training retrieves properly, rather than just throwing balls, allows you to have more control. Otherwise, Border Collies are prone to trying to grab the ball from your hand, and pestering you for games all the time.

Border Collies are 'velcro dogs', tending to follow you to the bathroom, and watching you in the hope you might do something interesting. Some people describe them as always asking 'What do you want me to do now'?, like a very keen employee. Others see them as wanting their owners to entertain them as much as possible. Either way, you have to accept that a Border Collie is likely to want a very intense relationship with you, and you have to learn how to 'turn a Border Collie off', since they will carry on working or playing for as long as you interact with them.

Are they good with kids? Not always, it has to be admitted. Border collies are essentially working, rather than pedigree dogs, and their temperaments vary enormously. Some are wonderful with kids, while others can be nippy and nervous. However, kids who understand dogs can get on fine with them, and have happy hours together with a BC, especially if the kids can play ball, and impose strict rules, such as getting the dog to sit before the ball is thrown. They vary in terms of how well they get on with other dogs, but generally are more interesting in playing ball with their owners than going and socializing with dogs they meet on walks.

Common health problems include hip dyplasia and eye trouble. Eye problems are so common with Border Collies it's best to check the ancestry of any pup you are interested in, and ask specifically about eye problems. Border Collies are also prone to playing retrieving games with such intensity that they forget to wee, and can collapse from overexertion, especially when it's hot, and wear down their pads until they are raw, so you need to impose rest periods. Sound phobias are a common behavioural problem, though the drive to work is so intense that you can sometimes get a sound-phobic Border Collie to snap out of it, simply by giving commands, or producing a ball from your pocket. So long as they have something to do, their neuroses tend not to surface, which is why they are called workaholics.

Michael De Vine's book is a very good introduction to the breed. It covers the history of the breed, as well as general care, and various activities that border collies can get involved in, as well as health issues. It's also an amusing book in parts. It's more of a general introduction for novices than a book for experienced owners, but is certainly one of the best.