The Border Collie

The Border Collie is often referred to by its initials BC.

Hailing from England, Scotland, and Wales where they were specifically bred to be intelligent and obedient, they are said to be the descendants of dogs that the Vikings used to herd reindeer. Border Collies (BC’s) are ranked, as one of the most intelligent and top herding dogs on the planet, although they can be a bit neurotic, is a fantastic breed. Never seeming to tire, loving their work, and working, Border Collies do not know the words quit or take it easy. These herding dogs, mostly for sheep, but also other livestock, are known for their staring and crouching style that enables them to mesmerize and herd almost any animal, which is why they are considered one of the best herding breeds in the world.

Focused and ready to work, this breed must be kept busy with anything to occupy them. If not kept engaged they will become bored and possibly turn destructive. BC’s will herd children, cats, ducks, geese, other animals, and almost anything that moves, and they can also be utilized to vacate unwanted birds from areas such as golf courses and airports. Border Collies also make excellent watchdogs, and are capable of taking verbal and whistle commands at long distances. It has been established that they are highly adept at learning and retaining a huge lexicon of commands.

Highly trainable and able to excel in many sports such as agility, Frisbee™ trials, Flyball, tricks, and obedience competitions. They also serve as narcotics and bomb detector dogs, and even guide dogs for the blind and handicap assistant dogs. Using rewards based training. BC’s are capable of learning far more than the usual commands and tricks. They are able to learn, retain, and perform many tricks upon command, perform in a variety of dog sports, and herd livestock. Blessed with energy and stamina they can work or play all day long. Agility skills are a highlight of this breed and they perform at high levels in Frisbee™, sheepdog trials, obedience, and other sports.

Medium sized dogs with a thick double coat that varies from short and smooth to medium-long rough, they come in many colors, black and white being the most common. Red, white, and red tricolor (red/tan/white), black tricolor (black/tan/white or sable and white), blue, lilac, red and blue merle, brindle and more. Some have been known to have single color coats. They often have different color eyes as well as blue and brown eye color.

Health

Like humans, dogs have the potential to develop ailments and diseases. Many of these ailments and diseases vary in type and prevalence, from breed to breed. Consider this fact when picking out your new puppy, and beware of any breeder that makes a claim that the puppies of their particular breed are “100% healthy.” A reputable and honest breeder should know and share any health related issues that the breed you are purchasing or inquiring about might have, or that could potentially surface.

Mostly durable and healthy there are a few health issues they are prone, such as epilepsy, hip dysplasia, PRA (Collie Eye Anomaly), and deafness. Border Collies do have an issue with hearing loss as they age. Two other significant calamities, CL (ceroid lipofuscinosis, and TNS (trapped neutrophil syndrome) are fatal genetic disorders.

Prior to acquiring your dog of choice, I recommend reading about canine health related issues and common breed specific ailments. By familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of a potential disease or sickness, you will be empowered to be the first line of defense in support of your dog’s health and wellbeing. By completing routine physical examinations of your dog, frequent fecal inspections, as well as recognizing any gastrointestinal problems, all helps to assure optimal health of your companion. By observing and understanding your dog’s healthy behaviors and regular patterns, you will easily be able to identify when your dog is not feeling well, and to deduce if medical attention is needed.

In your position and role as alpha, you are responsible for providing the best possible care for your dog, assuring his or her wellbeing and comfort. Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you observe your dog displaying peculiar behaviors or showing any signs of discomfort. It is very important to maintain your dog’s scheduled exams, mandatory check up’s and vaccination appointments. Uphold this duty, so that your dog can enjoy the vitality of good health that he or she deserves, and is entitled to.

Long daily walks are recommended for maintaining a healthy dog, regardless of the breed. Walks can be opportunities to practice leash training, socialization, and aid to the over-all mental and physical wellbeing of your dog. Border Collies require at least two hours per day of varied types of exercise, whether this is achieved through play, games or sport. Herding, agility, and other games are a great source of exercise and mental stimulation for BC’s.

Remember that loneliness and boredom are enemies of the BC. I advise that you always provide your new puppy with plenty of toys to keep boredom at bay and to reduce the chance of potential destructive negative behaviors from overtaking their naturally sweet disposition.

Feeding Your Border Collie

Age, weight, and activity levels are a few of the factors that can change the food requirements of your BC. Once you have determined the appropriate amount to provide, feed an accurately measured portion, at regular times, to help maintain their optimal weight. If you wish to feed your dog a raw food diet or a mix, please do your research and consult your veterinarian prior to any adjustments to their meals. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh, clean water available for your dog, and it is considered a good hygienic practice to clean your dog’s bowl after each feeding.

Proactive Measures for Puppy Selection

If you want to buy a Border Collie puppy, be sure to find a reputable Border Collie breeder who will provide proof of health clearances for both of the puppy’s parents. Health clearances are official documents that prove a dog has been tested for, and cleared of any, or all breed specific conditions, however a clearance does not guarantee against acquired diseases or congenital abnormalities. Remember, even under the best breeding practices and proactive care measures, puppies can still develop diseases.

Any breeder that does not have knowledge, will not provide genetic testing or states that testing is unnecessary, should be considered an inappropriate provider of Border Collies. Beware of any breeder that refuses or does not know the answers to questions about their breeding practices and health of their dogs. Avoid Puppy Mill breeders that are only breeding dogs to make money and are unconcerned with the health of their dogs and the puppies they produce. Unfortunately, many of these dogs end up in pet stores, so be diligent when searching for your new puppy. The best practice is to deal directly with breeders, find referrals, and if possible visit their establishment.

A breeder that takes pride in producing healthy and attractive dogs will perform genetic testing and additional testing on its dogs. Any breeder performing these tests is potentially a conscientious breeder worth considering as a provider of your new puppy. Furthermore, good breeders will remove aggressive animals from their breeding program. Breeders should welcome questions and be able to answer easily all questions that you have about their breeding stock, housing, genetics, Border Collie specific ailments, breed standard, and number of litters per year that they produce.

Explain to the breeder the type of dog that you are seeking so that they can match the appropriate type of Border Collie to your family. Tell them whether you are seeking a companion, competitive, or show type of dog. Avoid shy or nervous puppies; look for an alert outgoing happy puppy. Quality breeders take pride in matching their dogs to appropriate families. It is of great importance to them because they are responsible for returns, the health issues of their puppies, and must keep records of where they are.

For the Border Collie breed, you should expect to see a health clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia, as well as a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), certifying that the eyes are healthy. You can also confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org). Two other significant calamities, CL (ceroid lipofuscinosis, and TNS (trapped neutrophil syndrome) are fatal genetic disorders that can be tested in DNA. You will want to see clearance of CL and TNS from the breeder you choose your puppy. For more information, refer to the bordercolliesociety.com/index_health.htm website.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA www. offa.org) maintains an open registry with evaluations of hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, cardio, and additional canine health issues. They also provide clear definitions of the test categories to help you understand the grading system. PennHIP (www.pennhip.org) is another registry that tests and evaluates dog’s hips.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) conducts large canine research studies on diseases that affect purebred dogs. Their health program is under the direction of the Canine Health Foundation (CHF), and is in partnership with OFA, and additionally does breed testing and provides a centralized canine health database called, the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). The results of these tests are maintained in a registry, and dogs that have completed all of the required exams, including testing of the hips, elbows, and eyes, receive a CHIC number. Along with the breed-testing program, there is the CHIC DNA Repository. CHIC is trying to gather and store breed DNA samples for canine disease research. The goal is to facilitate future research aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited diseases in dogs. You can search the database to find out if a specific dog has information listed about it. More information about CHIC is available here: caninehealthinfo.org

To be accepted into the CHIC database, breeders must agree to have all test results published. This enables the reader to see both good and bad results of the testing. Obtaining a CHIC number does not imply that the dog received good or passing evaluation scores. The CHIC registration also does not signify as proof of the absence of disease, and all information must be read and evaluated. CHIC allows the information collected to be readily available to anyone with an inquiry.

Care

You are responsible for the welfare of your new puppy or dog. Please treat him or her with respect and love, and this will be reciprocated tenfold. Dogs have been human companions for thousands of years, and they are living beings complete with feelings, emotions and the need for attachment. Before bringing home a new dog or puppy, please determine if you are capable and willing to provide all the needs that your new family member requires.

From the time you bring your pup home, positive training is a great start to introducing your new pack member to your household. You should be aware and sensitive to the fact that dogs have an amazing capacity for memory and recollection of those experiences. With this in mind, please refrain from harsh training tactics that may intimidate your puppy and that potentially can negatively affect personality or demeanor. When you train your new puppy, give him or her the respect they deserve, and utilize all available positive reinforcements. The result of your positive, proactive training methods and behavior modifications will be that your dog’s abilities, traits, and characteristics that are buried within the genetic profile of their specific breed, will shine. I am an advocate for beginning with rewards based clicker training, followed by vocal and physical cues for your young dog to learn to become obedient to commands.

Crate training has positive benefits, and provides a safe place for your dog to nap, or simply to be alone. In addition, crate training at a young age will help your dog accept confinement if he ever needs to be transported, boarded or hospitalized.

Appropriate, early, and ongoing socialization will help you and your BC throughout his or her lifetime. Expose your new puppy or dog to a wide variety of situations, people, and other animals. This helps to prevent shyness, aggressiveness, possessiveness, and many other potential behavioral problems, meanwhile supporting the bond between the two of you. Remember never leave young children unsupervised around dogs or puppies. Also, be aware that situations of aggression may happen no matter how loving, gentle, and well trained a dog may be.

A routine care program is essential for any dog, and should always include basic hygienic practices. For the optimal health of your pet, scheduled care should include the care of the coat, nails and teeth. It is important to get instruction from your veterinarian for the proper cleaning method of the outer and inner ear.

Training

As an owner, you need to establish your alpha position early and training should be rather easy once you find out your BC’s motivations. Border Collies will try to outsmart humans, and have been known to do it. These dogs will not be happy hanging out in the backyard with nothing to do and then lay idly around the house with you while you relax. That is a sure way to bring out barking, bored, and destructive behaviors. As an owner, you should note that if you are not highly active you could encounter some difficulties.

Tasks, games, and exercise are the only way to occupy this intelligent energy filled dog breed. Their herding instinct is deep and it takes some work to curve them away from herding pets, vehicles, children, and anything else that moves. It is a natural condition as much as breathing, and performed by instinct. Mental and physical occupation is necessary to have a happy and healthy dog friend. Your BC might question some of your requests along the way, so be observant, and make it worth their while through treats, praise, games, and play.

Some vocal training tips that have been shared regarding tone of voice are as follows. For corrections use a lower vocal  tone with a tad of harshness, high pitch tones said quickly tend to speed BC’s up, and lower tones slow them down. If you want to get your Border Collie’s attention speak in a whisper so that he or she has to concentrate on your words. BC’s are sensitive to tones so be cautious and consistent with your vocal messages.

The great thing is that they will catch on and understand, and in fact extremely adept at reading facial expressions, so be conscious of disappointments when you are training your fresh young puppy. You want the training sessions to be enjoyable and leave your puppy looking forward to learning more, so always end your sessions with happy tones and big smiles.

This intelligent dog sometimes needs time to ponder and relive their training sessions. If you give your BC time to relax and reflect, you will notice the positive result in the next sessions. After training sessions give your dog space to do as he or she pleases. When you discover the joy of training a BC you will be smiling, and in a short time should have an obedient dog.

Enjoy your Border Collie dog!