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Are Border Collies Good for First-Time Owners?

Chelsie Fraser

By Chelsie Fraser

boarder collie dog walking with his owner

If you’re a first-time dog owner, it can be tough to decide on a breed that’s best for you. Not all dogs are created equal, and some breeds are more challenging to manage than others. Border Collies are intelligent, energetic dogs with a strong work ethic, so they are not usually recommended for first-time dog owners. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to take on a Border Collie as your first dog; it just means you must be prepared for the amount of work and effort that it requires to keep them happy and healthy.

Before you decide to get a Border Collie, it’s important to understand that this dog breed has a unique set of challenges. They aren’t a low-maintenance breed, so you need to be prepared for the task.

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Important Things That First-Time Owners Should Know About Border Collies

If you are thinking about getting a Border Collie for your first dog, there are a few things that you should know that will help you decide whether they are suitable for an owner with little or no experience.

1. Border Collies Are Working Dogs

Border Collies are bred to work and their work ethic is extremely strong. Even Border Collies that don’t come from stock dog bloodlines have a deeply ingrained herding instinct. They can also go all day long with no rest and are happy to do so. Most Border Collie owners have to “train in” rest time, as these dogs won’t slow down or rest on their own.

Border Collie
Image Credit: animalsindistress, Pixabay
What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • Assuming that you don’t have a cattle or sheep farm for your Border Collie to work on, you will need to provide your dog with a means of mental and physical stimulation to satisfy their need to work.
  • Border Collies need a job — every day, all the time, for the rest of their life. They take their jobs seriously, so be mindful of the job that you give them. Here’s an example: If you teach your Border Collie to meet your kids at the end of the driveway every day at 4:00 p.m. when they get off the school bus, make sure you let them out to do so. If you get caught up doing laundry and forget to let your Border Collie outside before the bus shows up, they will likely knock out your window screen and jump the gate or break through any other barrier to get there because it’s their job. They will appear to be slightly regretful when you reprimand them for tearing your window screen, but they will do it again in a heartbeat if you forget to let them out.
  • This is the essence of life with a Border Collie — you must keep them busy and be careful what you teach them to do.

2. Border Collies Are Highly Intelligent, But This Doesn’t Make Them Easy to Train

This is an important distinction. Without question, Border Collies are among the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. They may even be smarter than you, and this is the catch. Training Border Collies isn’t always easy, as they are good at finding shortcuts to do tasks.

What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • Most first-time dog owners lack knowledge of training methods. This means you will need to spend time researching positive reinforcement methods and will probably make a few mistakes along the way.
  • Border Collies like to anticipate things ahead of time and skip steps if they think that they know what comes next. Unfortunately, this can cause training confusion for inexperienced owners and their dogs. Training Border Collies requires persistence, structure, and organization. These dogs like things in order, and they like to know what you expect of them. They are also good at expressing negative reactions, and you need to be able to stand your ground when they ignore commands.
border collie outside at the garden
Image Credit: qvortonev63, Pixabay

3. Border Collies Can Have Nipping Tendencies

As herding dogs, one of the ways that Border Collies keep other animals in line is to nip at their heels. These nips aren’t intended to cause harm, but rather to get the point across that it’s time to move. Even in other situations, Border Collies will still herd. They will gather up their toys, move you out of the way, and herd small children. This is where problems can occur.

What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • There’s no guarantee that a Border Collie will develop a nipping problem, and it’s strongly encouraged to prevent the behavior from ever developing. This by itself is tough for first-time dog owners, as it requires a great deal of time and persistence to redirect unwanted behavior.
  • If you have small children in your home, exercise extreme caution with a Border Collie. Babies and toddlers are prime targets for herding. From the dog’s perspective, they are unruly creatures that need to be moved into their place. Unfortunately, this can lead to the dog nipping or biting the child, which is never a good situation for anyone.

4. Border Collies Hate Being Alone

Border Collies are loyal dogs, and they develop strong bonds with their owners. They will endlessly stare at you, waiting for your next command. When a Border Collie falls in love with you, you become their whole world — but it also means they become intolerant of being without you.

border collie puppy practicing tricks
Image Credit: Geertes, Shutterstock
What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • Consider your schedule and routine carefully before owning a Border Collie. They won’t tolerate spending long hours at home alone. When they do, they become destructive, disobedient, and anxious.

5. Border Collies Are Sensitive Dogs

High intelligence comes with heightened sensitivity. Border Collies are famous for “stumping” new owners who can’t understand their dog’s behavior. There are both positives and negatives to owning a super-sensitive dog. They are in tune with your emotions, but they also have intense emotions of their own.

What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • Establishing a bond with a Border Collie isn’t usually a smooth ride. These dogs often don’t react in expected ways. They can be standoffish and anxious, and it’s easier to break their trust than to gain it.
  • This sensitivity is important when it comes to training. It’s easy to lose patience when working with a young dog. With a Border Collie, yelling is a big no-no. While it’s important to establish firm boundaries, anger causes these dogs to shut down. Not only is it ineffective, but you may also find your dog cowering in fear the next time that they make a mistake. It’s easier to prevent this from happening than it is to fix it later, so positive reinforcement training is key. This does not mean you should never tell your dog, “no.” But it’s important not to make your dog fearful of punishment.
  • It’s best to expect the unexpected with a Border Collie. They can be incredibly loving and affectionate dogs, but they take a while to warm up to new people. Many never enjoy interacting with people outside of their immediate family. They are loyal only to those they trust.
chocolate and white border collie
Image: Enirehtacess, Pixabay

6. Border Collies Are Extremely High-Energy Dogs

The usual recommendation for Border Collies is 2 hours of physical exercise each day. It is crucial that these dogs get at least this much exercise. It will help calm them and engage their desire to work.

What This Means for a First-Time Owner
  • Exercising a Border Collie isn’t for the faint of heart. This dog isn’t for you if you prefer a leisurely stroll around the block. If you’re going for a long hike up a mountain, your Border Collie is in! Running, biking, swimming, or chasing a ball are all great activities for Border Collies.
  • These dogs require physically demanding activities, and you must be dedicated to giving them adequate exercise daily. Make sure you have the time to do so, as a well-exercised Border Collie is a content one.

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Is a Border Collie Right for You?

Even though Border Collies aren’t a breed recommended for first-time owners, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It simply means you must have the commitment, time, and determination to meet this dog’s needs.

A Border Collie may be suitable for you if:

  • You enjoy and are prepared for a challenge.
  • You understand the demands of the breed.
  • You’re committed to extensive training.
  • You have the time to commit to an active lifestyle with your dog.
  • You are willing to prioritize your Border Collie’s needs.
border collie
Image credit: SoloStar, Pixabay

A Border Collie is not suitable for you if:

  • You want a dog for your kids.
  • You’re rarely at home.
  • You want a lap dog.
  • You aren’t willing to commit hours to your dog every day.

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Final Thoughts

Border Collies are wonderful dogs and make fantastic family pets if raised correctly. They are not usually recommended for first-time owners because they present a unique set of challenges that many inexperienced dog owners aren’t prepared to face. This doesn’t mean you can’t own a Border Collie, but it’s important to be aware of the challenges that may lie ahead.

Explaining the challenges of living with a Border Collie isn’t meant to turn anyone off from the breed. Border Collies are unique and wonderful dogs, but they just aren’t for everyone. When choosing a dog breed, it’s critical to be aware of your limitations and know what you want in a dog. Owning a dog that doesn’t suit your lifestyle isn’t fair to you or the dog and will prevent you from developing the lifelong bond that you seek from dog ownership.

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Featured Image Credit: LUM3N, Pixabay

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