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Border Collie Pros & Cons: What to Know Before You Get One

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Male Border Collie

Border Collies are the smarty pants in the world of canines, topping the list of the most intelligent dogs known to man1. These medium-sized work dogs were originally bred to herd sheep, prized for their intelligence, strength, and work ethic. They also make excellent companions and can quickly charm you with their eagerness to please.

In their latest polling available, the American Kennel Club ranked Border Collies as the 31st most popular dog breed2. Over the years, many celebrities have owned the canine breed, including Queen Victoria, Bon Jovi, and Tiger Woods.

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Are you considering adding a Border Collie to your household?

Owning this dog breed can be pleasurable and rewarding. However, some potential drawbacks can make the Border Collie unsuitable for your needs or lifestyle. Read for an in-depth review of the breed’s pros and cons.

Border Collie outdoors
Photo Credit: ForeverNaturalPhotography, Shutterstock

Pros of a Border Collie

Let’s begin by analyzing traits of the Border Collie that are likely to attract you.

1. Super Smart

The Border Collie’s instinctive and relative intelligence is  off the charts. As herding dogs, they were bred to drive the flock after reading the herder’s facial expression. They can also understand more commands than the average dog.

One of the most famous Border Collies, named Chaser, could respond to over 1,000 commands! Chaser was crowned the smartest dog in the world for having the vocabulary of a 3-year-old child3.

Generally, Border Collies have versatile learning capabilities and can master any word, trick, or command. This makes them excellent companions, especially for quick thinkers who can satisfy their appetite for mental stimulation.

2. Eager to Please Their Owners

Although dog cognition is still a growing area of study, Border Collie owners swear that their furry friends strive to please them. Their eagerness to make you happy motivates them to learn new actions and commands. Border Collies are also very cooperative during training and can keep devising clever ways to earn a treat or a good round of petting and praise.

Your pet’s personality means that it will not be long before it becomes a massive part of your life. If having a loving and loyal companion by your side is something you’d enjoy, you should undoubtedly adopt a Border Collie.

border collie puppy practicing tricks
Photo credit: Geertes, Shutterstock

3. Active and Cheerful

Border Collies are workaholics, which can be a seemingly desirable behavior in some contexts. They are happier when taught how to perform different tasks and could prove helpful on the farm. Their athletic bodies give them the perfect combination of agility and balance to make it effortless to drive cattle or excel in dock diving and frisbee competitions.

The Border Collie is desirable if you are looking for a hiking, biking, or running companion. Your doggo will gladly join your escapades and keep you well entertained.

4. Not as Expensive as Many Assume

The cost of a purebred Border Collie can vary from one breeder to another. On average, the breed costs between $600 on the low end and $2,000 on the high end. Border Collies are not cheap, but considering show-quality breeds, they are relatively affordable.

German Shepherd and Border Collie mix dog
Photo Credit: Colin Dewar, Shutterstock

5. Decent Life Expectancy

Purebred Border Collies are hardy and typically live long, happy, and healthy lives. They can live for 12 to 15 years with minimal health concerns. Still, it is crucial to partner with your vet in monitoring your dog’s overall health. The breed is vulnerable to problems like hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and progressive renal atrophy.

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Cons of a Border Collie

If you are considering a Border Collie, you need to be aware of a few “negative” traits of the breed. Some of these cons can make the pet unsuitable for your lifestyle.

1. Master Escape Artists

Did we mention that Border Collies are highly intelligent and quick learners?

They can teach themselves to escape from a locked home. Each time you leave for walks, your pet will study even the slightest movements when unlocking the gate. It will not be long before it can virtually pick your locks and escape to quench its wanderlust. This can be frustrating, especially if escaping puts them in harm’s way.

Blue Heeler Border Collie standing in partial snow
Image Credit: Brett Holmes, Shutterstock

2. Need Mental Stimulation to Thrive

As hard-working dogs, Border Collies require mental stimulation to thrive. If you live in a small apartment that lacks open outdoors or you have to juggle busy schedules, the breed may not be ideal for you. It is imperative to be in a position to provide at least two hours of rigorous daily exercise.

With adequate mental and physical stimulation, Border Collies remain good-tempered and pleasant. Keeping them caged or alone for extended periods often encourages destructive behavior. Bottled-up energy can also cause them to stray in search of something to herd. If they cannot stray, they’ll direct the energy to anything that moves, including other pets or children.

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3. Need Regular Grooming

Border Collies have double-layered coats that require frequent grooming to minimize shedding.

You should brush your dog’s fur once weekly or every other day during shedding season. Also, trim the long hair at the back of the legs at least once monthly to keep things tidy. The constant need for grooming can be a significant disadvantage, especially if you have a busy schedule.

Groomer brushing a Border Collie
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

4. They Like Guarding Their Territories

If you live in a crime-prone neighborhood, you may like that Border Collies are naturally territorial. They make excellent guard dogs and take their job of protecting their family members seriously.

Unfortunately, this also means that strangers, including your guests and the pizza guy, must be cautious when accessing your property. Border Collies can bite and growl, especially if they are not well-trained. Early training and socialization help minimize unwarranted aggression.

5. May Not Be Ideal for a Home With Kids

Plenty of Border Collies get along with small children. However, their lively personalities and herding instincts can be a problem. As fierce workaholics, they constantly search for work opportunities. If they cannot circle and drive sheep, they can settle for the next best thing: your children.

If you find your Border Collie circling your children and nipping their heels to guide them towards a specific direction, discourage the behavior immediately. The dogs have strong herding instincts, and the situation can get out of hand if your little ones refuse to cooperate.

Border Collie puppy sitting looking over the seat waiting close up
Image Credit: Aarontphotography, Shutterstock

Divider 7Final Thoughts

Border Collies make excellent family pets and can quickly adapt to any living situation that promises adequate mental and physical stimulation. Their energetic nature makes them happier with active owners who can provide lots of work and open fields.

So, should you add a Border Collie to your household?

The dog can be a great addition to the right family. Before adopting the dog, ensure you have the time and patience needed to provide constant opportunities to burn pent-up energy. Also, be prepared to provide ongoing socialization and obedience training.

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Featured Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

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