Border collies are a dog breed with several distinct characteristics. They are known for their intelligence, loyalty, attentiveness, affection, and above all, their energy. This is so much the case that owners sometimes wonder if their dog is ever going to calm down.
Border collies do tend to mellow out and become less energetic in the second half of their lives, starting about the age of six. Although they are extremely active throughout their life span, with an average life expectancy of 12 years, you can anticipate your border collie to take a somewhat more relaxed view of life between the time it is four to six-years-old.
This breed of dog sets itself apart in several remarkable ways. In this article, I will address information about this hard-working, lovable breed, including how much exercise they require, how to play with them, are they good with children, and why it takes them half their life to calm down.
How Can I Make Sure My Border Collie Is Getting Enough Exercise?
Because they are incredibly high-energy dogs, especially through their first three years, your border collie will need a good two hours a day of physical exercise to stay fit and to avoid the sort of boredom that leads to misbehavior. It’s good to break this up in multiple sessions with varied activities (source).
Border collies aren’t just physically active, but mentally energetic as well. They are stimulated by games and learning new tricks, routines, and commands. This breed has a well-earned reputation for intelligence, and they love to exercise their minds.
Having a nearby outdoor play area will be an essential part of your dog’s daily life. This breed relishes the opportunity to get “off the leash” as well, so having regular access to a dog park or a large fenced yard is also a plus.
If your dog is not getting enough exercise, it may express its boredom by chewing or by engaging in other inappropriate behavior. This is especially true of younger dogs. Border collies love to please their owners but are not above finding destructive ways to demonstrate they need more attention and exercise.
For all their positive qualities, border collies have been known to have some troublesome characteristics as well. They are easily bored and can be destructive within the home if they do not receive sufficient exercise. Their health suffers physically and mentally if they aren’t active.
One of the real virtues of having a high energy dog is that it keeps its owner and active. Your border collie may go out of its way to make sure you get plenty of exercise too.
What Is the Best Way to Play with My Border Collie?
This breed of dog tends to seek purpose in all its activities. Your border collie will want to engage in games that are challenging and rewarding. It will love to fetch balls and Frisbees as well as playing chase with you. Note that the dog may tend to herd you if you’re the one being chased.
For more advanced play, there are several standard sporting and game activities to train your border collie to compete in. Here is a list of some of the more common ones with descriptions of the activities involved:
|Competitive obedience||Dogs are trained to accomplish specific tasks, much like service animals.|
|Showmanship||Similar to a dog show, dog and owner walk through a prescribed routine to demonstrate partnership and etiquette.|
|Flyball||This is a sort of dog obstacle course through which dogs race each other, the prize being to press a latch and catch a ball.|
|Tracking||Border collies have exceedingly good olfactory senses and can be trained to locate hidden items by following an odor trail.|
An owner may not have the time, interest, or ability to work with a border collie to the point of entering it into organized events like these. These activities may suggest, however, some creative pastimes for the owner and dog to explore together.
Does My Border Collie Need Other Dogs to Play With?
Surprisingly, for a dog as loyal, affectionate, and outgoing as a border collie is, they are not known for friendliness toward other dogs. Breeders and trainers have suggested that to quell aggressive behavior, owners should start exposing and socializing them with other dogs from the time they are puppies.
It may seem strange, but this incredibly playful breed is also “all business.” Border collies do not take well to other dogs interrupting their routines or mounting a perceived challenge to their authority. They seem to possess an innate need to demonstrate just who is in charge.
That said, this breed is amenable to training. A patient owner or trainer can help a border collie overcome a tendency toward aggressive behavior expressed toward other dogs. This is particularly important information for anyone who wishes to adopt a rescued border collie.
Border Collie breeders focus on reinforcing assertive “herding” instincts when mating these dogs. Thus, the very quality that sets the breed apart also tends to make it less collegial with other dogs. A border collie will have a better chance of successfully adapting to a multi-dog home if introduced while still a puppy (source).
Are Border Collies Good with Children?
The same tendencies that make associating with other dogs problematic for border collies also apply to their interaction with children. One rescue group has pointed out that, “To a Border Collie, a child is basically a sheep without much wool (source).”
The dogs have no underlying animosity toward children but have an inherent need to herd them. As with the livestock they shepherd, a border collie will stare down a child. They will then bump it, nip it, and finally bite it if necessary to move it in a chosen direction.
Rescuers report that one of the three main reasons a border collie is surrendered to a rescue organization is because the dog has bitten someone. A typical scenario is that a small child tries to run from the dog, who instinctively takes the child’s behavior as a call to action.
The ironic aspect of this is that you will never find a dog breed more known for affection and loyalty than the border collie. Just so, this breed has a reputation for being tremendously protective of their owners.
The saving grace of the border collie is its trainability. If a rescue animal or an older dog is brought into the home, efforts should be made immediately to help the dog recognize that all of the humans in the home are capable of giving instruction and should be followed rather than herded.
The flip side of this coin is that border collies are one of the breeds best known for helping emotionally troubled children to learn. Research has demonstrated that the presence of these animals is a balm to troubled elementary school children and dramatically increases the human students’ learning capacity (source).
Will Certain Medications Help My Border Collie Calm Down?
If you love your border collie and you have given the dog lots of attention and extra exercise, but you do need a little peace and quiet, there are some calming techniques you can try. Ultimately you may need to give your pet medication, something done in conjunction with a veterinarian.
The first interventions to try are natural products such as aromatherapies or pheromones. These are readily available through any well-stocked veterinary clinic or pet store.
Another current trend used to calm dogs is CBD (Cannabidiol) oil, which is one of the active ingredients found in hemp and marijuana. Although it is perfectly legal, CBD for dogs is not regulated. Thus the precise dosage to be used for animals has not been determined.
CBD has anecdotally been reported to have the same effect in dogs that it does in human beings: calming relief of anxiety. If you decide to try using CBD with your border collie, you should do so with the guidance of a veterinarian.
Interestingly, the stress hormone cortisol can be found in fur. For more on this, read our article, “How Much Do Border Collies Shed?”
Border collies are wonderful, unique animals. They have well-deserved reputations for being intelligent, obedient, trainable, and energetic. Anyone who is thinking of bringing a border collie in the home will definitely encounter these traits.
They are also tagged occasionally for being unfriendly to other dogs, particularly those who interfere with their routines. Border collies have been known to be aggressive toward other animals. While they are not hostile toward children, they have a desire to herd them like sheep.
These are all considerations a potential border collie owner must make when deciding whether or not to bring this breed into the home. Certain factors, such as not having nearby exercise space or having toddlers, may weigh against bringing in a border collie.
On the other hand, border collies are rightfully noted for their ability to learn new routines, unlearn bad habits, and work diligently to please their owners. If you are patient, playful, and have a nice place for a dog to run and play, you may find a border collie’s energy contagious.