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Border Collie Love

"Jackson" by Leslee Ortega (@lesleeortegaart)

I learned a sad fact lately: many Border Collies end up in shelters. This is really upsetting because they are an incredible breed – and such handsome dogs. Goldilocks would have proclaimed them the perfect size; the average height at the shoulder is 18-22” and weight varies between 30-55 pounds (with females being smaller overall then males). They have an athletic, muscular body and perfect posture. The most recognizable coloration is black and white, but both the rough coat and the smooth coat come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Border Collies are simply adorable as puppies, roly-poly with round bellies, soft, fluffy fur, sweet puppy breath and an endearing tendency to cock their head to the side when you ask them a question. They are inquisitive and friendly, loving to play with other dogs and children.

A famous characteristic of Border Collies are their almond shaped eyes that are keen and alert. They have an intense gaze which is often referred to as “Collie eyes” or “herding eyes”. They use this gaze to “influence” the animals that they herd.

You see these dogs a lot on commercials and there’s a good reason for this: they are considered the smartest dog breed. They can learn voice commands, follow directions from a whistle or hand signals, and can understand more words than most dogs; they can master almost anything you want to teach them and they thrive on learning. They are easily trained, and very aware of their environment, with an uncanny ability to discern when something is out of sorts (like when one sheep is missing). They have the ability to make decisions and solve problems; these dogs were often sent unattended to watch over sheep. They have a slight tendency to tattle, and will make sure you are aware when another pet has done something that is against the house rules.

They have a high energy level, incredible endurance and a strong work ethic (they are often referred to as workaholics), but they are not all work and no play. They are joyful dogs with infectious grins and wagging tails. Watching them run is poetry in motion, and they will chase a thrown ball or toy as long as you are willing.

Because they are so alert, Borders make great alarm dogs, but not necessarily good attack dogs as they are not known for aggression. Most of the time their lips cover their teeth and they appear very benevolent, but when they growl or bark their lips pull back and they appear quite fierce.

They have a relatively long life span (the average life expectancy is 12-15 years) and are pretty low maintenance (a good brushing occasionally keeps their coats looking their best).

If this type of dog appeals to you, I hope you will consider inviting one into your home. But there are a few things you need to know before making your decision:

Because they are strong and have high energy, they require a lot of exercise, and because they are smart, they thrive on interaction. This is not the dog to leave cooped up alone all day. A bored Border will find something to do to entertain themselves and it may not be what you want them to do (this may be the reason so many of them end up in shelters).

Borders are affectionate and protective with family, but sometimes standoffish with strangers. Help them get over this tendency by socializing them early on. Take them with you whenever and wherever you can, and visit the dog park regularly.

Having a job to perform or knowing that they won’t languish home alone for long periods of time is key to Border happiness. The intelligence, athleticism and trainability of Borders have a perfect outlet in agility training, but if that’s not an option, long walks/runs or ball/Frisbee play are fun outlets. Borders love to be with their owners.

Borders are sensitive to loud and sudden noises, so one place not to bring them is a fireworks display. As they age, they may acquire a fear of storms, this is easily remedied with a thunder shirt.

Think of Border Collies as the equivalent of two year olds. They thrive on lots of praise and if you give them unconditional love they will do anything for you. They can be stubborn, but training and exercise overcomes this tendency. They rarely nap, but will put themselves to bed early in the evening ( but will readily share the space when you come to bed).

They love children and if you don’t have children in your household, your Border knows all the nearby homes where they can be found. He will go to visit if given the opportunity.

I hope that you’ll consider adopting a Border Collie. You're guaranteed to have a friend for life. They will amuse you with their antics, get you out for a walk, and bring you joy.

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