Border Collie Myths

I am the new owner of a 4 month old Border Collie. I think that Border Collies have a bit of mythology surrounding them. The most extreme behaviors turn into the norm. Yes we crate our pup, but who hasn't heard of Golden Retrievers that destroy couches or neurotic Springers. I can see that a Border Collie who is not trained/socialized could become a bit of a nut-case. But I've also seen that destructive behavior in a very intelligent Springer whose owners did not have the time that the dog required.

If every Border Collie were 4 months old, we wouldn't have a single one of them in rescue. I completely agree with you in that any dog that is not properly trained or socialized can become a nightmare and that a well-raised Border Collie can be a wonderful family member or socially productive dog. However... don't get the impression that the "horror stories" you hear about are the true problems with Border Collies. They are only an indicator.

If you communicate privately with several Border Collie rescuers you will soon find out that most of the general public rarely mentions the real problems associated with Border Collies - the biting, nipping, chasing cars, etc. that goes along with owning a herding dog. The "mythology" surrounding Border Collies is not a myth - there are innumerable Border Collies in rescue at this very moment that will attest to that fact. Ask any rescuer about how "wonderful" 2 year-old male Border Collies are. I love them but most people, even well intentioned, caring, devoted, educated people cannot handle them. 2 year-old male BCs can be hell on wheels. Ask me about how many biters I take in on a weekly basis. If Border Collies were a "normal" dog, we wouldn't have so many of them in rescue, a disproportionate amount compared to other breeds. Though there are fewer Border Collies (total numbers) in a particular area as compared to Irish Setters, or Springers and Golden Retrievers to use your examples, a far higher number of them end up in rescue. There are also other "problematic" breeds - Dobes, pit bulls, German Shepherds, etc. - that are also overrepresented in numbers in rescue but compared to the normal spectrum of dog breeds, Border Collies are up towards the top in terms of rescue problems. Herding behavior and hyperactivity are hell to live with, even if you are the best intentioned of owners.

I think the reason that the "horror stories" seem typical of other dogs is because we never hear from those people that have given up Border Collies. What really counts is the average person out in the real world, trying to manage a dog that nips and bites, barks and herds, and chases anything that moves, all the while bouncing off the walls in the house. If we talked to the people that had given up their Border Collies, the stories would be entirely different. If Sparky chews up your slippers, that is cute in our eyes and a "horror story". If Sparky bites our son on the ankle while playing in the back yard, it is no longer cute and I am no longer a Border Collie owner. Those are the people we see every day in rescue, but don't often hear from.

Your 4 month old pup may seem like a normal puppy to you at this point. But it's not. The best is yet to come. 1 year-old female Border Collies are nightmares. 2 year-old male Border Collies are even worse. If you work hard, educate yourself, and socialize your pup well (and prepare for the worse), you should be able to come out with a loving and well-mannered dog. But it will take a lot of time, devotion, and work. There is no question of that. A Golden Retriever pup can do well with probably a quarter of the same amount of effort. Yes, you do get back what you put into the dog. But a Border Collie is a loaded deck and confronting a challenge is not everyone's cup of tea.

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Page last updated April 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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