The Myth About Border Collies

I take it personally when someone suggests that Border Collies are potential nightmares waiting to happen. I take all my responsibilities in life quite seriously, including my responsibilies as a pet owner. I think that many of the more veteran BC owners need to cut an inch or two off of their pedestals.To say that all 2 year old male BCs are nightmares... come on. Breeds have tendencies. Are all BCs capable of herding? Are all Springers capable of being champion field dogs? Are all German Shepherds potential seeing eye dogs? The idea that Border Collies are difficult dogs is only a myth.

Unfortunately, the view is not from on high on a pedestal but rather from below in the trenches. As long as you are doing all the right things - educating yourself, spending the time with your dog, etc., then you shouldn't have a problem. However, when someone comes out and makes the statement that the idea that Border Collies are difficult dogs is only a myth, I feel compelled to respond. It's important that people that are "cruising" for info before they got into the breed know this isn't a myth. But more importantly, I think it is the first time, or single Border Collie owners that can be even more critical.

I do not think that we are "preaching to the choir" with Border Collie owners. There are many people that have gotten their first Border Collie, trained it well, educated themselves, and spent the time with their dogs. In the end, they come out with a well-mannered, respectable dog. And they, like you, might share in the belief that the ill perception of Border Collies is only a "myth". It is these folks that roam the neighborhoods with their dogs and become walking advertisements for getting a Border Collie. If they think, and relate to others, that the Border Collie has gotten a "bad rap", even with all of the overwhelming positive images from the media, they are doing a disservice to the breed and the new potential owners.

I like the idea of "demo dogs". When I interview people for pups or rescue dogs, I cannot bring my own dogs along. My dogs are absolutely well-mannered and behaved and though I am standing there telling these people about the possible nightmare of owning a Border Collie, they see the "perfect angels" at my feet, in a down-stay - mellow and attentive to commands. What they do not understand is the hours every week, for years, that has gone into these dogs. I am always far better off if I bring a rescue along, preferably a brand-new one, that is inattentive, biting, bouncing off the walls, and not under control by any fashion. I don't always have the luxury of bringing a problem rescue but I still will not bring my own dogs. It is even better, sometimes, if they come to my house, where they are flooded with Border Collies, and can see the effect that even perfectly behaved Border Collies can have on the house and yard.

I'm not saying that every Border Collie is a nightmare, but until you are swimming in them, I don't think you can get a grasp of the larger picture. Border Collie rescuers in this country are in over their heads in the deep end, waging a seemingly losing war against the onslaught of rescue dogs. I have no problem in stating that Border Collies are herding dogs. I also have no problem stating that 2 year-old males are nightmares. There are exceptions, granted, but they are exceptions. A typical male Border Collie, without the proper training, socialization, energy outlet, and understanding, will almost inevitably turn into, at age 2, a pig-headed, hard-nosed, ballistically hyper, dominating dog. That, to any average owner, is a "nightmare". And it is the average owner that ends up with this sort of dog, thinking that Border Collies can be treated just like a Lab or Golden Retriever - because it is the exceptional owner that spends the time to train, socialize, find outlets for their dog's energy, and educate themselves.

I spend most of my time, in my rescue work, talking people out of getting a Border Collie. We have lots of dogs to place but I try to convince at least 90 percent of the people that contact me NOT to get a Border Collie, rescue or otherwise. They must all listen to MY horror stories and if they are still around after that, then we start thinking about the possibility of placing a dog with them. They need to go into this with their eyes wide open, or else I am going to get boomerang dogs, and they'll end up right back at my doorstep. I consider talking greater than 90 percent out of getting a Border Collie as a "success". Every day, literally, someone that I have placed a pup or rescue with comes to me and says, "You know. You told us that (....x....) would happen. We thought we understood this but I guess we never thought that it would happen to us. We were prepared for it but never expected it to occur." Imagine if I had never told these people about the possibilities.

If you trace back the history of the rescue dogs we get in (those that it is possible for), you find that by-in-large, the owner that gave up the dog was initially given the dog by a breeder, pet shop, shelter, etc. that never warned them about the problems with these dogs. Either they were told that the dogs "were great dogs", "were great with kids", "were so smart", or were told nothing at all. If we could go back to those original people, bash them over the head, and get them to educate and forewarn folks before handing over a Border Collie to the unwary, we probably wouldn't have the large rescue problem we do. Either they wouldn't get the dog in the first place because they were truly incapable of dealing with the difficult and time-consuming demands of owning a Border Collie, or they would educate themselves, spend the time, and concentrate their efforts on avoiding the possible negative outcomes.

So please don't take this personally. Take it to heart. This is not a critique of you or anyone else that owns a Border Collie. Simply a noted reminder, that no matter how "special" our own dogs are and how cute and well-mannered they are, that there are a vast number of normal Border Collies out there, sitting in shelters or in rescue.

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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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