The Border Collie is a medium sized dog that is highly intelligent and responds very well to training, hence the farmer’s proclivity for utilizing them as herding dogs. They are also often leading competitors in various sports such as Frisbee, this is due to their high energy and impressive athleticism. The Collie does also make a great house pet, so long as they get a varied and extensive exercise regime.
|Good With Other Dogs|
Stories From Real Life Border Collie Owners
My Life With a Border Collie
I have the pleasure of counting a beautiful Blue Merle Border Collie among my best friends. Zeeva is genuinely an excellent companion. Not only is she lovely in appearance, but she's lovely in intelligence and sensitivity as well. Collie breeds are known for their smarts and their attachments. Zeeva certainly lives up to those expectations.
How a Border Collie Chose Me
I grew up with dogs. In fact, my life has always included dogs. I've had mutts and purebreds, big and little, sweet and feisty. My sister's childhood collie gave me my first view of raising a pup and living with a purebred dog. Brandy definitely left an impression on me, from the day we picked her out at the breeder until the day my sister left for college, some ten years later.
It was that impression that ran through my mind the day I drove past a local farm, advertising Border Collie puppies for sale. I wasn't looking for another dog. We had two large rescued mutt dogs at our farm already. What did I need with another dog? And, why would I buy a dog when so many were desperately in need of adoption? But, something about seeing "Border Collie Pups Available" just drew me in to have a look. Who can't resist a cute puppy, right?
I had no intention of buying a puppy, even when I got out of the car. I kept telling myself I was only going to see the little cuties and go. It had been years since I had seen collies of any kind. My honest and sincere intention was just to look at the pups, meet a fellow farmer, and then head home. The Fates had other plans.
Zeeva's mother, Duchess, was undoubtedly the classy dame her name implies. She calmly walked up to me when I arrived, with a swirl of tumbling puppy chaos around her feet. All of her pups were jumping, rolling, and clamoring to get someone's attention. All except one. One puppy stayed above the fray.
There were a couple of blue merles in the litter, but only one had her mother's soft brown eyes. Those sweet eyes trotted next to her mother, away from the chaos and commotion of her siblings. Even at six weeks old, Zeeva refused to exhibit anything but class, dignity, and a calm demeanor. She knew she was special, beyond just having a different coat than her black and white siblings. She changed my mind about bringing home a pup in under a minute.
Temperament of a Border Collie
Growing up, I always heard the virtues of collies and similar working breeds. (My older sister has been in the dog/horse training world since her teen years.) Calm temperaments, high intelligence, incredibly intuitive, these are the traits I have always associated with collies. Long have I heard collies referred to as "Velcro dogs." Collies develop a marked attachment to their people. Who doesn't remember how smart and protective old Lassie was over her boy?
Over the last eight years, Zeeva has stayed true to those classic collie virtues. She follows me everywhere I go and has since she was just a pup. If I call her name, the level of attention she pays to the sound of my voice is unbelievable. Her intuitive nature is astounding. I swear that dog knows what I'm about to say or do just by the way I say her name. If I didn't know better, I would think Zeeva's sole purpose in life was waiting for me to issue a command.
When it comes to her temperament, I can only describe her as the sweetest, most well-mannered, people-pleasing dog I've ever owned. She indeed is one of my best friends. She stays calm in nearly every situation. I have grown to count on her stability and calm response to new places and situations. Zeeva doesn't really have any bad behaviors, as it would hurt her pride to get in trouble or in any way make her people unhappy.
Referring to Zeeva as a people pleaser is an understatement. People are her favorite thing. She definitely gets excited to meet someone new. Sometimes she even forgets her manners for a minute. But, even when she forgets, she is dainty and polite about it. In my experience, collies have a different sense of personal space and manners than other breeds. Even when excited, Zeeva might jump at a new person and dance all around them, but she doesn't put her paws on them. Classy ladies don't knock people down or get paw dirt on someone, after all.
Frisbees, however, are Zeeva's kryptonite. We cannot even say the word frisbee in her presence. She knows that word and will not rest until you produce said frisbee. Manners go out the window if we're outside and I pick up a Frisbee. She's all hyper-focused, nothing else exists, turbo dog when she spots that frisbee. That is the only time I have trouble breaking away her attention. Her entire focus becomes that frisbee; watching for it to fly so she can chase after it.
Collies are, after all, a working breed and thus high energy and highly focused. They are built for herding. Chasing is in their DNA. Boy does it ever show when Zeeva eyes that frisbee. I can only imagine if she had grown up with cattle, like her parents. I could certainly see her becoming a prize herder.
Training a Border Collie
Of all the dogs I have owned over the years, Zeeva was and continues to be the easiest to train. Between her collie intelligence and her people-pleasing nature, training was a snap from Day One. No matter what behavior I have asked of her, I don't think many have taken more than a day or two for her to learn. That's not to say her understanding hasn't taken practice, but she understands what I ask pretty easily.
Potty training, for example, was relatively easy. Sometimes, I wonder if it's Zeeva's intelligence or having been born outside. But, for us, the idea of housebreaking caught on quickly. She only had a few accidents over the course of her first couple of weeks at our house. Rewards helped. When she did have an accident, I would show it to her, scold her, and take her outside. When she went potty outside, she got a small training treat. Catching on to the idea of inside = bad voice, outside = treats, loves, and playtime was quick and painless.
Training for other basic commands like sit, stay and heal, were likewise easy. Zeeva only took a day to learn to sit on command. I didn't even have to use treats. She was perfectly happy with praise and scratches behind her ear. More complex commands like "back," took her a little longer. (She is trained to walk backward from me to catch a frisbee in mid-flight.) Again, all it took was a few tries over the course of a few weeks, with lots of happy voice praise and belly rubs as reward.
Aside from learning basic commands, Zeeva was a natural at behaving in public. Were it not for leash laws where we live; I would never need a harness or leash for her. As soon as she learned what "heal" meant, she walked politely by my side everywhere we went from then on. To this day, I do not walk her on a leash or even keep a collar on her. We go outside, on hikes, to the dog park, and everywhere else we can without using any tether. When a harness and leash are required, I seriously just lay the harness on the floor. She steps into it herself and patiently waits for me to clip it in place.
Border Collies and Aging
Zeeva spent the first six years of her life as "my" dog. My husband and I were empty nesters when we met and married. Zeeva never had to share me with another person, other than my grown boys who lived and worked the farm with me. When I remarried, Zeeva took this new addition (and a new address) all in stride. In fact, we all joke that she turned traitor and chose my husband over me. But, truthfully, she merely recognized there was a new alpha in her pack. (Never mind that the new alpha could throw a mean frisbee!)
Although she took to our new home and new family member with ease, she wasn't as happy when we brought home a new puppy a year later. My husband found an abandoned puppy near his job and brought him home. Sammy is a Blue Heeler mix of some sort, and full of happy puppy energy, even as a full grown, 70-pound dog. He understands no boundaries and has no clue what personal space means.
Adding another dog like Sammy was harder for Zeeva to accept. She still looks at him like he's a dirty, loud, obnoxious puppy whose real family needs to come and get him. She tolerates him, but not without the occasional look at myself or my husband. It's that pitiful look like "did you really have to bring this chaos into my life?" I can understand. He steals her toys. He pushes her off of the couch. He muscles in when she wants loves. And truthfully, he is on the obnoxious and smelly side.
Even though her looks show us her disdain for some of Sammy's antics, she has never given us an issue. When she's feeling generous, she'll even wrestle and play with Sammy. Never has she shown aggression toward Sammy or any other animal. The most she has ever done is a low grumble (not even a growl, really) to let Sammy know she's had quite enough of him for the moment. Most of the time she just lives in denial that he is here to stay.
What I Love Most About a Border Collie
Choosing just one thing to love about Zeeva is nearly impossible. She has been such an enjoyable part of my life for so many reasons. Her grace, her dignity, her overall classiness, and her devotion to her people are but a few of the many things I love about her. I dread the day when I can no longer come home to her happy dance and sweet face. As she gets older, and the years begin to show, I am keenly aware that I will outlive her by decades. In the meantime, I cherish everything about her, even the dog hair tumbleweeds that seem to accumulate overnight.
When the time comes, I am sure another Border Collie will find a way to steal my heart. They are such great dogs. I love their intelligence and intuition above all else. The addition of a calm temperament and eagerness to please are a real compliment to their smarts. After all of the dogs I've had over the years, none have been so easy to train and so amiable to life with people. I don't expect my next collie to be precisely like Zeeva, but I do know the characteristic traits of the breed lend themselves to the kind of personality I want in a dog.