We get a ton of good questions from readers and this one is no exception…
What about having a Border Collie in a New York City apartment?
Chloe from NYC writes…
“I’m thinking of adding a wonderful addition to our family and I came across the Border Collie. We already have a dog, a 3 year old Havanese. I would really like to get a Border Collie, but I would’t know where to start… The most he/she would be left alone a day will be around 4 hours in the morning. Is this okay, or is it too much? This will be only after the summer because during the summer I will be home all the time and we can hopefully get out Border Collie in the spring. I am a bit worried though that I won’t be able to fully provide everything (physical and mental activity) that our dog will need. What exactly and how much exercise (again physical and mental) do these dogs need? I know they need a lot, but I’m not sure how much, like, will a 45 minute run do it for a little while or do they need more? Are just teaching a couple tricks a day okay, or will there need to be more mental stimulation? I’d be interested in doing agility, but classes would only be once a week on the weekends to start out. Unfortunately, we currently live in an apartment in NYC… Approximately 1,700 sq. ft. Sorry if I am just giving you random information, but I would really like a Border Collie and I am willing to put a lot of work and effort into it. However, I really do want to make the right choice in getting this breed as I know how high maintenance and active this breed is. Any information on Border Collies in general would also be really appreciated! Thanks!”
You’ve hit on the basic concern in your note…this is a high energy breed that is simply not going to sit around calmly and quietly waiting for you to come home. Without the proper amount (read: a ton) of training and exercise your new Border Collie is probably going to trash your apartment and provide some massive headaches.
Home Space vs Exercise Space
That being said I don’t think the size of the home environment is as important as the nearby areas for exercise. When we first got our Border Collie we lived in a smaller place than 1700 ft and did not have a yard. What we did have going for us, however, was a ton of wide open space very close by to run Ned until he dropped. In a just a couple of minutes we could take him to the beach or the tidal flats of the marsh at low tide or to any number of empty fields and let him run and run and run.
I’ve never lived in a large city with a BC so can’t give you first hand advice. I’m assuming there are some dog parks around. My question would be are they large enough to really run your dog? Like really run him for a hour or two?
How Much Time is Required?
As far as how much training/attention/etc do they need … when they are young especially they need a lot. It becomes something of a part time job keeping your BC exercised and stimulated. We’d run/walk Ned at least a couple hours a day for his first couple years and work with him on tricks every night.
I’d plan on a couple of hours a day of running and exercise to start. Some time in the morning, some in the afternoon/evening. I’d also plan on needing more – you never know but it’s usually more than less! Physical activity is critical … it’s tough to comprehend just how much energy a Border Collie has until you’re living with one.
You mentioned that he’d really only be alone for about 4 hours a day which is great. Just know that when you are home that Border Collie is going to be looking to you for something to do. If you don’t provide him a job and exercise he will find it himself. The last thing in the world you want is a bored Border Collie. He’s going to require a great deal of attention – the saying goes something like “There are two speeds to a Border Collie – asleep and full speed.”
Mental Stimulation, Tricks and Jobs
This part of it is pretty constant. These dogs are highly curious, interested in everything you do and everything in the home. They simply must have something to do. The training of tricks and jobs is fun but also serves a purpose down the road. Teach your dog jobs and tricks that he can do everyday for you. Things like get the paper, get a beer from the fridge, tidy up toys, get my shoes, find your ball and so on. Teach him tons and tons of “quick tricks” like spin, roll over, shake, speak, play dead, etc. This sort of thing will become part of your everyday existence – this dog will become a working part of your family. In my experience as long as the dog is doing something, has a purpose and feels productive (as odd as that sounds) you’ll be in good shape. If he feels like he’s “gone to work” that day all is well.
A couple suggestions:
1) Start out with crate training on day one. This is a must. Don’t wait to start on this.
2) Come up with a list of tips, tricks and jobs ahead of time. You’re going to be pretty amazed how fast they learn so get a bunch ready to train. We started with 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance – an awesome trick book I highly recommend even for the beginner.
3) Scope out and get to know several dog parks and dog runs in your area. You are going to be using these on a daily basis. See if you can find out when the best/worsts times to go are ahead of time!
4) I’m glad you mentioned Agility Training. Find a local active agility group and get involved immediately. Not only will it be a ton of fun (for you and the dog!) but you’ll meet folks in a similar situation who already will know the tricks and tips to living in NYC with a high energy dog. Not sure where you are in the city but a general google search finds Agility4Dogs and Andrea Arden Agility…I’ve no doubt there are more.
5) Talk with the vet you go to for your Havanese for suggestions and some contacts in the local Border Collie community (you can bet there’s a local Border Collie community!). Ask him if he has any clients with Border Collies in the city and see if you an connect with them for a little real world advice.
It sounds like you’re up for a challenge and you’re ready and willing to put in a lot of time and effort. Can it be done? Absolutely … I’m sure it can but it’s going to be a real challenge. If you decide to go ahead we want to see pictures and get reports on your progress.
Readers? Anyone have a Border Collie in an apartment in a large city? Let’s hear your tips in the comments!
Thanks Chloe and keep in touch!