Before making the decision to actually go ahead and get a Border Collie my wife and I did a lot of research and talking with owners of the breed. There is no shortage of cautionary tales on owning this breed and we wanted to make sure we were making an informed decision. We knew they are highly intelligent (and are they ever!) and needed a great deal of exercise but we kept coming across the fact that Border Collies need a job. These are, after all, working dogs bred to do a very physically demanding task. This instinct is inherent and there is nothing you can do to remove it from the dog so you must find a way to redirect that energy and intensity. But what kind of job? We don’t own any sheep or cattle, in fact we did not even have a yard when we got our dog, so what the heck kind of job can we give him?
As it turns out, after reading several training guides, a job can be just about anything. This breed of dog simply must have a purpose and something to do. If you are thinking about buying a Border Collie do not for one minute expect to have a docile and relaxed dog. This breed is on the go all the time looking, thinking and doing. The energy and mental alertness is there and if you do not give them something to focus on they will find something to do. And let me tell you one thing, you do not want your Border Collie finding something to do on his own. We lost many pairs of shoes, a pillow and the side of a dresser before we read the right training book to figure this out.
So what, exactly, entails a job for a Border Collie? Quite simply anything that involves doing something specific (which sounds pretty weak I know, but I’ll explain). For hundreds of years these dogs have been bred to run all day, control herds of sheep and livestock and make complex decisions. Just because they are sitting in your living room does not mean that entire genetic heritage goes away. It is still there simmering beneath the surface and it’s coming out one way or the other. If you have something for your dog to focus it on you will have a happy dog and a happy home. If you do not have a job for your dog nobody will be happy and stuff in your house will be destroyed. I’ve been down both roads and let me tell you, the former is a lot more fun.
A few simple jobs are fetching a ball, going to get their leash and tricks. This is not to say that you have to be attending to your dog 24 hours a day. Make sure that there are several things that they know they have to do however. Once we taught ours to get his ball and leash and, my favorite, a beer from the fridge, he had something he was looking forward to. I know it sounds odd and I’ll be honest, I did not quite believe it myself until I saw it work!
To have a happy home with your Border Collie be sure to get at least one good book on dog tricks and training and be ready to teach. A good place to start is your local library. The breed is smart enough that even a novice owner, with some patience and persistence, can teach their dog to do some amazing things, keep him happy and provide him enough jobs to keep him out of trouble!