When someone contacts me about a dog, the first thing I usually ask is “Have you ever had a border collie?” Usually that determines how far the conversation will go. The problem, some people will tell you what you want to hear just to get a pup, not thinking about the life of the dog and what it takes to make it work. Every puppy is a challenge and Lord knows I have raised a few dogs in my life, but border collies present special needs and special problems.
The popularity of the movie, Babe, and the agility shows on Animal Planet, have created a desire for many people to want a border collie as a pet. So very often, my experience has been that children are driving this desire or some other rationale for having “the smartest dog” or they saw one on TV doing tricks. While I encourage everyone to consider this breed because they are the best breed in the world, I also caution everyone on their traits if you have never owned one. Border collies are high intensity, brilliant dogs capable of outthinking some people I know, including myself at times. They create havoc and challenge you to no end. They are not couch potatoes and will not be content to wait until you come home. They offer an unparalleled human/dog experience or a nightmare. This is especially true of a young border collie.
Back to the story. We have taken four dogs back since we started raising border collies and that is made very clear upfront, “if this does not work out, the dogs comes back to us.” In every case it was because they wanted one and had no experience with this breed or very little. Sometimes it was because they had too little yard or had too much and did nothing with the dogs, but let them run free with No supervision or they wanted it for their kids. Don’t get me wrong, it not’s the commitment of the dog, it’s the commitment of the owner. The dog will follow you into Hades if you just call its name.
I compare border collies to a 3 year old in many ways. Having raised four kids, I am a little familiar with kids and dogs and see a lot of similarities in both. If you have raised a child, then you have raised a BC, you just didn’t know it. It takes doing the things that you don’t want to do, at a time you want to do something else. Every dog that came back was because the owner did not live up to the responsibility of being a dog parent. Sometimes the owner will make it too complicated by doing things that they want for the dog or for the owner and not the real needs of the dog.
Some of things you should do;
Research the breed, I can’t say this enough. You need to know what you’re getting into. We got a Husky once and knew nothing about the breed, but they were soooo pretty, but boy were we surprised of the running ability they had. This dog was all over the county and it was our fault we did not know what we were getting into and this decision was regretted many times over.
Border Collies need to run freely and will not do well in small outdoor pens, tied out or roaming freely where they often chase cars, deer and/or children on bikes, all of which have been reasons for dogs to be relinquished into rescue and sometimes death. The dog may just need a dog companion, somebody that they can play with and share times together. I can’t imagine any of my dogs living by themselves because they depend on each other so much and interact with each other so well. They do best on at least one acre where they can actively race around and engage in activities such as Frisbee or ball chasing. If yards are smaller, then other free run locations need to be available and used almost daily. I have seen many homes that have a smaller yard that is a wonderful situation, because the owner will do things with the dog and compensate for the small yard, but it means being in charge and doing what it takes to provide the dog with mental and physical stimulation. Just last night, I had Dutchess inside (it was her night) and she needed some activity because of the weather. I took her in the family room and we played ball for about 20 minutes and she was exhausted and content. She was at peace and so was I, after playing, she got in my lap and slept for about an hour.
As I said earlier, many people want border collies, but the fact of the matter is, there are many border collies in shelters and rescue situations because the previous owners wanted a smart dog or the kids saw “Babe”. But if it’s not the right situation, and it doesn’t work out for the dog, somebody has to take it from there and it will either be the breeder, a rescue shelter or a man who flips the switch to put them to sleep because the owner screwed it up.
Just this morning, I took all the dogs, which are seven now, because of the dog that was returned for a walk before dawn. It was 6 am and 11 degrees outside. Did I want to do it? No, did I need to do it for the dogs? Yes. As a person who breeds on a limited basis. I have responsibilities to the dog until it dies even if he/she lives somewhere else. If you have met me or talked to me in depth, you have heard me say. “It will be your dog, but it will always be my pup” and I mean it…
Some info and suggestions was found at http://www.glenhighlandfarm.com/ which is a rescue farm in New York. It is a wonderful place than does wonderful things for border collies.