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Are Border Collies Good For First Time Owners? The Truth

Border collies… Are they for everyone? While most jump to the quick answer of no, we aren’t so sure that’s the case.

We explain below as fairly as possible whether a Border collie is suitable for a first time owner, and include things owners should know about first.

Hopefully this article sheds some light on whether this breed is actually managable, or not!


Are Border Collies Good For First Time Dog Owners?

Many people disagree and remain adamant that border collies are only for those with previous dog ownership experience. And while I understand why they say this, it’s not just not true.

Anyone, even first-timers can own any breed, so long as they are fully aware of the challenges and are prepared to do what it takes to raise the dog responsibly.

How To Know If A Border Collie Is Right For You

Even though Border Collies are not recommended for first-time dog owners, it’s still possible if you have the time, commitment, and determination to learn and work through the challenges to come.

Border collies are suitable for those who:

Are ready for a challenge
Understand that Border Collies are a demanding and complex breed to own
Are committed to extensive training, even though it will be difficult
Have enough time to prioritize their Collie every day.

Border collies are NOT suitable for those who:

Want a couch-potato dog
Are getting a dog just for the kids
Have full-time jobs and are rarely at home
Have not fully taken the time to research what Border Collies are like

6 Things First-Timers Should Know About Border Collies

There are many important aspects to owning a Border Collies that first-timers must know.

Hopefully, from this section, you can come to your own fair conclusion on whether Border Collies are suitable for someone with little to no experience owning dogs.

1. Border Collies Must Be Put To Work

Border Collies have an extreme work ethic and are life-long herders. Even collies that don’t come from a working bloodline of collies will still have herding deeply ingrained into their character and personality. Collies are constantly looking to be challenged, given tasks, responsibility, and to be “worked” both physically and mentally.

What does this mean for first-timers?

This means that assuming you don’t have a farm with cattle ready to be herded, you will be the one required to facilitate means of stimulation that your collie will be content with.

The most important thing to grasp is that this is a way of life for a Border Collie, not a temporary thing they need while only a puppy. You’ll need to train, find ways to entertain, put to work, and keep-busy your collie, for her entire life. Otherwise, she won’t be content and that’s when big issues like destructive behavior, anxiety, and stress kick in.

2. Border Collies Are Smart But Training Them Isn’t Easy

Ok, this is similar to the above, but it’s good to make a clear distinction. Training is one way to keep your Border Collie feeling “worked” but it certainly isn’t an easy answer to the above section.

Border collies are without question the world’s most intelligent dog breed, and they have been for a long time. A running joke is that the average collie is smarter than the average person. But even with all these smarts, a collie still requires extensive training and the training likely won’t be easy.

What does this mean for first-timers?

First-time dog owners will understandably have very little knowledge on how to train a dog. This means a first-timer will need to research appropriate training activities and spend time understanding the importance of positive-reinforcement based training.

Collies, in particular, are so intelligent that they are always anticipating many steps ahead, but this doesn’t always work out well. This causes a lot of confusion between a beginner owner and the dog. This is why training a collie needs to be well-organized, structured, and progressive.

Furthermore, when it comes to training in real life, it never goes to plan right away. This will then require the owner to know how to handle and respond to the negative reactions given by your collie. Your composure is everything.

There’s a lot that goes into training a dog well, it isn’t easy, and it takes a long time.

3. Border Collies Have Nipping Tendencies

As Border Collies are natural herders, they have an instinctive tendency to herd anything that moves, including us and in particular, small children.

Nipping is a technique used by collies in order to keep the cattle (or small children) correctly positioned and herded. It’s not intended to hurt but more so to guide. Either way, this can be a behavior that even experienced dog owners can struggle to manage.

What does this mean for first-timers?

It’s not guaranteed that every collie will develop a nipping issue. Taking preventative measures, like redirection training is strongly encouraged, as trying to rectify bad habits is much harder than preventing them in the first place.

For new owners with little experience, this will be difficult to do. And you’ll have to put a lot of time into carefully redirecting any kind of unwanted nipping, chewing, or biting right from when teething starts.

Dealing with unwanted biting and nipping can be a real possibility with collies and depending on the severity of the behavior, can get the better of any dog owner.

4. Border Collies Hate Being Left Alone

Part of being the world’s most intelligent breed involves developing a strong connection with their human owner. Border Collies will endlessly stare at their owners, analyzing their demeanor and waiting for the next command to follow. To a collie, their owner is their world.

This intimate connection that is pretty much guaranteed to happen, makes collies very intolerable of spending time alone, without their owner. This is something that first-time owners may not be considering.

What does this mean for first-timers?

This simply means that careful thought must be given to your current schedule and routine. If you currently work long hours with an empty household, a Border Collie certainly isn’t going to handle that very well.

There are many negative outcomes when a Collie spends too much time alone, from disobedience, destructive behavior, separation anxiety, isolation distress, and depression. This is certainly an important point to consider.

5. Border Collies Are Very Sensitive

As I mentioned previously, will all the brains, comes a heightened sensitivity and awareness.

Border Collies are described as having “complex” personalities and this can stump many novice owners who weren’t anticipating “a dog” to be hard to understand.

What does this mean for first-timers?

An adjustment of expectations would be the biggest thing to understand here.

It likely won’t be a smooth ride to establish the kind of ideal relationship you probably have in mind. Your Collie could start reacting to you in ways you aren’t expecting, and this will take time and effort to try and understand.

This doesn’t mean to say Collies aren’t capable of being affectionate or close with their owner, quite the opposite in fact. It’s simply important to anticipate a complex ride of sensitivity and emotions with a collie.

6. Border Collies Have High Exercise Requirements

So far, I haven’t mentioned the importance of physical exercise. Collies have a very high exercise requirement of around 2 solid hours per day for healthy adults.

It’s absolutely crucial that Border Collies receive as much exercise as they crave on a daily basis. This will go towards their need to be put to work and is a main priority to be aware of before getting this breed.

What does this mean for first-timers?

This means that you must have sufficient free time on a daily basis to provide the necessary amount of exercise.

This isn’t a simple walk, it should be mostly high pace exercise that will sufficiently wear out a collie. Running, hiking, swimming, agility training, or chasing their ball are great options.

Ideally, their 2-hour exercise session per day is split up into two sessions, one hour in the morning and another in the evening. A well-exercised collie is a happy collie.

Why Border Collies Are Great Dogs (even for first time owners)

To end on a positive note, despite their complexities, It’s no doubt that Border Collies are a wonderful breed to own, and when raised correctly make excellent family pets.

This article certainly emphasized the difficulties and challenges of raising a Collie, much more so than their positive traits.

But that wasn’t to put anyone off…

A first-time dog owner wanting to own a Collie must be aware of the challenges, and that’s all this article was designed for.

If you’re a first-time dog owner and still reading up until this point, I think that pretty much sums it up that you are committed to learning what it takes to own a Border Collie… And from that, you have your answer. Most would have hit the back button by now!

Back to more Border Collie articles >>


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.