Border Collie: Characteristics, Appearance, Price, and Pictures

border collie portrait tongue out

Perhaps the most famous herding dog breed, the Border Collie is a loyal best friend of farmers and shepherds around the world. But these intelligent black and white dogs are also beloved family pets.

They’re caring, devoted, get on well with children, and are easy to train. But these pooches are also energetic and need lots of daily exercise, canine classes, and mental stimulation. Border Collies are not the best breed choice if you’re looking for a lap dog, but they’ll be happy to curl up with you after a long working day.

These stunning dogs excel in agility classes and are a sight to see when herding. They’re athletic, poised, and perfectly built for the job.

So is the wonderful Border Collie the perfect breed for you? Let’s find out!

Characteristics of the Border Collie

Life in an apartment
Good first dog
Tolerates solitude
Tolerates cold weather
Tolerates hot weather
Friendly with children
Friendly with strangers
Friendly with other animals
Hair loss
Drooling level
Easy to care for
Robust health
Easy to train
Tendency to bark
Tendency to nibble
Instinct to hunt
Adventurous spirit
Energy level
Level of intensity
Need for exercise

History and Origin of the Border Collie

Herding dogs tend to have really interesting histories because they’ve been used for thousands of years. Whenever there was livestock, there was usually a nimble and athletic dog behind, keeping them under control.

It's believed that Border Collies might trace their ancestry back to the times of the Romans. If we consider historical movements, when the Romans potentially invaded England, they might have brought with them their stocky and muscular herding dogs. Following the decline of the Roman Empire, the Vikings arrived in England, introducing their more athletic herding breeds, such as the Icelandic Sheepdog.

border collie portrait in field

These dogs were bred with Roman breeds and local pups. The resulting dogs were the first relations of the Border Collie.

The result was an agile, athletic dog of high intelligence that could work the hilly and rocky terrain of England. For centuries, these dogs were simply referred to as Sheepdogs or English Sheepdogs.

Breeders went to great lengths to refine the different breeds and the one that was most common in the Borderlands between Scotland and England was the Border Collie.

Surprisingly, the Border Collie was not accepted by the American Kennel Club until 1995. However, it was recognized by the United Kennel Club much earlier in 1961.

Personality and Character of the Border Collie

merle border collie listening

Border Collies are energetic, smart, alert, and very devoted dogs. Their natural habitat is herding sheep but they can be satisfied with lots of exercise and time playing too. Border Collies need at least an hour of exercise a day, plus plenty of time playing in the backyard.

They also really enjoy taking part in doggy classes, such as agility and herding. If you’ve watched Babe (if you haven’t, you should), you’ll know that these dogs are particularly good in herding competitions. But not when there’s a pig around.

border collie herding sheep

As well as being keen workers, Border Collies are also very playful. They can be a bit silly and love having owners who are willing to put in the time to keep them entertained. They’re loyal, caring, and love pleasing their humans.

Can The Border Collie Live in an Apartment?

The Border Collie breed prefers to be in a large home with outdoor space for them to play in. Especially if you expect them to be left alone for a little while.

These dogs are active, and a small apartment can make it very difficult for them to use up energy. It could also lead to them becoming destructive and developing undesirable behavior, such as barking.

Can the Border Collie Live With Children?

Border Collies get on really well with older children who are happy to spend their time throwing frisbees or chasing them around the park. They’re an alert dog breed and are very caring towards other members of their pack.

However, it’s not recommended that Border Collies are in households with small children or toddlers. These dogs have very strong herding tendencies, which might be amusing to begin with, but that can become overwhelming for small kids. They may also nip, which can be a problem.

Border Collie puppies that have grown up around kids and have been properly trained may be able to live in a home with smaller kids but that really depends on your dog.

Are They Aggressive Dogs?

Border Collies are not normally aggressive dogs. They’re friendly, approachable, and love to play. But, as already mentioned, they may be a little nippy – especially when they’re in herding mode. It’s important to train your Border Collie from a young age not to nip as this can also be a problem for strangers and other dogs.

If you’re adopting an older Border Collie, you need to try and find out as much as possible about their past. Dogs that, sadly, have had bad experiences may be timid or anxious, which can easily be displayed as aggression.

Working with a canine behavior specialist can help to make a pup feel comfortable and bring the best out in them.

Do They Get Along Well With Other Animals?

That really depends. This breed is sociable and playful and enjoys making new furry friends. However, their tendency to herd can make them unpopular at the dog park. They can be happy to round up other dogs and animals of all sizes.

This is one of the main reasons why Border Collie training is so important.  Socialization is also an essential part of a puppy’s education. They should have the chance to play with other pups from a young age so they learn correct canine behavior and don't grow up to be timid.

Appearance of the Border Collie

border collie white background

Border Collies are stunning pups – it’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular. They can have two types of coats, either smooth or rough. A rough coat is longer and gives the impression of the dog being bigger.

Border Collies can be lots of different colors (more than 20!) and they have amazing markings which make each dog unique. 

Size and Weight

Border Collies are medium-sized dogs with males usually growing a bit bigger than females. They can be between 18-22 inches and weigh 30-55 pounds.

How Long Does It Take for a Border Collie to Reach Adult Size?

Most Border Collies reach their full size at around 15 months. Larger dogs may even take 18 months. It’s common for dogs to reach their full height then, but you might notice them bulking out for a couple more months after.


There are many beautiful coat colors for Border Collies, including blue merle, red merle, brindle, gold, and lilac. The American Kennel Club also accepts several colored markings, including tan points, white, and merle markings.


Border Collies have dense, double coats that are weather resistant and warm. There are two types of coat for the Border Collie dog breed – rough and smooth. Rough coats are medium-length and feathered. Smooth coats are more compact and coarser. 

Their grooming needs don’t change depending on the coat. The only real difference is their appearance.


The Border Collie has an athletic and well-proportioned body that’s built for running and endurance. They have a level topline that slopes slightly towards the croup. The chest should be broad but not reach further than the elbow. The underline has a distinct tuck up.


Border Collies have oval-shaped eyes that are alert and full of expression. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, Border Collies can have any eye color but it’s preferred that only Merle dogs have blue eyes. The eye rims should be fully pigmented.


This breed has a well-proportioned head with a strong muzzle and a well-developed underjaw. A Border Collie’s ears are set well apart and can be erect or semi-erect. If semi-erect, the ears can either fall forward or slightly to the side. The nose should be fully pigmented and have good-sized nostrils.


They have medium-long tails that should be held low when they’re concentrating (i.e. herding) but may rise slightly when they’re excited. It can have a slight upturn at the end but the base should never curl over the back of the dog.

Many dogs, especially those with rough coats, will have feathering on their tail.

Grooming and Hygiene of the Border Collie

brown white border collie

The bad news for allergy sufferers is that Border Collies do shed. They have medium brushing needs that increase during the shedding season.

They also need to have their nails trimmed regularly so that they don’t break and become infected. If you’re unsure about how to trim them, ask your vet or groomer.

Dental hygiene is also really important for Border Collies. You should be brushing their teeth regularly and taking them for vet checkups.

How to Brush a Border Collie?

Border Collies need to be brushed at least once a week (preferably twice). They have thick coats that shed all year round and more during the shedding seasons. You’ll need to brush them daily during this time.

Brushing helps to remove dirt, get rid of tangles, and distribute oils. Start at the base of their neck and brush towards their tail. Never go against the direction of hair growth. You should pay particular attention to the areas with longer hair (underbelly and tail), especially if you have a rough-coated dog.

Be sure to get deep enough that you reach the dense undercoat but ensure you don’t scratch your dog’s skin. Some Border Collie owners like to take their pup to a professional groomer to be thoroughly brushed during shedding season.

What Brush for a Border Collie?

A slicker brush is the best option for year-round brushing. It’s soft enough to thoroughly remove tangles and mats but also gets down to the undercoat. During the shedding seasons, you may want to use an undercoat rake which can help to stop mats from forming as the hair falls out.

How Do You Wash a Border Collie?

Because Border Collies do shed, it’s best to brush them before bath time. Although bathing can help remove some extra hair, you don’t want it all to come out and block your bath. Washing them outside is another option.

Gently wet your Border Collie with tepid water. Thoroughly lather in a dog shampoo that’s specifically for thick coats. Don’t forget to wash their feet, underbelly, and tail too.

Rinse well and apply the condition if you decide to use one, being careful not to get any into your pup’s eyes. Again, rinse thoroughly. As well as washing your dog well, it’s also important to ensure they’re properly dry. If they’re not, they could develop skin infections.

Washing a medium-sized dog can be difficult but it’s a great opportunity for you to bond with your pup. Try to get your Border Collie puppy used to bath time from an early age so that (with any luck) they may even enjoy it when they’re an adult.

This breed usually needs to be washed every 3 months and when they roll is something particularly bad!

Is It a Hypoallergenic Dog?

Border Collies are not hypoallergenic dogs. They shed continuously and a lot during the shedding seasons. If you suffer from allergies, you should consider one of these hypoallergenic dog breeds instead.

Border Collie Training and Education

border collie jumping

Socialization and training are essential parts of a dog’s education. It helps them to grow up confidently, respect their owners, and learn proper canine etiquette.

Border Collies are one of the most intelligent breeds in the world and have an incredible capacity for learning. They’ll easily learn simple commands and will be keen to learn new tricks too. They probably won’t need much training if you’re hoping to employ them on a working farm. Herding comes naturally to these dogs, in fact, you’ll probably be training them not to herd everything they see!

This breed really benefits from taking part in dog sports too. It’s a great way for them to learn new things and be mentally and physically stimulated.

As well as having a natural desire to please their owners, Border Collies also respond well to food and praise. Positive reinforcement is definitely the best way to train a Border Collie. They need an owner that is patient and willing to put in the time to consistently train them.

What Is the Price of a Border Collie?

Usually, a Border Collie puppy from a reputable breeder will cost between $700 and $1500. Exact prices can vary a lot from state to state depending on demand and breeders in your area. Always check reviews for breeders and ensure that they can give you all the required health checks.

A cheaper puppy isn’t necessarily a better deal. You might be getting a pup with health problems and contributing to unethical breeding.

Border Collies are popular dogs and it’s possible you could find one in a shelter. Look there first and give a pup another opportunity in a loving home.

Border Collie Feeding

Border Collies are very active dogs and need high-quality dog food to sustain their energetic lifestyles. Depending on their size, most Border Collies need between 1.5 and 2 cups of quality dog food a day. It’s best to spread them out into two meals and not leave the food lying around.

As with all dog breeds, you should also feed them age-appropriate food that gives them all the nutrients they need, whatever stage of life they’re at.

Weight gain can also be a concern for Border Collies so don’t overfeed them. Stick to the dog-food guidelines or ask your vet if you’re worried about your dog’s weight.

Border Collie Health

Border Collies are usually healthy dogs. It’s important to get your puppy from an ethical breeder as this can help ensure they’re as healthy as possible.

Even so, Border Collies can suffer from a few diseases common in other shepherd dogs.

Common Diseases

Keeping up with your dog’s scheduled vet checks can help to diagnose and hopefully treat anything early on. The most common diseases found in Border Collies are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Collie eye anomaly (which can even lead to blindness)
  • Epilepsy
  • Allergies
  • Cancers
  • Hypothyroidism

It’s recommended that puppies have a hip and ophthalmologist exam and that the results are given to potential owners.

What Is The Life Expectancy of the Border Collie?

The average life expectancy of a Border Collie is 12-15 years, although it’s not uncommon to see older pups too.

What Is The Best Climate for a Border Collie?

Border Collies prefer a moderate climate that is neither excessively cold nor too hot. They have a thick coat that protects them in some cold conditions but which also helps to keep them cool in summer.

It’s weather resistant, which I can tell you (having been brought up close to the Borders myself) comes in handy. Although resistant, these dogs shouldn’t be left outside for long periods of time. They need to be part of a loving home. In warmer weather, it’s best to walk them at the coolest point of the day and make sure they have plenty of fresh water and shade to cool off in.

Breeds Similar to Border Collies

It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a reputable Border Collie breeder near you. But if it is, there are plenty of other dogs very similar to these pups in both personality and appearance.

Australian Shepherd. These furry friends are so similar to Border Collies. They’re great herders and can have many of the same coat colors.

Shetland Sheepdog. These dogs have many of the same characteristics as a Border Collie and they’re very intelligent. Their coats are longer and fluffier though!

Rough Collie. Remember Lassie? Collies can have rough and smooth coats and are excellent herders too. Their fur is more like a Shetland Sheepdog’s than a Border’s and it can be various colors.


Border Collies are amazing, active, and highly intelligent dogs that are both great workers and wonderful family companions. A Border Collie needs an owner who is willing to take them out come rain or shine and who has the time to spend training them. They love to play and a well-socialized Border Collie gets on well with other pups and kids. These dogs are super affectionate, loyal, and fun-loving – there’s definitely a reason why they’re such a popular dog breed!

Not convinced that the Border Collie is for you? Take our fun online quiz to be matched with your perfect pooch!

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