Just How Smart is a Border Collie?

By Linda Cole

Border Collies are considered one of the smartest dog breeds around. They excel at herding sheep and can learn voice commands, follow directions from a whistle or hand signals, and can understand more words than most dogs. Border Collies are smart, but just how smart are they?

The Border Collie sits at the top of the list of most intelligent dog breeds, and some people believe they are the smartest dog in the world. This is a dog who will keep his owner on their toes, especially if they don’t research the breed before getting one. Border Collies require a lot of exercise, and need to do a job to stay out of trouble. A bored Border Collie is capable of almost anything, because he will find something to do to entertain himself.

This is a dog breed that never stops thinking and has the ability to stay one step ahead of his owner. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he searches his environment and notices everything going on around him. If you take the time, this dog can learn almost anything you want to teach him and he thrives on learning. A Border Collie needs plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep his mind and body in good shape. Just be careful what you do teach him, because he won’t easily forget and he may use his intelligence to teach himself things you don’t want him to learn.

Border Collies are medium sized dogs weighing from 25 to 65 lbs. They can think on their own and problem solve when necessary to complete a task before them. And I do mean any task. These dogs have a work ethic that’s unstoppable, and they can stay focused on anything they set their mind on. They’re experts at finding escape routes out of their pen, and some owners swear this dog breed can open locked doors and unlock gates to escape. If he’s working sheep and out of hearing range or sight of his handler, he is capable of making decisions on his own. This hard working dog breed is a quick thinker and lets nothing stand in his way of doing the job he was bred to do.

Border Collies thrive on lots of praise, but they can be stubborn as well and will try to outsmart an unwary owner if given the upper hand. An owner needs to understand and be aware of the intelligence of this dog in order to keep him under control. A bored and untrained dog can have serious behavioral problems and will not be a good family pet, especially with small children. The dog can be sensitive to loud and sudden noises and they will try to herd anything that moves including kids, other dogs or cats, cars, livestock and even their owner.

If you don’t have a herd of sheep available to help your Border Collie run off steam, the next best thing is to train and enter him in agility sports, sheepdog trials, disc dog or Flyball competitions, or dock diving. This dog breed has plenty of stamina to go the long haul, and usually comes out on top when competing in these events. Any of the above activities can give this fast learning dog an appropriate way to keep his mind focused and keep him fit. This dog loves being with his owner, and participating in a sport complements his competitive nature. Long hikes or runs will also satisfy his need for plenty of exercise. This dog is not a couch potato, and needs an active owner.

Border Collies are so smart and observant, they can pick up on the smallest variations in our tone of voice, how a command is given and even how we use our hands during training session. Subtle changes that go unnoticed by an owner can be picked up by the dog. These differences can be confusing to him because he thinks his owner is trying to teach him something new. It’s important to stay as consistent as possible when training a Border Collie.

If you don’t have the time or energy to give your all to a Border Collie, you’ll be happier with a more laid back dog breed with less energy. Border Collies find their way into shelters because their owner didn’t understand the needs of this athletic dog. Families with young children need to train the kids how to interact with their pet to avoid unwanted behavior from the dog and unnecessary punishment when he acts the only way he knows how.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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7 thoughts on “Just How Smart is a Border Collie?

  1. I’m pushing 80 and I find that I have no problems with my 2 Border collies. You don’t need to run with them because their energy levels are higher then mine at any age. You can have them fetch balls, frisbees, play mental games with them while doing so, talk to them, take them to the beach, they’re great swimmers. All you need to do is have the time to spend with them and there is no dog better. I’ve had border collies for the past 40 years and wouldn’t have any other dog. I inherited these two from my son who didn’t have the time for them because of work related problems. They distroyed half his home because of boredom. I have them now for two and a half years, no problems. Love them to death

  2. I just rescued a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix from a neglectful owner, and I did not realize I had a Border Collie until I was told by a Vet! You’re so right on all counts. Unfortunately, my body is not capable of giving this doggie the level of exercise he needs. Unless there is an indoor exercise, I don’t know how to keep him busy. I’m trying to keep up with his demands, but it’s wearing me down. I live in the southwestern suburbs of Cleveland, OH. I need help in locating a doggie parent who already has a well-mannered dog, because this kid desperately needs an additional Border Collie or other well-mannered companion, something that I cannot offer. IMy email address is: phs8@cox.net.

  3. I just got a Border Collie from a local shelter, and in less than 24 hours, I can easily see what you mean! I’m going to have my hands full with this dog, but I’m sure I’ll love every minute of it. Miles already knows that bones/chews are outdoors or crate-only treats, and is picking up on commands quickly!

  4. I love reading this as my husband tries to fix our two border collie/beagles way of escape for the umpteenth time. LOL

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