If you’re wondering about getting a Border Collie puppy as your first dog then this is the article for you! Sometimes a lot gets written online about the fact that border collies are challenging dogs to own. With that comes some lazy assumptions that Border Collies are not good “beginner dogs” for new or inexperienced owners. So, in this article I want to answer the question about whether Border Collies are good for first time owners in a slightly different way by challenging some of the myths that are out there.
Both me and my partner, Matt, have grown up with Border Collies and have two of our own – Mila and Izzy. We think they make for excellent beginner dogs for people who haven’t owned a dog before – so let’s get rid of some myths.
Obviously, I should say that getting any dog is a big responsibility to take on. So, please read this article with this in mind – and consider visiting some of the other pages in this website to get a feel for what it’s like to own a Collie!
Myth 1: Border Collie intelligence is too challenging for first time dog owners
The fact that Border Collies are so intelligent is often seen as a drawback for new owners. Search the web and you’ll find articles saying this is an area to be especially mindful of.
The reason why is because this intelligence can lead to Border Collies understanding that they can work around human rules to get what they want.
For example, your Border Collie may know they’re not allowed to empty the laundry basket, but they’ll then work out that they’re only now allowed to do it when you’re not around. Queue them sneaking off while you’re watching TV to get to their prize!
Now, this is pretty true for all dogs, but with Border Collies it can go one step further. They will learn which family member is more of a pushover (Matt, in my household!) and seek to divide and conquer.
If one human won’t get them what they want, they’ll go to the next.
In short, a Border Collie will always seek to test boundaries.
Naturally, this isn’t ideal for unsuspecting new owners, but forewarned is forearmed!
Border Collie intelligence is just something that needs to be managed.
If you put in the time to stretch them mentally, and make sure that you’ve properly “doggy proofed” your home, then you’ll already be halfway there.
In my view, if a new owner invests in some training classes to learn how to actually teach commands that stick, and practices praise and positivity with their new pup, they’re unlikely to go far wrong.
If managed properly, then a Border Collie’s intelligence can be a huge plus for new owners.
This is because you’ll find that they are typically (emphasis on typically) easier to get up-to-speed on what’s expected from them, and generally very astute when it comes to picking up on your routines.
As long as new owners understand that they will need to be completely consistent with their Border Collie for the very start (and get everyone in the household to do the same), then a Collie’s intelligence shouldn’t be too challenging for a first time owner.
Myth 2: First time owners will find it difficult to keep their Border Collie exercised
Now, this one in my view is absolute nonsense.
Often, you’ll read something like: Border Collies need a lot of exercise, so they may not be suitable for inexperienced owners with busy lives.
Now, I understand where people are coming from with these sort of statements. The intention behind it is to highlight the fact that Collie owners will need to prioritise exercise for their dog and make sure to schedule it in their week.
These statements should read as: Border Collies need a lot of exercise, so if you don’t want to fit this in, don’t get a Collie.
So again, forewarned is forearmed here.
If a first time owner works full time, and has a busy family life, then they’ll just need to make sure that they figure out some extra arrangements.
This could be hiring a dog sitter for certain days of the week, or using doggy day care. Or, it could mean taking up jogging (as we’ve done) to help exercise your Collie in a more time efficient way.
Either way, of course thought needs to be given to a Collie’s exercise requirements, but as long as a first time owner does this – and can stick to a routine – then there shouldn’t really be any issue.
Check out our article about how much exercise Border Collies need to get a sense of what our week looks like. (Bearing in mind we have two!)
If you’re a would-be first time owner and read the article above, and think you can fit exercise into your day, then I’d say that’s another myth busted!
Myth 3: Border Collies need a firm hand and beginners will find this difficult
This one gets banded around a lot. And, the people saying it normally don’t mean a literal firm hand! Instead, they mean that a Border Collie owner will need to be strict with their dog to make sure that there are constant boundaries (again, linked to their level of intelligence).
So, for first time owners, the argument goes, this might prove too challenging to do.
As this is a myth busting article, here’s my counter argument.
All dogs need consistent, kind and patient instruction.
I don’t care if it’s a Collie or a Cockapoo, if left to their own devices, a pet dog will start acting out if they’re not sure of what’s expected of them.
This could mean that they end up showing unwanted barking, chewing furniture, or being generally disobedient.
The root cause of this is almost always the result of a well-meaning owner who has let their expectations slip. It could start with simply providing a treat even though a command wasn’t met, or inconsistent when enforcing basic rules (e.g. waiting before eating etc.).
Over time, these things start to build up until you end up with a dog with “selective” hearing.
Again, I don’t think this is unique to Collies. But, as mentioned previously, provided a first time owner attends some puppy training classes, and takes to heart the need to be consistent with their expectations, then I’m not sure being a “first timer” matters.
Myth 4: You need a massive house/garden to own a Border Collie
This one is perhaps an easy assumption to make, and many first-time dog owners aren’t quite at the stage in life where they have a massive house.
Growing up on a farm with my childhood Border Collies, you’d think I’d recommend the need for a lot of outdoor garden space if you’re going to get a Border Collie.
However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Currently, Matt and I (and family) live in a pretty typical suburban home. Our garden is an acceptable size to have a BBQ in, but it’s not like we’ve got acres of land.
And, it’s not like we do too much in the way of structured exercise in our garden either.
Instead, we make use of the beautiful nearby countryside, parks and streets to exercise our Collies.
As far as I’m concerned, you could live in a tiny one-bed apartment and still own a Border Collie – provided, of course, they get to spend their days outside, exploring and getting the exercise they need (granted, toilet training in the early days may be a little difficult!).
If you’re a “beginner” first time owner, and are worried about the size of your house. Don’t be – your Border Collie will fit in fine, as long as you care for him/her.
Myth 5: Border Collies are working dogs, not pets for first time owners
Obviously, it’s easy to understand where this one comes from. Border Collies have been traditionally bred as working dogs, and they make cracking ones at that! Sadly, you do hear some people saying that because they’re working dogs, they’re not best suited for a pet lifestyle – especially with an inexperienced owner.
But, truth be told, I think that they are.
Accepting all of the points above, Border Collie’s make absolutely excellent pets. Given time, and a nurturing environment, they’ll form such loving and strong bonds with their owners that really is hard to beat.
Sure, they’ll need to be exercised and mentally challenged, but if you give them this then over time they become such lovely, gentle life-helpers, always ready to cheer you up when you’re sad, or get you out of bed when you’re feeling lazy.
Not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for the fact that we have our Collies. I’ve lost count of the times they’ve inspired me to run that little bit further, or when they made me laugh (finding their secret stash of doggy treats hidden beneath a garden gnome while they hid is a favourite).
Summary: Are Border Collies good for first time owners?
In short, Border Collies are absolutely fine for first time owners. I know this has been a fairly whistle-stop tour of some of the myths associated with owning a Border Collie, but I think the message I’m trying to get across is this:
Border Collies are great for first time owners who understand the commitment they are going to make.
If you’re willing to put in the time to teach yourself how to train a Collie, exercise them, challenge them with puzzles and play sessions, and make arrangements for them when you’re not around, then you’ll be fine!
If you think that this is too much of a burden, then my advice is to perhaps get a cat 🙂