Are Border Collies smart? You bet they are

B&W Border Collie looking at cameraAre Border Collies smart? You bet they are. In fact, they’re rated among the top 5 smartest dog breeds and most folks even say they’re the smartest dog breed. Let’s find out more about them.

What is a Border Collie?

The Border Collie is a well-balanced, medium-sized dog with an athletic appearance and hard muscular body. This breed stands from 18 inches to 22 inches and weighs 30 to 55 pounds. They have a double-coat that’s usually thick and can vary from smooth to rough. Although they’re commonly seen in the black and white coat pattern, this breed can appear in just about every color and pattern known to occur in dogs.

Their almond shaped eyes convey an intelligent expression and intense gaze. The eye color varies from brown to blue and occasionally they have eyes of differing color. Their ears can be erect or drooping.

Personality Traits of the Border Collie

Border Collies have been called the world’s greatest herders. You may agree if you watch them work with their stealthy crouching, creeping and explosive energy. They convey effortless movement, great endurance and seem to have endless energy. Border Collies are very demanding, playful, energetic and require considerably more daily exercise and mental stimulation than many other breeds. Although they were originally bred as herding dogs, they’re becoming increasingly popular as household pets and are ranked 38 out of 192 in popularity according to the American Kennel Club.

Because of their demand for mental stimulation and exercise, many Border Collies develop behavioral problems if their needs aren’t meant. They’re famous for chewing holes in walls and furniture as well as destructive scraping and digging if they become bored. People who are considering a Border Collie as a pet must keep in mind that as a working dog, this breed might run many miles in a day. Thus, the dog’s owner must adjust their schedule to accommodate this level of exercise.

Border Collies also have a strong desire to herd and may show this trait with small children, cats and other dogs. Furthermore, they are motion-sensitive and might chase moving vehicles and bicycles because these behaviors have been encouraged in this breed over many generations. However, being extremely intelligent, they are very trainable and can live amicably with other pets and children. They are highly sensitive to their handler’s every cue and will respond to a raised eyebrow, hand signal and whistle.

Border Collies can also become shy and fearful if they aren’t properly socialized as a puppy. For this reason, they need puppy classes and plenty of exposure to a variety of people, places and things to gain confidence.

Border Collie IntelligenceAdult Border Collie and pups

In 2011, on the PBS program “Nova Science Now” host and famous Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson featured a 6-year-old Border Collie named Chaser and her owner, psychology professor John Pilley.

John had trained Chaser to understand over 1,000 words by using children’s toys and other objects and the results were remarkable.

Tyson quizzed the dog with a random sampling of toys. The toys were placed in another room and Tyson would call out the name of the toy and ask Chaser to fetch it. Chaser brought Tyson the correct toy each time.

The really remarkable moment came when a new toy that Chaser had never seen was introduced. Again, she brought the correct toy. In other words, she learned by deduction which is an advanced cognitive function.

History of the Border Collie

During the long, slow dissolution of the Roman Empire, fierce Vikings took their turns raiding Britain. They brought their dogs who were smaller, quicker, spitz-type herders. Crosses between the old Roman dogs and the Viking spitzes produced compact and agile herders. This began the history of the Border Collie.

This breed was developed as a working dog specifically for herding livestock, and especially sheep, in the area of the Scottish/England border in Northumberland. The name “Border Collie” comes from the fact that they were developed on this border.

All Border Collies today are known to be descendants of the Old Hemp, a tricolor dog who was bred by Adam Telfer. Old Hemp was a smart, quiet dog and was used by many shepherds and known as the best herding dog around.

The first time the name “Border Collie” was used came in 1915 when the Secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society, James Reid, named the breed in order to register them as a separate breed from other Collies.

In Conclusion

Yes, the Border Collie is one smart puppy and a joy to have as a pet. Just make sure you have the time and energy to spend with this intelligent dynamo.

We love comments so be sure to leave yours below.


6 comments on “Are Border Collies smart? You bet they are

  1. Marlinda Davis

    Omg, they are SO SMART! I had a border collie mix and she was made because her dad’s owners couldn’t keep her sly dad in the fence. 

    She was smart too. I would purposely put together puzzles and things for her to figure out. She figured it out EVERY time. 

    She knew how to scale the tallest fences too. I would marvel at her intelligence all the time. They are definitely very smart dogs for sure. It makes sense that they are herding dogs. 

    I think herding dogs have to have the ability to think on their own to protect cattle or whatever livestock they are supposed to protect. They have to figure out how to guide the herd to safety, what is a threat, what’s not a threat, etc. 

    Well, that’s what the breed might have been bred to do anyway. This was a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Marlinda:

      Thanks for your comments!

      When you stop and think about it, a lot of intelligence is needed to keep a huge herd of sheep, goats, cows or whatever together. I’d like to see a human do that!

      That’s neat you had a Border Collie mix. It’s also great that you kept her stimulated with puzzles.

      Would you ever have one again?

  2. Lindsey

    We had a blue healer/border collie mix growing up. She was a fantastic dog, and very intelligent. I don’t remember her being overly active, but that could have been the blue healer in her. Im looking to get a dog soon, and a border collie is up there on my list. Since they are so active do you recommend having a large fenced yard? Thanks!

    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Lindsey:

      I would say a very large yard would be appropriate. However, if a Border Collie becomes bored, she might dig right under the fence!

      So, in addition to that large yard, make sure you give her lots of walks and playtime.

      Thank you!

  3. Dave

    Hi Christopher

    Yes, Border Collies are remarkable pups. I love watching them at state fairs when they’re demonstrating.

    Their energy is both contagious and exhausting. If they’re not worked or exercises regularly, they can become real trouble makers (but not really malicious; more cheekiness).

    I have a friend who has a young Border Collie, Angus. He’s probably got too much energy for his owner, and he loves to push his boundaries (jump sheep fences, running away, digging holes) but that’s how they can be if they’re not engaged all the time.

    My sons would love one; my wife a little less so. 🙂



    1. Christopher Mitchell Post author

      Hi Dave:

      Yes, Border Collies are packages of boundless energy. And yes, they can get into mischief – especially if they become bored. 

      It’s so interesting that Chaser the Border Collie was able to do so many remarkable things that demonstrated her intelligence.

      Do you think you’ll actually get one?


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