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Newbie here. Needs a bit of help.

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So, just some background, I'm married, 30, and have two kids (4 and 6). I currently have a golden retriever and a pyrenees - the retriever is mine.

 

He's 7 1/2 years old and I'm pretty active and he's getting to where he can't quite keep up with me. On a short 4 mile bike ride this morning - going pretty slow - he was really tired by the last half mile. I've decided to slow down a bit with him as I'm having a really, really hard time admitting he's not a puppy who can just keep up with me anymore. Golden's have an average life expectancy of 63 years right? Right?! Right?!

 

Anyway, I'm the kind of the person who spends three hours researching what to have for dinner. I've been thinking about getting a border collie in a few years, my Golden's not going to be able to keep up with me much longer and will settle for a nice long walk, and I'm looking for a biking partner. I'm at the research point where I need to stop my internet searches and just ask some real people.

 

So. Assuming that I get the border from either a reputable working breeder not affiliated with the AKC or a rescue organization, I have a few questions about raising BC pups.

 

(1) If I got a BC I would do agility with him. Probably 2-3 times a week unless I invested in my own equipment.

(2) I really want to learn how to do frisbee, including tricks, and would teach a BC. (My Golden can't really jump or anything, he's too big lol.)

(3) We would bike 5-20 miles a day, split up, not all at once. (We bike everywhere instead of driving, so it's urban biking.) Weekends are a little less though, maybe only 2-5 miles.

(4) I would obviously do obedience, I like going pretty far with obedience training.

(5) I would take him running with me on occasion, maybe 2-5 miles at a time, 1-3 times a week.

(6) I would teach him basic house chores like how to put laundry in a basket and how to close doors.

 

My question is, will this be enough to satisfy a BC? I don't have sheep; I may have goats someday but I have absolutely ZERO idea how to teach a dog to herd (even though I would absolutely love to it looks like an incredible amount of fun). Could I adequately keep a BC psychologically/physically fulfilled doing those things listed? Could I redirect the herding instinct so he doesn't try to herd my children or their friends? How? Can you get an otherwise fulfilled BC to settle in the house and not be completely neurotic? (I consider myself the boss of my dogs; if I say settle, they have to settle, period. However, obviously, I have a Golden Retriever and don't know how this translates to the drive of a BC.)

 

Would a BC be a good fit for me? Does my level of activity/involvement sound like a good match for a BC? I've wanted one my whole life but don't want to put a dog in a situation where he's miserable just because "I want one."

 

Also, how would I go about learning how to do frisbee tricks with a dog?

 

I appreciate y'all's input. Thanks! :)

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To start at the end, you take a frisbee class.

 

People do like to tell others that BCs take an insane amount of activity, and I'm sure some do, but I'm also sure most don't. Mine go to obedience classes once a week, do agility once a week, I do have a small farm and they get to do about 5 minutes worth of stockwork a day(which is really close to being nothing for a BC) and accompany me on chores, they also go for a walk every day, about 1 mile, but the rest of the time, they are couch potatoes. So yes, you do more than plenty for a BC to be happy.

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as with all stereotypes, there is usually at least a bit of truth to them but... yes. from an activity perspective it sounds like you are set. I think another question which is oft times overlooked is "do i have the personality or character traits that will match up well with a Border Collie?"

 

The answer for me was no... but i didn't know what i didn't know and so wasn't smart enough to not get a Border Collie... or 5. So they, along with my wife are continually outsmarting me into submission. I have had to become a nicer person, softer, more patient, more communicative... it is killing me i wanna tell ya!

 

dave

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Two things:

 

1) my working-bred Border collies don't get NEARLY as much exercise/stimulation as you propose. Maybe four two-mile off-leash hikes each week? If the weather (and our mentor's trialing schedule) permits, one or two lessons per week on sheep? For the younger one, an obedience class each week (if it doesn't get cancelled because of weather), and if I'm good, every other day I work in a couple of sessions practicing each new task. Of course, the pup has his own ideas, and will bring a toy to me while I'm at my computer, forcing me to take a break to play with him (what a hardship!). The dogs do come to work with me, and they're happy to chill in my office. If I'm home, they'll chase each other around my fenced back yard while I keep an eye on them through the window, if they're indoors, they sack out on a dog bed or in a crate most of the time.

 

2) The more exercise you provide a dog, the more it may demand. You shouldn't enter into acquiring a Border collie thinking it will NEED a ton of exercise. Mental stimulation is better than physical exercise.

 

3) If you give a dog too much exercise when it's young, you could ruin its joints for life.

 

4) Most of the working Border collies I know (trial dogs) spend a large fraction of their lives happily settled in crates.

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That's such a great help! All of you, thank you!! That's such great information. :)

 

One more question, if you don't mind: Would you find it easier to have one border collie or two?

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3) If you give a dog too much exercise when it's young, you could ruin its joints for life.

 

I have heard this; can you tell me what is "young" here and what is "too much"? At what point could a BC keep up with a longish (4+ mile) bike ride safely? What's a good amount of exercise for a younger BC?

 

I am also, as you mentioned, concerned about MAKING a dog neurotic by accidentally giving it more exercise than it actually needs. So how do you know? How do you keep the balance between not building neurosis but also making sure mental/physical needs are met?

 

Also, what counts as mental, instead of physical, exercise?

 

Y'all are an amazing help, thank you! :)

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I have to run and have to keep this short, but wanted to encourage you to search these forums for many opinions on your many questions. Since you like to research, you will happily spend hours and hours reading past posts that should help you.

 

Good Luck,

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Compared to many I am a novice Border collie owner, I have had 3 and numerous fosters and none have got the level of activity you are proposing.

My three where all happy to settle in the house, my current young dog looks like an intense crazed border collie when we play/walk/train but bring him home and he is a complete couch potato. My dogs usually (but not on nasty days or extremely busy ones) get a good walk a day. I can entertain a bored collie with learning a new trick or just practicing the existing ones, five minutes and they are happy. But if we are in training mode Rievaulx has the intensity and will to be able to take a two hour private agility class.

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Let me start by saying that I am by no means qualified to give you any advice. I'm a complete novice, but if you find it interesting, I'll share my story with you.

 

About three months ago, we experienced what's known as a "foster failure", i.e. we tried to be a foster family for a 2 yo BC from a local shelter and ended up falling head over heels in love with the dog. My wife and I were both pretty nervous about the decision to keep her, especially after having read and heard countless horror stories about BCs destroying homes and driving their owners to insanity and an early grave. So we proceeded with caution and asked countless stupid questions on this message board.

 

Three months into it, I must say that adopting our girl was one of our best decisions in a long time! She's turned out to be a lovely addition to the family and - this is going to sound corny - has brought my wife an me closer together.

 

We live a pretty normal suburban life, although my wife doesn't work outside the home and I work out of a home office. We give her 2 one-mile walks every day, practice some obedience and tricks daily and have recently started weekly herding lessons. We also have 6 year old twins who love to play with the dog and throw balls with her or hide her toys so she has to find them. On top of that, we do the occasional weekend hike. We'll also try a bit of agility in January to see if that's something she'll like.

 

If we give her the exercise I mentioned, she's the perfect family dog. She enjoys just hanging out with us at home and loves a good snuggle! If we miss one of the walks, she sometimes gets a bit nervous and gets into some bad habits. Nothing even close to chewing up the house, but there's occasionally some nipping going on, which can be a bit annoying.

 

So over all, with our particular circumstances and our particular dog, it's working out very well and she's brought a lot of joy to the family. It's very obvious that whatever life she had before left her starved for affection and she loves to be part of a family.

 

I hope, if you decide to get a BC, you have the same great experience that our family has been having so far!

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One more question, if you don't mind: Would you find it easier to have one border collie or two?

It is often said that Border Collies are like potato chips.

 

The rule of thumb that I have heard repeatedly about exercise is 5 minutes per month of age of formal exercise. Formal exercise is people directed exercise or any exercise that would encourage the puppy to participate in it any longer than what would make it mildly tired. And for hard, heavy, or strenuous exercise, you want to wait until their growth plates have closed when they are full grown. That's one of the benefits of adopting a full grown dog, no need to wait.

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Have you considered adopting an older dog? That way, you'd be able to know what you're getting in terms of drive, instinct, temperament and activity requirements.

 

If you want an immediate biking partner, you might consider adopting an older border collie. I think the conventional wisdom is that you don't want to really start a lot of repetitive exercise until they're full grown, which could be around 18 months, but probably varies from dog to dog.

 

Adopt a 1-2 year old border collie and you'll get one ready to jump right into your activities (after a reasonable break in period), plus it will be past the puppy phase. If you're patient, you might find one like mine, who was a reject from a working kennel, and came already trained. I don't know how common that is, but that's how I got mine, and she's by far the best dog I've ever had.

 

Also, the activity level you propose would almost certainly be sufficient and maybe even excessive :). I my (admittedly limited) experience, they don't need much more exercise than any other active dog. They do need a lot of attention and activity, but it doesn't have to be all strenuous. My border collie is easier to keep than my (field bred) Golden Retriever was, actually.

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One more question, if you don't mind: Would you find it easier to have one border collie or two?

 

However many you end up with best to get one at a time. Same as any breed.

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Yes, as other have said, it's safe to assume that you will be providing *ample* physical exercise. I would consider rescuing a young adult dog (at least over 18 months) so you can start to ease him/her into your exercise routine right away. Many, many young BCs are turned over to shelters at that age as they are seen as unmanageable by their former owners. Often the dog just isn't having it's needs met and it sounds like you'd be the ideal owner (and second chance) for a wonderful, high energy dog. Find a BC rescue near you and explain to them what you are looking for in your new companion... I'm certain they will find you a perfect fit!

 

No, you do not need livestock to keep a BC happy and satisfied in it's need to "work". You mentioned agility, frisbee, high level obedience, trick training/chores. Any of those things would satisfy a BC's desire to work with you. Other good activities include tri-ball, fly ball, and tracking. The breed seems to need human interaction and mental stimulation as much as it does physical exercise. It certainly sounds like you are quite prepared to meet those needs!

 

With the amount of physical exercise you will be providing you will have quite an athlete of a dog, as others have said. Once conditioned it will probably require that much exercise on a regular basis. Clearly you intend to keep that activity level up, however it might be good to plan for the unexpected. If you need to travel for a few weeks or have to rest or recover from an injury will there be someone else in your household or a friend who could step and continue to provide the dog with that level of exercise? With regards to creating a neurotic dog, you mentioned training the "settle" command with previous dogs you have owned. If you teach a BC a good "off switch" (settle) then you shouldn't have any problems. The neurotic issues tend to arise when the dog never learns when it is appropriate to calm down. It doesn't sound like that would be an issue in your household, based on your original post.

 

I'd stick with one for now, as hard as they are to resist. :P A puppy takes a lot of time and effort to train, but even a rescue dog will probably come with a few "kinks" that need to be worked out. This is just my opinion... but I think it's good to give a new dog at least a year or two in your household to learn your rules, work with you and train with you before adding another dog.

 

Lastly, if you DO decide to take the plunge and get yourself a border collie you MUST post pictures of your new pal so we can "ooh and aahhh" over him/her. ^_^ Best of luck!!

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You guys are awesome, thanks so much for all the replies and advice. I've read SO much about how you "really need to think twice before getting a BC" and "they aren't for everyone" and all this stuff discouraging people from getting them I was beginning to wonder if they were good dogs for anyone, lol. But I'm guessing all that stuff is written for people who aren't really "dog" people and just want a family pet and think "oh BCs are smart that's good" and don't think about it past that point.

 

I *have* considered adopting an older dog, and have gone back and forth back and forth weighing my options.

 

I tend to lean toward adopting a puppy because I'm quite good with puppies and like to make sure that they have been trained right from the start the way I want them to be trained, does that make sense? I don't have to fix bad habits if they've never formed them, and I understand the waiting period before being allowed to exercise too much. Also, where I am at least, rescuing a border collie is frequently more expensive than buying one from a working breeder. Not always, it just can be.

 

I'm good with puppies and making sure dogs never develop bad habits, but I'm not so good with training out bad habits that have already formed, and that makes me nervous about rescue dogs. I have one rescue and in 7 years she still barely knows how to sit and still pees in the house, though I trained her exactly like I trained my Golden who is well trained, and I got her when she was 4 months old. She was a rescue from an abusive "breeder" one of those keep-them-locked-in-crates-so-they-pee-on-themselves-constantly a**holes, and we've just never been able to undo that 4 months of horror. She's even still terrified of black people. As much as I love that dog, and she's very happy and a good dog, she's a pet only. Because of her past she could never really be a working dog in the sense that I want one, for agility and the like, though heaven knows she's got the build and speed for it (greyhound/pyre mix). I guess I'm just afraid that I'm not a good enough trainer to undo things like that in a dog's past - I clearly couldn't for her.

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Not being able to undo the problems of one dog doesn't make you a bad trainer. It may be that much of what ails her is innate rather than learned. IOW, she may not have been fix-able by even the best of trainers. Getting her at only 4 months of age, I suspect it's more than just experience that damaged her. Quite possibly bad breeding and genetics.

 

All of my three dogs are rescues. I don't know where any of them came from as they were all strays at one point in their lives. The PB BC was probably about 2 when I adopted him. He didn't know a thing, not even how to play with another dog. He was, by far, the easiest of the three to teach. The others are possibly BC mixes. One with a spitz-type breed and the other a lurcher (i.e. a herding breed X sighthound breed). Each of them has been much more difficult, though in different ways. The reasons for that are, I suspect, as much as anything, their breed mixes. Both spitz-type breeds and sighthound breeds are more difficult to train, largely because they have different attitudes about working with and for people.

 

I'm curious . . . where do you live that adopting a dog is more expensive than buying one?

 

And when you're comparing the costs, don't forget to consider that the rescue dogs usually come with many dollars worth of veterinary fees (spay/neuter, shots, worming, microchips, etc.) that you'll have to add to the cost of the dog you buy. I know that the adoption fee of the BC rescue I volunteer with doesn't begin to cover vet fees alone for the average dog we adopt. Some have had thousands of dollars of vet work for a $250 adoption fee.

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My dogs have all been second hand adults. The key to getting a great second hand is going through a reputable rescue and knowing what you want.

 

My youngest came to me at 9 m/o - practically a blank slate, no real bad habits and pretty much bomb proof. And the the rescue fee was about half the cost of a well bred pup.

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Have you considered attending some local sheepdog trials? (USBCHA, not AKC). That would give you an opportunity to get to meet a large number of Border collies "in the flesh", and at their best. It would help you assess whether it's a breed with which you're likely to "click". You'll find people are friendly. You might even be able to get leads on planned litters, or on adult dogs being rehomed because they're not working out (for whatever reason) as trial dogs but that would be suitable for active pet homes.

 

You could also attend agility trials or flyball tournaments, but from all I've heard these are noisier.

 

If you do buy a puppy (rather than getting a puppy or adult dog from rescue), please purchase one from a reputable breeder of working dogs - not from someone breeding for looks or any attribute other than working ability. If you search on "breeder" you'll find a huge number of threads. Also make sure to read all the "pinned" information, and educate yourself thoroughly. There are far too many people out there breeding dogs who aren't bettering the breed, but might fool you by offering "working lines".

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I'm curious . . . where do you live that adopting a dog is more expensive than buying one?

 

I live in Texas...if I wanted to adopt a BC I'd have to go through a rescue and it's about $350. But there are a lot of farms out here with working dogs and ranchers who whelp their working dogs and you can buy their "extras" (because they aren't breeding to sell pets, they are breeding to keep and work their dogs but don't want/need the entire litter) for a couple hundred dollars. I'd prefer that over "breeders" who come up with four or five litters a year anyway.

 

But yeah, I see what you mean about my pyre probably just being that way anyway. With an adult (as opposed to a four month old like she was when we found her) I guess that wouldn't be an issue because you'd see exactly what the personality was. Guess I've got a lot of thinking to do!! You guys have been amazing help, thank you!

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Have you considered attending some local sheepdog trials?

 

I haven't, actually! Agility trials, yes, sheepdog trials, no. That is a fantastic idea, thanks! :)

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I live in Texas...if I wanted to adopt a BC I'd have to go through a rescue and it's about $350. But there are a lot of farms out here with working dogs and ranchers who whelp their working dogs and you can buy their "extras" (because they aren't breeding to sell pets, they are breeding to keep and work their dogs but don't want/need the entire litter) for a couple hundred dollars.

 

OK, so it's still going to cost you more than $350 for a pup when you figure in all the vet fees . . . . <_<

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Typically, people over emphasize the physical exercise needs of Border Collies while under emphasizing the mental exercise needs. Running is just physical; agility is both mental than physical.

 

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I live in Texas...if I wanted to adopt a BC I'd have to go through a rescue and it's about $350. But there are a lot of farms out here with working dogs and ranchers who whelp their working dogs and you can buy their "extras" (because they aren't breeding to sell pets, they are breeding to keep and work their dogs but don't want/need the entire litter) for a couple hundred dollars.

I believe you are approaching getting another dog with a lot of thought and research, but I am another one who believes that thinking that buying a puppy, even for only a couple hundred dollars or even free, is false economy. I also volunteer with a BC rescue group and have routinely seen BCs come through that have no health issues (other than maybe being intact) and leave behind a $300 or more vet bill - and our adoption fee is only $250. Vetting usually includes all shots (parvo, distemper, rabies, etc.), neutering, heartworm test and lyme test. And the $300 is about 25-30% discounted from normal fees.

 

As you have pointed out, you have other considerations as to why you might prefer to get a puppy, but if you add up the vetting fees for the first 12 - 18 months of a pup's life, I bet that adopting is less $ than getting that cheap, or free, puppy.

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My dogs have all been second hand adults. The key to getting a great second hand is going through a reputable rescue and knowing what you want.

^^

This... a thousand times this!

 

If you go through a reputable rescue and are clear about what you want and what you intend to provide for your new border collie they should be able to match you up with the perfect partner. The type of border collie you seem to want (high energy, high drive) is exactly the type of BC that ends up at a rescue because the people who got it as a cute little puppy heard that "Border Collies are so smart and easy to train". So they brought an animal capable of herding cattle into their living rooms, expected it to magically be the perfect family dog and dumped it at a shelter when it got to be "too much work".

 

I know that was a little "soap box-y", but in all seriousness, rescuing has the huge advantage of allowing you to know the dog's personality, drive, energy level, and it's overall health. With a puppy those things are a coin toss. Also, a good, reputable rescue will tell you what behavioral "issues" a dog has and you could make the informed decision about taking on what you feel you can handle.

 

Having said all of that, clearly you should do whatever works best for you. I'm not trying to guilt you in any way... just being a cheerleader for the rescue option. :) Hope I didn't come on too strong, whatever decision you make has to be one you are comfortable with!

_____________________________________________________________________________

(Full disclosure: I am a first time dog owner and got my border collie as a 10 week old puppy. He was from a farmer's litter and I got him practically for free. For all of the money we have spent on vet bills for his various health issues I could have rescued DOZENS of sound, healthy border collies who needed homes. I love my dog more then anything and, while I regret getting a puppy the way I did, I do not regret getting HIM. I learned my lesson the hard (and extremely expensive) way. I know that when I get my next border collie it WILL be a rescue and most likely a young adult. I just didn't want to be a closet hypocrite and thought I should be up front about my own choices and their consequences.)

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