I have a Border Collie named Betty that I rescued from the Border Collie Rescue Group of the Ozarks (when I lived in Arkansas in 2015). There are rescue groups for the breed in most states. These beautiful smart dogs are adorably cute puppies. Many people do not fully comprehend their need for exercise and training when they gather them up as adorable puppies. This means that many end up at shelters and rescue groups. As smart as they are, they are not the lowest maintenance dogs that you can bring home.
These dogs are not going to be happy lying on the couch all day. They are bred to work. They need regular daily exercise. When I first got Betty and was researching the breed, I kept reading that they are dogs that need a job. What does that even mean? It means they are happiest when they are working. The breed was bred for herding livestock. They love to run in circles around other animals that are running. When sheep are not available, squirrels, bunnies, birds and small children will be herded. They also like things to be fairly calm. My dog loves a dog park. But, I have to watch her closely because if a fight breaks out , she will run over to the fighting dogs to break up the fight. This can be very bad for Betty so we don’t go to dog parks often. When other dogs are playing ball, she likes to chase them and herd them away from the ball. Its her version of keep away. This can be very frustrating for ball obsessed dogs like labradors and spaniels. She plays best with other herding dogs that are happy to chase each other in circles. Dog parks can be very dangerous places for small children as they can be easily knocked over by rambunctious running dogs.
I would caution against over exercising border collies unless you are prepared to be consistent. If you create an athlete out of them, you will need to train them as an athlete or they will become very stir-crazy. When they become stir-crazy, they will get into things and run around the house. Betty gets the zoomies and will run as fast as she can from one end of the house to the other. My family knows Betty’s crazy look. Her eyes bug out a little and her pupils dilate and she starts running around sometimes tossing toys in the air and catching them all by herself. Betty gets regular exercise. She is also fairly mellow as far as Border Collies come. We started in a house with a yard and went hiking regularly. Now we live in a condo and her exercise is primarily on leash. Times change and she has adapted very well. She is best on leash when we are running.
Border Collies can be wonderful dogs around children with proper training of your kids AND your dog. This is also true for all family dogs. Border Collies are known to be among the smartest of dogs. This makes them easy to train. Betty was completely untrained when I brought her home and she learned all the basic obedience training commands in about 15 minutes. No joke. She is smart. They are also very loyal and generally pretty sweet tempered. They enjoy a lot of attention. They have a ton of energy and can run around with kids all day long.
An important thing that you will need to work on specific to the breed will be the herding instinct which can be very strong in Border Collies. They will have a natural instinct to herd small children that run around. They can knock toddlers down with this herding behavior. They are generally better with older kids for this reason. I have granddaughters that I taught about dogs at a very young age and my Border Collie loves them and is very gentle around them. She loves to climb on their laps. I wrote a blog specifically about kids and dogs HERE. The girls were taught to be gentle and kind with dogs. I also taught them to not run around dogs that they didn’t know because this can activate a chasing instinct. My dog can’t tolerate crying. If anyone starts crying or is upset, she will come sit on your lap and lick your face until you are so distracted that the crying stops. Try watching a sad movie around her! She can tell when the tears are welling up and BOOM the kissing bandit is there. I would never let a small child walk a border collie on leash either. Border Collies can be unusually strong and have a tendency to want to chase after things unexpectedly. They can jerk a leash really hard.
When I first rescued Betty, she wanted to catch a bunny that I did not see and she ended up tearing a muscle in my shoulder. A few months later, a cyclist drove by when we were at the park and her jerky lunging pulled a muscle in my back. She also knocked my mother down and later knocked my grown neighbor down when she wanted to chase squirrels and birds. I have worked on her leash manners since then but of all the dogs I have had in my family and of all the dogs that I walk on a regular basis, Betty is the worst on leash. When I got Betty, I had heard that Border Collies were notoriously bad on leash, I simply dismissed the idea that any breed could be that bad on leash. I had trained every dog I ever had to be good on leash. Well, I have had Betty for four plus years now and I am STILL working on her leash manners. We have tried an Easy Walk harness. I have tried treats. I have tried changing directions when she pulls. I have tried the “be a tree” method. All of these methods helped a little for a while. I walk Betty four times a day with a gentle leader head harness. This has helped the most. But, I still wouldn’t let my granddaughters walk Betty by themselves. She is too strong and unpredictable at times. I know that Betty would take them down. She is very smart and learns things almost instantly. She doesn’t want to learn how to walk the way I want her to walk on leash. Betty has gone to obedience training and learned everything well - except the leash walking. I am not saying that they can’t be good on leash. I’m still working with Betty and think we will get the hang of it any day now. I have met other Border Collie owners that had the same problems though. I have met many that walk their dogs off leash (which is illegal where I currently live). Our trainer had a mini Australian shepherd and that dog was wonderful on leash.
Border Collies are people pleasers. They want to be good dogs and generally are the best in many ways. I have read that you can crush their spirits and ruin them with negative training. Positive reinforcement training is recommended for all breeds but because these dogs are extra sensitive to their owners it is vital that you don’t use negative training methods such as hitting them or smacking them ever. I believe this. I can tell when Betty has gotten into something that she knows will upset me. I can walk in the door and she will be sitting there with her head hung and if I ask her what she has done, she will start shaking. It is important to watch your kids around them and make sure your kids are always kind. This is important with any dog of course.
When Border Collies are ready to rest, they want to be left alone. My dog seeks out quiet rooms or goes under the bed. When she is sleeping, I leave her alone. With kids in the home, if you crate train your dog, it is important to teach your kids that the crate is the dog’s quiet space and to leave them alone when they are in their crates. I wrote a blog about crate training HERE. This is valuable training for most breeds. The old “let sleeping dogs lie” phrase is a true one still.
As long as you are patient and are willing to work on these things, border collies can be wonderful around supervised children. Of course, dogs within the same breeds can have different personalities and your dog may present challenges not mentioned here. Every dog is unique. No dog should ever be left unsupervised around children. Dogs and children can both do unexpected things. We want to keep both as safe as possible.