I am on a Facebook page for Border Collies and there are frequent questions from new owners about how to handle this amazing breed. After two years with our dog Bandit, I thought it might help to share a few of the things I have learned and some things that have worked for me.
Bandit came into our house when he was four months old. It is important to note that my husband and I had agreed we would never have another puppy after the last one ate all the wood trim around the windows and our stair railings….I’m sure you see the picture. My husband went on some very long walks to cool his temper. Somehow though here we were with a puppy that was smarter than both of us and definitely had more energy than half the neighborhood. The truth is we both lost our hearts to Bandit immediately.
I am a bigger animal lover, so it surprised me that I was the one who questioned during the first week whether we should keep the dog or not. I had just retired and I had visions of lots of rest and relaxation. I also wasn’t sure we knew enough about dogs, especially this breed to be the best fit for him. I did not think I was good enough for him. My husband told me if I took care of him during the day, he would take nights and weekends. I had several moments in the first few weeks when I questioned our decision, but our neighbor, friend, and person responsible for bringing us Bandit helped me so much and I read everything I could about the breed.
My first piece of advice to you is to realize that the first few weeks will be an adjustment and if you can hire a dog trainer I would highly recommend it. Border Collies will learn new commands quickly, and some of those commands can keep them safe, and the interaction is good for them. Here are the basic ones I taught Bandit.
When you open up the crate to let your dog out, don’t let him leave immediately. Tell him to stay (I add a hand motion) Then choose your release word. I say, “Come.” The reason this command is so important is if your dog is coming out of a vehicle or walking without a leash, you don’t want him to dart out in traffic.
Leave it/get it
You can teach this with treats. Hold your hand open with a treat and say leave it. If the dog tries to eat it, close your hand until he stops trying to eat it. (Bandit will turn his head to the side as if the temptation might be too much.) Now open your hand and say, “Get it!” The reason for this trick is to keep a dog from eating something harmful that might have dropped like medication.
Border Collies are high energy and they have to let that energy out. We say they have the zoomies. They also like to full-out run. Bandit likes to chase dogs and squirrels and we have a big back yard so sometimes I lose sight of him for a minute. Although it wasn’t always the case, he responds immediately when I yell, “Bandit Come.” I amused my neighbor today when I yelled for Bandit to come, looked perplexed about where he was, and turned around to see him sitting pretty right behind me.
Go to your crate.
My dog-training neighbor told me to say this as if it was the most exciting opportunity in the world. I had never used a crate before, but it is a game changer for us. Bandit does not have an off switch. He just keeps going like the energizer bunny, and he is hyper-excited when someone besides us comes into the house, so having a place to put him to let him calm down helps. I will tell you that except for putting him to bed at night we do not crate him much. He does not tear up the house if we leave him out when we do errands. Dogs also use the crate as a safe place. Bandit does not like it when I vacuum, so he goes in the crate until I’m done.
I taught him this one because I am afraid of venomous snakes. I get him to stay still then I say, “Run!” in the hopes that it will take him away from any danger.
We have done all the other basic commands like sit and lie down. Bandit can be distracted so if that happens to your dog too, try saying, “Focus” first.
Border Collies need brain stimulation and toys help with that. Bandit’s favorite is a cloth treehouse with cloth squirrels inside. The object is to get the squirrels out. Food puzzles are fun as they try to get out the treats. Frisbees and tennis balls are great interactive toys.
One of the best pieces of advice our dog trainer told us was to talk to Bandit. The dogs can learn vocabulary words and I know Bandit knows most of what I say to him. He can definitely sense your tone.
Border Collies can read the emotions in the room. They are loving and great with children. Bandit was born a week after my grandson Parker, and they play together all the time. Bandit can run with him, and herd him and not knock him down.
I would highly recommend this breed if you have the time to invest. You will fall in love, but it might take a little while to get everything under control. Don’t give up!