“I’m at a loss of what to do. I bought a Border Collie and she is impossible. She gets a walk everyday, I play fetch everyday in the yard, and her job is herding and chasing a big ball in the yard. After all this, she is a nightmare at night when I just want to relax. Some of the time she is the most cuddly and sweet dog yet other times she’s unbearable.” (Upon questioning, the pup was purchased from an Amish backyard breeder…not a reputable breeder and not someone who makes sure the dog is a good match for the family).
A high-drive and high-energy, working breed is not the right choice for most people/families. It takes a lot more work than a walk, some fetch, and a backyard “job” to be content for breeds like Border Collies/ACDs/Aussies/Malis**. Many individuals in these breeds really require a significantly larger commitment to exercise (mental and physical) and some type of regular job. This is something I repeat over and over again to people who see me playing disc with Shayne and Rio. When people see my dogs doing crazy frisbee tricks, I regularly have people interested in getting a dog like a BC or ACD…. I do my best to explain how much work it takes to keep my dogs happy (and in return ME happy).
Many folks are unsure of what I mean when I say a “job.” When I’m talking job I mean more than backyard games. I’m talking training towards competition in sports or daily training for activities/games/sports that exhaust body and mind. Training for typical sports like flyball, obedience, rally-o, frisbee, agility, freestyle dancing are normal jobs for these types of dogs–things like nosework, geese control, herding, therapy dog work are some other options. Like with human jobs, these are not just weekend events… it’s daily training and practice. The big difference between a casual backyard activity and a job is brain power… when the dog has to think and really work hard mentally and physically… that’s when a casual activity becomes more like a job.
Some folks may question how much of a change there can be between a dog who hasn’t had a chance to really work and expend mental and physical exercise and a dog who has worked hard during the day. At the beginning of this video there is a clip of Shayne taken around 9pm. It was taken on a day that was super cold and super snowy outside–during the day Shayne had about 10 minutes outside playing with the chuck-it and about 5 minutes chasing Rio, she had about 15 minutes of agility handling practice in the dog room and that was about it (it was one of those days when it was so icky outside that I didn’t feel like doing much). That clip is followed by a very cute and cuddly clip of Shayne taken around 9pm after a “work” filled day–1.5hrs of agility in the am (a class and then some after-class runs), 3 trick training sessions (15min), and 10 minutes of frisbee foundation work.
Stay tuned for more on choosing the right breed for your family, but if one cannot commit to working really hard with a dog like a BC, one can expect to be frustrated and perhaps miserable with the pushy, bouncy, ball of energy that resides in their home.
**There are, of course, individual dogs who do not fit this breed generalization …but in general, these dogs require more “work” than most other breeds.