What are Border Collies bred for?
Border Collies are dogs and dogs have similar DNA and they are all part of the same specie.
It's a fact.
But each breed has breed specific behaviours that comes from the gene pool that has been selected by humans during the centuries.
A working breed especially is going to have some traits that have been specifically been bred to carry on a job that has been essential for human survival.
Border Collies are herding dogs! They herd mainly sheep but can work cattles as well.
As a result of these selective breeding Border Collies have some very strong points that can be your joy or your nightmare in having them as pets.
Border Collies have a lot of stamina, they can
work on hills and run up and down steep slopes.
They are great dogs for sport (agility, obedience,
disc dog, scentwork) and
they NEED an active life.
They can be hyper active and require both
physical and brain stimulation.
They are normally used to gather and push moving things, in form of sheep.
They have the great ability of reacting to movement very fast and predict also where the sheep are going to go by reading body language and they have the mind and presence to control a big flock, mostly with their eyes but also at times if needed with their mouth or body by physically stopping a sheep. They can take commands and discriminate a whistle from another one at great distance and they are most of the time very willing to please their shepherd.
A shepherd is usually a person born and grown around animals so a very experience animal handler.
I have read that training a border collie is easy, because they easily trainable.
THIS IS NOT correct as usually who trains them for working abilities is a high experienced handler that has done it all his/her life!
The particularity for Border Collies is that you will find a great variety in the breed. What I mean by variety is that they come on all different form, size, colours, coat lengths and also temperaments.
Border Collies lines were and are still nowadays shaped by farmers and shepherds that breed and train dogs depending on a lot of factors:
most important factor are the sheep! Some breeds are faster then others, the way they are kept makes them more reactive or less reactive to a dog. If they are bred on hills or they are kept in lowland fields their behaviour will be different to a dog working them; so every different type of farming will need also a slightly different type of dog.
the ground shapes a dog and so their physical qualities! A dog that has to run uphill will be build for streght and stamina more then a dog that need to work on flat fields and doesn't need to climb mountains.
trials or just working farm dogs are a big debate in the breed! If you say that there are sheepdog trials lines and farm lines people will still tend to disagree but the truth is that trials are very common and you will find that some lines have been bred over trial results more then real farm work and that is having an impact on the way that dogs are bred.
personal preferences of the breeder, handler, shepherd play a big part. Some handlers like strong dogs as they cannot handler a dog that is too shy. Some handlers don't like a strong dog as they can't stand to argue all the time and they prefer soft and easy to handle. Some handlers like dog that have naturally more eye so they will more prone to stalking behaviours but you will find dogs with not much eye that work plain and that will probably save you some struggles when dealing with "border collies behaviours" like stalking.
What does all this mean when picking a Border Collie as a family pet or a sport dog?
Different bloodlines and different breedings can give you a dog that is very different to the dog you are hoping for or that you have met by friends and family or your agility instructor. Knowing bloodlines and understanding the parents by learning about their pedigree and their working abilities is also very useful to pick the right dog for your needs.