Border Collie Temperament, Are You Up For the Challenge?

When a new dog joins your family, you’re making a commitment that you’ll take care of them throughout their life. Not only is there the need to have the finances for food and veterinary treatment, but it’s also about having the time to ensure they get the exercise and attention they need.

Once you’re sure that getting a new dog is the right decision, then comes the exciting time of finding the right one for your home. One of the key factors must be ensuring that the dog has the right temperament to fit into your home and lifestyle.

In this guide, we’re going to explore the Border Collie temperament. This highly active and incredibly intelligent breed of dog needs owners who fully understand what makes them tick. So, we will look at what those Border Collie traits are, along with helping you to assess if they might be an excellent fit for your family.

What do we mean by a dog’s temperament?

The American Kennel Club describes a dog’s temperament as being ‘an animal’s personality, makeup, disposition, or nature.’ So, these are the things that are biologically based. It’s not about behaviors the dog has been trained to perform, such as a sit or a down, and it’s not their appearance.

We know that two key ingredients contribute to making us and our dogs who we are, genetics and the environment.  If you’re familiar with the nature vs. nurture argument, then this is what it’s all about.  The nature side of the argument is the influence of genetics. These are the things that our parents pass down to us. Then the nurture factors are all about how the environment affects who we are, so the experiences we have in life.

 In dogs, a large proportion of their temperament comes down to nature or their genetic makeup. That’s why it’s essential to meet the Mum of your potential pup and ideally other relatives too. Then you’ll get a sense of the type of temperament that your puppy is likely to develop.

The Border Collie temperament

The temperament of the Border Collie has been developed over hundreds of years by careful breeding of successful herding dogs. Farmers would pick their best dogs to breed from, hoping that the pup would also have the same working ability as their parents. Because of this strong emphasis on herding, even those dogs whose parents and grandparents have never seen sheep will still often have that tell-tale herding behavior.

a border collie with a herding job
The herding instinct in the Border Collie

However, that herding instinct will vary greatly depending on their parents. If you get a pup from a farmer who needs a new dog to work his livestock, then you can expect a full-on working dog who will need a job in life. If, however, the pup comes from a breeder who selects their dogs to be more easy-going and less intense, then this might be a better option for a pet home.

You may also hear people talking about their Border collie’s traits. These are the different characteristics that come together to form your dog’s personality.

What are Border Collie traits?

When researchers look at personality in dogs, they look at the following four traits

  1. Playfulness
  2. Chase-proneness
  3. Curiosity/fearlessness
  4. Sociability/aggressiveness

So, let’s now see how the Border Collie is assessed in each one of these.


The Border Collie is one of the most playful dogs that you could possibly own. In fact, many owners say that they struggle to find the ‘off switch!’ While all dogs need to have some downtime, it’s also crucial to know that the Border Collie is high-energy. So that means that they need plenty of outlets to play and use their brains rather than just running around.


It goes without saying that the Border Collie scores very highly in the chasing trait. That’s because herding is all about channeling a chasing behavior into something useful. Without sheep to herd and with no other outlet, that chasing trait can soon become a problem. That means that you’ll need to work hard at training a great recall.

border collie herding
A Border Collie keeping control of their herd


The Border Collie is very curious; they love to meet new people and go to new places. Provide a new toy, and they’ll be happy for hours! However, this is a type of dog that was bred to have fantastic hearing to be able to make out the farmer’s whistle. This is because the Border Collie would often be working the sheep a long distance from the shepherd.

This then means that it’s not unusual for a Border Collie to be very noise sensitive. They may become very worried when fireworks are going off and might be quick to bark when they hear a noise outside.


A well-bred Border Collie pup should be keen to say hello and show no signs of aggression. The new owners then need to support this with a careful socialization plan. This ensures that their youngster only has positive experiences when out and about. Then, you’ll have a Border Collie who loves to meet new people and other dogs.

Are Border Collies good with kids?

That’s a big question because there are so many different things to consider. First of all, the children need to be good with dogs. They must understand that all dogs need the opportunity to eat and sleep in peace. Children also need to appreciate that many dogs dislike being hugged or having people’s faces close up to theirs.

There also needs to be an adult supervising when the Border Collie and the children are together. It doesn’t take much for the Border Collie to go from running around with the children to herding them as if they are livestock. Then you might see some nipping behaviors start to appear just as they would if the livestock didn’t move in the right direction or fast enough. A border collie might start nipping the heels of your children just as the border collies would do to livestock when trying to herd livestock in a particular direction.

So, are Border Collies good with kids? Border collies can be good with kids, as long as there is careful supervision.

Border collie with family
Border Collie out with their family

Do Border Collies make good house pets?

Yes, absolutely. Border collies form very close bonds with their people. They love to be as close as possible to them as much as they possibly can. So, to expect them to live in a kennel away from the family will be really tough for them.

However, Border Collies are also known to suffer from separation anxiety. This means that when they are left alone, they find it very difficult to cope. That could then result in barking, toileting in the house, and being destructive. So, while they like to be with their people all the time, it’s also essential for them to learn how to be settled and confident in their own company.

If you’re wondering if a Border collie could live in an apartment, well, it will be probably going to be difficult for a border collie to live in an apartment. However, if you can commit a lot of time to ensure they get enough exercise every day, it might be possible.

Are Border Collies aggressive?

Are Border Collies aggressive? All dogs can be aggressive if they feel threatened. However, a Border Collie is likely to try and avoid confrontation rather than using their teeth as a first warning. But you need to remember that when Border Collies are herding, they will use their teeth as a last resort to get sheep to move in the right direction.

So, if you’re forcing a Border Collie to do something that causes them to become worried or concerned about it, you might see that nipping behavior appear. That doesn’t mean that they are aggressive; they are just telling you that they’re scared. Sadly, many Border Collies end up in shelters labeled as aggressive when really, they were just very frightened.

Why should you get a border collie?

While it’s essential to consider the breed’s temperament, it’s also vital to consider your own personality and lifestyle. With that in mind, two key elements need to be in place for you to be a great Border Collie owner.

When you have an active lifestyle

If you have an active lifestyle and love being outside no matter the weather, then a Border Collie could be a great match. This is a breed that will love spending days walking on the trails and will still have energy for a game once you get home! A Border Collie is a considerable commitment; they’re not a dog you can walk around the block and forget.

active personality border collie in the snow
Border Collie enjoying a walk in the snow

When you have a strong interest in dog training

At an absolute minimum, your Border Collie will need to attend puppy classes and for you to continue their training throughout their life. Ideally, you will continue with a range of courses so that your Border Collie develops a whole repertoire of different behaviors. Not only will this provide them with the mental exercise that they so desperately need, but it will also help you to develop a fantastic relationship with your dog.

 If you’ve ever fancied taking part in canine sports such as agility or flyball, then a Border Collie is going to be a great choice.

Why shouldn’t you get a border collie?

There are also times when a person’s lifestyle means that a Border Collie is probably not a good fit for them. Thankfully there are lots of other dog breeds that could be a better choice.

If your interests are inside rather than outside

We have mentioned that it’s important for your Border Collie to learn how to settle in the home. However, it’s only fair to ask that of them when they have a good run first. If the idea of going out in the rain and cold and getting muddy is not appealing, then a Border Collie is not for you.

If you already have little free time

Sometimes life is already very hectic and you never have enough hours in the day. That then means that it’s going to be tough to take care of any dog, let alone a Border Collie. This breed likes to be with their family and doesn’t cope well being by themselves for long periods of time. So, if you have a hectic social life or long working hours, then you probably need to think again about owning a Border Collie.

Do Border Collies bark a lot?

The Border Collie is a breed that does tend to bark. This usually happens when they become stimulated by something happening around them. That could be a cyclist going by, a child on a skateboard, or someone at the door. Again this is a throwback to their herding days when barking could be a helpful tool to move a reluctant herd of sheep.

There is, however, massive variation within the breed, with some dogs being very vocal and others rarely giving a woof. This is something also to think about when you meet Mum and other relatives of the pips. How did they react when they first saw you? Did they wag their tail and quietly come over to say hello, or was there an almighty outbreak of barking? Remember that pups learn from the dogs around them, so if something new means bark, that’s a behavior they will learn very early in their lives.

However, there is no reason why this has to become a long-term problem. With the help of an experienced trainer, you’ll be able to teach your Border Collie a new way of responding in situations that cause them to become excited.

Do Border Collies like to cuddle?

Whether or not a dog likes to cuddle vary enormously, even within a breed. Just like us humans, some Border Collies are very touch orientated and love to be by their person all the time. Others prefer their own space.

A Border Collie enjoying a cuddle

It’s important to respect your dog’s preferences on cuddles. The last thing you’ll want to do is to make your dog feel uncomfortable. This then forces them to let you know in the only way they can, through their body language. If you’re not sure if your dog likes cuddles, try the five-second rule. So stroke your dog for five seconds and then stop. What happens next? Does your dog paw you, or do they take the opportunity to move away? Now you’ll know what your dog would really like.

Don’t forget that not all dogs are in the mood for a cuddle every day. That means that you need to watch out for what they’re telling you each time you give them a fuss.

Are Border Collies high maintenance?

Yes, they are! Not because their coat needs lots of time and attention but because they need an outlet for all their energy and high levels of intelligence. A Border Collie who doesn’t get their needs met will be a nightmare to live with. Then, you’ll likely see behavior problems begin to emerge, and sadly that’s when many of these amazing dogs find themselves up for adoption.

So, before you fall for one of those adorable Border Collie puppies, do make sure that you thoroughly consider if you can be their perfect family.