Saturday, September 13, 2008

Raising Moon Unit - The Challenges of Living with a Border Pup

Moon Unit at 5 weeks

Moon Unit at 6 months

Well, I've read the warnings! Border Collies are not for will read this at just about any Border Collie site you go to. Of course, the same can be said for any other breed of dog. The trick is, getting a dog that fits your lifestyle and/or personality, and also your current situation.

Many people get the latest "fad" breed, which the Border happens to be right now. I remember when Rottweilers and Akitas were all the rage, now it's Borders. Unfortunately, this also leads to a lot of otherwise, perfectly normal Border Collies winding up in shelters. I've noticed recently a great number of Border Collie rescues popping up (I remember the days when it was difficult to even find a Border Collie breeder), which is an obvious indicator that the Border has achieved "fad" status.

That being said, we bought a Border Collie pup. I was surfing the net one day, & saw an ad for Border Collie pups in my area. I was intrigued, since "my area" isn't known for having a proliferation of Border Collies, let alone breeders. So, like any fool, I went to take a look. As everyone knows, you can't just "look" at a puppy and not wind up coming home with one...or two. Well, I ended up taking home a little black & white ball of fur. In my defense, I had been considering replacing my two passed-on Australian Shepherds, but wanted to try a different breed. It was between the Border Collie & the Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler). I had the yard for it, & our situation was appropriate for adding another dog (we thought).

I'm here to tell you my experience raising a Border Collie pup. I can sum it up with one word. "YIKES!"

The Border, like I've read, needs to be "kept busy". Unit is always in perpetual motion. My nic name for her is the Perpetual Puppy. The girl just never stops. If she's in the room with us, she is on top of us, pawing at our faces, pulling my hair, poking at the cat (she loves to instigate), or tearing wallpaper off the walls (yes, this is true) and tearing apart favorite pairs of flip-flops. Take her outside & she's either "playing" with the cats (rather roughly), or running around with a tennis ball in her mouth.

Now having experienced a Border Collie, I would sum up the characteristics of the Breed as follows:

I find the Border Collie to be exceedingly smart. Being an experienced dog person I can say that they are, for sheer smarts, at the top of the doggie IQ chain, and may only be surpassed, in my opinion, by one other breed that I've had experience with...the Australian Cattle Dog (this breed is incredibly coniving & clever, and has the best problem-solving ability I have ever seen). Our Border Collie pup learns very quickly. She listens when you talk to her (cocks her head), & can learn simple commands & sentences extremely quickly. She's also very, very good at telling us what she wants. This is a dog, who at 4 months of age, would pick up her food dish, bring it over to you, drop it in your lap, then walk over to the feeding bin & put her paw on it. Amazing. I've kept dogs over the years, & I know when they are hungry or thirsty, but I've never had one who was so capable of communicating this to me so clearly, and at such a young age. Normally, you have to "train" a dog to do this. The Border Collie, on the other hand, will come up with something like this on their own. Her ability to learn at such a young age is very much accelerated compared to the rest of the doggy world. Borders don't take 5 years to fully train like other breeds, they take 5 minutes.

Our Border Collie is extremely friendly, out-going, and happy-go-lucky. I've never seen such a constantly happy dog before in my life. She gets along with cats, and greets strangers with a wagging tail. She will do typical guard-dog barking, though not excessively. She gets bored easily, and needs to be kept busy. Even though she needs to be kept busy, she crate-trains well. But if she is loose in the room and you leave her in there and go to another room, she'll commence with her "brat barking"...she's a dog that always wants to see what you are up to and always wants to be "in the thick of things". She's very loyal and listens well.

Energy Level
We call her a freight train for a reason. This dog is in perpetual motion. She can keep going for incredible long periods of time, even when playing fetch on hot, muggy Florida days. She's athletic & coordinated (for a pup). She can hardly contain herself when she sees a person or a cat. She is very friendly & her energy level is expressed in this fashion as well...she likes to jump up on people, & pounce on her feline friends.

You typically don't see this category when you read summaries of breeds, mostly because people don't consider dogs "creative". Well, I've met a breed that is. Collies aren't just smart, they are "spooky" smart, and this is expressed through their ability to be creative. Unit, at a young age (4 months), "invented" a game from a foot rest we have out on our porch. She was not trained to do this, nor did we even suggest that she do this, she just came up with this silly game on her own. She discovered, one day, that she could get a tennis ball to roll down this foot rest, which is shaped somewhat like a ramp. The interesting thing was that she would "experiment" with different angles, seeing which way the ball would roll the best. She has perfected this game to where she will bring the ball over to the "ramp", set it at the top, aim it toward us, & release. The ball rolls down the ramp & over to us. She will then get into the typical collie crouch & wait for us to throw it. I don't believe I've ever owned a dog who's invented a game before, but now I have.

Sense of humor
Another category you usually don't see on dog breed sites. I have met a few other breeds that exhibit this trait (Jack Russels, Aussies, Cattle Dogs). Well, you can add Border Collie to that list as well. I swear some times I see a twinkle in Unit's eyes when she's done something to humour either herself, or us. I'm not surprised she has a "sense of humour", as this is a trait seen in truly intelligent dogs (and people). (Note I said "truly" intelligent).

Ease of maintenance
The Border Collie's coat seems to be "wash & wear". Unit has a medium coat (& an amazingly looong tail!) & those goofy sometimes up & sometimes down ears. Her coat is silky smooth & not the sort to tangle, & her ears are rather small & very mobile, and aren't prone to gathering dirt & burs. She's easier to maintain than my Aussies were, and just as easy to maintain as my smooth-coated auxilliary doggie, my wee Chihuahua mix.

Overall I love our Border Collie. The warnings I've read are right, and this is definitely not a breed for everyone, but I believe this is a breed suited for us.

No comments: