Border Collies are known as working dogs that do well with life in the country or on a farm. Historically, they have been used by shepherds to herd sheep and, in more contemporary times, have often dominated dog agility competitions. After becoming famous in the movie Babe, these dogs have seen a rise in popularity.
For those who have a Border Collie as a pet, or are contemplating adopting or adding this breed to their family, you may be wondering if they are a good fit. If your lifestyle includes lots of time outdoors hiking, the type of dog you choose can be an important decision.
So are Border Collies good hiking dogs?
Border Collies Are Good Hiking Dogs. Overall, there are more pros to hiking with a Border Collie than there are cons. These dogs have a need to be active and don’t like lounging around and napping all day. They can run for days and are full of energy so you won’t have to worry about them getting tired and needing a lift back to the trailhead.
What Makes a Good Hiking Dog?
While almost any breed of dog is capable of hiking, some take to this activity better than others. Smaller dogs are not often the most ideal because they can tire easily and it may be difficult for them to get around obstacles that may be several times larger than them. Instead, bigger dogs with long legs that can easily clear fallen trees, boulders, and cross streams are best for hiking.
Breeds that have health problems, particularly with breathing or asthma, should not engage in strenuous hiking. Although they can do mild exercise, it’s important to ensure they are not overheating or getting short of breath which could be dangerous.
Another factor to consider is whether your dog, regardless of breed, is capable of hiking. Older dogs may experience joint pain and be unable to keep up with you on the trail. At the same time, young puppies under a year should not engage in vigorous exercise. They also shouldn’t carry heavy packs on their back until they are fully developed.
Positive Characteristics of Border Collies
When it comes to size, this breed of dog has a medium build. Male and female Border Collies can weigh 30 pounds when they are smaller but can get up to 42 pounds for females and 45 pounds for males. Their height is around 22 inches for males and 20 inches for females.
Their size means they are a good hiking companion. Although their legs aren’t especially long compared to their height, they should still be able to easily navigate almost any trail.
Border Collies come in a variety of colors ranging from black, with or without white, red and white, solid colors, two-colored, and tri-colored. This breed has two different coat types, either medium-length and smooth or short and coarse.
They have double coats which makes them particularly weather-resistant. They have moderate grooming needs which means they aren’t as high maintenance as some dogs that have longer coats. Just brush them once or twice a week to keep their fur free of dirt, debris, matting, and tangling. They may need more frequent brushing when they start to shed.
Dogs with a shorter coat are much more suited to outdoor activities in the summer because they won’t overheat as easily. However, a longer coat could provide some extra protection to your dog if you plan to hike in the winter or cooler months.
These dogs have an almost unlimited amount of energy and stamina. This is a result of their breeding which required them to work long hours herding sheep where they may run more than 50 miles per day.
A Border Collie is not a dog for someone with a sedentary lifestyle. They need more than 40 minutes of exercise a day which should be more vigorous than simply going for a walk. If you took your dog for a run prior to hitting the trails, they would still be able to keep up and keep going for a long time.
This breed is also very hearty and strong. They can carry their own gear on their backs while hiking. However, this should only be done for dogs who are at least over a year old.
They are also not dissuaded by working hard or by less than ideal weather conditions. If you get out and hike no matter what the weather, don’t worry about taking your Border Collie with you. Despite hot or cold weather, rain, snow, or ice, they will keep going all day long.
Obstacles on the trail such as rocks or crossing water will not phase this breed either. They also don’t have a strong tendency to roam so they will generally stick close by your side.
Known for being very intelligent and highly trainable, a good Border Collie will be responsive and obedient. They want to please their owners so you can rest easy knowing they will come when they are called and behave properly while out in the wilderness. With the ability to respond to even the subtlest command, you can train your dog to answer to simple words or even gestures.
Because they worked with sheep, they are quite alert and attuned to what is happening with animals around them. This can help if you encounter wildlife because they may be able to warn you if an animal is getting too close or acting aggressively.
These dogs also have a lower tendency to dig than other breeds that love to unearth things wherever they go. This could be a benefit if you are hiking on trails that require you to stay on the path or run through sensitive areas. Having a dog that will not run off and dig up areas that are under restoration will help preserve the places you frequent.
Negative Characteristics of Border Collies
There are a few reasons that might cause you to think twice about hiking with your Border Collie. The biggest is their urge to gather a flock. They are herding dogs after all and, if there are no sheep to herd, they might start trying to herd people, cars, or other animals like squirrels.
Their tendency to herd anything they see that is moving could cause problems if you are hiking in a highly-populated area or on a trail with a lot of wildlife activity. To mitigate this, keep your dog on a leash at all times so they cannot run away.
Border Collies also have a higher tendency to bark because they use their bark when herding as a means of communication with the other animals. It could be annoying to have your dog barking at everything they see or even at other hikers on the trail.
It can be difficult to train this dog not to bark because, along with nipping and nudging while herding, it is a pretty strong instinct. Provide consistent reinforcement and training to help manage these urges while also giving them plenty of outlets for all their pent up energy.
They may also have a tendency to wanderlust and want to go off the trail to explore wild areas. However, simply using a leash while hiking is an easy way to solve this problem.
If you are concerned about inhibiting their playfulness and fun, get a longer leash to give them plenty of slack to explore. Retractable leashes that extend for several yards are a good option because you can quickly tighten the lead and nudge your dog back to your side if there is any danger or threat.
As a herding dog, their prey drive isn’t as high as some, but they still have quite a bit of it. They may lunge at animals or try to chase them. If they are leashed, be alert to your dog’s behavior so you don’t get pulled or jerked should they try to take off on you.
Health concerns to be aware of in Border Collies include hip dysplasia and sometimes retinal deterioration that affects vision. A small percentage of this breed will inherit epilepsy or an eye anomaly that can lead to blindness. However, if your dog is healthy and doesn’t present any of these conditions, there’s no reason they can’t hike with you.
Border Collies are Good Hiking Dogs
Overall, there are more pros to hiking with a Border Collie than there are cons. These dogs have a need to be active and don’t like lounging around and napping all day. They can run for days and are full of energy so you won’t have to worry about them getting tired and needing a lift back to the trailhead.
As with any dog, before you head out into nature, make sure your dog is in good health and has all the necessary vaccinations. Make sure their collar has your contact information on it and that their microchip is updated in case they get lost.
Bring along some food and water to tend to your dog during the hike. After all that vigorous exercise, they will surely work up a large appetite. They’ll also need plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration and overheating.
If your dog is in good health, there’s no reason not to take them along with you for a long, relaxing (or invigorating) hike. Your Border Collie will have no problem keeping up with even the most athletic hiker and you’re sure to enjoy exploring many trails with your canine companion.