The border collie is a working breed, and a border collie has to have a job. It can be herding sheep, cattle, baby chicks or kids, chasing birds off airport runways or competitive sporting such as flyball or agility. Anything that involves several hours a day of exercise and togetherness can keep your BC happy and well-behaved. If you spend long hours at work or lead a sedentary life, the border collie might not be the right breed for you. Not that border collies can't be great companions and family pets -- they can. A little homework will tell you if you and a BC can find happiness together.
Evaluate your home and lifestyle. Work out how your and your border collie will train, work and play. Decide how much time and energy you are willing devote to dog-related activities, and find out where and when these are available in your area.
Do some research. Read up on border collies and familiarize yourself with their history and background. Good sources of basic information are the American Kennel Club and the International Sheepdog Society. Learn the breed's positives and negatives, but remember that every border collie is an individual with a unique personality that may not fit the breed's general temperamental description.
Consult experts -- real people who work with border collies such as farmers, shepherds and specialty handlers. Find a reputable border collie breeder and ask for information and advice; make a visit and study the dogs. Contact border collie rescue organizations -- their mission is to place rejected dogs in the right home for each one, and they understand the pitfalls of border collie ownership.
Sample the field. Get out and meet all the border collies you can find. Ask friends or make friends -- go to a dog park and talk to people with BCs about their dogs. Attend dog shows and field trials and watch border collies on the bench and in action. Check with nearby animal shelters and ask how many border collies they take in and why -- chances are it's because the previous owner found the dog hyper and unmanageable, which means they were unprepared for a BC.
Decide whether to adopt an adult dog or start from scratch with a puppy. Either way, plan to start training immediately. Choose from the behavioral middle ground: not the shy one hiding in a corner or the aggressive one gnawing your ankle. Look for one that's friendly but calm and even a little reserved. Pay no attention to color or conformation unless you want a show dog. Handle the puppy or work with the dog and get a feel for the personality. Choose carefully, because it's a serious commitment. Above all, be prepared -- in the words of a longtime dog breeder/trainer, "If you don't give a border collie enough to do and think about, she'll make stuff up and you won't like it!"
- border collie3 image by Cliff Lloyd from Fotolia.com