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Wilf - a guide to Border Collies
Member Name: Sarah_Louise
Advantages: Loving, caring, companions for life. Extremely intelligent breeds. Attractive looking dogs.
Disadvantages: Sometimes too intelligent for their own good!
As many of you know, I'm a huge animal lover. I am by far the biggest animal lover I've ever come across in fact. Isn't it strange that, as an animal lover, the vast majority of my friends are those that just don't see the fascination? Or indeed those who can't stand the thought of sharing their homes with an animal!
Sure, I adore horses. I've been a keen horse rider for the past 12 or so years and have worked as a Stable hand/Groom for the past 10 or so years. Sadly though, horses are a tad expensive. Not only to buy in the first place but also to keep. Have you ever looked into the price of a piece of land suitable to keep a horse on!? Or indeed the weekly cost of keeping a horse at Livery? Well lets just say that until I win the Lottery, I sincerely doubt I'll be becoming a horse owner anytime soon. Dogs have always been on my number 1 of realistic pets that I wanted to get. I've had two cats but sadly my parents (mainly my mum) would never let me get a dog. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my control, my mum was certain she'd end up having to look after and take the dog for walks. She didn't want to do this. She'd had her own dogs in the past and didn't want anymore. (Reasons beyond my control being both my older sisters being allowed dogs of their own when they were younger - neither of whom looked after the dog once the novelty had worn off).
So then. Here I was. I'm in a completely new part of the country with new people, new surroundings, new job prospects, new place of residence.... there was just one thing missing. No pets.
I'd moved out from "home" where I'd been living with my mum and dad back in Wales. We had a cat (Rosie) but my mum was really attached to Rosie so I decided to leave her behind. So here I was, petless for the first time in my life. (I've always had at least goldfish and a whole host of creepy crawlies that I used to collect from the garden!)
I moved up to the North East of England at the beginning of June. I moved in with my partner and started at my new place of employment. Within a matter of just over a weeks time, I was back out of work (due to them trying to get me to sign an illegal contract.... but that's a different story). My partner has always fancied the idea of getting a dog but, working full time and living on his own, meant it just wasn't the right time to acquire a dog. Up until about February of this year he was working in a "normal" 9-5 job so it just wouldn't have been fair for any dog. Then, out of the blue, he was made redundant. Since then he has been working "freelance" as an Archaeologist (his real vocation). Some weeks he's at home doing drawing and illustration work for the digs and other weeks he's out in the field doing the digs. It is commonplace for Archaeologists to take their dogs with them when they're out on digs (as long as the land owner agrees to this of course!) So, with me moving in (and now being currently out of a job), and as I've done Vet Nursing and have worked in a Kennels for the past 9 months, now seemed like the ideal time to embark on puppyhood. We've both always wanted a dog but neither of us have been in a position to get one before so what better time?
THE SEARCH WAS ON
Initially we thought about rescuing a dog from a Shelter. This seemed like a good idea as of course we'd be helping to give some poor dog a nice new home. I did however point out the disadvantages of this. We could never be certain how the dog had been treated in its previous home. We were looking for an older puppy/young dog (less than 2 years of age). Medium size. Apart from that, we didn't mind what we got really. So, we hit the local (and not so local) rescue centres. We set our heart on one young dog (about 7-8 months of age we think). She was lovely looking, ever so friendly and seemed very intelligent. She seemed to "click" with us. We enquired about taking her home. She was to be up for rehoming on a certain date so we were told the shelter opened at midday and we were welcome to queue from whatever time we wanted. (Initially recommended about 10:30am).
We knew that our chances of getting this dog were slim but as we knew we'd get one sometime, we got the puppy food in, some toys, bowls, collar, lead, etc. and also one of those puppy cage things for in the back of the car and the likes.
After a bit of a hassle getting the rehoming date right (the Shelter got the day wrong to start with), we set off into Newcastle City Centre at 7:30am with a view to getting to the Shelter (far side of the city) at about 8:30am. Yes. We were going to queue for 3.5 hours with no seats or shelter nearby. We took our own chairs and books and warm, waterproof clothing. Only to get there to find another chap queuing. On quizzing him, he was after the same dog. I asked if he was certain he'd stick it out for the duration, he said "I have to. My wife has set her heart on this dog. She'll kill me if I don't get it!!" So that was that. There was no point us queueing too. So we left. Sure, we had half expected it but we were still sad to miss this one.
A few more trips to Shelters came about but no dog pulled at our heart strings quite the same. We were going to just continue in this fashion until the right dog came along. That was until I hit the web in search of pet adverts on the offchance any on their pulled at my heart strings.
I've advertised on a few such websites myself when I've been advertising my (ex) Pet Sitting and dog walking services back in Wales but bizarrely I'd never come across one called Ad-Trader. It was on here that the 'ideal' dog seemed to come along. Puppy in fact!
The advert was for a border collie puppy. Male. Aged 8 weeks. He was down in Leeds (just short of a 2 hour drive from here). So I phoned up, spoke to a lovely woman who quizzed me about my experience with dogs. She was relieved that I'd had as much experience as I have and she was a Vet Nurse too so was pleased I'd also done Vet Nursing. So we set off that day to go and look at him. We arrived. He was absolutely adorable. A bundle of predominantlely black fur with bits of white. Tiny. Very friendly with the most gorgeous eyes you've ever seen in your life. The owner was more than happy to let us take him so we handed over the cash (£120) and took him home with us that day. He was puppy cage trained so sat happily in the car all the way home. No throwing up or anything (amazing!!) It took us about 3 hours to get home due to the traffic too so he did exceptionally well. Apparently she'd had a number of enquiries and visitors wanting him for retired elderly companion type dog. Anyone wanting a border collie puppy for those circumstances must be insane! Luckily she had some sense and hadn't let him go to anyone like that.
My partner and I's dream had finally come true. We were now officially dog (well, puppy) owners!
On the way home we were suggesting names for the new puppy and decided to see whether anything sprang to mind on his first evening in his new home. We eventually decided to go with Wilf. Reasons unknown. It just kind of 'stuck'. He seemed to like it and he most certainly suits the name!
Border Collies were (and still are) bred for working. Otherwise known as "sheepdogs", they are particularly used in Farming communities for herding of sheep, cattle, chickens, ducks, in fact, anything that moves basically! As such, they are naturally a very fast, inquisitive and exceptionally intelligent breed. (Said to be easily one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds).
Wilf originated from a farm in Cumbria. He's a pure bred collie. Both his parents are working collies. His father was a short haired collie, his mother being a long haired collie so I should imagine Wilfs coat will grow to be a nice length. He's still got that oh-so-lovely soft puppy 'fur' at the moment.
He is now aged 11 weeks (as of yesterday - 21st July 2005). We've had him just 3 weeks yet he's settled in ever so quickly and really bonded well with us both.
Border Collies are noted for being affectionate with friends. Sometimes they can be a little reserved with strangers but this is largely down to their socialisation as a young dog/puppy. They are highly intelligent and, like most working dogs, have a tendancy towards neurotic or destructive behaviour if not given enough to do. This makes them sound like problematical dogs but in reality, with the right training, the right type of household and the right type of owners, border collies can make wonderful companions.
Border Collies are medium sized dogs. They have a double coat which is usually black and white but can also be red and white or red merle, blue merle or tri-coloured. There are smooth coated, short-haired and rough-haired varieties.
Border Collies are extremely energetic and require a lot of attention. They are better off in a household that can provide them with plenty of exercise and a job to do. Like most herding breeds, they will attempt to herd family members, cats, squirrels, bicycles, cars, or anything else that moves! (Care should be taken with this however, it might sound amusing or indeed look 'cute' but they can get themselves into trouble/danger. Herding cars can prove fatal, as can herding animals that belong to other people - if a farmer deems your dog to be a pest, he may well take his rifle to him).
Border Collies make bad pets for people who cannot provide a considerable amount of daily exercise, both physical and mental. Many Border Collies end up in Shelters because families, attracted by their appearance, discover that they cannot even begin to provide the attention and effort required for this driven, active, easily bored breed. Among some breeders of the breed in Britain, there is a common saying: "no sheep, no collie", referring to the dog's usual unsuitability to people who just want a "smart dog". Border Collies love to play and do not always know when to stop on their own; owners must ensure that they do not overexert themselves especially in hot weather, which can be dangerous. These dogs just don't stop!!
Unlike many pure bred dogs, Border Collies (on the whole) tend to be healthy creatures. They don't usually tend to suffer from many eye or ear problems like many pure bred dogs. However, as with most medium-large pure bred dogs, they can be prone to hip dysplasia.
As already mentioned, Border Collies naturally have a herding instinct, this is inbred so there is just no getting away from it. This means that they will nip at your ankles and try to "herd" you around the house. This can be extremely painful and should be "nipped" in the bud as soon as possible. However, they are NOT really being naughty and are certainly not actually trying to hurt you or indeed inflict any kind of "bite" upon you. They are simply doing what comes naturally to them. They do exactly the same to animals they would herd on a farm. Granted, people generally don't look overly like a sheep but then Border Collies do it to sheep, cows and poultry, which of course also don't look anything like one another!
As previously mentioned, herding of anything should be refrained from unless you know its safe to do so. After all, do you want your dog to try herding a line of cars on a busy road just because he saw they were moving and thought "oooh, work!!"?
The Border Collie is an extremely intelligent dog (I dare say they are more intelligent than many humans!). The trouble with this is that they will run rings around you if you let them. You must again be firm with them and get them into a routine as soon as possible and stick to it. They like routine but at the same time need mental stimulation and LOTS of it to prevent them from getting bored. It is only when they get bored that they get destructive as a general rule.
Intelligence with regards to training as a 'proper' working sheepdog though can vary greatly between individual dogs. I have first hand experience of this variety to the extreme. My dad helps out with regards to pest control (shooting) on one of his friends' farms back in the wilderness of North Wales. On one occasion a few years back, the farm dogs had a litter of puppies. My brother-in-law and sister live next door to my bro-in-laws' mums farm where my bro-in-laws brother still carries on in the family business as a Farmer. He'd recently lost one of his sheepdogs so was looking for one or two others to train up. He decided to send my bro-in-law and sister down to Wales to collect two puppies from my Dads friends' farm. They cost about £50 each (or thereabouts - I can't remember exactly how much!) We saw both the mother and father of the pups at work on the farm. They were superb dogs. Anyway, just a matter of a few weeks after they had bought these two puppies, the puppies father was entered into the World Sheepdog Championship. (That's right, you read that right, it was the WORLD Championships). He won. Out of all the other sheepdogs in the world, my dads' friends dog won. The father of the two pups my bro-in-law had taken back for his brother to train up for his farm. My bro-in-laws brother has a lot of experience with sheepdog training, having done it all his life. He's never had any trouble before. Yet still to this day (about 3-4 years later), he's STILL not been able to get these two sheepdogs up to scratch!! So that definitely goes to show it isn't all hereditary or indeed training. Each dog truly is different.
Of course it was good time to buy puppies from this dog though as of course, now having World Champion after his name will certainly mean his puppies are worth more than £50 each!
A Border Collie can walk up to 20 miles in one day, so you can imagine how much exercise they will need to keep them in line. Just imagine how much ground they cover in one day herding sheep and you will get some idea how much you will be taking on. If you are not a person for walking your dog for 2 or 3 miles a time, 3 or 4 times a day then please do not get a Border Collie. Wilf is still only 11 weeks of age but can dart about in the yard like a speeding bullet. He's extremely quick, despite still only having tiny little legs!!
These aren't dogs for the faint hearted. These are dogs for people who intend to work their dogs or for owners who enjoy lots and lots of walking (and running!) Luckily both my partner and I are the energetic type who enjoy hiking and suchlikes.
As I said earlier, the Border Collie is an extremely intelligent dog. It is said that you should start training your puppy from birth. This is especially important with a breed like this. Luckily the puppies mother tends to do the hard work at such a young age. As soon as they are able to walk around with their eyes open though, it is never too young to start getting them used to things. Even simple things like being picked up. Other people say that you should let your puppy settle in for a few weeks until he/she has finished all his vaccinations. Only then is it 'right' to start properly training and socialising your dog. Personally, I disagree with this idea.
Wilf is a prime example here. He was 8 weeks when we got him. He hadn't had any vaccinations so we got his first one done at 9 weeks. He's in for his second (and last) vaccination on August 1st. He'll be 12 weeks of age. It is a week after this that he'll be able to head out safely covered by his vaccinations. I'm glad we didn't wait this long to start basic training. His intelligence already shows just how much his brain his working.
He already knows "Sit" (albeit he mainly does this when he knows he'll get a treat, a toy or generally when he wants a fuss - he won't yet do this at a distance when he's not necessarily going to get anything out of it!), he knows "Lie Down" (same applies as above) and he also knows to "Give Paw" when he's sitting (or indeed lying down) too!
He had his first collar put on him a few days after we got him. He soon got used to this (after some frantic scratching and running around backwards trying to get away from it!) and a few days after this we started introducing him to his lead. (For very short periods of time - a few minutes once or twice a day generally). He mainly just chewed it to start with but is generally now walking around the yard with it quite happily. Still lots of room for imrpovement but for 11 weeks of age he is coming along very well indeed.
You have two forms of socialisation required here. People and other animals.
With people, you should start immediately. You will find lots of people wanting to call around to see you (sorry, I mean the puppy....) but this is a good thing as it gets your pup used to strangers. We have found that Wilf loves everyone. He is THE nosiest dog I've ever come across as he only has to hear someone walking past outside and he'll be straight to the gate for a look at who it is hoping they'll give him a stroke!
With regards to socialising your puppy with other animals. It is essential you socialise him/her with other dogs. After all, you WILL bump into other dogs whilst out on walks.
You can take the risk here and start socialising your puppy immediately if you know the other dogs have been vaccinated or you can just wait until he/she is up to scratch with all the vaccinations. This is the approach we're taking. We don't know anyone with a fully vaccinated dog (for definite) so we're not risking it. Both neighbours either side have dogs but they aren't fully vaccinated so we're not letting him come into contact with those.
How you choose to house your dog is entirely up to you. Border Collies are perfectly happy living outdoors if you are happy with this. Remember they have a double coat and most live outdoors on farms so they are well and truly used to this. (Although I wouldn't dream of putting a puppy outdoors permanently - not until his/her coat has developed fully). We're going for a half in, half out option. Wilf has an absolutely huge kennel in the yard which was courtesy of some of the Gamekeepers we're friends with from the local Phesant Estate. The kennel was handmade for a Rottweiler apparently so they've given it another new lick of paint (pet safe paint of course!) and put a name plate on the front for him. He loves going in there to play at the moment. We don't leave him outside to sleep unattended. Mainly because puppy napping is big business these days (more on this in the next section).
Inside, he has a puppy cage which is for medium sized dogs so he has plenty of space. He willingly goes in there to sleep and play as he has been used to these from birth. We also use this for car journeys too. So he currently gets shut in his cage overnight. He sleeps happily in there until we let him out in the morning to do his business (outside!) This not only stops him doing any damage to the house but also prevents him from hurting himself. We put some toys in with him too of course to keep his jaws active when he's going through his (regular) teething fits.
We then leave the cage door open during the day and the door to outside. (Well secured yard). 99.9% of the time he goes outside to do his business of his own accord but often pops into his cage to puppy nap. Otherwise he'll just sleep on the floor.
Unfortunately there is a relatively new trend in the doggy world. That being dog napping. People pinch your dogs from your own homes, yards, gardens, outside shops, unlocked cars, wherever. The dogs don't have to be pure breeds either. Any dog will do. They nappers will then hold the dog to ransom and demand money off you or else they'll kill your dog. Sometimes they send photos of your dog being tormented and suchlikes. It must be heartwrenching for any owner to go through. As such, do keep your eye on your puppy/dog at all times. I know this is easier said than done but just imagine how you'd feel if you went out to see where your puppy was only to find him gone. No trace of him left at all.
TAGS AND MICROCHIPPING
It is illegal to not have a tag on your dogs collar these days. When out walking, if the Dog Warden chooses, they can fine you £90 on the spot for not having a tag on your dogs collar. This must have the dogs name and your contact address and/or telephone number.
We are also going to get Wilf microchipped when he goes in for his second vaccinations on August 1st. That way, if he ever got lost of his own accord (as opposed to dog napped), any rescue centres, boarding kennels, police stations, etc. all have the machines to check for microchips. Each has a unique number which will immediately trace Wilf back to us. It is a small (grain of rice sized) chip injected under the skin (neck area).
We have also registered Wilf with the Missing Pets Bureau for a year too as we got our first years membership free with the Puppy Pack we got from the Vets when he went in for his first injection. (This contained some food, a frisbee and a few other bits and pieces - a nice touch, I think you'll agree!)
You can have your dogs DNA recorded with the Missing Pets Bureau if you wished too. This costs £99 (one time payment if you sign up on registration). They then send out a swab to run along the inside of your dogs mouth which you then send back and they keep his/her DNA on file so you can prove ownership in the Court of Law if (God forbid) it ever came to that.
As with any puppy, be prepared for lots of biting and chewing. He/she is just teething and not being naughty. You can buy a whole variety of special "teething" toys from pet shops but generally ANY toy will do the trick (maybe apart from bog-standard balls which just won't help ease the discomfort much).
You can get flavoured teething bones, rings, keys, tyres, all sorts in fact!
We've currently got Wilf:
1 x hard Nylabone (chicken flavoured) - not cheap but should last him a LONG time. It cost about £8 for one 'fake' bone. Specially designed for teething but as its hard, no dog should be able to chew through it, even with adult teeth so it'll last him a while.
1 x slightly flexible Nylabone (beef flavoured) - smaller than the one above and was about £4. This has to be disposed of once he gets any adult teeth as he could chew bits off then. Ideal for teething puppies though.
1 x teething ring (vanilla flavoured) - about £3.50 (but it smells gorgeous - even after being chewed!)
1 x squeaky hedgehog toy - about £3. Mainly for just playing and general amusement. Also good for his gums though as it likes teething on the hedgehogs nose!
1 x ball - for teaching him "fetch" but he's also started trying to herd it now.... (about £2)
1 x durable dog tyre - about £5. Specially designed tyre shaped dog for general games but also extremely durable for chewing purposes.
1 x frisbee (free in Puppy Pack!) - he loves chasing this around.
You'll need special puppy food if you get a dog under 12 months of age.
Wilf is fed on a mixture of Bakers Complete Puppy mix (dry food) and Pedigree Puppy mix (dry food) mixed in with either the Pedigree pouches or the tinned meat. (Both puppy versions of course). This is to provide the ideal nutrients needed for a growing puppy. As a rough guide. A 5kg bag of Pedigree Puppy Mix costs about £5.20 from supermarkets while 3 tins of puppy meat costs about £1.50. (As a general guide, I put about a handful and a bit of dry food in with either half a pouch or just short of a quarter of a tin of meat for each meal). So he goes through 2 pouches a day in addition to dry food or about a tin a day with the dry food.
Wilf adores Pedigree Gravy Bones (and the Milk Bones variety). He's also keen on the choccy drops (for dogs), Dentastix (designed to help clean dogs teeth but also helps the pupster with teething!), pigs ears (again, helps with teething), in fact, he'll eat ANTHING to be honest! Treats can be as little as about 50p for a small bag of doggy choccy drops or chews through to £3 or so for larger 'chew' type things.
He also adores icecubes. Especially when the weather is hot! He loves batting them around the yard with his paws but also likes chewing them. I should imagine they feel nice on his gums. He always looks bemused when they melt too. Bless him!!
Don't forget you'll also need things like blankets, bowls, a collar, a lead, a kennel (if you choose to use one) and a cage (also if you choose to use one).
Vaccinations can cost anywhere between £15 and £30 per jab. So you're looking at £30-£60 just to get your puppy safe to go out and about. Then he'll need a booster (just one) every year for the rest of his life.
Border Collies, being the extremely alert and inquisitive type can get themselves into some scrapes.
Microchipping generally costs between £25 and £40 (generally depends on the Vets you take your dog to to get him/her done).
Don't forget that human chocolate should NEVER be given to a dog. It contains a chemical called theobromine which is toxic to dogs. You can of course give your dog special choccy drops designed for dogs as a treat but give in moderation.
Although puppys of any kind are hard work, Border Collies remain hard work pretty much all their lives because of their endless amounts of energy. Having said this, if you're an active person/family and aren't out at work all day, I would definitely recommend this breed.
I've not looked back from getting Wilf. Even when he has had me up at 2am to let him go for a wee (only happened the once though)!
My partner and I are considering getting another border collie puppy in a few weeks time so Wilf will always have a similarly aged companion too (after all, dogs are sociable creatures). Whether we will or not I don't know. There are a lot of practicalities to way up first. In the meantime though, Wilf is a happy little puppy whom we both absolutely adore!
Photos can be found over on Ciao for the "awwww" factor!
Summary: Guide to Border Collies and puppies
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