While border collies can be reserved with strangers, they really aren't shy. They usually have one thing on their mind, and -- surprise -- it's not food or sex. It's work. Herding, to be precise. These are super-smart, intense, workaholic canines. For the right owner, they're the best dog in the world.
Timidity or shyness is not the same as being so focused on work that a dog doesn't want to bother with anything else. That said, it's possible an individual border collie will be shy, but such a trait is not typical of the breed. A shy border collie won't be competitive in canine sporting events but might make a good pet for an experienced dog owner. If the dog is so frightened he becomes a fear-biter, that's one thing. If he's simply frightened, you can work with him to help overcome. Train him gently, giving him the chance to succeed, praising him like crazy when he does well. Your shy dog needs confidence to help him overcome his timidity. Shyness, as in people, is part of a dog's personality; your dog may never become a typical social border collie, but your efforts may help him become more outgoing. Work with a canine behavioral therapist to get the most out of your dog. You might also want your vet to do a complete physical workup of your dog to make sure his timidity isn't caused by a pain issue.
This native of the border regions of England and Scotland evolved to become the best livestock-herding dog in the world. His intense eyes guide the sheep, and similarly his eyes will follow you when you're doing something with him. He's a wonderful, athletic companion for active owners. These medium-size dogs mature between 25 and 50 pounds, and 18 to 22 inches of height at the shoulder. A border collie's coat may be smooth or rough, and in a variety of colors. They were bred not for looks but for performance. The border collie's ability to herd is instinctive, not something that that you can just instruct him not to do. You can teach him to redirect his enormous energies in a different way.
If you've never had a dog before, the border collie probably isn't the best choice for your first canine. Although border collies can be friendly, they are extraordinarily active dogs with that deep herding instinct. If you have children or other pets, he'll end up herding them if not given an outlet -- and sometimes even if he does have other opportunities to release his energies. As the United States Border Collie Club puts it, "With less-skilled owners, they can become a neurotic nuisance." If you are an experienced dog person who can devote the time and attention to a border collie, you might be blessed with the dog of a lifetime, a canine companion beyond comparison for intelligence and devotion.
Since your border collie is smart, obedient and capable of soaking up knowledge, he'll excel when you're training him. He wants to please you, so find an activity or sport you both enjoy. Since he needs plenty of exercise, Flyball or Frisbee are good activities to try. Your border collie needs a job so badly there's really no limit to what you can do together if you're willing to work as hard as he does. Without vigorous exercise and training, though, your dog is likely to develop obsessive and compulsive disorders, such as incessant twirling around or chasing literally anything that moves.
Border collies love herding, the job they were bred to do. Even if you don't live in a rural area, you can get involved with border collie associations focusing on the breed's ability to herd livestock. Sheepdog trials are held all over the country. Contact a breed association for information on finding a sheepdog trainer. Literally nothing could make your dog happier than these types of training sessions.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.