How I Chose a Border Collie as a Working Dog Breed, Part 3: Dealing with High Energy and Separation Anxiety

Reader Contribution by Mary Powell and Barnyard Weed Warriors
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ReadPart 1, Part 2, Part 4, and Part 5in this series.

Owners of Border Collies often joke about having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and suffering from separation anxiety. This is easily explained and for a person who wants to own a Border Collie, it is a very real issue to consider.

If you do not have time for your dog, you can expect many bad things to happen and you cannot blame your dog — you have no one to blame but yourself. This is also true with other breeds of dogs and lack of a breed. Dogs require constant stimulation and structure or they can become destructive and uncontrollable.

Hyperactivity and Destructive Behaviors

Border Collies are very high-energy dogs and they are very much like a child with a hyperactivity issue. Puppies will chew on everything, destroy your shoes, books, furniture and eat things that are not good for them, if you do not puppy proof your home. Even outdoor dogs can be destructive, digging holes, chewing on trees, fences and children’s toys.

Borders are one of those breeds that often end up in rescues, because their family cannot manage their behaviors, due to the lack of time. In many cases, it is the separation from their “pack” leader (you, the owner) that sends these younger dogs into destruct mode.

Allie and I had been a team for five months, when I was invited to a June wedding. Allie was used to traveling everywhere with me. This wedding was 10 miles from home, but it was too hot for her to sit in the pickup. I decided to leave Allie at home while my daughter and I attended the wedding. We were gone two hours, and it was the first time in five months that Allie had not been by my side for more than 30 minutes.

Upon entering the house, I found everything had been knocked off the kitchen table, along with all the items I kept on the kitchen counter. One mini-blind was destroyed and there was a pile of dog poo on the carpet.

This was totally unlike Allie! She never left a pile near the house, let alone inside the house. My first words were, “Oh, Allie!” in a very disappointed tone. You would have thought I beat that dog with a club, the way she hunkered in the middle of the floor, shaking.

Training Border Collies Out of Destructive Behavior

Realizing I had said the worst things I could and in a tone that was heartbreaking to her, I sat down on the floor and called her to me. She crept over to me as if I was going to beat her. When I pulled her into my arms, she was very tense and shaky.

I began to talk to her in a soft tone, reassuring her that she was fine and I was not angry. It was my fault: I should have put her in the bathroom with a blanket off my bed, instead of leaving her the run of the house.

Her obsessive compulsion had driven Allie into a panic attack, when I left her alone, for more than 30 minutes. Because she was still a young dog, she had not learned that I would come back to her. To this day, before I leave, I tell all my dogs, to stay and be good. The older dogs get this, the puppies, not so much.

Most Border Collies get used to their owners leaving them for periods of time, some don’t and those are the dogs that become destructive and cause a lot of damage or end up getting out of their yards and lost or hit by cars.

Border Collies are an extension of ourselves, when we are using them as a working dog. Their over-the-top desire to please and do work can often lead them into paths of destruction if we leave them to their own devices, which is why you need to contain a Border Collie when you aren’t around them. They can take off and spend the day herding your livestock, running them through fences or they could go looking to your neighbor’s herds, to get their fix of work.

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at

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