Interview With A Border Collie Rescuer
Border Collies are an intriguing breed to many dog fanciers; their stunning looks and keen intellect can make a very strong first impression when you meet one of these dogs! However, it’s important to learn about the unique personality and needs before deciding on any breed.
We’re thrilled to present you with an interview with Sarah Ruckelshaus, founder of Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue. Sarah has initiated the birth of this foundation and currently oversees all projects and program coordinators within the organization. She’s a former National Rescue Liaison for the Border Collie Society of America and is a member in good standing of the Association for Pet Dog Trainers as well as the American Border Collie Association. Sarah is also a shepherd and farm owner and runs a small Bed and Breakfast.
How long have you been working in breed rescue?
I began working in my local shelter in 1995. I started the rescue program there, and continued with private rescue in 1997.
How did you decide that Border Collies were the breed for you?
Quite by accident. I bought a farm, and ‘rescued’ one sheep from a local kids camp that was shutting down. In determining what breed the ewe was, a friend told me I had to get a dog to work my sheep. And of course, I had to get more sheep! I now have 10 personal dogs, and 30 to 70 sheep (depending on the time of year)
Could you tell us a little bit about the stages of life of this breed?
Border collies are slow maturing dogs and don’t begin to settle until they are about 3 years old. That said, they are extremely serious about their work, and some dogs are started on sheep as young as 6 months old (very lightly of course). Border collies generally have “A” type personalities that require challenges in order to be happy dogs. They begin to slow at about 12 years old, and live 12 to 16 years. I have a friend who had a Border Collie that lived to 20!
Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Border Collie?
Border Collies are an old breed; their foundations are hundreds of hundreds of years old. Farmers and shepherds developed the dogs on the borders of Britain and Scotland working their flocks. Dogs were not bred scientifically, rather for the needs of the individual farmer/shepherd. Many ‘breeds’ have gone into the development of the Border Collie, basically, they are ‘mutts’ which make them a wonderfully hearty and personable dog.
Describe an average day living with Border Collies:
In general, my dogs receive two to three exercise/play periods each day. These times involve human interaction, as it is very important to Border Collies that humans are involved in their lives. We play ball, go running with the golf cart, take walks, some dogs will work sheep, others will do some training with manners or tricks. Exercised properly, a border collie will then be content to hang out with me while I work, right now in my office there are six sleeping dogs…
Choose a few words that best describe Border Collies:
Intense, Thoughtful, Loyal
What are 3 common misconceptions about this breed?
- Border Collies are ‘hyper’. Actually, this is far from the truth. A well trained, well exercised, and well-challenged Border Collie is a delightfully calm companion. Those that give off the ‘hyper’ air are not being properly handled or challenged.
- They are great family dogs. Some are, some are not. This fully depends on the dog, and the family it lives with. They are working dogs that require a job, and challenges, and if they are not supplied with that job, they will make their own, and some become quite nervous, expending energy on incorrect behaviors that are not appreciated by most people. Fortunately, these behaviors can usually be modified with proper handling and training.
- Border Collies are Black and White with long hair. Some border collies are very classic, many are not. Border Collies come in many, many colors, and coat types. Because they were (and are) bred for a job, and not what they look like, their appearance is extremely variable and should be accepted as so.
What are 3 little known facts about this breed?
- They are “A” type personalities that require true challenges and jobs in order to be happy and contented dogs.
- Their coats types vary greatly, from single coated smooth coated dogs to double coated, heavy rough coated dogs and many, many types in between. Some dogs shed heavily, while others only a bit.
- Border Collies love training, rules, and order. In fact, most require it in order to be happy and contented.
What should people who are interested in owning a Border Collie know before they bring one of these dogs into their home? :
Border Collies are not just a pet, they are a hobby, and become a way of life!
What are the major reasons BCs end up in rescue?
Border Collie puppies are often impulse buys…there’s not much cuter (or badder) than a Border Collie pup. Consequently, many people are simply not prepared for the fact that they are not like other dogs and that they need to interact with the dog a lot. Along the same lines, many people ‘think’ they have what it takes to live with a border collie, and in the end, they are wholly unprepared for the life-changing experience it is. Border Collies are sometimes turned in for behavioral issues, almost always, these dogs are the victims of benign neglect and with training and attention, their behavioral issues disappear…in the end, about 80% of the dogs are in rescue because their humans fail them (by choice).
Do you have any tips on how people can go about locating a rescued Border Collie?
There is a wide Border Collie Rescue network across the country. Many folks are independent rescuers, others are part of lager groups that cover regions across states. The website www.bcrnd.org lists many of these rescues.
Searching Petfinder (or other pet listing service) is an excellent way to find rescues dealing with Border Collies, as well as Border Collies in shelters or all-breed rescues.
How should potential owners screen rescue dogs and what should they be on the look out for? What should they be prepared for in the adoption process?
Your best advocate in your search for a new best friend is a great rescue group, one that works hard to be sure certain the dogs are placed in the best home possible, not the first home available. A good rescuer will work closely with the applicant to be certain that the dog placed into their home is the right dog, the best dog possible so that the match is a glowing success. They will fully vet the dogs, and will require an adoption fee. The rescuer will require an application and a home visit, and most will require that you meet with the dog once before you decide to take it home. They will also require that the dog be returned to them in the event of a failed adoption. In addition to the above mentioned website, Petfinder.org is a wonderful resource in the search for a new canine friend.
Do you participate in any activities with your dogs? Would you recommend Border Collies for any specific activities?
I personally use my dogs for herding work. Of course, they are companion dogs as well. Border Collies are often described as the “Versatile Breed” because they excel in so many venues, including Disc, Agility, Tracking, Obedience, Therapy, Rally, and of course, Herding.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers of the Dog Guide about Border Collies?
Should you choose to welcome a Border Collie into your life, he will either be the best dog you have ever had, or the worst, and 98% of that is up to you!
The Dog Guide would like to thank Sarah Ruckelshaus for her time, enthusiasm and insight. We are also thankful to Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue for permission to use the great photos in this interview.