When I was seven, I unknowingly launched my career as a writer by authoring a little “book”– spiral-bound and laminated– entitled, “Molly, the Best Dog in the World.” It was dedicated to my father’s border collie, who I still remember as the smartest and most loyal dog I ever owned. In my little book, I recounted my favorite times with Molly: when she would go fishing with us and alert us when she noticed the bob wobbling, when she followed us miles down the road if we wouldn’t let her into the car, and the time she gruesomely but heroically disemboweled a stray chow that was poised to attack me. I knew that I wanted a “Molly” of my own when I grew up, but there was one problem: my father lived with his border collie on several acres of farmland, while I as an adult live in a little two-bedroom apartment.
Border collies are undoubtedly bred for life in the country, not in little apartments, but you can keep a border collie in an apartment if you do so appropriately. With the help and guidance of a local rescue group, dog training center, and veterinarian, I’m giving my border collie-corgi mix, Maggie, a wonderful life in an apartment. It’s not easy, border collies can live in apartments if you act responsibly. Here are five rules for keeping border collies in an apartment.
1. Know what you’re getting into.
Do research on border collies before you adopt one, whether you live in an apartment or not. Understand that border collies are intelligent, high-maintenance, high-energy dogs. They were bred for centuries to work hard and run free, not to sit calmly in your lap while you watch TV. A border collie’s herding instincts are strong and the breed has a tendency toward neurosis and destructive behavior if doesn’t have plenty of mental and physical stimulation. I know one border collie who chewed off her own tail when confined to an apartment for several hours per day. These are collies, not shih tzus.
2. Get your dog a job.
For some breeds, “jobs” are optional. For border collies in apartments, they are mandatory. Your dog needs to have something that she “does.” Maggie’s “job” involves agility courses at our local dog training center. For other apartment dogs, the “job” might be simple daily tasks like fetching the remote or collecting all of her toys daily and putting them into a box. A border collie in an apartment needs something to do that involves intensive training and a deliberate, specific goal.
3. Give your border collie lots and lots of exercise.
When most people talk about dogs needing exercise, they’re referring to the need for physical fitness. In the case of an apartment-dwelling border collie, exercise goes far beyond that: it’s essential to the animal’s mental health, as well. A border collie needs an opportunity to run, jump, fetch, and walk not just once or twice a day, but many times per day. That means rain or shine, hot or cold, you need to get your dog outdoors. Daily visits to the dog park or long daily walks (at least a mile or two) are minimally necessary for apartment-dwelling border collies.
4. Don’t leave your border collie home alone.
If you work full-time outside the home and live in an apartment, a border collie is out of the question. That’s because when a border collie can’t have a lot of space, you need to be able to make up for it with a lot of attention, and that’s something you simply can’t give if you work outside the home full-time. I’m only able to give my Maggie a good life in an apartment because I work from home as a writer and can attend to her needs when necessary. A border collie left home alone in an apartment is bound to be anxious and bored, but they can be perfect apartment pets for people who are retired, stay-at-home parents, work from home, or have certain disabilities.
5. Make sure your landlord and breeder or shelter know.
Some landlords will not permit herding dogs in apartments, and some border collie breeders and animal rescue groups will not allow border collies to go to apartment homes. These regulations are understandable, so make sure you have a detailed discussion with your apartment’s leasing office and with your breeder or rescue group explaining why and how you plan to be able to responsibly keep a border collie in an apartment. If you’re clear about your intentions and ability to give your dog the life she needs and deserves, you will likely be permitted to have your border collie in your apartment, but be prepared to answer a lot of questions and to prove your ability to care for these high-need animals. Border collies are wonderful pets and can thrive in apartments if they get proper care, but be prepared for a demanding and high-need animal if you choose to adopt a border collie and live in an apartment.