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Are Border Collies Aggressive? How To Stop Their Aggression?

Are Border Collies Aggressive? How To Stop Their Aggression?

The Border Collie dog breed was developed to gather and control sheep in the hilly border counties between Scotland and England.

The Collie’s name reflects his partially Scottish heritage: the word collie, which refers to sheep dogs, is derived from Scottish dialect.

Border Collies are herding dogs, which means they have an overwhelming urge to gather a flock. That flock could be sheep, children, cats, squirrels, or anything that moves. When it comes to the ideal working dog, it doesn’t get much better than these dogs.

This dog breed is often cited as one of the most intelligent of all domestic dogs but, at the same time, is one of the most challenging to live with.

They need to be exercised regularly in order to spend all of their energy; otherwise, they might misbehave and suffer from anxiety.

Are Border Collies aggressive? Before we give you the answer to this question, let’s find out something more about this breed.

What Are Border Collies Known For?

Purebred border collie herding a flock of sheep on a summer day.

Border Collies are particularly known for their intense stare, or “eye,” with which they control their flock.

These are dogs with unlimited energy, stamina, and working drive, all of which make them premier herding dogs; they are still used today to herd sheep on farms and ranches around the world.

Border Collie owners have to be comfortable with a dog that can outsmart them from time to time. If you want a loving, brainy dog that will keep you active and on your toes, this may be the breed for you.

However, keeping up with the Border Collie’s intense mental and physical stamina is exhausting, even exasperating, especially for a first time owner or family that wants a laid-back family pet.

If there is a dark side to the Border Collie’s energy and workaholic attitude, it comes out when he’s brought into a family that doesn’t understand him.

This dog is not a cuddly, couch-potato dog, but for the right owner, this is a wonderful dog to live with. His intelligence and tractable nature makes him easy to train.

The Border Collie is a good match for an owner who is as active as he is, especially one who’s eager to get involved in dog sports like obedience, flyball, agility, tracking, and flying disc competitions. They are also popular as companion dogs who love to get wet from time to time.

Today, the Border Collie is recognized as the premier sheep herding dog. The breed’s superior herding ability leads many fanciers to advocate breeding Border Collies only for working; not conformation standards.

Let’s find out what we know so far about aggressive Border Collies.

Are Border Collies aggressive?

black and white border collie running with tongue out

The Collie’s personality is characteristically alert, energetic, hardworking, and smart. These dogs learn quickly. This is among the smartest of all dog breeds, and one whose owners need to pay attention lest they find themselves outsmarted.

Of course, the Border Collie isn’t perfect. There is no such dog. This dog can be strong-minded and independent, and his compulsion to herd can become misdirected.

In the absence of sheep, or some kind of job, he is apt to gather and chase children, cars, or pets. He can also become fearful or shy if he isn’t properly socialized as a puppy.

Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, counter surfing, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained, or unsupervised. With a Border Collie, multiply the destructive potential by a factor of ten.

So, are Border Collies aggressive? Border Collies are generally not an aggressive breed of dog. While this dog breed tends to herd anything that moves, they are not likely to ever do so with malicious intent.

If aggressive behavior is displayed, it is likely that something else is up – like an undiagnosed health condition or issue.

Even though aggression is not a common trait in this breed, still, you never know because every dog has a different personality and nature.

As an owner, you must take steps to ensure that your pooch views you and your family members as the pack leaders.

Once you have achieved alpha status, your Border Collie will become obedient, cooperative, and a pleasure to be around.

Before we continue, let’s make something clear. Problems in dogs are generally caused by people. Often, it is through lack of understanding or lack of consistency.

Every dog that is not properly socialized from a young age can show aggressive tendencies towards other dogs or people. Border Collies are not an exception.

What Causes A Border Collie To Be Aggressive?

portrait of border collie barking in blurry background

Generally, aggression is not a common habit in Border Collies. However, sometimes it can occur. The reasons and causes behind your dog’s barking, growling, and even biting can differ depending on the circumstances.

When handling an aggressive Border Collie, remember that unlike the other behavior problems, this one tends to have some serious consequences.

If you are suspecting your Border Collie may be displaying early signs of aggression, act immediately. If you let the behavior go unattended, it will only become worse until you try to rectify it.

The most common factors that can make your Border Collie aggressive are:

• Dominant issues

• Fear (the Border Collie feels under threat)

• Physical pain

• Food aggression


• Resource guarding

Dominant Aggression

If your Collie has developed dominant behavior, then he might feel like he needs to use aggression in order to keep his dominance over you.

If your dog has developed dominant behavior and thinks of himself as being above you, he will not even hesitate to bark and growl at you, and he may also bite you.

Therefore, you have to be extremely careful when you are training your dog that is dominant and aggressive.

Fear (the Border Collie feels under threat)

It is a dog’s basic instinct to behave aggressively when they feel scared or threatened. Your dogs’ ancestors had to be as scary and ferocious as possible if they were afraid of something they were unsure of; this is how they stayed safe.

This is one of the most common aggression types in Border Collies, and they generally show it towards people they don’t know when meeting for the first time.

When Border Collies feel threatened by strangers or people they don’t trust, they generally growl or bark at them to let them know to stay away.

Dogs barking at other street dogs, the newspaper delivery man, or at your neighbors are the perfect example of this type of aggression.

If you got your dog from a shelter or rescue, this could also be a sign of what has happened to them in the past, or the fear they have about being rehomed.

It is crucial to be patient with rescued Collies because you have no idea what they went through before coming into your home.

border collies walking

Photo from @fellathebordercollie

Physical pain

Just like humans, when a dog is in physical pain, it becomes aggressive because it might be under a lot of stress.

No matter how much your dog loves you, as a responsible owner, you must carefully check his wounds to make sure you’re not unknowingly causing him more pain.

If your dog is hurt or sick, it is agitated and in pain, yet it can’t relay this to you. In some cases, a dog is going to show signs of aggression (he might growl, nip, or even bite you) to let you know that he doesn’t want you to touch him there.

Border Collies can be born with health conditions that will get worse as they grow. You may think that it is just your dog being overly aggressive or mean when they are just in pain and don’t know how to handle it.

Check your dog for any signs of injuries or illness. Evaluate how they have been acting recently, and decide if they have any other unusual behaviors indicating there could be a health issue. Watch for other troubling signs, such as



• Confusion


• Refusing to eat

• Refusing to drink

All of these symptoms may indicate that you need to get to a vet as soon as possible.

Food Aggression

Just like any other dog, your Collie is never sure if the food you give him now will be there five minutes later. Dogs feel like they have to eat the food as soon as you provide it before something snatches it from them.

So, the dog may growl at you when you try to adjust his bowl or try to take his bone.

If you think your Border Collie is defensive of his food, don’t try to put your hand in your dog’s food bowl. He will not like it. However, not all dogs will react this way, yet still, it is their nature to be protective of their food.

You can try to deal with this aggression problem by calling your Collie and giving him another treat in order to distract him from the food bowl. This will teach your Border Collie that he can leave his food for a while and it won’t be stolen by something else.


Just like humans, dogs can become anxious in certain situations. If your pet is showing signs of aggravation after a significant change, like moving to a new house or having a new person or pet enter your home, this may be the cause of your dog acting out.

Other signs to watch for in order to determine if their issue is due to anxiety are:

Restlessness – Dogs will become restless when they are anxious. You will see this by them getting up and down, and never sleeping in one spot for too long.

Pacing – If a dog is overly anxious, it will start to pace the room, house, or yard back and forth because it wants to keep an eye on its surroundings.

Shaking – An anxious dog may start to shake or tremble if they are anxious.

Digging – Excessive digging is a compulsion that dogs will do when they become overly anxious or stressed out.

Excessive licking or chewing – Some vets believe that the act of excessive licking or chewing is a dog’s way of controlling something when they are anxious and feel out of control with their surroundings.

Chewing things they should not – An anxious dog, like a bored dog, will chew things up and destroy things. Chewing is a way to relieve stress for your Collie.

When a Border Collie, or any other dog for that matter, feels anxious, they do not understand what they are feeling; they know it is not right, and that causes them to panic.

Resource guarding

Resource guarding is not specifically a Border Collie trait. It can occur in any breed; it is widespread, even normal, and mostly genetic… that is, if your puppy is resource guarding, they likely had a parent that did the same thing.

Just like a child who doesn’t want another child playing with his favorite toys, or how you may grow upset if somebody just reached onto your plate at a restaurant and took your steak, resource guarding is a natural reaction.

Border Collies do it to protect their possessions through defensive body posture, growling, snapping, and even biting to keep other dogs or people away from their favorite things.

So, even if it is a natural reaction, it is still a problematic one that needs to be dealt with. Dogs can resource guard different high-value items, including you!

Are Border Collies Aggressive Towards Other People And Children?

vintage dressed little girl hugging a border collie in the garden

Border Collies can be a wonderful addition to your family as long as they are properly trained and raised, and taking care of their essential requirements.

As a family-friendly breed, they get along with children, people, and other dogs, and they are known to have a strong bond with their owners if they are properly socialized.

Like most herding breeds that have an inborn protective streak, Border Collies can be wary of strangers. Early and frequent socialization is essential to prevent them from becoming shy or aggressive in the presence of people they don’t know.

If you don’t have experience with proper socialization, we advise you to seek help from professional dog trainers. They will show you how to properly work with this dog, so that both you and your dog can be happy and satisfied.

An untrained Border Collie may develop excessive herding instincts that cause him to bite, nip, and chase, but that can be fixed with appropriate training methods.

Border Collies can be fiercely protective of their territory and their owners, too. This inclination to protect their family makes them ideal guard dogs. If these dogs notice anything new, they will always alert the family by barking loudly.

There are several reasons why your Collie may be aggressive to other people:

They are protecting you – If your Collie feels you are in any type of danger, his instincts are bound to kick in and protect you.

Territorial – A territorial dog protects what they consider to be theirs. Examples can include the house they live in, the toys they play with, or even you. Territorial dogs are known to become very aggressive.

Nervousness – If your dog is scared or nervous about a new person coming near them, they may feel the need to defend themselves or their home.

Past experiences – If your dog had a negative experience with someone they didn’t know, they might have a tough time trusting anyone. This is a learned behavior, and it can be easier to correct than the others mentioned above.

In the context of the question, ”Are Border Collies aggressive towards children”, the answer is that these dogs aren’t usually aggressive towards children, again, as long as they’re properly socialized and the kids play nicely with them!

Generally, these dogs are awesome to be around with children. Collies are playful, but gentle towards kids, even if they sometimes don’t know what stop means.

However, Border Collies are herding dogs, and herding requires nipping and sometimes biting in order to get sheep to respond to their will. So, be careful when your kids play with your dog, and if the dog attempts to herd children, stop him or her immediately.

The Border Collie needs to understand that kids are kind and friendly. If your Border Collie gets a little too rowdy with children, make sure to let them know that’s not okay.

As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and you should always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children in order to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.

Are Border Collies Aggressive Towards Other Dogs?

border collie puppy barking at a chihuahuadog outdoors

In general, Border Collies tend to be good with other dogs, but this is not a natural trait for all Border Collies. While your dog may love to chase (and be chased) by other dogs, it can take time before your dog feels comfortable playing with others of his own kind.

However, if your Collie gets nervous when other dogs are nearby, give him more distance. Find a distance where he is less likely to react, or reacts with less intensity, and he is more responsive to you.

Your dog may be aggressive for the same reasons as with strangers. They are protecting their families, their property, or they feel scared or threatened. However, there are a few other reasons for this bad behavior:

Jealousy – If you or someone they love is spending time with another dog, your pet may be getting jealous of you giving away “their attention.” Dogs are very loyal and creatures of habit.

Dominance is one of the most significant factors that causes dog aggression, especially in males. A dog will use aggression to assert their authority over other dogs, letting them know they are on their turf and they are in charge.

Things To Avoid With An Aggressive Border Collie

two angry dog border collie showing teeth

Before you do anything, there are a couple of things that you should never do to an aggressive dog. They won’t help solve aggression, and in many instances, it will anger your dog even more.

• Do not pressure your dog when it’s in a stressed state. If your dog is growling at you when you approach it, don’t think it’s a good idea to get closer. When the dog is growling, he is giving you a warning sign not to come closer or to stop what you’re doing. So, respect your dog’s wishes.

• Do not shout, yell, or hit your Collie (never ever hit your dog!). Your goal is to diffuse the situation, not to make things worse. If you feel that you are in danger, try to remove yourself from the situation as soon as you can.

• Do not play aggressive dominance-based games with your Collie if it already is showing signs of aggression. This means no tug of war, keep away, or chasing games of any kind. Instead, focus on other games, like fetch.

• Do not reward bad behavior – Ignore unwanted behaviors and encourage good behaviors.

• Do not tolerate growling, snapping, or snarling; consult a professional behaviorist if your dog shows any of these behaviors.

Are Border Collies Dangerous?

border collie at work herding on the sheep

Border Collies are considered a safe breed, generally not attempting to or actively posing a threat. But, there are instances of Border Collies attacking other animals and humans, even children.

In some Collies, the herding instinct can be so strong that it makes them incompatible living in a household that includes children.

You can’t train a Border Collie not to herd children or animals, but you can modify their behavior by channeling their energy into other activities.

There are generally three approaches that owners employ to channel their dogs’ energies. These three techniques are:

1. Distraction, which usually involves playing with toys, walking them, and occupying their minds with some form of stimulus.

2. Environmental manipulation – manipulating the environment may include getting baby gates installed within your home, or being particular as to when and where your border can access your home.

3. Deterrence often follows, and this will be ensuring that your Collie learns that such behavior will not be tolerated. This does not mean nor should include shouting. Instead, it’s about collectively and calmly removing them from the situation.

One of the best things you can do as a dog owner is train your dogs from a young age, with an emphasis during the puppy years.

This ensures that they learn how to behave, along with when and what is allowed and appropriate in your home. It’s all about safely setting boundaries.

How Do You Resolve Aggressive Behavior Issues?

The first step in stopping a Collie’s aggression is to understand why he is doing it. Try to pay attention to what’s happening when your dog is being aggressive, and see if you can work out what the triggers are.

Once you know what is causing your dog’s aggressive behavior, you can start working with him to correct it.

You can correct such behavior with enough patience, time, and these helpful tips:

• Socialize your dog from a young age. Socialization with other dogs and obedience training from an early age is essential.

• Obedience classes are vital for Border Collie puppies and Collie’s of all ages. Not because they’re disobedient, but because they’ll be much happier dogs being able to have more complex communication with their owners.

• If your dog is aggressive because it is hurt or sick, you may never know that anything is wrong. All you will notice is their anger. Take your dog to the vet and see if there is a reason behind the behavior, especially if this is new.

• Exercise them often – As they are herding dogs they need the additional exercise.

• Avoid games that involve chasing as this can encourage their hunting instincts and trigger aggressive behavior.

• Reward good behavior. Always train your Collie by using positive reinforcement – ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior with lots of praise, treats, and fuss.

• Be consistent – these dogs should have an element of routine and consistency in their lives. They like to know what’s coming next.

• Introduce your dog to new people properly.

• Spend quality time with your dog, and don’t leave him alone for long periods.

Aggression is not a joking matter, especially with larger dog breeds. If you don’t feel confident enough to tackle the problem on your own, or if you feel fearful of your dog, please don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional dog trainer.

Never ignore your dog’s bad behavior, and don’t wait until your Border Collie bites you, your children, or other people.

Final Thoughts

a border collie standing and spots something

Finally, are Border Collies aggressive or not? This is a frequently asked question, and the answer is simple – no, they are not aggressive dogs.

If Border Collies are properly trained and socialized as puppies, then most are friendly and shouldn’t become aggressive.

Every dog owner needs to know that a dog is not going to just one day choose to become aggressive. Something is going on with your pet mentally, physically, or emotionally, making them start to change their behavior.

It is okay to have a protective dog that will indicate to its owner a stranger is around or to herd animals around the yard with barking and a small nip. But, it’s not okay to have an aggressive dog that shows its dominance towards you or anyone else.

Collies can become aggressive when they feel scared, protective, territorial, or unwell, as well as if they’re guarding resources or if they think they’re in charge of you.

It’s important that owners are aware of this behavior, recognize what causes the aggression, and know how to prevent and respond to this behavior.

If your Border Collie has already developed behavioral problems, don’t lose hope. Seek professional help if you don’t know how to help them.

An owner or a family that’s willing to properly socialize and train the Border Collie will find a soulmate in this intelligent, good dog.

Are Border Collies Aggressive? How Do You Stop Their Aggressiveness?