The Border Collie is a fantastic dog with many admirers worldwide. And it seems this breed’s popularity is growing: between 2008 and 2018, they rose from #50 to #35 in the American Kennel Club’s top 204 dog breeds!
They love their family, are endlessly energetic, and are loyal to a fault. In addition, they’re considered the most intelligent dog breed in the world.
As well as being a perfect family pet, their sharp minds, athletic bodies, and even temper make these dogs ideal as service dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue, etc.
However, there may be a problem despite all these great qualities: Border Collies bark a lot!
If you have one of your own constant barkers and need advice, or you’re considering getting a Collie, but you’re hesitating because of the barking issue, this guide is designed to help you.
We’ll examine why the Border Collie barks, what it might mean, and what you can do about it.
Why Do Border Collies Bark So Much?
Most dogs bark, though some are more vocal than others. Barking is a natural form of communication, along with body language. Dogs also snarl, growl, and howl to get their message across.
To begin with, you need to determine whether there’s a barking problem. While you might think your dog is barking at nothing, there’s always a reason.
The thing about Border Collies is that they are herding dogs. The herding instinct is deeply embedded in their genes, and you won’t shift it, ever! Nor would you want to: it’s what makes them such wonderful dogs.
Their high intelligence and herding instinct means they are more communicative. That’s all well and good out in the sheep meadows, but constant yapping in the confines of your home, or even the backyard, can become tedious very quickly.
The trouble is, they want to tell you about everything: passing strangers, cars, bikes, delivery people, planes, birds, cats, etc. They make good watchdogs rather than guard dogs.
So, while barking is natural for all dogs (apart from unique breeds like the Basenji and Husky!), Collies are likely to bark more because of their sheepdog history.
But don’t despair! We need to explore other potential causes of excessive barking and offer some advice on dealing with it.
Possible Causes Of Excessive Barking
We’ve established that your Collie will be a big barker by default. Even so, it’s essential to be aware of other possible causes.
We’ll go through some of the potential reasons here, starting with:
Not Enough Exercise
Collies are high-energy dogs. Seriously, you’d be hard-pressed to find another breed to match its speed, agility, work ethic, and stamina.
Due to this, Collies need a huge amount of exercise – at least two hours every day (depending on age and physical fitness). These dogs also need a lot of room to run and play, meaning they are better suited to rural areas with plenty of open space.
Without adequate exercise, they have pent-up energy that has to have an outlet, which could lead to a lot of barking. They’re desperately trying to tell you that they want to run!
Remember, they’re the very definition of working dogs. If you can’t keep them active, you’re going to hit problems.
Long walks are in order, with playtime in the yard or park chasing a ball or frisbee. On top of this, your Collie will take any amount of activity, like agility courses and herding trials.
Seriously, they need plenty of exercise to use up those energy levels!
A Lack Of Mental Stimulation
Did we already mention that the Border Collie is the world’s most intelligent dog?
That means they need a mental challenge as well as physical exercise, something for their minds to puzzle over and grapple with. Problem-solving is second nature to these fantastic creatures.
They excel at puzzle games, obstacle courses, herding trials, and doggy sports of every kind.
Without this, your dog will get very bored and amuse themselves by breaking your home. They’ll chew up all your stuff, dig up your garden or yard, and bark excessively. In many cases, this will even lead to aggression.
When you take on a Border Collie puppy, you must commit to making sure they get enough mental stimulation, or you’ll run into problems pretty soon. Give them a job to do, and they’ll be happy as can be!
Okay, so we know they’re super-dogs when it comes to being smart and active. But these working dogs have a big heart, and they are absolutely devoted to you.
Because of this, they’ll miss you when you’re not there. And that can spell trouble.
Dogs can’t process the passage of time like us. You’re either there or not, and they don’t understand why you’re absent. All they know is that you abandoned them, and that’s why you get such an enthusiastic welcome home!
When dogs are left alone, they may suffer from separation anxiety which makes them act out of character. They might chew up a cushion, destroy your house plants, or spread the contents of your trash can across the floor. They might also resort to excessive barking.
The best way to deal with this is first to make sure you don’t leave them for too long at a time. Four hours is the accepted limit, though some experts suggest that eight hours is acceptable.
However, anyone who leaves a dog alone eight hours a day every day needs to ask themselves whether this is fair. Dogs are social animals that thrive on company, and being alone all day makes them very unhappy.
If it’s unavoidable and you have to leave your dog alone, try normalizing your absence. If possible, take them out for a long walk or enjoy a vigorous playtime to wear them out shortly before you leave.
Give them a selection of chew toys and puzzle toys to keep them occupied.
Finally, don’t make a fuss about saying goodbye, and when you arrive home, leave it for five minutes or so before you greet your dog.
They’ll soon learn that your absence is a normal part of the daily routine and that you’ll be back shortly.
Dogs can’t tell you when they’re sick or in pain. You may notice they are behaving oddly, spending more time on their bed. There might even be other symptoms, but not always.
Sadly, older dogs will bark more often as their cognitive functions deteriorate. Also, dogs with eyesight problems (PRA, glaucoma, cataracts, etc.) will bark a lot. And, of course, if they suffer from partial deafness, they will likely bark at every noise they do hear.
If you’ve ruled out all other reasons and your pooch keeps barking, book them in for a check-up with the vet to see if there’s any medical cause.
Fear And Alarm
Dogs will bark when they’re scared. They also have far better hearing than you and may be able to hear something way off, like an explosion, firework, siren, or some sound they don’t recognize.
High-pitched sounds are particularly troublesome, as we can’t hear beyond a specific frequency. This makes it pretty tricky to find the cause, but with a bit of detective work, you may be able to figure out what’s bugging your furry friend.
If their hearing is good, their sense of smell is even better. It might seem weird to think that dogs are scared of odors, but it’s true! Their sense of smell is thousands of times better than ours, meaning that those scent particles are incredibly potent.
Smell is a powerful emotional trigger, which may evoke memories or instincts that cause alarm, making your dog bark in response.
Finally, your dog may spot something that causes fear. This often happens when it’s dark, and your pooch mistakes a coat hanging in the hall for an intruder.
Of course, in rare cases, their fear could be well-founded. Maybe they detected an actual intruder or sensed danger of some kind.
Observe your dog when they bark and watch their body language. If its ears are flattened back against its head, and its tail is between its legs, your dog is displaying fear.
Different Types Of Barking
Anyone who knows dogs understands that they bark for different reasons at different times. After a while, you get to know the pitch and tone of each type.
Here are some examples:
• Excited – high-pitched, pretty repetitive and non-stop, accompanied by jumping and tail wagging. You’ll hear this when you greet your dog or during playtime.
• Attention-seeking – a single high-pitched yap to make you take notice. It may happen while you’re talking or watching TV and ignoring your puppy, or perhaps when you’ve been playing fetch and neglect to throw the ball, stick, or frisbee!
• Bored – one low bark repeated every three or four seconds for no apparent reason. They can keep this up for hours at a time.
• Territorial barking – usually starts with a growl and becomes pretty frantic and repetitive. This is often accompanied by classic defensive posturing with the tail erect and head raised, maybe with the hackles raised on the neck.
• Fear – very high-pitch and repetitive, usually with bared teeth. This often happens when a dog is afraid of something it doesn’t understand or like.
• Frustrated – persistent and repetitive, usually happens when a dog is confined or denied something. The dog will howl and whine in between barks, and this type of behavior is generally seen when dogs are left alone. You may not hear it, but your neighbors will!
There are other, more subtle types of barking, but these are some of the more common ones.
If you don’t already know, it’s a good idea to take time to observe your furry friend and learn what these barks mean. One trick is to look at the body language accompanying the barking, as this is a good clue as to how your pooch is feeling.
One of the saddest reasons for excessive Border Collie barking (or any breed, for that matter) is cognitive decline. Like humans, dogs can suffer from a type of dementia as they get older.
This eventually affects them to the point where they don’t comprehend what’s going on. The world around them becomes a scary, unfamiliar place, and they bark at anything.
When this happens, it’s best to seek advice from your vet to see how you can ease your dog’s condition.
Border Collies Barking At Strangers
We could have gone with several other titles for this section, like Border Collie barking at other dogs or Border Collie barking at night.
Countless Collie owners (or potential owners) Google for answers about this problem!
We’ve discovered that the Border Collies bark more than many other breeds because they are intelligent and want to communicate with you all the time.
They are simply letting you know how they feel or advising you of a situation. It could be because they spotted an unfamiliar face, another dog, a car, or whatever. Your dog thinks it has a duty to inform you; they don’t believe they’re doing wrong!
That’s why it isn’t the best idea to punish a dog for barking too much, especially one as brilliant as the Border Collie.
So, when your pup barks at strangers, it’s just looking out for you. They’ve alerted you to a potential threat, and, hopefully, the stranger heeds the warning and goes away. If you then reward your dog by praising and petting it, you’ve reinforced that behavior.
Likewise, when your dog barks at other dogs, maybe even displaying aggression. If you become angry and punish your furry pal, they get confused and link the situation to negativity and fear. The outcome is more likely to be more of the same!
And if you pet them and make a fuss, they’ll connect this event with being good, so you might find they do it even more.
So, what’s the answer?
Consistent training is the key to curbing this behavior, and we’ll look into this further in the next section.
Border Collie Puppy Barking
Puppies are tiny balls of fluff and excitement, and they will bark.
This is a time of learning and development, where the pup finds out about barking, biting, playing, and all kinds of fun things. Until they reach the ages of between eight and twelve weeks, puppies learn by exploring their world and relying on their mother for guidance.
After this time, you take the mother’s place, and it’s your responsibility to teach them right.
While their mother won’t tell them off for yapping, she will intervene if they are too rough with a sibling. She’ll bump them with her muzzle, give a single warning bark, or she may even give them a light nip.
Disciplining a puppy can be difficult, as they’re so cute. But when they step out of line, they need correcting, or they won’t learn, just like kids.
That’s not to say that you should ever use physical means of punishment! When your pup misbehaves, a single sharp word will do the trick.
Rewarding a puppy for good behavior rather than punishing them for being bad is always a better course. You are far more likely to see progress this way.
You should begin obedience training as soon as possible as this will help your pup to be more manageable, and it should reduce their tendency to bark.
These amazing dogs tend to calm down and mature mentally at around six months of age. Coupled with any training and socialization they’ve had, you should be well on the way to resolving any barking problems.
However, if excessive barking is still an issue, we have some advice in the next section.
How To Stop A Border Collie From Barking
Before we answer this question, let’s be clear on this point: are we talking about excessive barking? If not, your Collie is acting normally, and there’s no need to worry.
The aim isn’t to eliminate barking. If it is, perhaps you need to rethink getting a Border Collie. Maybe you should consider a Labrador or Golden Retriever?
However, if the barking is excessive and has become a problem, you need some guidance on how to resolve it. So, here’s some helpful information and advice:
Dog Training And Socialization
While hindsight is a great thing, it’s always better to take action to curb this behavior before it even begins! Once a dog has settled into a habit, it’s far more challenging to fix.
The best way to avoid a barking issue is through obedience training and socialization when your dog is still young. In fact, the younger, the better! You’ll probably get your puppy between 8 and 12 weeks of age.
If you leave training and socialization much later than this, you’re asking for trouble.
Obedience classes are a great idea, as you’ll get the support of a qualified dog trainer and other attendees, and your puppy will interact and socialize with other pooches.
You’ll really do yourself a favor by choosing a good Border Collie breeder. The best ones start socializing their pups in the critical learning stage between three and five weeks of age.
There are different methods, including the Super Puppy program of early neurological stimulation and the Rule of Seven technique. All of them are excellent ways of preparing pups for life ahead.
Some breeders simply allow the pups to explore their environment, meeting a variety of people and animals. They’ll take the pups out in the car or on family picnics, and they keep the puppies in the home where they experience the sights, sounds, and smells of family life.
A well-adjusted puppy will be a balanced, confident, happy adult dog. They’ll be more experienced and less likely to react noisily to situations as they are able to understand and accept them.
Specific Training: Teach Your Dog To Talk!
While general obedience training will help, teaching your dog to speak on command is a great idea. Your puppy will understand that it’s okay to bark, but not all the time.
The great thing about Border Collies is that they are so intelligent. They also want to please you, making training them a piece of cake!
The process is pretty straightforward:
• Allow your dog to bark (perhaps get someone to ring the doorbell or perform a similar trigger for barking).
• Choose a short, simple command word, like ‘speak!’ and stick to it. As soon as your dog barks, acknowledge this by repeating the command word, and immediately reward your dog with their favorite treat.
• *While this seems the very opposite of what you’re trying to do, stick with it! All will become clear later.
• As well as using treats, clicker training is helpful here too. You can add a simple hand signal as well to reinforce the command. Try to focus on a single, isolated bark if possible rather than reward your dog for barking excessively.
• Once they have learned to ‘speak’ on command, you can focus on teaching them to be quiet, using the same method. Choose a command word and reward your dog when it complies. Don’t mix this up with other commands, like ‘lie down,’ just stick to barking.
• Above all, stay patient and try to make it fun! Dogs learn best when they are happy. Your furry pal will soon bark on command (a neat party trick) and will stop barking as soon as you give the word. No more excessive barking!
*Some experts warn dog owners not to reward dogs for barking, which is sound advice. However, this type of training is part of a process that puts you in control.
Many dog owners praise their pooches for barking at random times, especially at night. The assumption is that the dog has seen off an intruder, even when there’s no evidence for this.
All this does is reinforce the dog’s protective instincts and make it more likely that they’ll bark at anything and everything just to get a reward!
Our honest advice? Don’t buy them.
Training collars either shock, make an ultrasonic noise, vibrate, or spray a scent (usually citronella) when the dog barks. The thinking behind these devices is to expose the dog to an unpleasant experience when it barks. This is unfair and cruel, as any true dog lover will understand.
You’ll find ‘dog expert’ websites endorsing them, claiming that they are not cruel. They also say that these gadgets have been improved, so they don’t cause the dogs pain and discomfort. However, many of these older designs are still on the market.
You should bear in mind that the people endorsing and defending them are selling the items directly, or they receive commission when you click on the link. They’re hardly likely to tell you how cruel these things are!
In addition, many are totally useless (noise collars are the least effective), and you’ll be wasting your money.
The bottom line is that these collars deliver punishment for undesirable behavior, which is contrary to the modern concept of positive reinforcement. What’s clear is that they don’t address any underlying problems, and they merely seek to stop the symptom.
All major veterinary associations and animal welfare groups condemn the use of these collars and recommend against using them on your dog.
All training methods should be kind, positive, and aimed at rewarding good behavior and compliance, not negative, confusing, and harmful.
The least said about this despicable method, the better! However, we need to let you know all the facts.
During devocalization, dogs are subjected to an unnecessary surgical procedure that removes part of the vocal cords. While it doesn’t stop them from barking for good, it reduces the volume at which they can do so.
You’ll find so-called dog lovers who defend and even recommend this abhorrent practice, but all right-thinking veterinarians refuse to perform the surgery. It is also condemned by major animal welfare groups, understandably.
Dogs are given general anesthesia (a risk in itself!), and the vocal cords cut or punched out with a special tool. If that wasn’t enough, they then face an agonizing post-op period while the wound heals, followed by the frustration and distress of not being able to express themselves.
Once again, this addresses a symptom rather than the problem.
In the end, you have to question the ethics of anyone who condones or defends this method when there are more effective alternatives that don’t involve cruelty.
Border Collie Barking: Conclusion
Nobody could ever deny that the Border Collie breed is fantastic! They are perfect family dogs, but you need to play your part by getting them trained and socialized as puppies.
You must also make sure they get enough exercise and that they have ample mental stimulation. This dog needs wide open spaces to run and is never happier than when given a task.
They’ll always keep that herding instinct, rounding up family members, pets, or kids. Some herding dogs have a habit of nipping at your heels as they round you up, so you must be aware of this and take action if it’s a problem. Proper training and socialization should resolve this problem.
But our primary mission here was to look into the issue of Border Collie barking, so what did we learn?
Here’s a quick rundown to help get the facts fixed in your mind:
• Border Collies generally bark more than other breeds because of their desire to communicate. This is due to their herding dog background and high intelligence.
• There are different types of barking that dog owners need to recognize so they can take action if required.
• Although Border Collies bark a lot, it isn’t necessarily bad behavior; they’re just communicating how they feel or alerting you to different situations.
• Even so, they can pick up a barking habit, which is annoying and could cause problems with neighbors.
• Excessive barking can be reduced and controlled with proper training and socialization. Training should be reward-based, using positive reinforcement rather than punishment.
• You could teach your dog to bark on command, so it knows barking is okay but shouldn’t be used all the time. Your dog will also be more likely to stop barking when you give the command.
• Shock-collars are cruel and counterproductive, causing distress, psychological problems, and phobias. Other anti-bark collars are just as bad, making a negative association with barking, a natural way of communicating for dogs.
• De-barking surgery should never be an option. This has been banned in many countries for good reason, along with other cruel and unnecessary surgeries, such as tail docking, de-clawing, and ear-cropping.
In the end, if you get a Border Collie, you have to accept that they may bark more than other dogs. If you’re happy with that, then fine! And if you’re in a rural area with no close neighbors, all the better.
The key here is to start teaching your dog how to behave the minute you bring it home. This will solve any barking issues before they begin! Positive, reward-based training is essential and achieves better results than cruelty and punishment.
And surely that’s what every dog lover believes.