Barking has its time and place, but for most people, it’s not a desirable trait for a dog to have, especially if it’s loud and excessive. If you’re considering getting a border collie but want to know how vocal they are, this article has everything you should know.
Border collies do bark more than the average breed, but this doesn’t mean every border collie is an excessive barker. Barking is used primarily as a communication tool, but it is a behavior that can be trained against if it becomes too much.
Do Border Collies Bark A Lot?
Border collies definitely know how to be vocal and showcase their loud bark. But before you worry too much, not every collie will prove to be an excessive barker. Many collies are rather quiet too.
Owners must remember that collies are extremely alert, sensitive, and aware of their surroundings, and informing their owners of any noise or unusual disturbance is their forte.
Naturally, this makes border collies very good watchdogs and with such a loud bark, could prove to be a good deterrent.
Why Are Border Collies Prone To Barking
The reason collies are so quick to bark at things is that it’s what they’ve done for centuries. Border collies are one of the world’s best herding breeds, and barking is a communication tool that’s central to being an effective herder.
Aside from their intimidating stare, barking at cattle, sheep and other livestock is an effective way to control their movement.
Due to this, barking comes so naturally to collies that it blends over into other parts of their life.
They’ll bark for you to throw their ball, when someone comes to the door, when they see a bird, hear a noise, and so on.
7 Reasons Why a Border Collie Might Bark
Let’s cover the 7 main reasons and situations that would prompt most border collies to bark.
1. Someone at the door or on your property
Alert-barking is used to inform the owner of the situation and warn whoever is approaching. Border collies are not considered guard dogs, but they are certainly territorial and somewhat protective. Interestingly though, the level of socialization a collie receives from a young age can have a big impact on aloofness and the tendency to bark at strangers (more socialization = less barking).
2. Playful barking
Barking during playtime is very common with collies. After all, barking is a form of communication and a way to express feelings. Collies, being the world’s smartest breed, tend to express themselves more than other breeds. Whether you’re throwing their ball, playing tug of war, hide and seek, or engaging in rough play, playful barking is frequently seen in collies.
When a border collie doesn’t receive enough exercise or mental stimulation as they should, their behavior can change in a range of negative ways. Many collies will bark at their owners as if to say “hey, I’m bored! let’s do something!”. A bored collie is not a happy collie so it’s worth ensuring yours is sufficiently stimulated on a daily basis.
Collies might be independent thinkers, but they still love their owner’s attention. In fact, this is the same with most working breeds, as they tend to develop a strong bond with their owner. If your collie feels like they are lacking some belly rubs, they can certainly become a bit barky (at you).
5. It’s feeding time or potty time
If it’s getting around feeding time and you accidentally forget by 10 minutes (I’m guilty too!) your collie will have no qualms in letting you know all about it. This will also be the same if they require letting out to do their doggy business, which is actually a good thing.
6. Barking at other dogs or strangers
This encompasses a lot. Barking at other dogs or strangers could be playful barking, but it could also be barking through fear, anxiety, or even aggression. Border collies need A LOT of early-on socialization and exposure to people and dogs in order for them to be friendly and approachable when out in public.
7. General nerves & anxiety
You might be surprised to know that collies can be quite the nervous nelly when compared to other breeds. Anything that might be making your collie nervous, anxious, or increasing their stress levels, could cause them to bark. This could be subtle changes in their environment like traffic noise, to the smell of a new pet next door. It’s always worth keeping this in mind.
Are ALL Border Collies So Vocal?
So far it seems like having a barking border collie is a guarantee. But it’s not quite like that…
There are many border collies that remain perfectly quiet most of the time, in fact, I actually know more quiet collies than I do vocal/barky ones.
While some collies will bark at a pin drop, others will remain silent even when an unexpected visitor knocks on the door.
More times than not, a quiet collie will be that way due to how they have been raised and the environment they live in. In rare cases, you might just have a quiet collie for no good reason.
How To Respond To Excessive Barking
Excessive barking can be a real problem for owners, so let’s run through a handful of responses and ways to deal with such behavior.
Gain your dogs attention
In a moment of barking, regardless of what the reason is, what we need to do is gain their attention and cut their focus from barking. Now, depending on your level of connection with your collie, you may be able to do this with just your voice or a command, but if not, you’ll need a tasty treat, and that’s fine.
Reward them for being quiet
Immediately after breaking their focus on barking, you want to keep their attention and reward them for at least a few seconds of quietness. To keep their focus on you instead of going back to barking, you might need to face the other way with them, get close to your collie, or even stroke and reassure them… Whatever it is, you want to distract them, keep their focus, and allow them to be the ones to choose to be quiet at least for a few seconds. Never reward instantly as this could reinforce barking, you need to have a moment of quietness first.
Intercept barking before it happens
To really hit a home run with this kind of training/teaching, you must start catching your collie and correcting the bark, before it happens. There are always moments when you can just sense your collie is about to bark at something… (we usually know), that’s the moment you swoop in and break the focus, gain the attention, reward for quietness. This is the true way to change a negative behavior in the long term.
Avoid reinforcing the barking
Aside from waiting for a few seconds of quietness before rewarding, you can take it a step further and ask your collie to sit and look at you before giving them a treat. By adding this easy extra step, their mind is now completely taken away from barking, and they are now essentially in a training exercise. Still, this teaches them the behavior you want and they will absolutely know that it’s not the barking they are getting rewarded for.
Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation
A lot of barking in collies comes from nerves, being on edge, and having a lot of energy. An easy way to reduce a lot of that barking (maybe not all), is to ensure you are providing sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. Collies NEED to be exercised intensively and have their minds put to work… If you get this right, your collie will be calmer, less anxious, and more stable. This will definitely result in less barking.
5 Tips For a Quiet Border Collie
Let’s be honest, while some of us won’t mind a couple of barks when the doorbell rings (for deterrent purposes) most of us want our dogs to be quiet. In fact, excessive barking is one of the top reasons why owners rehome their dogs… Let’s run through some tips for a quiet collie.
1. Be calm around your collie
Dogs feed on our energy, and with collies being super intelligent and attentive, they will pick up on your emotions and feel the same way. If you are stressed, anxious, or hectic in your behaviors, your collie will be the same and barking will be a natural response to this.
2. Create a calm environment
Another big factor will be their general environment. While there are some things you can’t control (like construction noise and traffic), you can still work to make the inside of your home more peaceful. Try shutting the windows when it’s noisy, play soothing background music, refrain from shouting to one another, and you could even try using a calming scent. Natural scents like lavender and chamomile can actually help a dog remain calm.
3. Provide exercise and mental stimulation
I’ve already mentioned this, but it is crucial. Ensure your collie receives some exercise first thing in the morning to expel some of her energy. After, be sure to provide her with some brain games, interactive puzzle toys, and something to keep her engaged. The quickest way to the next barking episode is when she’s bored and frustrated.
4. Socialize your collie
Ideally, all dogs receive adequate socialization from when they are puppies, this is much easier to control, safer, and the best time to do it. But if you already have an adult, don’t let age stop you. It’s still a very good idea to encourage socialization and increase exposure to new dogs and strangers as much as you can (a few times a week minimum is ideal). Over time, this will teach your collie to become less fearful and anxious around new people and dogs and will therefore result in a calmer, more relaxed, and quieter behavior.
5. Train against barking
There’s no reason why you need to wait until barking becomes excessive for you to train against it. Using the tips given in the section before, you can start correcting barking as soon as it happens if you want to. You don’t need to let barking become a problem first, before you act on it. This is completely up to you and depends on your tolerance of barking.
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