Belfast Telegraph

Are collies truly top dogs? As a new study praises their virtues, experts warn they aren't suitable pets for everyone

By Linda Stewart

It's official - the border collie has been named top dog.

The breed, beloved of broadcaster John Noakes and Britain's Got Talent finalist Kate Nicholas, is long-lived, healthy and bright, says a new study.

Journalist David McCandless carried out the Best in Show survey, rating the attributes of each dog breed according to cost, intelligence, health, lifespan and ease of grooming.

But animal shelters in Northern Ireland have reacted with shock, warning people not to race out and adopt a border collie on the basis of the study as the breed is notoriously energetic.

"Not everybody can accommodate the mental and physical stimulation that a collie needs. It's like having a genius as a child - you have to accommodate that stimulation, otherwise they will just go crazy," Assisi Animal Sanctuary manager Heather Weatherup said.

The study was researched for an infographic on Mr McCandless's website, Information is Beautiful, with the border collie taking top position because of its intelligence, obedience and average lifespan of 12 years.

However, the breed was placed only 29th in a list of family-friendly breeds. The bulldog was the most overrated dog because of its lack of intelligence, price tag and poor health, while the border terrier was most "overlooked treasure".

Mary Carney, manager of Dogs Trust in Ballymena, said border collies were often given away because they were so demanding.

"They love to work and that is why they are so easy to train, but they do quickly become bored and always need new things to do," she said.

"A long walk every day won't be enough to keep them happy - they need training every day and activities that challenge them.

"They are very intelligent and they do require an enormous amount of mental and physical stimulation. They're not always suitable for families with young children - they can often resort to herding them round the house."

Ms Weatherup said there was a perfect pet for everyone, adding: "Temperament has got to be paramount. A border collie is the best pet if you run for a living or take a lot of physical activity and have a lot of time to spare.

"But don't get a collie unless you have the time and energy. Look at the temperament - that is a very important thing when you're looking to take a dog into your home."

Yes says Rebecca McConnell, they're very loving

I would whole heartily agree with David's study. We got our first collie, Thomas, when I was seven.

He was a great help on the farm with the sheep, pigs and cattle and we all formed a close bond with him.

Over the years, we have had several collies, and Poppy, now 12, is our current four-legged friend. Collies are very loving dogs and generally well behaved, although Poppy has growled at me like a disgruntled teenager on a few occasions.

They have gentle dispositions and are good with children, although like any dog, they need to be supervised.

I suppose in a way I have nothing to compare them to, since we have always had collie or collie mix dogs at home. I know smaller dogs are a lot more popular today but I can't see myself with one.

I was recently told a story about a collie my grandfather owned. The dog accidentally ate some rat poison set on the farm to catch vermin. His death left a soreness in the household and no one talked for days.

It is that unusual power of bringing grown men to tears that demonstrates the fondness and esteem dogs generate. They are very sensitive animals and they have a knack of knowing when something is wrong.

Being a bigger dog, they require a lot of exercise. They are good companions for country walks and our lot always enjoyed going after a tennis ball around the yard, so I suppose they are great for keeping owners fit too! No matter how bad your day, they want fed and petted just the same and they give you affection in return.

  • Rebecca is owner of Purple Rain PR

No says Frances Burscough, every breed is different

So a survey was conducted to discover which breed of dog is the best in terms of temperament, intelligence, life expectancy and health and the border collie won hands down. They are of course undeniably lovely dogs, but I would question the point and purpose of this survey for a number of reasons.

For a start, the man who devised this survey is not a dog owner himself. So as far as I'm concerned he is no more an expert than next door's cat. Also, anyone who knows anything about dogs is well aware of how vital it is to choose the right breed of dog for your own circumstances. Sure, border collies are beautiful, friendly, clever and hardy, but they also require hours of exercise every day. Without this they can become hyperactive, depressed, snappy and even sick. So this would be disastrous for, say, a working couple who live in a small flat.

I have two breeds of dog which I chose after weeks of research. After much thought we chose two bichon frises and a minature schnauzer, because neither of these species cast and their hair is hypo-allergenic. They are great with kids and friendly but don't require hours of strenuous exercise a day.

I suggest that the author of this survey David McCandless gets himself a entire pack of dogs - like Cesar Milan The Dog Whisperer, a genuine expert - and then comes back in 10 years' time to rewrite his survey according to actual experience and knowledge.

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