There are many dog breeds that can make both great companions, while at the same time helping their owners out during hunting expeditions.
For owners and potential owners of Border Collies in particular, it might not be immediately clear whether the breed is well suited for such a demanding set of outdoor activities as hunting is.
After all, these dogs are not often found at the top of the lists of dog breeds that are specifically chosen for hunting.
So are Border Collies good hunting dogs? In this post, we’ll be going over what it takes to turn any Border Collie into a pro hunter even if it’s never been around wild animals before.
Are Border Collies Good Hunting Dogs?
Border Collies aren’t the best hunting dogs. Unlike Bloodhounds, Beagles, Pointers and other uniquely qualified breeds, the Border Collie has not been developed through the generations to be hunting dogs, per se. Instead, they excel at being herding dogs. With that said, these are highly intelligent dogs that possess a number of inherent qualities and characteristics which can make them excellent hunting dogs, with a little bit of training.
Do Border Collies Have High Prey Drive?
Humans have hunted alongside dogs for literally thousands of years, and when we’re looking for a dog that we can take hunting, we’re looking for it to have a few crucial facets or skills to help make the experience great.
These skills include things like a high prey drive, a good ability to pick up scent, and of course, an ability to be obedient.
One thing all great hunting dogs have in common is, not only do they have the ability to be pray motivated during the hunt, but they’re also motivated to follow the scent of a specific type of prey throughout it.
As it turns out, a keen sense of smell and the inherent dedication to following through on a mission, combine to create a high prey drive for most Border Collies already.
That is to say, Border Collies are perfectly motivated to chase after and sniff out prey, since they’ve already been bred with sheep herding capabilities in mind. Albeit not the same, they can easily be trained to make up for the difference. It’s built into them.
There are a number of other reasons that a Border Collie can become a great companion for anyone who enjoys going out on a hunt for fowl or wild game.
In addition to already being somewhat prey motivated, here are a few of the helpful characteristics that add to their ability to transform into a highly specialized hunting machine.
- A respectable ability to track prey with its nose.
- The ability to quickly learn new skills.
- Loyalty and obedience for flawless recalls.
- Plenty of physical endurance, stamina and athleticism.
- They can withstand cold temperatures and harsh terrains.
- Sharp and laser-focused vision to keep eyes on the target.
- Capacity to retrieve.
- Inherent herding ability, as a plus.
While not being top of the class when it comes to scent tracking, like in the case of the Bloodhound for example, the Border Collie can still pack a punch. With a little training and getting used to, they can become superb scent trackers as well.
Their inherent herding ability, makes it easy for them to not lose track of the prey while at the same time stealthily seeking them out. This is a massive plus.
It was the ability of the progenitor to the Border Collie breed, to herd sheep without barking, that lead to it being chosen to breed the Collies as we know of them today.
Can Any Border Collie Be Trained to Hunt?
Border Collies have a tendency to herd almost anything, which, as we mentioned before, can be a major benefit for anyone who wants a terrific hunting dog.
Nevertheless, there are a number of other skills necessary to create a dog that is well rounded when it comes to the process of following wild game, bringing it down, and allowing its owner to bag up the catches of the day.
Fortunately, it is rather easy for Border Collies to learn new skills, commands, and tricks, as well as learn the essentials and must haves of any hunting trip.
Building these traits might take a while in the beginning, but with some time, effort, and patience, almost any healthy Border Collie can be effectively trained to hunt just like the hunting breeds.
After doing some digging around on the web, and looking over some of the more common questions dog owners have before they go hunting with their pup, it’s clear to see that there are some fundamental skills to have, as well as some optional skills to have.
Must Have Skills
The fundamental and must have skills, before you go hunting with your Collie are:
- Collar conditioned recall. Your Border Collie must be able to come back to you at any point in time during the hunt. The last thing you want is for you to have to chase after your dog all afternoon. Fortunately Collies are awesome at this.
- Basic introduction to live birds. Birds are the most common type of animal to go hunting, and your dog will need to have a formal introduction to them. This needs to be in a controlled situation in which your dog learns to become excited about the bird and not scared.
- Introduction to gunfire. Your pup needs to be comfortable with you shooting and can’t be gun shy. They need to be used to gunfire happening when they’re on the field, to not back down in the middle of a hunting session.
Next, let’s look at some of the optional skills. They’re not essential to have when first hunting, but it’s nice to have them:
- Retrieving or fetching. Retrieving wild game that has been injured or killed in the field, is nice to have to save some time.
- Exposure to the terrain. Having some pre exposure to the terrain where you’ll be hunting in, whether that be grass woods, swamps, cattail sloughs, open fields or anything in between, will come as a huge plus.
- Crate training. It’s a plus if your Collie is create trained, so that traveling to and from the destination is smooth. It just makes things easier and less stressful for you and your dog.
- Water introduction. Being able to retrieve game from the water or cross a stream, might come in handy when hunting.
- Flushing. Forcing birds to take flight so the hunter can aim and shoot at them. It’s a nice skill to have, but not deal breaking.
- Pointing. Being able to identify and “point out” for the hunter, the location of wild game. One of the more valuable optional skills to have.
- Interacting with other dogs. If you’re hunting with more dogs, it’s nice if your dog is familiar with them. This would prevent fighting between each other, fighting over prey, not honoring the other dog’s retrieves, and other complications.
As mentioned before, it’s not necessary for a Border Collie to learn absolutely all of these skills before taking it out for a hunt.
When attempting to answer the question “are Border Collies good hunting dogs?” however, it would be nice to at least have some of these skills honed down, for the answer to be a resounding “yes”, instead of just a dry “yes” or a “not my Collie”.
What Do Border Collies Hunt?
Although some dog breeds are specifically designed for one type of game or another, an adaptable breed such as the Border Collie can often be taught to help bring in a wide range of prey.
Since they have such sensitive noses, they can flush out a number of small critters that roam around on the ground, and at the same time, their ability to signal the location of other animals without scaring them off means that Collies can also help their human counterparts find even larger forms of prey.
They tend to do best with birds and smaller prey though, and so generally speaking, Border Collies would be best for hunting:
- Rats and Vermin.
- Other birds
Because of their size and relatively lean body, Border Collies should probably stay away from hunting sessions involving:
These animals can actually potentially injure or seriously harm a Border Collie, if confronted directly. They’re either of a similar size but more aggressive, or straight out bigger and much stronger. These prey are better left for stronger and bigger dog breeds such as the Labrador or Weimaraner.
Is It Difficult to Train a Border Collie to Hunt?
Despite their high levels of intellect and loyalty, there might be a few factors that could make Border Collies slightly difficult to train.
Even if it takes a while, though, most of these animals will remain dedicated enough to work through any problems and become strong hunters on par with other breeds that have been expert hunters for many generations.
For anyone attempting to turn a Border Collie into a hunting companion, here are a few potential pitfalls to take into consideration:
- Younger Collies might be afraid of loud noises such as gunfire.
- They will make mistakes in the beginning.
- Their double coat could become a disadvantage in certain terrains.
- Their drive to herd animals could in some cases disrupt a hunting expedition already in progress.
- Border Collies are not as sensitive to smells as some other hunting breeds, and scent training is hard work.
- They excel in a number of areas but are not specialized for hunting.
Although the points above might lead skeptics to conclude that Border Collies are not great hunting dogs, it is possible and relatively easy to turn an ordinary pup into a great assistant during almost any hunt.
Spending some quality time with your Collie to hone its abilities, before hunting season is a great way to go about it. Practice and preparation does go a long way.
Owners of Border Collies already know, that these are loving and loyal dogs with an impressive level of intelligence.
For those who have not taken the breed out on a hunt however, it might be surprising how well equipped they are at the task of helping their owners track down and bring in prey (particularly birds) on a consistent basis.
Don’t expect miracles in the beginning if it’s your first time out hunting with your pup, though.
While Border Collies are amazing herders, they weren’t bred to hunt like some other breeds, so it might take a while for a Collie to learn all of the intricacies and variables that can come along with a day of hunting.
With that said, even less trained Border Collies aren’t far from being able to become rockstar hunters, since they’ve already got some of the most sought after qualities built into them.
It’s all about polishing that diamond in the rough!