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Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd – Herding Dog Breeds Comparison

border collie vs australian shepherd
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Do you think Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd dilemma is unnecessary? Are there the same dog? Do they share the same features and personality traits?

No, even though both are shepherd dogs and herding dog breeds.

While they are quite similar in many ways, for example, they require plenty of exercises and outdoor time, they also share some differences.

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The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are closely related to each other and come from the same family tree of Collies.

Decades of sharing my life with dogs have taught me one thing: intelligence is attractive in a canine companion. But when it comes to the Australian Shepherd and the Border Collie, choosing the brightest star of the herding group can be ruff!

History of the breed

The Border Collie has a long and rich history and tradition. The breed is actually an ancient dog, descending from Roman and Viking herding dog breeds. Described by many as the world’s most efficient herding canine, the Border Collie is now a British dog. This breed has incredible intelligence, tenacious work ethic, and thanks to his stunning look, he has captivated the hearts of many dog lovers around the world.

The Australian Shepherd, on the other hand, descends from the American West. It has some Australian roots, but it is actually an All-American breed. At one time, he was considered cowboy’s best friend.

Modern day Australian shepherds have many tasks and can fill different positions, including herding dog, performing in the rodeo, therapy dog, and of course, a family companion.


Between these two breeds, the Border Collie is the smaller one, but not for a huge margin. Their height can go between 18 and 22 inches, with a weight between 30 and 55lbs. The Aussie, on the other hand, grows between 18 and 23 inches and weighs between 40 and 65 lbs.

Border Collies have short and floppy ears. They can have either smooth coat or rough coat, and a plumed tail.

Per breed standard of the American Kennel Club, they are available in different colors, including:

  • Black
  • White
  • Blue
  • Lilac
  • Chocolate
  • Red merle
  • Brindle
  • Red sable
  • Gold
  • Liver

On the other hand, the Australian Shepherd has a long and dense coat, with a double layer that protects them from the weather.

Same as the Border Collie, the Aussie has a long tail, but short and folded ears. Some owners and breeders choose to dock their dog’s tail for safety reasons or cleanliness.

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In terms of appearance, they have blue or brown eyes, or one of each color, and a wide range of coat colors, including:

  • Black
  • Black tricolor
  • Red tricolor
  • Red merle
  • Merle
  • Blue merle
  • Red


These two breeds are some of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. In fact, the Border Collie is on top of that list, while the Aussie in the top 10.

In addition, they are loaded with energy, making them hard to handle for novice owners. If you have a busy schedule, neither of these dogs is for you.

Border collies and Australian shepherds require a ton of exercise and training that will drain their energy. In addition, they love mental stimulation play. In some cases, because they are herding dogs, if you leave them without exercise, they might “work” at home.

Both of these dog breeds are fine a family dogs, as long as they are trained and socialized at an early age. Keep in mind, they have their herding instincts, and they will succumb to them if not exercised. That includes herding smaller children and other household pets.

Another thing to note for their character and temperament, the Aussie can be a guard dog and will bark to alert owners when intruders are close.

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If you want a dog that will protect your household, and act against attackers and protect the family, go for the Australian Shepherd. The Collie is less of a watchful guard dog, but it will also bark as an alarm.

These dogs are not suited for apartment life, as they need vast and open space to roam in. Because of their little stubbornness, the Aussie can be difficult for novice owners. Both are highly motivated by treats and praise, so use it in your advantage.

Training Requirements

We mentioned these dog breeds have a high level of intelligence and energy levels. That means they are delightful to train and will amaze you with their ability to learn. The Border Collie wins here, as the most intelligent dog who will absorb every ounce of information you throw at him.

Many studies show the Border Collie can learn more than 1,000 words. In fact, Chaser the border collie was the smartest dog alive, and he knew more than 1,000 words in our grammar. On average, a dog can learn around 100 words.

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The problem with high intelligence dogs is that they also come with independent thinking. That can be too much for novice owners to handle. If you underestimate one of these breeds, you will end up being outsmarted by a dog.

Training collies and Aussies should be firm and loving, using positive reinforcement training methods and obedience training. Both dogs can be prone to separation anxiety when left alone for a long period, but it is more visible in the Aussie. Bored and anxious dogs can become destructive.

Exercise requirements

Your dog will need space to run freely, and two hours at least devoted to exercise on a daily basis. These breeds need plenty of outdoor time, and without jobs, they will get quite bored.

Aussies are fine with doggy jobs, and just one hour or so of exercise. That is, as long there is a yard where your dog can run freely and play.

Both breeds will excel in dog sports. Considering they need between 60 and 90 minutes of exercise per day, some agility exercise will come in handy.

Grooming Requirements

Because the Border Collie has a rougher coat and fur, they require a little bit more grooming and hard work. It can be challenging to keep their fur healthy. Both of these require routine brushing and a medium amount of care.

Health Concerns

Generally speaking, the Border Collie and Aussie are healthy dog breeds. Their life expectancy is 13 years for the Colie and between 13 and 15 years for an Australian Shepherd. A mix between these two will live as long as well.

But there are also health concerns you have to take into consideration. Border collies are prone to epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and deafness, especially if you have a Blue Merle Collie. Aussies are prone to cataracts lymphoma, epilepsy, elbow dysplasia, cancer, and thyroid disease.

Both breeds can inherit the Merle gene, which is associated with vision and hearing problems. Puppies born to two Merle dogs can be deaf, blind, or born without eyes.

Life expectancy

Both the Border Collie breed and the Austrian shepherd breed are considered healthy dogs. They tend to live between 12 and 15 years.

But because of their high energy and activity, they are prone to elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia.

Which is the smarter dog?

The Border Collie dog breed is the most intelligent canine in the world. This working dog is a workaholic. Many consider the puppy a premier sheep herder. Prized for its intelligence, the Border Collie breed can learn any trick in the book and perform it to perfection.

That is not to say that the Australian Cattle Dog is behind. On the same list of most intelligent dog breeds, the Australian Shepherd puppy is on the 10th spot.

Now, it is worth noting that it doesn’t mean that smarter dogs make better pets. Smart doesn’t mean easy.

Consider the Border Collie for a moment. This puppy was bred to work all day, and if he doesn’t get opportunity to do so, he will be miserable, and might turn to destructive behavior.

Which one is a better family pet?

When you look at the Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd comparison, the former is better suited for calm households and families with older children. Collies can be aloof with strangers, and become very attached to families.

The Aussie, on the other hand, bonds closely with any family member, and is eager to get along with everyone. However, the Australian Shepherd can become protective and territorial of his domain and family.

border collie vs australian shepherd

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6 Responses

  1. We love our Aussies, breed them for a while which has been the greatest experience and a level slightly below our childten with two legs

  2. We have a rescue McNab BC. Most awesome dog I have had the pleasure to enjoy life with. Shes a ghost face, no black on face her name is Panda. Her expressions tell you what shes thinking. Love my Panda. Spoiled and all.

  3. My aussie puppy makes me laugh every day. So smart. Also can be very stubborn but I am not new to this breed so I knew that. He makes up for that with his loving nature. He does have separation anxiety as well. Good family dog if you have time to spend on them. Never had a border collie. How do they compare?

    1. they are quite similar, the Border is a bit smaller in appearance and weight. And some might say a bit smarter. But the main difference is that the Border is much better equipped for some dog sports and dog agility exercises. Both are awesome as family pets, but I would say the Aussie is more territorial towards the family

  4. Kerry Keeler we had two Aussies at the same time and they protected our car and property especially if I was home they teamed up to confront strangers
    on our 4 acreas Scout was a great agility dog and won first place several times. Katie knows our vocabulary too well. She is 13 yrs old now.

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